The Bible – Part One, Reflections
Have I blogged on the Bible before? Hmm, I think I have. I searched myself (the blog!) and didn’t find anything. Oh well, short brain loss! (My daughter’s phrase)
A couple years ago, three years now I guess (time flies) I entered a time of crisis when I lost all faith. I drug my ass out of the hole as I usually do, by looking things up, finding things out, and trying to understand what was true. One of the things I researched was the Bible. I spent a lot of time digging up information about the origins of the Bible, how it got to be what it is. What I discovered was that it is so not what people, namely Christians, think it is.
I’m not a theologian nor a linguist but I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck, either. I have a degree in history with a bit of post-graduate work in history tacked on. History has been my passion for a long time. Research is one of my best talents. What I uncovered is available for anyone, anywhere. There’s no secrets. Look it all up yourself. There’s plenty of information available.
My next blog on the Bible will be an excerpt from the book I wrote after I worked myself out of the hole (see above), a book called The Lies, The Truth, The Way. I am in the process of an update or rewrite or whatever of that book. I still mostly believe what the book in its original form says. My point of view has changed, however, and the nominal Christianity I was holding on to when I wrote it has been set aside. Anyway, that’ll be Part Two.
Here in Part One on The Bible I merely want to make a few personal observations.
What is “The Bible?” You think it is “The Word of God?” If so, if God “wrote” it, God is schizophrenic. If anyone these days crafted a book as confusing, poorly written, convoluted and contradictory as the Bible nobody would touch it. If you think it’s the “Word of God” would you please tell me why God could not make it much more clear and unambiguous?
Believe what you want. Go on and read something besides my blog, if you want. Drift away into LaLa land. You cannot answer my question. Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, a God of Love, a God who IS (supposed to be) Love, not give the people on earth a clear and concise text from which to understand how to follow him? Is he a practical joker? Is he cruel? What? I love my kids. They know what they need to know to function in my household. The rules are unambiguous, my attitude towards them clear, my love unquestioned. Since God has chosen a book to “reveal” himself, why is it so hard to understand?
You cannot give me an answer because there IS no answer. The Bible is NOT the “word of God.” It is, rather, a religious text written by a collection of authors over a period of centuries, authors whose points of view and motives differed one from the other. It has been edited, copied and copied and copied (by hand), and translated by people who were guided as much by personal agenda and doctrinal belief as they were by a desire to preserve any original meaning. That is all it is. It is not and never has been “holy.” That is the first misconception and one of the problems with Christianity.
The focus of Christianity has always been upon the book and doctrines suposedly derived from the book rather than the primary founder of the religion, namely Jesus the Christ himself. The person of Jesus is an ancilary character in the great religion that bears his name. The primary character is a book called the Holy Bible.
Why did the Bible come to supercede the Christ? Because Christianity is NOT based upon the teachings of Jesus. Not one major protestant denomination and certainly not Roman Catholicism would survive without the Bible or the labrynthian volumes of doctrinal material that “clarifies” it. Am I the only one who finds it so weird that Bible “commentaries” like the venerable “Mathew Henry Commentary” has so many volumes and requires so much writing to explain a text God supposedly wrote so humans could know him better? It’s not weird, really, the reason is obvious. It’s a variant on the old saying, “much learning doth make tee mad!” Doctrine (that which commentaries expound) is on the one hand an attempt to make sense out of a nonsensical collection of texts and on the other a way to create a religious dogma out of thin air.
Obviously I do not believe “in” the Bible. Can you tell? What do I believe “about” it? I’ll answer that but let me first say what I’ve learned through historical research. Since my memory is lousy and I don’t have the resources I used to write the book I’ll have to be brief. I might err in a few specifics but the gist is pretty close.
First, The Bible is a translation. Duh. It’s not that simple, though. Most translations are translations of translations. Some translations claim to be derived from the “original texts” or the “original language.” This is not true. There ARE no origional texts and there have not been any original texts from which to review for fifteen hundred years, give or take. There are assorted texts in the same language as the originals are believed to have been written in but even that is not a given. For example, Jesus spoke a language called Aramaic. New Testament books were writen in Greek originally. Or so we’re told. There are hints that some were first penned in Aramaic. If the gospels and epistles were written in Greek and Jesus and many followers spoke Aramaic (and don’t forget Hebrew was still in use, too) a translation was required even before the first words were written down.
Before the third century there was no such thing as a “Bible.” Christians did not lug around the Hebrew scriptures. Neither did they have any particular set of epistles or prophecies or gospels they considered “official” or “inspired.” There were hundreds of letters, dozens of prophecies (like Revelation) and dozens of gospels. It wasn’t until a group of men started getting together and saw the potential Christianity held as a means to set them up in positions of power and authority that the need for a “Bible” became obvious. They needed something to beat followers over the head with! OK, I’m being sarcastic.
The ball really got rolling after Constantine “converted” to Christianity. I am skeptical of this conversion because Constantine never appeared humble and forgiving nor did he display many other of the traits of a “true” Christian after his conversion. What he did was turn Christianity into a state religion and brutally supressed all dissenters, including anyone holding to a “different” gospel, which means anyone holding on to a text that didn’t fit his world view and religious dogma. History records how entire groups of people were killed and texts destroyed.
Thus the beginnings of Christendom and the Bible are quite ignoble. Things do not get much better from there. Christianity was spread by force rather than by choice under Constantine and by many other European regimes through the centuries. Peasants, which constituted the majority population, could not read at all so the Bible found its way to them filtered through priests who used the “two-eged sword” to keep them subservient. By the fourth or fifth century the Bible was pretty much what it is today though only a precious and privaledged few ever viewed the text of it. Those who did were steeped in doctrine long before they could browse the book itself.
Techniques of preservation were primitive to say the least. One self-serving or incompetent scribe could easily change a “jot” or “tittle” without much notice. Bible scholars admit there are hundreds of variations of all the “origional” texts. Ahh, but which is the original original? It does not exist! The oldest texts known to exist go back only to the second or third century. Even that is not certain. You tell me, if the texts were so precious and held so important a truth and most important were a message from God, why were they not preserved? Why would God not insure they remain intact or at least insure that copies be exact? Did the hand of God write the words down over and over again or was it the hands of a few hundred very fallible men?
Without any proof to back it up I am convinced there are no older documents because ALL origional texts were destroyed and re-written around the third century by those guys mentioned above. Thus I believe if there ever were any truly God-inspired texts they disappeared some eighteen hundred years ago. This is one thing I “think” about the Bible.
I don’t think it’s a bad book, per se. It is just a book, nothing more. It is no more inspired than these words you are reading now. (They are not inspired!) There’s interesting history in it, beautiful poetry, excellent teachings in parts of it. It is not consistent. God in the Old Testament is different from one book to the other. Jesus is described differently from one gospel to another. The teachings of Jesus are overruled by those of Paul. In Revelation the person and nature of Jesus is incredibly different than described in any of the gospels.
Nothing has caused more confusion in the lives of Christians than the wedding of the Old Testament with the New Testament. SOME law applies, not others. But then all the law was done away with?! No? Well, not really but kind’a. All Christian denominations pick and choose the verses, chapters and books that best fit what they believe and put aside all the other parts. Sunday School teachers insist the whole book is valid, relevent, important and can “speak to the heart” but they do not explain why it is so important to read, for example, long, boring lists of names as found in the first few books. The whole Bible is wonderful but how often does the lusty passages of Solomon get a hearing, where he talks about how sweet his lover’s boobs ….sorry, breasts…. are!
The Old Testament and New Testament do not belong together. If Christendom would merely throw off its Jewishness and quit studying Hebrew books they’d be much better off. I might still be a Christian! At least I could participate in the religion were it not for the Jewishness of Christianity.
Honestly, I see no purpose in following the book at all. Christianity only needs the gospels. Nothing more. A Christianity based only on the teachings found in the Gospels would be a beautiful religion. One of the first things I did to try to find my footing after my crash was to print out the gospels and study them all on their own. The picture of Jesus that emerged, unhindered by doctrine, Paul’s crazy letters and every other influence, was very different than the one painted by Christianity. So much junk is put in Jesus’ mouth that he simply did not say! Look it up. Should not your beliefs be based upon what he said rather than what others say he said?
I do not read the Bible any longer. I have read it, cover to cover, in many different translations. I’ve studied parts of it, looked at origional language translations, compared different verses. I’ve dug deeper into its theology and history than most Christians ever will. I am not a scholar but I have studied enough for me to recognize all of the things I’ve written above are true.
If you are a devout Christian I understand my words sound like an attack on your faith. They are not. They are merely the reasons I do not accept the Bible as authoritative or “inspired.” What you believe is up to you. But just because you believe something does not make it true. Just because a million people believes something still doesn’t make it true. Just because something has been taught for centuries does not make it true. Truth is what it is. You can’t make it up, you can only subvert it or ignore it or replace it with contrived notions. It’s up to you.
I have written this blog and post the next so that Christians who happen by and wish to discuss or debate my “anti-Christianity” understand why their quoting of scripture or preaching of doctrine will get them nowhere with me. I have heard it all. At least I have heard almost all. I’m sure there’s something someone will pull out of a hat sooner or later that is news to me.
Christians point to the Bible as the source of their faith. I point to it as the source of my lack of faith. There may be truth in it but it is not Truth. Thus Christianity, so entirely based upon it, cannot be truth either.
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