I like Glenn Beck, I listen to his show regularly and I think he is very well informed on America's founders and a number of political issues. But I cringe whenever he talks about religious specifics and the Bible. And most recently the following comment concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls on May 27 of his radio show.
All right. So here’s what happened. When Constantine decided he was going to uh… cobble together an army, um, he did the uh… Council of uh… Nicaea, right, Pat? … Council of Nicaea. Um… and what they did is brought all of the religious figures, uhh, together, all the Christians and then they said, “Ok, let’s uh, put together the Apostles’ Creed, let’s, you know, you guys do it.” So they brought all their religious scripture together, and that’s when the Bible was first bound and everything else. And then they said, “Anybody that disagrees with this is a heretic and… off with their head!” Well, that’s what the Dead Sea Scrolls are. The Dead Sea Scrolls are those scriptures that people had at the time that they said, “They are destroying all of this truth.” Whether it’s truth or not is, is up to the individual, but that… at that time those people thought that this was something that needed to be preserved and so they rolled up the scrolls and they put ‘em in clay pots and they, they put ‘em in the back of caves where no one could find them. They were hidden scripture because everything was being destroyed that disagreed with the Council of Nicaea and Constantine. That’s what those things are.
Naturally this mistake made it to Media Matters and other anti-Beck blogs and though I don't always hear all of Glenn Becks shows on radio I hear most of them and I never heard him correct himself on this matter. Thus the anti-Beck blogs calling him an idiot etc. While I would never trust Glenn Beck on religious issues or Bible interpretation or even church history he is not so far off as one might think. What he describes is not the Dead Sea Schools but the Nag Hammadi library These were Gnostic texts which "and were buried after Bishop Athanasius condemned the uncritical use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of 367 AD." Not hard to confuse the two both being ancient documents found in caves. Though the Dead Sea Scrolls tend to confirm the manuscripts of certain Bible texts and the Nag Hammadi confirms what Early Church Fathers wrote in their arguments against the Gnostics.
Now there are some other subtle things going on here I am sure, since Beck is a Latter Day Saint and their belief is that early on the Christian church lost the truth, the way Beck describes the Dead Sea Scrolls when he is really talking about the Gnostic gospels is kind of telling. The Latter Day Saints believe that the keys were given to Joseph Smith to restore Christianity and Beck's description seems to fit into that mindset. I have no doubt that what he said on the radio is something he heard in his church. And since it has little to do with humor or politics or American history he probably did not and has not examined much of the material that he is taught in his own church. And that is a big problem...not just for him but for many other denominations. People who do not test what they are told but simply accept it. It leads to both religious distortion and political distortions. All it takes is the willing mind to believe and follow someone, but for those of us who value truth we look for the facts and when they don't line up with reality we call for a correction and warn people to be careful what they believe.
So on Biblical interpretation and church history don't put too much stock in Glenn Beck. Pay attention to the things he says when he puts forth facts, with scholarly support and quotes, (and some of his humor is pretty good too). He would have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had done just a little research before making his comment on the Dead Sea Scrolls. But as with those Christains who are so certain that God says love me or I will kill you, the good old penal atonement folks we have to remember that not all Christians believe the same way about God and the LDS have some even more peculiar beliefs than many Christians. There still are certainly commonalities we have with people both Christian and LDS but it is the differences which really define us all.