Jeopardy Defended Bible Answer After Fans And Theologians Said They Got It Wrong

Jeopardy! fans are known to take their game very seriously, and they’re not afraid to hit up Twitter if they think a contestant’s answer was particularly ridiculous or to defend players who they don’t feel was given a fair shake. The latter was the case during the Tournament of Champions last week, but even more than Sam Buttrey not getting credit for what some believed to be the correct answer to a Bible question in Final Jeopardy!, they said the show’s own answer was just wrong. 

Producer Sarah Foss and senior researcher Michael Harris have responded to the backlash, defending the answer the show provided. 

What Was The Jeopardy! Controversy About? 

In the November 16 episode of Jeopardy!’s Tournament of Champions, which featured players Amy Schneider, Andrew He and Sam Buttrey, the Final Jeopardy category “New Testament” posed the clue: “Paul’s letter to them is the New Testament epistle with the most Old Testament quotations.” Schneider’s response of "Hebrews" was accepted, while Buttrey was deemed incorrect for saying "Romans." 

Many fans on Twitter immediately contradicted Jeopardy!’s ruling, pointing out that while Paul was formerly believed to have written the letter to Hebrews, most scholars now believe the author to be unknown. One fan explained: 

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Andrew He ended up winning the episode, but had Sam Buttrey’s response been accepted, he would have been the one to notch the victory. 

Jeopardy! Producers Respond To Backlash 

Longtime Jeopardy! producer Sarah Foss and senior researcher Michael Harris addressed the Tournament of Champions controversy on the Inside Jeopardy! (opens in new tab) podcast, with Foss assuring viewers that a lot of research goes into every clue, and in this instance, she said in regards to Hebrews that, “authorship is traditionally attributed to Paul, although some say uncertain.” 

The show’s explanation seems to lie in the fact that the King James Version of the Bible historically credits Paul as the author of Hebrews, and contestants are said to be aware that it's the version of Bible used on Jeopardy!. Michael Harris also detailed the extra research that was done for the category, explaining that they reached out to a biblical scholar, who signed off on the clue’s accuracy. The researcher said: 

This clue in particular, we also reached out to a Seminarian, who had verified that our information as written in the clue was correct, and that’s when we went ahead and were like, ‘OK we feel secure in our doing this clue.’ We usually, especially with Bible clues, we try to go that extra mile. So we actually reached out to someone who has more Bible and theological knowledge than us, so we felt pretty sound in this clue as it stood.

This was the second time Jeopardy! found itself a target of ire in recent days. In the November 13 episode of Celebrity Jeopardy!, a clue name-checked Brian Laundrie, who was found dead after being accused of murdering his girlfriend Gabby Petito. The response they were seeking in the clue about an animal that could be found in the Florida Myakkahatchee Creek Area was the alligator, and many — including Laundrie’s family — were furious about the “distasteful” clue.

Hopefully such controversies will not continue, though we're guaranteed not to see further dismay over Tournament of Champions episodes, as mega-champ Amy Schneider took home the victory, and the $250,000 prize, when the smoke cleared after Monday's Final Jeopardy round. But we can be sure that fans will speak out if they feel something isn’t above board post-ToC. 

Check your local listings to see when to catch Jeopardy! in your area, and take a peek at what shows are headed our way in the new year with our 2023 TV schedule

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.