The Bible Doesn’t Say That by Joel M. Hoffman

The Bible Doesn’t Say That by Joel M. HoffmanThe Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings by Joel M. Hoffman
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 16, 2016
Pages: 304
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
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The Bible Doesn't Say That explores what the Bible meant before it was misinterpreted over the past 2,000 years.
Acclaimed translator and biblical scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman walks the reader through dozens of mistranslations, misconceptions, and other misunderstandings about the Bible. In forty short, straightforward chapters, he covers morality, life-style, theology, and biblical imagery, including:
*The Bible doesn't call homosexuality a sin, and it doesn't advocate for the one-man-one-woman model of the family that has been dubbed "biblical."
*The Bible's famous "beat their swords into plowshares" is matched by the militaristic, "beat your plowshares into swords."
*The often-cited New Testament quotation "God so loved the world" is a mistranslation, as are the titles "Son of Man" and "Son of God."
*The Ten Commandments don't prohibit killing or coveting.
What does the Bible say about violence? About the Rapture? About keeping kosher? About marriage and divorce? Hoffman provides answers to all of these and more, succinctly explaining how so many pivotal biblical answers came to be misunderstood.


Due to “ignorance, accident, culture gap, mistranslation, and misrepresentation,” people distort the Bible either “to bolster its value or to mock it.” In The Bible Doesn’t Say That, Dr. Joel Hoffman corrects the most common misunderstandings about the Bible in forty easy-to-understand chapters. He tackles a wide variety of hot topics such as homosexuality, “traditional” marriage, abortion, and slavery; beloved stories such as Creation, Noah’s Ark, David & Goliath, and the virgin birth; and specific passages such as Psalm 23 and John 3:16.

Somewhere around the halfway mark, I found myself needing to take significant breaks between chapters, even though I was still highly interested in the content. I think the problem was the overall structure and style of the book. There was a lot of summarizing for the reader, and a lot of telling the reader what was coming up next. This wasn’t necessary: Hoffman already explains things very simply and clearly! So it ended up feeling a little too formulaic and clunky when reading the book straight through.

Hoffman tends to go off on tangents here and there, but honestly, they were fun to follow. The content was fascinating. Hoffman boasts a PhD in theoretical linguistics, so it makes sense that there’s a lot in this book to keep the attention of language lovers, including problems associated with translation. The Bible Doesn’t Say That brings together linguistics, literature, history, and anthropology to give the reader a robust (and more accurate) look at the Bible.


  • Oooh, sounds very promising. You always find the most interesting looking books, Monika.

  • Sounds interesting…although I’m not sure there would be that much new there for me (I’ve been reading books like this for some time…). You mentioned the structure…I wonder if this is meant to be more of a reference book, in that if you are interested in a particular subject, you can just jump to that chapter?

    • Possibly. I think I just found the constant summarizing and then telling me what was coming up in the next chapter a little…juvenile. If he hadn’t done that, then yeah, it would definitely have worked the way you describe.

  • Jennine G.

    Interesting…I heard students discussing such topics according to the Bible the other day. We just finished reading The Scarlet Letter, so it’s all on their minds. I’m always interested in what’s missing in translation, etc., or at least what people say is missing.