The Bold Testament
Disturbingly Realistic Bible Tales
The Bold Testament is a forthcoming collection of disturbingly realistic Bible tales by Ed Suominen. What was it really like inside the head of King Jehu as he slashed his way to the throne of Israel, carrying out assassinations and massacres in the name of his God? How about inside the mind of an old man who took on the name Abraham and brought a son he’d named Isaac up a hilltop to kill him, as demanded by a voice he thought was God’s? What would it be like if the Bible were really used as the foundation for our civil society, as the most ardent fundamentalists claim to want?
These are things seldom contemplated by the faithful who defend the Bible as God’s inerrant, inspired word. But they should, and you can do so, through the entertaining and sometimes horrific view of realistic biblical fiction.
Three stories from The Bold Testament are currently available for free online reading. See below for more info about each story and links to their online versions.
If you enjoy these stories, your purchase of the eventual book would be appreciated, in either e-book or print form.
This was Ed’s first work of fiction, about King Jehu’s reign of terror in the service of the Old Testament’s jealous God from 841-814 BC. If the events of the story really occurred, they were pretty much as the Bible describes and probably occurred soon after Jehu took power.
Ed’s imagination supplied the additional twist of Jehu being slowly poisoned by a survivor of the Baal temple massacre with a distant connection to Hosea.
Seth read a portion of this story on his September 16, 2014 episode.
Abraham’s Excellent Adventure
The noises were starting again, growling and coughing in the darkness. Panic crawled up Abraham’s arms and shook the calm of the cool desert night loose from his mind. He jerked his head, instinctively, to spot the source of the deep breathing, impossibly loud and menacing, the low voice that rumbled accusations and threats. But he knew nothing would appear, even if there’d been any light beyond the dying fire’s last shadows.
He had never found a body behind this voice. He turned his head again, pointing his nose toward the chorus from an unseen pack of jackals that howled over a kill somewhere in the hills, balancing the sound between his ears. The voice was different, not much louder but coming from all around him, everywhere yet nowhere, taunting him just the same no matter where he turned.
Unclean. Faithless. Weakling. The angry words echoed and slurred, as that monstrous breathing came and went, thumping with the racing of his heart.
So begins Abraham’s Excellent Adventure, a short story about Abraham being told by God–or what he thinks is the voice of God–to sacrifice his only son. He ventures into the desert to carry out the awful deed, and is stopped by an Angel.
But, in Ed’s retelling, things turn out to be quite a bit different from what they seem. Will we ever look at the biblical Abraham in quite the same way again?
Seth read this story in its entirety on his June 23, 2015 episode.
Stones of Tribulation
Leah’s voice slurred into a long raspy howl as her mouth gaped open, her jaw probably broken now. Levi watched from the porch with folded arms. Jacob stared at his sister, his crude and brave and dying sister, and did not look away. Not from the blood that was trickling out of her nose and gaping mouth. Not from the one eye that was now hooded and bruised. He thought he saw blood coming from there, too. A spinning piece of shale caught her on the cheek, tearing open another gash. A couple of crows rustled and flew out of the pines behind her, spooked by all the noise.
Then the dark and jagged hailstorm opened up again. He watched Leah’s body jerk and flinch and sag with each impact. Every line and color and detail was vivid, and impossibly wrong. He’d seen stonings before, but this one he would remember. There was no call for this. He decided with a sudden spurt of silent rebellion, unfamiliar and shocking and strong in his throat, that he would make it right somehow.
Have those Bible-thumpers who call for a “biblical” government really given much thought to what that would look like? The closest model we have for it today is what’s going on over in the Middle East with ISIS and Saudi Arabia.
This story imagines a post-apocalyptic future where climate change, petroleum scarcity, and economic collapse have put much of the United States back into the Dark Ages. Amid all the death and looting, the few remaining authorities could spare no attention for a Reconstructionist Christian cult that used Deuteronomy as a guidebook for conquering a strech of the Buffalo River in the Arkansas Ozarks. Now, after all the cabins and shacks have been taken over, the Deuteronomic Church of Holy Reconstruction is keeping things in line with its Old Testament version of Shari’a law.
Seth read this story for his June 7, 2016 episode.
This is my Body
There is a field in the French countryside outside Paris where rough-hewn stones and fragments of bone keep turning up under the plow. The old man who has stopped and examined these finds over the years thought they were the result of some shell exploded during the First World War. But one day he came across a gold chalice with bloodstains that would not wash off.
The chalice had not been seen for seven hundred years, when three frightened laymen muttered frantic prayers to the Blessed Virgin while setting fire to the planks and timbers of a little Dominican monastery to erase its memory. They were careful not to touch the chalice or the circular loaves of flatbread that sat next to it as they put their torches to the altar on which it rested. Then they cut the throats of a priest and six monks, begging forgiveness for what the bishop had commanded them to do. As they tried to leave, their work complete and the flames now hot at their backs, they found that the door had been blocked. Only the bishop had remained outside, and he would go to his grave with the story of what had happened inside the walls that would crumble, forgotten, among the bones at the site that became a field in the French countryside outside Paris.
That’s the intro for This is my Body, a creepy tale about a time when things got out of hand at a monastary in the Middle Ages.
Seth read this story in its entirety as part of the Ghost Stories 2016 episode of his The Thinking Atheist podcast.