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THE BIBLE – WRITINGS OF MEN

I was watching a very interesting documentary tonight on  the History Channel, ‘The Bible Unearthed’, about the archaeological and historical evidence for events in the Bible. Some events are supported very clearly , other events not so much, for example where there seem to be discrepancies in the dating of an event.

Well, it got me thinking. One clear thing I took away with me after watching this, and something which I often wonder, how Christians can ignore, is that the Bible is a collection of writings, written down by many ‘men’, no matter where their inspiration came from.  That is not to say that there is no basic truth or wisdom in what has been written. I believe there are good, valuable, universal teachings to be found in it applicable for both Christians and non-Christians alike. 

 We have to remember that as such, the writings would be subject to human error (debates still continue for example, over the orignal Aramaic word used for what has been translated as ‘virgin’ – whether or not the original meant ‘young maiden’ or ‘virgin’ in relation to Mary..)  or even exaggeration to make a story have more impact on the audience. A point borne out in the documentary.  Just as today the media, politicians, campaign groups, religious leaders, whoever wants us to support what they say, will to some degree resort to expressing their cause in such a way as to grab our attention and appeal to our emotions.  Just as history books can be be biased, (even if the facts are correct in terms of dates and events), towards the historians’ perception.

So why is the Bible any exception? In reading it and trying to understand it I think it is important to remember this. That doesn’t mean we can’t explore it’s teachings and try and learn from it.  Neither does it  invalidate the fundamental message of Jesus which is repeated in all the gospels.

Consider also that these writings were compiled into one book, the Bible as we know it, by ‘men’.  There are many other writings other than those 27 deemed suitable for inclusion by the ecclesaistical authorities.  Why were some writings left out? Was there some message in those they did not want to include? What were the political and religious circumstances at the time? Would this have affected the choice made? It is easy to blindly say “The Bible is the word of God, and all other writings must be rejected”, but when you really look at the history of it’s compilation it doesn’t seem so clear. So why not explore these other writings I ask you? May they not have valuable insights or teachings too? It is certainly interesting to read some of the other gospels, and something I plan on discussing more in other posts,  such as The gospel of Thomas in the Nag Hammadi library.

One question which I would ask,which arose out of watching the documentary,  but which requires further exploration, is why as a Christian pay so much attention to the Old Testament? Shouldn’t a follower of Christ be concerned with his message…his message about how to live, and how to live with each other? So why even bother with the Old Testament other than as an interesting historical read? There seems to me to be so much that is  extraneous which is part of the Christian faith today which Christians get caught up in, which detracts from Jesus’s core message, which divides the faith, and which  alienates people from  it who would be otherwise open to the message of love, self-knowledge, and compassion that Jesus preached.

I’m sure that is not what Christ wanted.

TAKING THE BIBLE TOO LITERALLY

It perplexes me as to why alot of Christians inisist on taking the creation story in Genesis as literal, and deride and condemn the opinions of those who try to look a bit further and actually  understand it in the context of when it was written. Many religions have stories which are not meant to be literal but are a way of trying to explain things in terms people of the time, without the science and knowledge of the world around us we have now, could understand. If a 6 year old came to you and asked you what quantum particles were how would you explain them? Would you sit down and start going into complex detail about quanta, entanglement and the structure of particles? No…you would describe it in simplistic terms that the child could maybe understand. And then they would only just barely have some  idea what quantum particles were. They would not have a true picture in their mind because they don’t have the necessary understanding and knowledge to fully comprehend them.

So why don’t alot Christians take a similar approach to the creation story. Why is it not possible that creation as described in Genesis is a way to try to explain to people of the time in simplistic terms how life was created. Even now, with all our scientific advancement since then, there is so much about the world around us, seen and unseen, that we do not understand. Even that which we think we do may be proven in time to be incorrect in some way. And we have limits on what we can understand and comprehend.

I think maybe, these Christians are afraid of the idea of the Bible not being literal here, for if it isn’t, then what else is open to question? They need to hang on to something. But questioning, and trying to truly understand what is written need not cause their belief system to come crashing down. Only through exploration can we find truth. We may not always like what we find.