The Texas Bohemian

Word artist. Jack of all Trades.

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.

March 27, 2009 - Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. Learning about the origins of the Bible, and the *real* history about how it came to be one book was the beginning of the end (of my belief) for me.

    I’m looking forward to part 2.

    Comment by Just another "Nobody" :) | March 27, 2009

  2. For me too. But it opened the door for me to discover the wonder of Buddhism. I’ve found teachings that work but do not make demands or claim to be things they are not. Thanks for stopping by!

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  3. 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?

    In the Proverbs, it says that it is to the glory of God to conceal a matter. Jesus even started to speak in parables so that not everyone would understand him. The Bible is truly understandable if it’s being illuminated by the Holy Spirit–which is the lens through which one views the Bible through.

    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.

    No religion would survive without it’s holy text/writings–not even Buddhism. [As I remember, Buddha didn’t even write his words but later followers–please correct me if I’m wrong so I can have it straight.] If everything just went by word of mouth, it would be like the children’s game telephone. Everything would get distorted eventually. [Which Satan would love] And this distortion would come sooner rather than later. Commentaries aren’t to be taken as the word of God either. They’re just to give insight on various passages. I personally rarely use commentaries, by the way, as I feel the text is pretty clear.

    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.
    It’s impossible for Christianity to lose its Jewishness. Jesus was a Jew! The Christ was prophesied by the Jewish prophets! God promised Abraham, a Hebrew, that the world would be blessed through him. God said that the the descendents of Japeth [Gentiles] would be blessed by the tents of Shem [Jews]. Much of the New Testament would’ve make sense without the Old. Hebrews or Revelation for example. All Scripture, including the Old Testament is profitable for us today.

    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.

    Paul’s and Jesus’ teachings line up. Paul didn’t trump Jesus. Careful study will reveal that. One must remember that there are two parts, per se, in Christ’s ministry. One to the Jews, then he turns from the Jews since they reject him. This is best seen in Matthew. Jesus’ nature is different in Revelation because he is coming back as God and judge. When he came the first time, he came as the willing sacrifical Passoever lamb, to die for the sins of the world.

    It’s not true either that no one recognized any Christian scripture until the third century. Paul’s letters and the Gospels were recognized as Scripture very early on. Peter mentions hits on this in 2 Peter. Many of the books that we don’t accept come from the second century and onward and aren’t accepted because their written in other people’s names–which the early church didn’t care for that much.

    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 geneaologies are important because the Messiah was expected to come through a certain line. Reading the geneaologies is edifiing because one can see the faith that the Hebrews had that the Messiah would come by tracking people’s lines. They’re also important for the service of the tribe of Levi.

    The oldest texts known to exist go back only to the second or third century.

    The Isaiah Scroll found in Qumran dates to the fourth century before Christ, as I remember. Also, the Bible Scholars don’t compare the variations to the “originals”. They compare them to one another. The variations are minor. Spelling error mostly–for example qev instead of kev in 2 Kings. The error don’t change anything either. When the Jewish scribes thought there was an error, they wrote it off to the side. They had very high reverence for the text. Of course the technique was primative, but what else would they do? They didn’t have the printing press.

    The texts that we have for the New Testament are closer to the dates of the events that are mentioned therein than the works of Plato, Socrates, Homer, and Herodotus. All works that scholars accept as valid. We also have millions of fragments of texts and whole texts. As for the NT being written in Greek, it was. It is true that Aramaic/Hebrew was being spoken, but you must remember that their were two types of Jews back then. Many Jews were Hellenist and spoke Greek–that’s why Ptolomy comissioned the LXX translation. Also, their were Gentiles in the churches written to and they only spoke Greek! Since all the letters of the NT are written to places outside of Israel, it would only make sense for them to be written in Greek. For examaple, the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, and Thessolonica wouldn’t have spoken Aramaic.

    Should not your beliefs be based upon what he said rather than what others say he said?

    The words of the Apostles are Christ’s words. The word apostle in Greek carries the idea of a messenger. But not just any messenger. It’s a messenger with the same authority as the sender. Beyond that, since us Christians believe that the writers were inspired, what they wrote are Christ’s words because God “moved them” to write what they wrote.

    Comment by Tom | March 28, 2009

  4. It seems that I missed closing a tag in my comment. Can you close it for me? Thanks!

    Comment by Tom | March 28, 2009

  5. Hey again. Keeping me busy this morning!

    At the risk of dragging these comments out I think I’ll try to respond below yours rather than separately. Otherwise it might not make a lot of sense. I’ll put my response in italics prefaced with an “r-“. Hope it works.
    ————————————————————————————–

    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?

    In the Proverbs, it says that it is to the glory of God to conceal a matter. Jesus even started to speak in parables so that not everyone would understand him. The Bible is truly understandable if it’s being illuminated by the Holy Spirit–which is the lens through which one views the Bible through.

    r- You see, the whole idea that the “Holy Spirit” must illuminate the text makes no sense to me. That would be like Congress writing law in latin and then saying special interpreters are needed to “enlighten” it to Americans. If the purpose of the Bible is to reach mankind with the Truth why restrict its access to the ones who are “led.” I can tell you, friend, I have heard some real doozies, too, from people who believed the “spirit” told them something about a passage. I met a guy once who carried a concordance around instead of a Bible. he said God told him to use it because it was easier to follow. I heard another guy, an evangelist speaking to a large group, say that Peter actually denied Jesus six times, that the Gospel accounts of Peter’s denial were different because they were two separate events!

    No, the idea that the Spirit has to speak before the book makes sense doesn’t wash with me. If this is true, why do evangelists and evangelistic materials quote so many verses? If the intended audience is not “saved” people how are they supposed to understand? I know, I’ve heard that answer too: the Spirit reveals the truth to them so they can be saved. No, sorry, can’t go that. If God wants to speak through a book he should speak directly to the reader. I am a writer. I find the whole idea of “spiritual intuition” really kind’of …well, unacceptable.

    As I see it, if finding the truth in the Bible is dependent upon the “Holy Spirit” and not the text itself then the Bible is superfluous. (I like big words! Ha.) In other words, why does anyone need a Bible if it can’t have any meaning as a mere text. And why argue accuracy anyway? It’s all moot if, as you believe, the Spirit must do the teaching. Do you not see the lack of logic in your belief? If inspiration comes from the “Holy Spirit” and ONLY from the Holy Spirit a McDonnalds menu or a Houston Chronicle could be all the words you need. The Spirit could easily assemble the words in your head as needed. But that’s not how it works, is it?

    If the learning is not in the text but the Spirit the text does not matter. Accuracy does not matter. Only a certain level of spirituality matters. Thus your fervent desire to prove the Bible is valid is a waste of time. Whether or not it is does not matter to me, if it’s the “Spirit” who does the teaching because as a non-Christian Buddhist agnostic I reject the Spirit altogether so I could never find truth within the pages of the Bible, could I?

    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.

    No religion would survive without it’s holy text/writings–not even Buddhism. [As I remember, Buddha didn’t even write his words but later followers–please correct me if I’m wrong so I can have it straight.] If everything just went by word of mouth, it would be like the children’s game telephone. Everything would get distorted eventually. [Which Satan would love] And this distortion would come sooner rather than later. Commentaries aren’t to be taken as the word of God either. They’re just to give insight on various passages. I personally rarely use commentaries, by the way, as I feel the text is pretty clear.

    I meant for the statement to go together, the Bible AND the doctrine. Not all doctrine is written or codified. Rare is the pastor or evangelist who doesn’t put a different spin on his favorite texts.

    Let me clarify Buddhism. The texts, called Suttas or Sutras (depending upon the sect) used by Buddhists are not considered “holy.” You are right, Buddha’s original teaching was by oral tradition for a couple hundred years. It is not, however, “holy” scripture. The Bible, the Koran and the Torah might be viewed as inspired or written by God but keep in mind that there are no deities, supreme or otherwise, in Buddhism. Buddha was a man, albeit enlightened and wise, but just a man. He died of food poisoning, of all things. There are hundreds of Sutras. Theravada, the branch I study, claims to follow only the original teachings of Buddha. Other branches of Buddhism have many more Sutras written by an assortment of monks over several centuries. There are many interesting and useful teachings in the Sutras but Buddhism would survive quite well without any of them. Buddha’s primary teaching would fit a small booklet and can just as easily be passed around orally.

    I would think a true religion would never need texts. This should be especially true for a “Spirit inspired” religion like Christianity. If the “Holy Spirit” is the teacher why are books necessary at all? Why can’t the Spirit speak directly to the heart and mind and guide a Christian without any texts? You are very correct, word of mouth AND texts passed through the centuries would be exactly like the children’s game. Do not forget the Bible was copied by hand, one letter at a time, over and over, from century to century. How different is that from the children’s game?

    Then, again, translating concepts and ideas and idioms, etc., from one language to another completely accurately is impossible. Anyone who has studied languages at all understands it’s more than words and letters. Every language is unique and the native speaker thinks uniquely. I have had some Spanish and it didn’t take long for me to recognize that even if my Spanish were perfect I could never convey exact thoughts nor could I understand how Spanish people think entirely. Spanish is a modern European language. How very different, then, would meanings and thoughts translate from ancient Greek or Hebrew into English? I once tried to translate part of a Spanish NT back into English. The Spanish version was a translation from the KJV (a translation of a translation of a translation!). Boy was I surprised at how different the words and meanings turned out to be. It was not even close to the same as the original KJV.

    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.
    It’s impossible for Christianity to lose its Jewishness. Jesus was a Jew! The Christ was prophesied by the Jewish prophets! God promised Abraham, a Hebrew, that the world would be blessed through him. God said that the the descendents of Japeth [Gentiles] would be blessed by the tents of Shem [Jews]. Much of the New Testament would’ve make sense without the Old. Hebrews or Revelation for example. All Scripture, including the Old Testament is profitable for us today.

    Just because Jesus was a Jew does not mean the OT should be used in conjunction with his teaching. As a separate book explaining the history of the Jews, the heritage of Jesus, even as “evidence” of his authority or deity, it might be useful or “profitable.” Any historical text is profitable, even those deemed mostly inaccurate. I particularly like Proverbs, myself. I like Shakespeare, too. The problem in lumping the OT and NT together as a single Bible is that nine out of ten screwy Christian doctrines come not from the NT, certainly not from the teachings of Jesus, but from some obscure Old Testament passage. Fundamentalists have built an entire theology out of parts of the law they’ve picked over. Other parts they ignore or explain away. Jesus and Paul declared freedom from the law, didn’t they? Why, then, was the law clamped to the NT when the Bible was cannonized. Historical research reveals gentile Christians did not use it.

    This brings me to another point. The vast majority of Christians, all but a fraction of one percent, are GENTILES. Thus the law never applied to them. Paul made it pretty clear he held Jews to a different standard than Gentiles, didn’t he? Didn’t the early church have conferences on how to deal with all those Gentiles? Was it not decided that they should not be burdened with the law? Then why was the OT forced upon a Christian population that has been predominantly Gentile from the first century?

    The message of Jesus was universal. It required no texts. Texts were written in the beginning to help explain appropriate lifestyle and preserve the simple words of Jesus, not to build doctrinal castles. Aren’t the letters of Paul mostly dealing with how people should live once they become Christians?

    Much has been made by scholars and critics of the Bible about how the nature of the OT God does not compare with the NT “Father.” I agree, mostly, but this is not my point. My point is that as a Gentile, why should I care? Even if I accept Jesus I am not bound by the law. The OT means nothing to me. Adam and Noah might be my ancestors but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not. Neither is Moses. There is nothing in the words of Jesus that demand even that I accept, for example, the Genesis version of creation. It only specifies that God created the world whenever he created it. Can I be a devout follower of Jesus and not believe in Genesis? If not, why not? What difference does it make?

    You can make yourself into a Jewish Christian if you want. Seems kind’of silly to me.

    Oh, btw, Hebrews was written TO the Hebrews. They already knew what the OT said. Since it is written to Hebrews why is it important Gentiles understand it all that well? Revelations… ahh… that book makes no sense at all no matter what anyone does to try and explain it.

    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.

    Paul’s and Jesus’ teachings line up. Paul didn’t trump Jesus. Careful study will reveal that. One must remember that there are two parts, per se, in Christ’s ministry. One to the Jews, then he turns from the Jews since they reject him. This is best seen in Matthew. Jesus’ nature is different in Revelation because he is coming back as God and judge. When he came the first time, he came as the willing sacrifical Passoever lamb, to die for the sins of the world.

    I would suggest careful study is not necessary to recognize the “rules” of Christianity, come right out of the writings of Paul. Paul was good at explaining what is right and wrong behavior. Since Paul’s writing is taught far more in many churches (all the ones I was a part of) than the specific words of Jesus I say Paul did indeed trump Jesus. Even so, do not forget I believe the Gospels and Paul’s writing where edited and are not the same as the original texts. Thus of course Paul and Jesus would appear compatible. Since the originals are long gone there is no proof. Neither of us can be sure our views are correct.

    It’s not true either that no one recognized any Christian scripture until the third century. Paul’s letters and the Gospels were recognized as Scripture very early on. Peter mentions hits on this in 2 Peter. Many of the books that we don’t accept come from the second century and onward and aren’t accepted because their written in other people’s names–which the early church didn’t care for that much.

    Let me correct myself. I meant that there was no official “cannon” or Bible before the third century. The Bible did not become what it is known as today before the fourth century, actually. Yes, there were hundreds of letters, dozens of gospels, etc., that was considered “scripture.” Actually, though, I think most were considered authoritative rather than “holy” scripture. Many of those texts were destroyed, along with many who followed them, as I said. The Gnostic texts discovered in Egypt, rare finds, include some of those extraneous texts that managed to escape destruction. The Gospel of Thomas, part of those texts, is a really interesting read.

    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 geneaologies are important because the Messiah was expected to come through a certain line. Reading the geneaologies is edifiing because one can see the faith that the Hebrews had that the Messiah would come by tracking people’s lines. They’re also important for the service of the tribe of Levi.

    Again, to a Jew or Jewish Christian genealogies might be interesting or edifying but to Gentiles? I say who cares! Does it really matter to the Gentile where Jesus’ biological roots are? Isn’t the point of his life that he is the Son of God, not the son of humans? Why, then, is his mother’s genealogy even relevant? Was his teaching Jewish or was it from the Father? Did he give himself a sacrifice as a Jew or as the Son of God? I find it really kind of weird that many Christians in the past were very anti-Semitic, Luther for example, but still lugged around the OT and built doctrines from it. Go figure.

    The oldest texts known to exist go back only to the second or third century.

    The Isaiah Scroll found in Qumran dates to the fourth century before Christ, as I remember. Also, the Bible Scholars don’t compare the variations to the “originals”. They compare them to one another. The variations are minor. Spelling error mostly–for example qev instead of kev in 2 Kings. The error don’t change anything either. When the Jewish scribes thought there was an error, they wrote it off to the side. They had very high reverence for the text. Of course the technique was primative, but what else would they do? They didn’t have the printing press.

    Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant NT texts only go back to the second or third century. It’s the NT where Christianity comes from. The Jews have worked very hard to maintain their sacred texts. As I’ve stated, I do not see how those even apply to Christianity. The Gospels and the letters are where the story of Jesus and the early church are found and where Christian doctrine and faith should be derived. Those texts are what I speak of.

    Christian texts, letters and gospels, were not copied from the originals by Jewish scribes but by a whole collection of people who hurriedly scratched one copy from another. Many of the “scribes” were not very literate. Language was much more primitive as a whole back then than it is now.

    Because they were so rare, written texts were very precious to folks back then. All of the letters and gospels would have been very carefully preserved. Why, then, is there not a single copy from the first century? Bible critics say it’s because none of the texts were even written down before the second or third century. Many Bible scholars agree. If you’ll dig a bit deeper you’ll find that even the most dedicated Christian scholars question the origins of at least a few of the books in the NT. In fact, some complete English translations say so in the footnotes and prefaces to the text.

    In local churches Bible texts might be considered “writ in concrete” but at all seminaries and even among the most conservative Bible scholars there is still debate on authenticity and authorship. But, of course, pastors do not ever mention this when they go to quoting verses to make their points.

    The texts that we have for the New Testament are closer to the dates of the events that are mentioned therein than the works of Plato, Socrates, Homer, and Herodotus. All works that scholars accept as valid. We also have millions of fragments of texts and whole texts. As for the NT being written in Greek, it was. It is true that Aramaic/Hebrew was being spoken, but you must remember that their were two types of Jews back then. Many Jews were Hellenist and spoke Greek–that’s why Ptolomy comissioned the LXX translation. Also, their were Gentiles in the churches written to and they only spoke Greek! Since all the letters of the NT are written to places outside of Israel, it would only make sense for them to be written in Greek. For examaple, the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, and Thessolonica wouldn’t have spoken Aramaic.

    Ahh, you have been reading apologetics! Everything you say is true, of course. But it does not mean a whole lot when it comes to proving he Bible is completely accurate and says nothing about its inspiration. Socrates, Homer, etc., are not revered as holy texts. They are no doubt valid period stories but who knows if they represent the originals? Who cares? They’re just cool stories and philosophies.

    You are talking about Jews again. are you Jewish? I’m not. I have met a few Jewish Christians, part of a Jews for Jesus organization, but otherwise every Christian I’ve known is Gentile. I won’t belabor the point, though. It makes sense the texts were written in Greek and not Aramaic, though some scholars believe some texts WERE written in Aramaic and translated. There was STILL a translation involved.

    Did you know the Chevy Nova did not ever sell well in Mexico? Know why? Because “No va” means “does not go” in Spanish. Funny. The point is, translations cannot be entirely accurate because language and culture and mindset are all intertwined. Even if we had the precise words of Jesus as he spoke them in Aramaic without translation and we could read them our mind-set as 20th Century Americans would prevent us from hearing them as they were spoken. (Spirit guidance notwithstanding, of course.) But such is far from the case. Jesus spoke in Aramaic with a little Hebrew thrown in, probably. The Gospel accounts were written long after his death from memory (all scholars agree on that) and in a language he did not speak. Even if the texts were not deliberately edited as I believe they were the precise wording and meanings would still not be very accurate.

    Should not your beliefs be based upon what he said rather than what others say he said?

    The words of the Apostles are Christ’s words. The word apostle in Greek carries the idea of a messenger. But not just any messenger. It’s a messenger with the same authority as the sender. Beyond that, since us Christians believe that the writers were inspired, what they wrote are Christ’s words because God “moved them” to write what they wrote.

    I was not referring to doctrines or beliefs based upon the words said to be from Jesus, “red letter” words, as it were. I was referring to the whole spectrum of doctrines that come from a hundred different places other than the gospels. I was talking about the spin doctrine puts on what Jesus said. Then there’s the added twists of speech spoken from pulpits. Even if you don’t rely upon commentaries you no doubt attend church and listen to sermon after sermon spoken by preachers/pastors/etc. who DO rely upon those commentaries. You get commentary whether you want it or not. In the days when I gave a sermon now and again I didn’t rely upon shelves of commentaries but I, too, put the text into my own words. How else could it be presented? Christians, then, base their beliefs overwhelmingly on what others say about Jesus rather than what he said himself.

    I spent many weeks reviewing the gospels and discovering the precise words of Jesus and how different they sound all by themselves, ucluttered by interpretations, cross-references and so forth. Like Buddhists need only the Four Nobel Truths and the Eight Fold Path as their guide, Christians could be extremely effective and would loose nothing of their faith if they lived, studied and followed only the Gospels.

    I am fully aware of the doctrine of “inspiration.” I also know the level of “inspiration” varies on a sliding scale from absolute to probable, depending upon denominational views. Fundamentalists are absolutists, of course. The scale slides left until it gets to the moderate and liberal churches where many might even agree with me.

    What I would suggest is that inspiration, even if valid, does not at all insure inerrancy. What preacher does not believe his sermons are not “inspired.” Are his words perfect? Not the same level of inspiration? How do you know? Either way, only the most dogmatic and stubborn fundamentalists will argue the Bible, their English version, is the precise word of God, word for word and letter for letter. That is an absurd point of view. An errant printer is all it takes to change a couple of letters. Accurate translations are difficult. Precise translations are impossible. Sentence structure, syntax, spelling, colloquialisms, you name it, can never be precisely transferred from the original language to the translation. It is semantically impossible.

    Faced with this absolute fact some staunch inerrantists backpeddal. They say “in the original language” the Bible is inerrant. Even if it is, how many can read Greek and Hebrew? And if they CAN read Greek and Hebrew are they steeped in the differences between the ancient versions of those languages? Ever wonder why the KJV or Shakespeare’s words sound so funny? They’re both English! Go read from the BBC website. English it is but how different! So knowing how to read Greek and Hebrew does not insure the Bible student can get the correct meaning. At last, don’t forget the texts are COPIES. Sure, the copies are pretty close but they are not EXACT. If there is only ONE true text that is completely inaccurate which of the hundreds of copies scholars have is it?

    Thus inspiration cannot mean perfection. Consequently it should be the goal of readers of the Bible not to pick it apart and look for nuances that do not even exist in the original languages but rather the goal should be to find the deep truth and the essence of what Jesus taught. Rather than having that goal, though, Christians through the centuries pick through the text like an old ’49er looking for Gold, believing the ground to be full of nuggets. Thinking the book is inspired the Christian yanks out a string of text and turns it into a doctrine, never knowing he doesn’t have gold at all, but copper pyrite–fool’s gold.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 28, 2009

  6. >>>>For me too. But it opened the door for me to discover the wonder of Buddhism. I’ve found teachings that work but do not make demands or claim to be things they are not. Thanks for stopping by!>>>>>

    Yep. The freedom of Buddhism is VERY attractive when one is healing from rigid religions!

    Comment by Just another "Nobody" :) | March 28, 2009

  7. I picked up on a couple things that I want to answer.

    One is the question why the Bible needs to be illuminated by the Spirit. Of course, someone can read the text and understand it. But they’re not going to understand it for all that it’s worth. That’s were the Spirit comes in, to get to the “nitty gritty” if you will. Also, evangelists will quote Scripture because, if you read the Gospels and the Epistles, God draws people to himself. So, if I go to an unbeliever and I share the Gospel to him, God will give him the ability to understand it. Salvation is entirely of God. No human work is involved.

    It’s true to that the Bibles that we use in English are translations. But, it’s not that the men who translated them didn’t know Hebrew or Greek and just used a concordance to do the work. On the contrary. They studied that languages for ages and know it quite well. The translators of the translation that I use, the ESV, tried as much as possible to keep the subtlties in the text in it, but naturally some will be lost. You mentioned that you tried once before translating from the Spanish. Of course it’s not going to be exact. This can be for many reasons [for example, in German, words can have more than five meanings. So, if I translate something, if I choose the wrong English equvilent, it could be horribly wrong!], but the main message can get across. But if you want to see the intracracies of a langauge, you’re gonna have to learn it. Languages say things in different ways. For example, in English, we say “How are you?” whereas in German we say “How goes it?”. Both expressions mean the same thing. A translator will translate the idea, but to understand the slight difference in the German expression, one will have to learn German.

    Does it really matter to the Gentile where Jesus’ biological roots are?

    In short, yes, because the Messiah was to come through a certain line. The geneaologies show that Jesus came through that line.

    Comment by Tom | March 29, 2009

  8. Good morning.

    We could quickly start going in circles with some of these discussions. This would not be productive. Let me see if I can take a tangent. Is not the belief that the spirit must illuminate the Bible the same thing as saying humans are incapable on their own of discovering truth? Also, does anybody ever understand the Bible “for all it’s worth?” Does God draw people to him through the Bible? Not always. In fact, there are many thousands, including myself, who are repulsed by the actions of the God of the OT. You’ve probably heard it all before but why is God so cold blooded in the OT? Why is there so much death and destruction not just in the name of God but at the directive of God?

    There are plenty of questions that beg answers. As a child I was so confused by the things I read, especially things in the OT. There are probably answers you would give to the questions I had and still have. They would most likely be the same answers I got when I asked them before. They would not be logical.

    I am a person forced to live by logic. By logic I mean “reason and sound judgment.” Many years ago I concluded that God must be the author of logic. Logic rules the world of science. Logic rules everything when all the factors are understood. I do not believe there is anything illogical in religion or religious truth, just that there are factors we do not know. Christianity is run though with many illogical points of view, answers to questions that defy reason. When I run across a point of view or an answer or statement that defies reason there are only two possible conclusions: the statement is wrong or it cannot be known because all the factors are not known. Whole philosophical librairies are built on this kind of thought, of course. I mention it only to say that there is, to me, no logic in God creating a book such as the Bible and preserving it in a way that it carries a precise meaning all the way through two thousand years of massive changes and then not letting it speak for itself.

    Either humans are capable of functioning on their own and discovering truth or they are not. If they are not then it is even more cruel to condemn so many because they do not have the capacity to even understand truth unless they hear it from the mouth of someone who has been “enlightened.” Also, if it is the spirit and the spirit is universal, why are so many millions “dying and going to hell?” There are many millions of good people around the world who never become Christians because of an accident of birth. Devout Buddhists, for example, are marvelous people. They live loving, caring, selfless lives based on moral standards higher than Christian standards. If it is the spirit why doesn’t the spirit speak to them directly in cases where they have no access to a Bible or knowledge of Christianity?

    This question of spirit action vs. man action goes not only to the need for God to tell readers of the Bible its deepest meaning but to the question of salvation itself. If salvation is entirely of God, why are so many not saved? Ya can’t have it both ways. Either a person has to respond or a person doesn’t. If responding requires the spirit BEFORE the person can come, then, why does God leave so many people out? Are some people worthy while others are not? Are some people just rotten and some others not? Isn’t this Calvinism? If people are chosen by God in such a way either as time goes on or from their beginning then love is conditional upon a person’s value and if it is God is not the definition of love that the book gives.

    All you say is correct about translations. I see that you did not say they were moved of the spirit. I’m glad you did not though I suspect you did not because I would have disagreed? Maybe. I would have, of course. The point is that even scholars who eat, sleep and breathe the ancient language could not accurately convey the meaning from the ancient text to English or whatever. When I have done research using the Bible I’ve used resources that provide the Greek and Hebrew versions and have a lexicon that explains the words used in the original languages. An exercise such as that where a person looks up a verse in several translations and compares them one to the other and looks at each word translated to see what it means as written is every enlightening. There were times quite often I found not even the scholars knew what some words meant. The ancient texts use words that fell out of use so long ago nobody knows them. And then, of course, there is the practical difficulty in all the intricacies of language.

    I do not say the Bible is not a relatively accurate rendition of the ancient texts available for use. Don’t get lost in the question of translation. That’s only one point. I made several others. A major contention is the question of whether the books themselves are the right ones. Accuracy of translation matters not at all if the source documents are not valid. Another point is, are all the available “inspired” books in the Bible and are the books that it contain all “inspired?” Were the books it contains edited for content in a time earlier than the oldest available copies were created? These are a few more problems with the idea of an infallible, inerrant Bible.

    Now, if the Bible is all Christians say it is, that it is inerrant, infallible “word of God,” then who holds the key to its truth? Every denomination reads it differently. Entirely different meaning is assigned to many parts. Doctrines grow from interpretations. I go back to something I’ve written before, who is right? The Southern Church of Christ believe two unusual things. They believe salvation does not occur before physical Baptism and they believe using musical instruments in church is a sin. They use the same Bible you do to “prove” it. United Pentecostals believe salvation does not occur before a person speaks in tongues. They use the same Bible you do to “prove” that belief. Baptists believe baptism is only valid if it is immersion while Methodists splash, sprinkle or immerse, as the person wishes. My point is that even IF the Bible was all it is said to be (which it is not) there is still no clarity within it, spirit guide or not.

    I would ask if the spirit is the important factor in Bible study why is there so much confusion about what the book means? Who is correct? How do you know? These are very valid and very important questions.

    On to the question of Gentiles. You are still speaking as a Jew. Is Jesus YOUR Messiah? Not if you are not a Jew. Jesus had two roles. He was, as you say, Messiah to the Jews. It was very important to Judaism that his lineage be exact. (The lineages are not so clear as they are said to be but that’s another post.) The other role is Savior of humankind. To Gentiles Jesus might be Savior but he is not their Messiah. In fact, non-Jews of that day loathed Jews. Jesus had to go to great lengths to reach out to Samaritans and “Greeks.” “Greek” is, of course, a euphemism for Gentile. He reached out to Romans a lot and gave that Roman officer high praise. Do you think, by the way, the Roman officer was following Jewish law? I really doubt that.

    Why does the Bible give the lineage of Jesus through Joseph? Wasn’t God Jesus’ father? Thus Joseph was step-father at best. Wasn’t it given, again, to validate Jesus to the Jews? But then would not giving a lineage through Joseph indicate Joseph is Jesus’ father, not step-father? It’s blood relation that matters, isn’t it? So does not the Joseph lineage conflict with Jesus as God’s son?

    Selah. I taught my kids that word to encourage them to stop and think. Excellent word.

    My wife is poking me to go fix brunch. Thanks for writing!

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 29, 2009

  9. You’ve probably heard it all before but why is God so cold blooded in the OT?

    My answer you may not have heard before as it’s not taught in a majority of seminaries and Christian churches. Most of the “carnage” in the OT comes when Joshua and the Israelites go to cross into the promised land and God tells them to destroy the people. My answer to the question is rooted in Genesis 6. I believe that that chapter is talking about the fallen angels procreating with humans. That is most likely the secondary reason of the flood–God needed to get rid of the angel-human mixes. Anyway, in Genesis 6, it says that those creatures were on the flood afterward too, which, in my view, says that they were on Earth after the flood. This means that the angels came back and did there thang. The Canaanites are descendents of Anak, who the Israelite spies said are Nephilim. And God was so harsh the to Canaanites because he wanted the Earth rid of these hybrids. I believe that angels are being spoken of, instead of godly men like the majority of people teach, because the phrase “sons of God” is only used in the Ot refering to angels. Rabbi’s believe that’s what it was too. Sounds crazy, but that’s what it seems the text implies and says. [An interesting aside to all this is that MANY, if not all, of the ancient cultures have stories of “the gods” coming to earth and dabling with humanity.] It’s important to note though that God always gave the people a chance to repent and join him.

    All you say is correct about translations. I see that you did not say they were moved of the spirit. I’m glad you did not though I suspect you did not because I would have disagreed?

    No, I don’t believe that translations are spirit driven. I do believe that translations need to be updated over time as the language evolves, though. The “King James Only” movement drives me up the wall, in fact. I still love those people though, even though they call me a heretic for not using the KJV.

    Do you think, by the way, the Roman officer was following Jewish law? I really doubt that.

    It depends which Roman officer one is speaking about. Cornelius for example, may have since he was a God-fearer. In the Gospels, probably not. But, that is an important thing because it shows that Jesus worked through people’s faith not by the keeping of the Law.

    Why does the Bible give the lineage of Jesus through Joseph? Wasn’t God Jesus’ father? Thus Joseph was step-father at best. Wasn’t it given, again, to validate Jesus to the Jews? But then would not giving a lineage through Joseph indicate Joseph is Jesus’ father, not step-father? It’s blood relation that matters, isn’t it? So does not the Joseph lineage conflict with Jesus as God’s son?

    It’s true that Joseph would’ve been Jesus’ step-father. No one denies that. But it’s important to note that in the Roman times, if someone was adopted by a man, which Joseph essentially did with Jesus, he was counted as his full fledged son. That’s why we get Joseph’s lineage.

    Comment by Tom | March 29, 2009

  10. Hey, Tom!

    You might not ought to share your point of view too much or you’ll be sitting on the bench beside me in the crazy park. Ha. I can actually accept your ideas quite well. I believe, as you do, that the tiny snippets of OT history that mention the “sons of god” falling down, etc., has major significance. I have long speculated about what it all meant. In fact, I have speculated that those half-breeds as you call them still exist. Could not the truly evil among us be their descendants? There are those who become amoral because of child abuse. My oldest daughter shows signs of that since she was abused very horribly before we adopted her. Then there are people raised by loving parents and in very nice homes who turn out to be entirely evil. How is that? Maybe they are genetically inclined.

    I can get away with this kind of speculation. I’m considered a total nut anyway. If you’re part of a normal Christian community, though, be warned. lol

    I see that you are not of the fundamentalist faction. I can accept your point of view towards the text called the Bible much better than fundamentalist “jot and tittle” infallibility.

    There are three issues surrounding the Bible. The first is the book itself, its authenticity, its validity, etc.. The second is its meaning. The third is its religious significance. On the first issue I believe it is a well preserved volume of ancient religious texts. I do believe its origins are questionable at least in part but I will also concede that for most of Christian history it has been well preserved. It is, then, an authentic text.

    What is its meaning? This, of course, depends upon who is reading it. Non-Christian scholars look at its historical value. Non-Christians in general find it confusing and difficult to understand. Christians, however, search it front to back trying to understand or validate their particular faith. The meaning they find is most often the meaning they give it. It is ambiguous. If the two testaments are separated uninitiated readers (those not steeped in doctrine or church teaching) have an easier time than if it is lumped together. I would suggest it is loaded with a box full of “meanings”, depending upon the part being read. It is, after all, a collection of books and not one single volume. Christians rarely understand the significance of this fact. Every book must stand alone and must be viewed from a particular perspective or it certainly is the most confusing and useless book in the world.

    The religious value of the Bible is important. Is it a “word of God,” is it “THE Word of God,” Is it a word FROM God? Is it the ultimate message? Christians disagree on these questions. Does it “contain” truth or is it THE truth? Where you answer those questions places you on the scale of liberal/conservative Christian and will indicate what denomination you would be comfortable in.

    Christians make assumptions that cause them and others a great deal of stress. One of those assumptions is that the Bible itself is a significant religious text to all people. It is not to me. I view it as I do the Koran or any other religious text. There are good teachings in it. It is not religiously significant to me. I’ve known few Christians who could understand that point. I didn’t, once upon a time.

    I ramble a bit. The difference between our points of view, then, is how we view the Bible’s religious significance. You believe it contains truth, right? In it you find the information you need to be a Christian. The Truth you see in it has a capitol “T.” I believe it is an interesting collection of religious texts. Some are more valid than others. Some I find appalling and horrid. Others are just unbelievable. Parts of it, the gospels and some of Paul’s writing, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, for example, has truth–small “t”–which I can accept. This is about where the discussion comes to a significant impasse. For either of us to move on our positions we’d have to change what we believe not only about the Bible but about Christianity.

    I totally understand what you said about KJV fundamentalists. “Sixteen Eleven will get me to heaven!” Yipee. arg. My brother whom I so often use as an example was once one of those folks. He has mellowed in his old age (as I tell him) but he still sticks by the KJV as the most “accurate.” Well, maybe, if you’re a contemporary of Shakespeare. You know, KJV’ers should be big fans of Shakespeare. If they can understand the KJV all that well Shakespeare’s works would be an easy read. I suppose that would be too secular, huh?

    When I was writing my book I used online Bible resources a lot. The one I used, Bible.org I think, is a great resource. When viewed verse by verse it offers six versions, I think, along with the original text Greek or Hebrew, and the annotated KJV. I looked up hundreds and hundreds of verses up. What I discovered is that all the translations are close except for one, The Message. In my book I said The Message is good only for a door stop. The guy who wrote that book, and he wrote it he didn’t “translate” it, changed almost every single verse. The Message is an example of Mega-church hype and mania gone haywire. There’s another online Bible, I can’t remember where it was now but I’ll look it up if you want, but it provides dozens of translations in a whole lot of languages, even obscure languages. It was pretty useful.

    I kind’a knew what you said about Joseph’s lineage. Just thought I’d throw it out since it is what a lot of folks say who are trying to prove Jesus was “just a man.” Was he? I don’t know. I think he was a Bodhisattva. Does that idea twist the average Christian around? ha.

    Have a great day. Stop back and see what curves you can throw at my writing from time to time. I appreciate it.

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 29, 2009

  11. he still sticks by the KJV as the most “accurate.” Well, maybe, if you’re a contemporary of Shakespeare.

    Ha. That’s pretty funny! I personally don’t think Shakespeare is too secular. I just find it boring. 😛 I think that the Christians that go isolationist are doing themselves a disservice–and are kinda weird. The man that pastors the church I went to in high school [he didn’t pastor it then but took the reigns while I was in college] believes that CDs are a bad thing. Though I think that he is a good guy, I believe that’s taking it a bit too far. Jesus went to where the people were at as did Paul. A good example is when he went to Mars Hill in Athens. Missionaries typically do this. The biggest example that I can think of is Adoniram Judson. He was the first American missionary to go to another country…to Burma I think.

    Bible.org is a good resource. If you ever have the desire to, blueletterbible.com is a good one. It not only has Bibles but several dictionaries. Which are very helpful to see what names mean. That’s one of my favorite things to look at. I have a post on my blog about what I discovered looking at some names in a geneaology in Genesis. I know what you mean about The Message. I think that he went a little too far in the “dynamic equvilance” direction. Paraphrases are good [I like the NLT a lot] until it doesn’t sound like the Bible anymore. I hope that makes sense. Maybe there’s a better way to phrase that. Ha. I think the other website that you’re thinking of, by the way, is biblegateway.com.

    I don’t think the lineages of Christ are the best way to prove that he was human. Many of his actions show humanity–compassion, hunger, sleepiness. The prophecies of the OT allude to the fact that the Messiah is human–such as that the Messiah would be a brother of the Israelites, come from the line of Judah, and others.

    In fact, I have speculated that those half-breeds as you call them still exist. Could not the truly evil among us be their descendants?

    I personally do think that they’re still around. I believe this because in Numbers, the Nephilim are still around. That would mean that the angels “got jiggy wit’ it” after the flood at some point. I think I said before, that this is why God wanted the Israelites to take them out. When you look in Joshua and Judges, Israel didn’t completely wipe out the descendents of the people in Canaan. So, it is entirely possible that these descendents of Anak are still around. [An interesting thing is that there are three main places where Israel didn’t completely conquer the land and these three places are the three areas they’re still having trouble today–the Gaza strip, the West Bank/Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.] In Isaiah somewhere, it says that the Rephaim [which is another name for Nephilim/Anak’s descendents] won’t be resurrected. That could only be if they were part angel because angels don’t naturally have a physical body. It could be that some of the most evil in our midst could be their descendents, but, I rather opt for the notion that they’re being jerked around by demons or their sin nature, for what ever reason, is just greater than some. Due to the fall, man, as we have seen, is capible of much evil, but most of us are able to restrain it.

    Thanks for your concern about how other mainstream Christians will look at me. I’m kinda used to it. My views have often not lined up with the “approved” view. In the end, I can’t control how others view me. All I can do is live my life in a way that’s pleasing to God and serve my Savior the best that I can. I often think of Romans 8.31b. “If God is for us who can be against us?” If I end up in the crazy park, I’ll try to get a place next to you. We can watch a baseball game or something!

    I often wish that my fellow Christians would think outside of the box sometimes. Many of my fellow believers often reject the notion of UFOs, for example, even though it’s something like 3% of all the cases cannot be explained. But, UFOs and the Bible is a topic for another day.

    Comment by Tom | March 30, 2009

  12. Hey Tom…

    There are more things in heaven and earth… than are dreamt of in your philosophies.

    Hamlet.

    I love Shakespeare. Some very profound stuff there. Hamlet is my favorite. I’m different. ha.

    You’re right, it was that website, biblegateway.com . I sent the links to my brother a year or so ago. I don’t know if he uses them much. Back in the eighties when he pastored a tiny little Baptist church and I joined to help him out he used to go on and on and on. He literally has only an eighth grade education so he really struggles. I’m the only person in my family with a degree, for all the good it has done.

    It’s an interesting question whether or not those “sons of gods” are still around. I can tell you from experience badly abused children almost always turn out bad. Like I said, my oldest spooks me sometimes. We had my kids’ cousins and those were the worst. Both of them were under ten and had not the slightest concept of right and wrong, no emotions, no compassion. They could lie and cheat and watch people be hurt and not bat an eye. Sad. I wonder, though, is their problem genetic or merely the result of abuse. It seems some families produce generation after generation of bad people. Who knows, it might be those evil beings’ dna.

    If there’s one, single reason I keep blogging about Christian stuff is to get Christians to think outside the box. Whether it’s UFO’s or fundamentalism, they lock themselves up tight and are more the miserable for it. I was born with a birth defect. I can’t live in a box. Me and boxes don’t get along. I’m claustrophobic. I question everything. Unless it makes sense to me I do not accept it. You probably figured that one out.

    Thinking outside the box, though, is so frightening to most Christians. It scares them. My previous post “Jesus Slaves” made that point. I was talking about people being “Jesus Slaves” in that they have succumbed to dogmatism and doctrine and are subservient to them exclusively. It’s another way to say they live in a box.

    Actually I think if Christians would get out of the absolutist view of the Bible they could step back and learn a lot more from it. When they see it as “God’s word” in absolute terms every little bit takes on such significance they can’t have any fun with parts of it or recognize some is horrible. The law and the way women were treated in the OT, terrible. Then there’s the weird stuff like you mentioned, implying UFO’s. Isn’t it Ezekial’s “wheel within a wheel?” I forget. Sounds like a flying saucer to me. This isn’t the blog to get off on that tangent but I bet we could get into some discussions about UFO’s. I have stories! ha. I wrote a book in ’00 about alien abduction, a novel. I’ve even been to the UFO Museum in Roswell twice! ha.

    Back to the box, there are many Christians whose boxes are so small they might wind up athiests or something if they did venture out. Heck, they might become Buddhists! Cursest. ha. Seriously, it’s a very hard thing to loose faith. Terrifying, actually. Some who crash as I did might not be able to come out the other side. That would be said. So it’s not a good idea for Christians with shaky faith to venture out here in the blogosphere where people like me tend to stir things up.

    I’ve written about Jerry Falwell’s weird point of view when it comes to UFO’s. He said if there is life on Mars, even microbial life, his faith is a lie. How stupid is that? Does the Bible say the earth is all by itself? It’s that darn box. Fundamentalists think it’s necessary to explain everything in the universe in absolute terms. Why can’t Christians just say, “I don’t know!” Sad.

    If you make it to Crazy Park I’ll be the guy twiddling my thumbs and looking up into space.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Comment by texasbohemian | March 30, 2009

  13. Isn’t it Ezekial’s “wheel within a wheel?”

    People try to say that the wheel within a wheel is a UFO, but it makes no sense according to the context. In Ezekiel 1, it is clear that the wheel within the wheel is a part of the Cherubim. The better example of a possible UFO in the Bible is the chariot of fire that whisked Elijah off to heaven.

    Does the Bible say the earth is all by itself?

    Funny that you mention this because I was thinking this same thing this morning! I was thinking of it because my high school youth pastor told me that the Bible says that. But, to my knowledge, it doesn’t! It makes no such claim!

    So it’s not a good idea for Christians with shaky faith to venture out here in the blogosphere where people like me tend to stir things up.

    I don’t exactly agree. Whereas it’s true that someone with a shakey faith could lose there’s, the opposite is true too. Someone’s faith could be boldened. That is what has happened to me as I’ve ventured out into the net. My faith in God and the Bible has grown stronger as I’ve seen/encountered attacks on it. It is sad to me too the box that some Christians put themselves in. I’m not a liberal Christian by any means. I believe that the Bible is the word of God. When I read it, I read it “literally” as some might say. But, I try not to go with preconceived ideas, such as, UFOs aren’t real, for example. I think that many Christians lose the beauty and majesty of the bigger picture when they “put God in a box” so to speak. [They miss the underdriving currents in many of current world events too.]

    Why can’t Christians just say, “I don’t know!”

    \
    Those are probably the three most important words that I learned in college.

    I like the new theme. I’m diggin’ the transparency.

    Comment by Tom | April 1, 2009

  14. Hey, Tom.

    Ya like the theme? I’m probably not going to keep it like it is. I am not satisfied with it. I paid for the ability to use CSS, probably not worth it, but I got interrupted yesterday before I could really do something. I am just not very artistic. The transparencies are cool. I’ve seem some amazing stuff done with them. I have to figure out a little more about how the pages work on WordPress before I can do more. I used to have a whole host of websites but dumped them all. It takes me a long time to work this stuff out and I tend to neglect the family when i get caught up in it. I’m slow. Gimme a few days. I’ll see what I can dream up that might look really good. Also, in a few days I’m going to get back to the reason I call myself the “trailerpark scholar.”

    Oh, by the way, you sound like I did a decade or so ago. Better watch out, you might become a Buddhist too. Ha!

    I don’t remember much about the story in Ezekiel, just that it sounded weird. And yeah, it pops up on UFO stories a lot. The idea of the chariot does sound weird, too. In fact there’s a lot of strange stuff in the OT that could be easily explained by paranormal and/or extraterrestrial events. I used to say the strange stuff in Revelation was merely a misidentification of modern things–when I believed in the efficacy of Revelation. Except for the teaching of Jesus there’s just nothing the slightest bit clear in the Bible. For those who believe in the “God breathed” view I’d ask why didn’t God at least attempt to educate the writer and make the book consistent.

    Because most people don’t actually READ the Bible and many who do get all mixed up in its strange nature all kinds of weird things are said to be there that isn’t. The more strict or strange or totally off the wall a doctrine is the easier it is to see that some dingaling took a three word phrase or some such and turned it into a cardinal doctrine. Like I just mentioned on your post when I was a kid I believed all kinds of stuff was “in the Bible,” like it’s a sin to fish on Sunday. When I started studying the book myself a whole bunch of stuff appeared to be contrived and made up.

    When I was a kid I believed I was a Jew the way Judaism was wed to Christendom in my church. Then later I discovered the Jews keep the “Sabbath.” Saturday? Huh? So is fishing wrong on Saturday or Sunday? Hmm. In high school I really started digging into the Bible. I used to get stacks of books, as many translations as I could find, and look for myself. I suppose you could say I spent my whole Christian walk tossing stuff out of my basket until the basket came up completely empty. The idea of a “holy” Sunday went, the belief in a “rapture” went, on and on. By the time I got down to being Universalist Unitarian all I had left was a bare bones faith. That crashed too.

    There are those who, like you and I, want to learn more, want to understand, seek answers. I might be wrong but I think one major difference between you and I is that you begin by saying some things can’t “not” be right and I say every belief can be wrong. I am Buddhist not because I believe Buddha was right in a specific, religious way but because I feel in my gut his teaching is valid and in my case it has worked to help me be a better person. I’m no more sold on his theories of spirituality than I am those of Christianity.

    I digress a little but I was going to the question of whether it is a good idea for a shaky Christian to go out reading stuff. I believe he said it directly but if not Buddha implied that if I do something that causes a person to loose faith I have done a wrong thing. I will have caused suffering. Thus in a way my blog itself is not consistent with right speech. In my case, though, I am driven to challenge ideas that seem to cause harm in themselves. I truly appreciate your attitude but there are many who are absolutists and cause themselves and others a lot of grief because of it. I am, in fact, writing against the “me” that was twenty years ago.

    I caused my wife incredible grief. I used to be judgmental. I used to insist she be more Christ-like. I was never cruel, she is the reason my heart beats, but I have by the way I was made her doubt and question and worst of all, be fearful. Back then she was much younger and a lot less savvy than she is these days. I was so wrong. I was wrong in a lot of attitudes I had. My heart was in the right place, my goal was go “love God,” my mission was to do good but I wasn’t doing good. The challenge is to find the line. Where does pushing Christians to test and try their belief so they’ll grow stop and pushing them over the edge begin?

    If I write articles to the general public and challenge Christianity as I have here I would probably be over the line. But people have to find and read a blog deliberately. I have the opportunity to think through things by writing them and being challenged as you have challenged me. You came to my blog, though, I did not go out and find you so I could run your faith down.

    My wife and I have both matured and gotten used to each other. We’ve been together for over thirty years now. Yesterday over a particular crisis I’m having which I’m about to blog about I mentioned that I was not Christian and I was not bound by some of the stupid ideas my family believe and also that I do not believe confronting this situation (you’ll have to see the blog) is the right thing to do. She said she did not believe the junk I did. I told her she could believe anything she wanted but it doesn’t make it true. Truth is truth. If there is an absolute Truth, and I believe there is, it is what it is. I don’t think anybody knows Truth. I think Jesus knew Truth and I think Gautama got a glimpse of it too, but they were exceptional for who they were. We who are not born of God as Jesus says he was and who have not spent our lives looking inward as intensely as Buddha cannot presume to know. Not even the disciples had much of a clue. The gospels indicate they bungled along all the way to the crucifixion and beyond. The book of Acts and the letters of Paul prove they never agreed among themselves, they bickered, they were far from what Jesus expected of them. So, what is Truth? I don’t know.

    Belief, then, is the set of ideas we stick in our heart that works for us. It might work for us so intensely that we can run our life on it. We’ll even die for it. But the guy in the seat beside us has a different psyche, a different heart, a different background. That which works for us might work for him and it might not. If something is good in our eyes and we present it in the right way he might find fulfillment in it. Or he won’t. At the same time we should not try to reach into his life and rip his beliefs away if they are giving him peace.

    I’m off the subject, aren’t I? The point I was making about the danger of Mr. Shakeyfaith probing the blogosphere and jumping around the net willy-nilly is that he might run across something that cracks his faith to the point that he is in fear of loosing it and of loosing his life. My wife is at that place, I think. She has always had fear of being “not saved.” Having been raised in a holiness church, Nazarene, she never has ever felt religiously adequate. “Yes I’m saved,” she thinks, “but what if I’m not?” She fears hell. Hell was a big deal in her church as it was in mine. Hell generates fear. I suggest though you’ll probably disagree that hell was invented as a place for non-Christians precisely to generate fear. It is the fear of hell far more than the love of Jesus that keeps a lot of Christians coming back for more. They don’t know “love” as Jesus taught. They understand fear. Sad. So, a guy risks cracking the shell and living in fear if he goes off reading all kinds of “heretical” stuff. Like mine!

    You’re right, “I don’t know” are so vital to a sane mind. But the unknown is fearsome. Like kids in the dark, the unknown sneaks up on people and bites them with horrid imaginings. In my case I still say “I don’t know” a lot but at the same time I make a determined effort to find out if I can. Thus there’s few branches of science or psychology I do not have a working knowledge of. I have studied and read and studied. Look at my “about” page. The problem with religion is that the only way to really find out what is “out there” is to go out there and unfortunately the only known way to do that is to die. I’m not in the least convinced that we’ll find anything out much even when that happens. Darn.

    Comment by texasbohemian | April 1, 2009


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