Conversation on the Bible
Here is a conversation on the Bible that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months. As there were two commentators involved at the same time, the discussion with each is separated below.
Commentator 1 September
Much of the old testament is filled with violence and genocide the likes of which would keep today’s UN war crimes tribunals busy for an eternity.
How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity? Faith is in no way empirical evidence of the divine origin of the texts.
George’s reply 24 September
You asked, “How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity?” Please read my post on “Can we trust our Bibles”. It concludes that our Bibles are very close to the original because early manuscripts have been preserved, scholars have reconstructed the original text and languages have been translated accurately. Because of this and the numerous manuscripts that have been preserved, the Christian Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today.
Commentator 24 September
Dear George, be that as it may citing the Bible as proof of its self is a non sequitur. It’s like asking the murderer if he did it and using that as the only evidence in court. I don’t doubt the Bible was written, or even has some truth, but it is in of itself not proof of god or the divinity of Jesus.
George’s reply 1 October
You claim that “citing the Bible as proof of its self is a non sequitur”. This means that “it does not follow” or it’s not logical. I answered this by saying that “the Christian Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today”
We can find out whether to approve or disapprove of any given teaching by comparing it to biblical text. The Bible is the ultimate standard for truth.
Commentator 5 October
Should not the truth when exposed, read, or published in any Christian text speak for its self?
George’s reply 5 October
With regard to religious books, it’s the quality that counts more than the quantity. As the Bible is a message from the God who created the universe, it trumps all products of the human mind.
Truth in the Bible is simple enough to be read by anyone.
You ask, “Should not the truth when exposed, read, or published in any Christian text speak for its self?” Yes it does. But most people reject it. For example, everyone can see the beauty and complexity of life and the universe, but few consider the Creator.
Commentator 8 October
Back to the Bible, God did not write the Bible, men clearly did, as an intermediary. I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay. But if you ask me today and say that some guy saw a burning bush and chiselled out 10 laws from God on a stone tablet, I would want to know what drugs he was on to have such a hallucination. I can accept that these men were inspired to do it and in turn inspired many others to do good things.
Why do most people reject the Christian teachings? Very good question. The answer is likely in the delivery, for example, “I am right, it says so right here in the good book, and you are going to hell if you don’t believe as well”. “Don’t shove that down my throat.” nothing has changed since the crusades. There is not one ounce of compassion or wisdom in this approach. It causes divisions where none previously were, it causes people to close up and move away, and what good is that?
Have I read the New Testament? Yes and not only that but the entire book from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And I find nothing in the book that qualifies as proof of its own existence or the existence of a god. This is simply not logical. If you, however, have a personal experience of god that has in some way or another lead you to believe otherwise, I accept that you have found the truth for yourself and am happy for you. If you simply need something to believe in and find Christianity acceptable this is also good, as long as you use this for good deeds that further our human development, as this is exactly what Buddhism teaches us to do. What I read and understood in the Old Testament was nothing more than genocide and its divine justification. Granted the new Testament changed most of this but not all of it. And I can completely agree that Jesus was an extraordinary being the likes of which we could use many times more here on earth.
George’s reply 9 October
You say, “God did not write the Bible, men clearly did, as an intermediary”. This is correct. In Old Testament times God communicated to people via the prophets and in New Testament times He communicated via Jesus and the apostles. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable … Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (own mind). For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). So the Holy Spirit helped the authors write the words. But it wasn’t just dictated mechanically, because each author used their own style. In this way, the Bible is a message from the God who created the universe, and so it has more authority than any product of the human mind.
You say, “I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay”. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.
You say, “Why do most people reject the Christian teachings? Very good question. The answer is likely in the delivery”. Let’s test this with Jesus. As Jesus was divine, the delivery of His message to fellow Jews must have been perfect. But Jesus was rejected in His hometown (Mk. 6:3; Lk. 4:28-29); and in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum where He did many miracles (Lk. 10:13-15); and in the region of the Gadarenes (Mt. 8:34). Many of His followers deserted Him (Jn. 6:66). And the Jewish religious leaders condemned Him to death. This shows that Jesus Christ’s teachings were rejected by many people. If that’s what happened to Jesus Christ, then the message about Jesus will also be rejected today. And the reason will be humanity’s sinful rebellion against God, and not the style of delivery.
You say, “Have I read the New Testament? Yes and not only that but the entire book from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And I find nothing in the book that qualifies as proof of its own existence or the existence of a god. This is simply not logical.” Your opinion is not surprising. Paul wrote, “If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Many things (including presuppositions) can hide the message of the Bible.
Commentator 19 October
Once again I ask you what evidence do you have of the divinity of the Bible? Other than what is already said in the Bible.
Once again using the Bible as proof of its self is simply illogical. For example, “hear ye hear ye, I am the great spaghetti monster who was boiled for your sins. Trust me because I say so and look I wrote it in this big book” ??? Really, I don’t think so. This rationale is simply insulting to our intelligence as rational well-educated individuals.
George’s reply 29 October
You say, “Once again using the Bible as proof of its self is simply illogical”. … The Bible is a collection of 66 ancient documents written over a period of at least 1,500 years by 40 different authors. But it has an amazing unity. The New Testament was written by at least nine independent authors. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ. And the statements made by each author can provide independent proof of statements made by the others. That’s how historical facts are determined from historical records.
All religious and philosophical systems start with presuppositions. For example, my presupposition is that the Bible is God’s written word and so it is the ultimate authority on whatever it teaches. The real tests are: is it self-consistent and is it consistent with the real world? So what do these tests show? Is the Bible self-consistent? Yes, the Bible is consistent in the claims it makes about itself. And it doesn’t disclaim divine inspiration. Is the Bible consistent with the real world? The biblical framework is the only one that provides the foundation for science (the universe is orderly because it was made by a God of order), voluntary will (being made in the image of God, people are free to make choices), logic (the universe was made by a God of order who operates consistently throughout the universe), and morality (the Bible provides an objective basis for right and wrong). This foundation is lacking in most other religious and philosophical systems.
Commentator 30 October
George, I have one final comment for you, please let us test the divinity of the Bible and modern values and morals. I have selected 6 verses to help us see how the bible’s divine wisdom that can help us lead better and more fulfilled lives in the name of god the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Let’s consider and examine this good news and call it the Humanity and Compassion Test.
- 1 Timothy 2:12, says: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent.” When we stand in front of a woman Judge and she passes a sentence do we get to ignore it as she is a woman and I am I man? Is a woman President out of the question biblically speaking? How should a mother or a woman teacher discipline or direct male children? Is this scripture an example of god’s compassion and humanity? How should the Queen of England and women like Margret Thatcher and Oprah Winfrey interpret this?
- 1 Samuel 15:3: “This is what the Lord Almighty says … ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” Does god give us permission to commit genocide in situations where he deems it acceptable? How should this scripture help us find peace and stability for all in this world? What shall we say to the violence and utter destruction this poses should this be a model for us to use in future conflicts? How should one balance this with “thou shall not kill”? Is this what you are talking about when you speak of the bible’s congruency with itself over the time it was written?
- How about Psalm 137, which puts an interesting spin on revenge: “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” This finds god at odds with Gandhi and his “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” When would such revenge stop, and how on earth should this make anyone happy? Reading stuff like this really makes me sick.
- This might be a repeat of #1 but I want to know after reading Genesis 16-21 and Exodus 20-21 When I can have my slaves, wives, and concubines? Are the Mormons correct and did the wrong side in the eyes of god lose the civil war in the US? Does god’s divine plan for man include servants and whores who are at my disposal if I believe in him?
- Exodus 35:2 – ” For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.” When shall we start the execution of all the McDonalds and Burger King employees who have to work on Sunday? Do we do anything with the boss who is at home but required them to work? Once again why all the killing?
- Luke 14:26, ” If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” I am not even sure what to say here except that my Sunday school teacher ever so slightly and skillfully passed over this one.
- Numbers 5:11-31 – ”Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure- then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt. ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband’ here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath, may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away.’ Then the woman is to say, ‘Amen. So be it.’ The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.” Wow, what is this? Drink this poison and if you live you were innocent and when you die, you die because of your sins? How is this Love? Where is the wisdom here? How many women would be left standing today if we still did this?
- Leviticus 21:17-24 – “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the LORD by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’ ” So Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites. So I take it that there is no handicapped entrance ramp to the temple, only an exit. If there is a handicapped entrance to a church, is the church in violation of the holy scriptures of god? Is this how we express compassion and wisdom to those of us who are less fortunate than ourselves?
So these questions are an attempt to qualify the divinity of the holy scriptures and god’s plan for us here his servants on earth. Or is this just an absurd plan from psychopathic tyrant hellbent on destruction and control. I find no love, no compassion, and no humanity in these “holy” words of some supposed god that will condemn me to hell if I don’t believe in him, how is that for unconditional love? In fact, I find only great understanding after reading this and similar scriptures in the Quran and the Torah, of the great plague that began in the middle east and now is infecting the whole world with violence and death as Christian and Muslim pit their versions of god against one another much like you, have pitted the supposed words of god against the Buddha Dharma. This is not a message of love in any way shape or form, this is not self consistent with a message of love and good news. Result FAIL!
George’s reply 10 November
You quote eight passages from the Bible for testing against “modern values and morals”. I have written a post on how to understand the Bible. And I have applied this to 1 Samuel 15:1-3 (passage #2 above). This includes consideration of the text, the historical-cultural context and the literary context. There are two main divisions in the Bible – the part dealing with the Old Covenant (up to AD 30) and the part dealing with the New Covenant (after AD 30). Jesus overlaps these covenants as He lived under the old one but also taught about the new one.
Because, “Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given” (Rom. 10:4), even Jews are no longer under the law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-25). Jesus ended “the (Old Testament) system of law with its commandments and regulations” (Eph. 2:15). He fulfilled the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets by accomplishing their purpose (Mt. 5:17). Because Jesus never sinned and was the only one who obeyed the law, He was able to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. This means that God’s justice is met while at the same time He can show mercy to sinners. So, these laws were for the people of Israel (Jews) living under the Old Covenant, but under the New Covenant the people of God (Christians) are no longer an ethnic group, but people from all nations.
Looking at the passages, numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 were written to Israelites living under the Old Covenant. This historical context means that they are not relevant to Christians living under the New Covenant. Therefore, they are also not relevant to “modern values and morals”. See my exegesis of passage #2. If you want to compare them with something, then it should be with other nations of that era. Otherwise you are comparing apples against oranges and not like against like.
Looking at the other two passages (numbers 1 and 6). The context of 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly”) is that Paul is writing to Timothy with instructions for the church at Ephesus. It is preceded by instructions on corporate prayer (2:1-10) and followed by instructions on church leadership (3:1-13). So, the topic being addressed in 1 Timothy 2:12 is teaching scripture and listening to teachers of scripture in a corporate church setting. It has nothing to do with the behaviour of female judges, presidents, mothers, school teachers, queens, prime ministers, or talk show hosts.
When a large crowd followed Jesus He said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26-27). This could be a hyperbole (an obvious exaggeration) meaning that one must love Jesus even more that one’s immediate family and one’s own life. Or the word “hate” could have a particular meaning. Either way, it’s a rhetorical technique to get their attention. And then He explains His statement (v.27-33). He was looking for followers who were willing to live devotedly and passionately for Him, and even die for Him if necessary. So He describes the cost of true discipleship. No consideration of family ties or self-centredness must ever be allowed to deflect a disciple from a pathway of full obedience to Christ. Christians are to love Him supremely, more than their family and more than their own lives. His followers are required to reset their priorities and put God first. Jesus is teaching about the cost of following Him, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (Lk. 14:33).
A similar thought is given in, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine” (Mt. 10:37). By comparing with Luke 14:26, we see that in this context, the word “hate” could mean “to love less than”. And this could be the particular meaning that Jesus intended. Also note, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (Jn. 12:25).
Commentator 8 November
Dear George, if your beliefs on christ are based on what the Bible says, and not on what was decided at the council of Nicaea, how can you say that the Bible is authentic and factual according to history when in fact what the Bible says was in part decided at the council of Nicaea? Your argument is not logical.
George’s reply 17 November
You ask, “how can you say that the Bible is authentic and factual according to history when in fact what the Bible says was in part decided at the council of Nicaea?” The main topic considered at Nicaea was whether Jesus was human or divine. Is He a created being (just a human being) or equal with God (divine)?
Let’s look at the historical evidence. The Bible says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God. He [Jesus] existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him [Jesus], and nothing was created except through Him” (Jn. 1:1-3).
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He [Jesus] existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him [Jesus] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He [Jesus] made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him [Jesus] and for Him. He [Jesus] existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together” (Col. 1:15-17).
“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors [Jews] through the prophets. And now in these final days, He [God] has spoken to us through His Son [Jesu]). God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He [God] created the universe. The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He [Jesus] sustains everything by the mighty power of His [Jesus] command” (Heb. 1:1-3).
From these three passages about Jesus, it’s clear that Jesus is divine, and not just a human being. These were written at least 200 years before the Council of Nicaea. That’s what the historical record says. The fact that Jesus was divine means that He was greater than any other person who ever lived. And it is dangerous to ignore the good news about Him in the Bible.
Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be divine (Lk. 22:67-71). And He said, “unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).
The Council of Nicaea upheld the doctrine of Christ’s true divinity, rejecting Arius’s heresy. The council did not invent this doctrine. Rather, it only recognized what the Bible already taught over 200 years earlier. Therefore, the Bible is authentic and factual in itself. And it’s meaning doesn’t rely on the findings of the Council of Nicaea. It just happens that in this case, the finding was consistent with what the Bible clearly teaches. It seems logical to me.
Commentator 8 November
Dear George, have you personally read and studied these other books or extra writing in order to determine their authenticity yourself or do you have faith in man and trust that he had no other ulterior motives in including or dismissing said sacred and inspired texts from god?
George’s reply 17 November
You ask, “have you personally read and studied these other books or extra writing in order to determine their authenticity yourself or do you have faith in man and trust that he had no other ulterior motives in including or dismissing said sacred and inspired texts from god”.
No, I haven’t studied many of these extra-canonical books. I trust Christians in the first few centuries of the church to be able to distinguish the truly canonical from the false. After all, they lived in the era when these books were written, so they are more qualified than anyone today. To test their judgment I have just read “The gospel of Thomas”. This is a disjointed collection of 114 sayings. Many of them have obviously been derived from the gospels in the Bible. But some are strange (see below). In this case I agree with the early Christians, this book isn’t inspired by God.
(11) Jesus said, “This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. In the days when you consumed what is dead, you made it what is alive. When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?”
(18) The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us how our end will be.” Jesus said, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.”
(22) Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, “These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.”
They said to him, “Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?”
Jesus said to them, “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.”
(80) Jesus said, “He who has recognized the world has found the body, but he who has found the body is superior to the world.”
(105) Jesus said, “He who knows the father and the mother will be called the son of a harlot.”
(112) Jesus said, “Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh.”
(114) Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Commentator 15 November
Now I did quote you a verse from the Bible that I believe empowers Christianity to wage war and 1 Samuel 15:3 sounds like war to me. And “if” god really did inspire these scriptures then he IS THE PROBLEM. It is also irrelevant what part of the bible this comes from when it is the holy inspired truth. If this scripture is no longer valid or void because it is part of the Old Testament then your argument for the validity, authenticity, or divine authority of the whole bible is very questionable. How does this work? Do we now have Synod of George and those that think like him who now get to say that part of the bible is no longer valid and we like this part instead? If so then Islam seems to have the most uncorrupted book. If Jesus ended the old testament system how did we end up with all the crusades? Perhaps we need some new prophet to come forth again and end all this religious violence we have now. Lord knows we need it because as long and Jews, Muslims, and Christians are fighting none of us will ever know peace. If the bible cannot inspire us to “be peace” then it is no longer relevant to human beings and should be discarded in the annals of history.
Your comments on the use of the word hate in the new testament are interesting. But “could be a hyperbole” sounds like you are really out on a limb and grasping for something to hold onto. Could that have a particular meaning as well? How much license does one have in interpreting this book? How much licence for interpretation has been used over the years version after version synod after synod, you must get my drift here, don’t you? This does not bode well for the bible’s divine authenticity. My critical and logical western mind has a real tough time swallowing this and this is a fail in my books.
George’s reply 19 November
The message of the Bible is simple. It explains the past, the present and the future. And it tells us what to do and how to live. God created a perfect universe where there was no sin. But people rebelled (disobeyed) against God bringing sin, pain, suffering and death into the world. Our world is different to what God originally intended. We live in the time period between the fall (into sin) and the restoration. But God sent Jesus to take the punishment for sin by dying for us. God is the greatest example of love. Those who accept His rescue plan become part of His new creation where there will be no sin. This gives lasting joy and love. Those who don’t accept His rescue plan, will pay the penalty for their rebellion against the God who sustained them through life on earth. This gives lasting pain and regret. Which option will you choose?
You say that Christianity is one of the causes of the world’s problems and believe that 1 Samuel 15:3 empowers Christianity to wage war. Here is the passage where this verse occurs in the Bible, “One day Samuel said to Saul, ‘It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys’” (1 Sam. 15:1-3). See my exegesis of this passage.
This is a message to Saul the king of Israel who lived about 1030BC. Christianity began when the Holy Spirit indwelt believers on the day of Pentecost in about AD30. The portion of the Bible that describes early Christianity (Acts to Revelation) was written after AD30. The message in 1 Samuel 15 was written to Israelites living in the land of Israel over 1,000 years before Christianity began. I don’t see how this event in Jewish history is relevant to Christianity – it isn’t mentioned in the New Testament. It’s more relevant to Jews than to Christians.
Saul also offered animal sacrifices (1 Sam. 10:8; 13:8-10). Does this mean that Christians should offer animal sacrifices to God? Of course not. Christians follow the new covenant, not the old one which was made with the Israelites. That’s why the Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. We need to take into account who the text is written to. This is basic biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) and exegesis (interpretation of a specific text).
You say, “If Jesus ended the old testament system how did we end up with all the crusades?” From about AD 200, the land of Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey was inhabited primarily by Christians. But once Islam became powerful, Muslims invaded these lands and brutally oppressed, enslaved, deported, and even murdered the Christians living in those lands. Besides conquering the Middle East, the Muslims aggressively conquered portions of Europe, northern Africa and Spain. The march on Europe was stopped in what is now France by Charles Martel in 732, at the Battle of Tours (Poitiers). And by 732 they swept over Persia into India. This all happened within 100 years of the death of Muhammad in 632. This conquest was unparalleled in human history. The initial Islamic jihad captured four of the five centres of Christianity at that time. These are now in the Islam world. The largest of these former Christian centres was Constantinople.
And Christians didn’t respond for 450 years. The first crusade was a response to an appeal from the Byzantine Empire and a threat to Christian residents of Palestine and to pilgrims visiting Palestine and to the destruction of churches in Palestine. The aim was to allow pilgrimages to Palestine. The Crusades were a defensive action that was delayed and small scale. This was a limited military action in response to a series of massive military actions. There was no attempt to recover any of the other lands that had been conquered.
In response, the Roman Catholic Church and “Christian” kings/emperors from Europe ordered the crusades (AD 1095 to 1230) to liberate the land of Palestine so that pilgrimages could be made once again. Although the Crusades were primarily pilgrimages rather than military operations, the actions that many so-called Christians took in the crusades were deplorable. They did some terrible things. There is no biblical justification for conquering lands, murdering civilians, and destroying cities in the name of Jesus Christ.
Christianity doesn’t have the idea of a holy war. Fighting wasn’t something that got you into heaven. And Jesus said His kingdom wasn’t maintained by military might – “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).
You criticize my explanation of the word “hate” in Luke 14:26. You say, “How much license does one have in interpreting this book?” There is no license in interpreting the Bible because the meaning is usually given by the context. In this case Jesus gives an illustration about a man who builds a house without counting the cost and finds that he cannot follow through with what he set out to do (v.28-30). The point of the passage is to count the cost of following Jesus. In order to be a disciple, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Therefore, if our parents will not follow Jesus, or if they disown us for being Christians, we must still choose Him over them. It is in this sense that we are “hating” our family members who reject the Lord or reject us because of the Lord. God requires total commitment from His followers, to the point of not being diverted by any natural family members who reject Jesus. The cost of following Jesus is that we must be prepared to put everything else second.
Commentator 20 November
Dear George, once again your argument is simply illogical. You say that god created a perfect universe. lol, this simply cannot be. If this said universe was perfect then it is completely impossible that man could rebel and sin. What on earth or in this universe would we have to rebel against if it all was perfect? This presumption of yours is not realistic. Are we to believe the Lucifer was walking around one day in a perfect heaven and accidentally fell through some hole in a cloud and fell to earth? Some perfection, full of holes. And then to top it off we are to believe and trust in him and his so-called rescue plan, to fix his messed up first attempt at perfection and wait in pain and suffering for his second attempt.
You claim yourself that the writings in 1 Samuel 15: 1-3 are irrelevant because of the passage of time and the coming of Jesus. If the bible is the true and correct inspired word of god what power do you have to declare it non-pertinent? The entire book is the inspired word of god or none of it at all, there is no room to interpret this any other way.
If there is no license in interpreting the bible we must then see the meddling of man in early years of the church when the Catholics redid or rewrote the bible. The words of which now serve to enslave and control man at the behest of the church’s powerful control. You may also not interpret the bible to say that the old testament is no longer valid.
I happened to stumble upon an interesting lecture on YouTube the other day that in my opinion passes perfectly to our discussion. George if you have a free 51 min of spare time have a listen to what Alan Watts a respected philosopher, writer and speaker has to say about what we have been discussing. It can be found here. youtube.com/watch?v=GbO0t3srgE4 I am interested to hear what you or anyone else might have to say about this, thank you once again for your openness and your forum for discussion. It is truly a gift to speak with you.
George’s reply 28 November
Unfortunately, your statements about the Bible seem to be based on your presuppositions. There needs to be a lot more exegesis and a lot less eisegesis if you want to understand what the Bible says and how it applies today. For example, I have already stated that the Old Testament was written to Jews, while the New was written to Christians, and the Old Testament is the precursor of the New Testament, but you don’t seem to understand this statement.
You ask, what did Adam and Eve have to rebel against in a perfect world? Their sin was that they wanted to be like God and because of this they disobeyed God (Gen. 3:5-6).
You allege that “the Catholics redid or rewrote the bible”. I would like to know specifically what passages you are referring to here. Can you name the chapter and verses? What evidence can you give?
Alan Watts seemed to speak like a guru who was his own authority. But he falsely claimed that the Scriptural canon was decided by the Roman Catholic church. The New Testament clearly tells us that the apostles were identifying scripture as it was being written (2 Pt. 3:14-16). That’s in the first century AD. The New Testament books were being distributed by the apostles to the various churches to be read (Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27; 2 Th. 2:2; 3:14). That’s in the first century AD. By the time the apostles died (in the first century AD), the New Testament had been written and its books were known. The Muratorian Fragment (AD 170) and several of the early fathers have left us a list of books that were identified as belonging to the New Testament. The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent with each other. The church didn’t need to wait until AD 382 to decide which books satisfied these criteria. They already knew this over 200 years earlier. The apostles and their associates were the authority, not the Roman Catholic church which began hundreds of years later. So the authority of Scripture is based on the authority of the apostles and their associates and not on the authority of the Roman Catholic church.
Watts imposes his presuppositions on the Bible. He believes that Jesus was a mystic who experienced cosmic consciousness to come into union with God. Watts is a pantheist who believes that we are all divine. He bases this on John 10:34-36, which says, “Jesus replied, ‘It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world”.
This passage refers to Psalm 82:6 where unjust human judges are called “gods” because they represented God in a theocratic kingdom. It doesn’t imply that they were divine (because they were corrupt and mortal). Since Scripture called human beings “gods” simply because God commissioned them, how much more may the “Son of God” be called by a divine title? If the judges can be called “gods” in Scripture, how much more is this term appropriate for the genuine Son of God who God sent into the world and who is divine (holy and immortal)? So Jesus had every right to claim equality with God.
Watts also believed that Jesus was similar to other gurus who had experienced mystical episodes. But this belief is wrong. Jesus rose from the dead, while the other mystics are still dead. Jesus had power over death, but the other mystics didn’t. And that’s a radical difference.
Watts seems to be attempting religious syncretism between Christianity and eastern religions to create a religion of his own making. But in this process he discards the core aspects of Christianity (the divinity and resurrection of Jesus). So what’s left is essentially eastern mysticism. Unfortunately, Watts died an alcoholic. So he’s not an example of a guru that I would follow.
Commentator 2 December
George, eisegesis is not necessarily applicable here. for several reasons.
1. Are we qualified to “interpret the WORD OF GOD?
2. There are way too many authors of the Bible all of them lived over 1000’s of years and all have a slightly different spin on the events.
Personally, I think if it really is the WORD OF GOD it does not matter who what or when GOD SAYS do this and it should be done. You seem to think we can or are able to interpret this. I think it is our interpretation that is the problem we take all this way too literally…. this Precursor idea does not in any way mean that the old is less than the new. I completely understand what is being said here. It is your logic that is left wanting. You seem to be saying now that there are actually two words of god now. One for the Jews and one for the Gentiles, but that is quite different from what you first argued. Hence the aforementioned comment on circular logic.
Commentator 8 December
Hi George happy advent to you. I just wanted to share with you that the Catholic Church is changing the Bible again. Pope Francis wants Lord’s Prayer changed
Maybe he has a point but should this be allowed to happen to the holy and god inspired word?
George’s reply 15 December
Thanks for your recent comments. We have discussed many topics. But it’s the most important one that counts – “Christ died for our sins … He was buried, and He was raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Jesus died (an historical fact):
– Jesus died by crucifixion.
– Roman soldiers don’t take the bodies of criminals off a cross until they are dead. That’s why they broke the legs of those crucified with Jesus (Jn. 19:31-34).
– Bodies don’t get placed in sealed tombs unless they are dead.
– Bodies don’t get embalmed unless they are dead (Jn. 19:39-40).
– Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Christ, was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (supreme court). He was too well known for the account to be fictional.
Jesus rose back to life (an historical fact):
– No-one could find a dead body – in the tomb or elsewhere.
– The Jews (hostile witnesses) acknowledged that the tomb was empty. The Jewish religious leaders tried to explain the empty tomb by spreading a rumor that the disciples had stolen the body (Mt. 28:11-15). But the disciples had no motive for doing this as they were persecuted and killed because of their preaching on the resurrection. Why would they go through all this for a deliberate lie?
– The empty tomb was discovered by women. If the empty tomb story was a legend, then the more reliable male disciples (according to the custom of that time) would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb.
– Twelve separate occurrences are recorded in the Bible of Jesus interacting with people after His resurrection. Six are recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7. The disciples had several interactions with the risen Christ. Jesus provided them a breakfast of bread and fish after they fished overnight (Jn. 21:9-14).
– Over 500 people witnessed Jesus alive at the same time. And they weren’t all hallucinating!
– The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching Him. This cannot be done with hallucinations. And hallucinations can’t explain the empty tomb.
– The disciples were martyred for their Christian faith. But they wouldn’t give their lives for something they knew to be a lie. Therefore, the resurrection account wasn’t a lie.
– A church persecutor (Paul) and the skeptic brother of Jesus (James) were suddenly changed.
– Early Christians were persecuted and martyred for believing Christ’s resurrection. They could deny it and live. But they didn’t.
– Christ’s resurrection is the main explanation of the origin and the growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire despite persecution. The Christian church was established and grew as a result of the disciples preaching about the resurrection of Christ. Most movements die after their founder dies (Acts 5:33-39). But Christianity started and grew after its founder died.
Jesus died for our sins (the reason for Christ’s death and resurrection):
– Death is punishment for rebellion against God.
– All people die because they are sinful.
– Because Jesus was the unique sinless Son of God, He was the only one who didn’t deserve to die.
– Christ’s death was payment for the sins of humanity. It was vicarious (taking the place of others; like a substitute).
So history affirms that Jesus rose from the dead. We can trust the teachings of Jesus because He rose from the dead. No other religious leader has done that. And no other person or scholar or scholar or skeptic can claim that. Who would you believe?
Commentator 15 December
The whole point here is the while the Bible has many correct historical facts it is at best a work of factual fiction. Not everything is true and as you have admitted not everything is applicable to today’s life and world. (The Old Testament or more than half of the book) And the Bible has once been, by Jesus, improved upon and could be improved upon yet again today. It has been 2000 years since the last update. I get a Facebook update every week because even they want to remain up to date and relevant. Anything that can be improved upon was NOT from the very beginning PERFECT or the work of an infallible omniscient all powerful being. Nor is it proof of such beings existence. These doubts are too big to use to tell everyone else that they are wrong about their beliefs. Other religious writings far older such as the Vedas are over 7000 years old have many scientific facts, wisdoms, and historical facts that are written and also proven. Your bible does not stand up to your own bible test because of your circular logic and own admissions. The Bible was never meant to be used as a tool to judge and condemn other religions. By it’s own admission only god himself can be a judge Matthew 7:1-3. This is what I am doing, judging you and your beliefs because you have judged me and the beliefs of many other religions. Nobody can win this my friend. Who do I believe, certainly not you. The end.
Discussion with second commentator
Second commentator 1 October
As has been pointed out you start from an unsustainable point when your only argument is, “it says in the Bible”. Because of your attachment to the Bible I would assume you are a Bible believing Christian vs a Catholic, am I right? If that is the case that makes the “it says in the Bible” argument more tenuous.
You do realize, I hope, that the Bible was not originally one book. It is a collection of different books written by different authors that were later put together in one book. The collection of books was agreed upon at the Synod of Hippo. The point here is that they were agreed upon by men. There were a multitude of books available at that time that could have been selected but those men selected some and discounted others. They had a motivation to do so. They wanted to do as you do and ensure that only their interpretation of Christianity would be known to future generations. Furthermore much to the dismay of many Bible believing Christians, that think Catholics are evil Idolaters, it was the Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches that first put this collection of books together as the Bible that we know.
At the time of Christ’s death there were a variety of different “Christian” groups that had very different views on Christ, his divinity, and his relationship to God. After the discovery of the Dead Sea and Nag Hammadi scrolls we now have a collection of other books that represented some of these peoples beliefs. The reason these were hidden away was that the Roman Catholics persecuted these other groups and killed them off and destroyed their writings so they would not be around to compete with their Christian world view. If it wasn’t for this persecution we would have even more Christian denominations then we have today.
So historically the book that you keep using as the authority for all anyone one knows may not be the correct ones. That is unless you agree that those evil idol worshiping Catholics were inspired by God. But then if they were inspired by god that would mean that there use of idols and their interpretation of the Sacrament must be true also.
George’s reply 2 October
You state that the canon was “agreed upon by men” and “the collection of books was agreed upon at the Synod of Hippo”. You also claim that the books in the canon “may not be the correct ones”. As it was “Roman Catholics and Orthodox churches that first put this collection of books together as the Bible that we know”, you state that if I accept the New Testament canon, then I need to accept the Roman Catholic faith because they selected the books in the canon.
In the first century AD, the Apostle Peter regarded the Pauline epistles as Scripture (2 Pt. 3:16). The scriptural quotes of early Christian writers (patristics) dating from the second through the fourth century show that the early church had a working knowledge of the New Testament Scriptures. So portions of our present New Testament were in circulation, as early as the latter part of the first century. These books were used in the early church and confirmed as being the canon by church councils such as the Synod of Hippo in 393.
The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent. This ruled out most of the apochryphal New Testament writings as they were written after the first century AD. It also ruled out other religious books, such as Gnosticism and Marcionism, because their teaching was inconsistent with the canon.
So the New Testament canon was already being used by Christians during the second through the fourth century AD. But when heretics wanted to add extra books to the canon, the church met to confirm the canon and so declare that the extra writings were not canonical.
Because I accept the New Testament canon doesn’t mean that I necessarily accept all that the church believed in AD 393 or all that the Roman Catholic church teaches today. The canon is the standard, not the Roman Catholic church.
For example, I use a plumber to maintain my water system, regardless of their religious faith. And I use a Bible that has been influenced by the results of textural scholarship by non-Christians, without accepting their religious (or secular) faith. Just because I accept something that a person (or a group) does, doesn’t mean that I accept everything that they believe or do.
Second commentator 3 October
As far as the Bible is concerned I am not saying that your version is incorrect. I am saying that if you take faith out of it and look at it from a historical point of view you have no way of knowing that those particular books were the only ones that were correct because of the existence of the other books that were not included.
Because of this you can not use what it says as your only evidence of it’s truth or correctness. You yourself say: “The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent.” What was the doctrine in consistent with? The beliefs or doctrine of the people that put it together, the Roman Catholics! Most Bible believing Christians believe that it is the inspired word of god.
You say, “And I use a Bible that has been influenced by the results of textural scholarship by non-Christians, without accepting their religious (or secular) faith.” How can the Bible that you use be the inspired word of God if the men how put it together were not inspired?
The Book of Enoch was one of the books found with the dead sea scrolls and was not included in the Bible. It was written during that time period and thought to be an inspired book by many but was not included in the cannon. “R. H. Charles was the leading expert on the subject (The Book of Enoch) in the early part of the 20th century. He argued the book of Enoch was written over a period of years. The latest portions were written in 64 B.C.E.”
As far as the Gnostic gospels are concerned dating them is some what dubious because the originals that they were copied from were most likely destroyed. So it is impossible to date the originals.
You can proclaim your faith in the accepted cannon, that is fine, but because of all these other historical facts that question if those books were the only books accepted be Christs Apostles you can’t use it for what you are basing your critique on. There is no way of knowing other than your faith. You cannot compare the truth of one faith to another based on only your faith in what you believe. This especially applies when you are questioning other faiths. It is kind of like Christians claiming that those who practice Wicca are devil worshipers when there is no devil in the Wicca religion. The figure known as the devil to Christians is not part of Wicca so it is by default that they can not be devil worshipers.
George’s reply 3 October
I stated that “The main criteria for the New Testament canon was that it was comprised of books written in the first century AD by the apostles and their associates, and whose doctrine was consistent.” You ask, “What was the doctrine consistent with? The beliefs or doctrine of the people that put it together, The Roman Catholics!”. By “consistent”, I meant that each book was consistent with the other books. It would be confusing if this wasn’t the case. This means being consistent with the teaching of the apostles and their associates. They were the authority and not any other group of people.
You ask, “How can the Bible that you use be the inspired word of God if the men who put it together were not inspired?”. I was referring to textural scholars who study ancient biblical manuscripts to reconstruct the original text (autograph). Like language translation, it’s a technical skill that doesn’t require inspiration from God. The inspiration happened when the authors wrote the original text. The Bible came to us through the following steps: inspiration, preservation, scholarship, and translation.
It’s not surprising that there are other religious books around between the first and fourth centuries AD. This is probably the case in all eras. The New Testament warns about false teachers (Acts 20:28-30; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:3-6; 4:1-7; 6:3-5; 2 Pt. 2:1-22; 1 Jn. 4:1-6).
I find it puzzling when people today question the composition of the New Testament canon. Who would you trust: people living in the first few centuries AD when the canon was compiled or people living about 1,600-1,900 years afterwards (including R. H. Charles)? Surely those living in that era would have much more information available to make this decision, whereas we only have fragmentary historical records. And they would be aware of many more “other religious books” than we will discover.
Also, with regard to your objections about the canon, the same question could be asked of any ancient philosophy or religion. For example, if we looked at Buddhism from the same historical point of view we have no way of knowing that the particular books that comprise the canon of a branch of Buddhism were the only ones that were correct because of the existence of other Buddhist books that were not included! So historically the books that a Buddhist uses as their authority may not be the correct ones. This approach would put any philosophy or religion that originated in the ancient world (such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam etc.) into doubt.
You seem to be asking me to base my Christian faith on a mixture of canonical and non-canonical books. But how can one derive a non-contradictory faith from contradictory sources? This only works if parts of the books are selectively ignored or if contradictions are viewed as being unimportant compared to areas of agreement.
Second commentator 10 October
You say, “As all religions and philosophies rely on presuppositions (assumptions, axioms, premises), these presuppositions can be tested. For example, are they self-consistent and are they consistent with the real world?” As I have explained that Buddhist faith is based on exactly that. We are supposed to question and test for ourselves the truth of anything. This is were I have to tread carefully George because I do not mean any disrespect to you or your faith. But you are making the statement so I feel I have to at least reply. Can you honestly say that Christians “test” the Bible to determine it’s spiritual or historical accuracy?
You say, “I would be more interested to know if you have found the message in the Bible to be true or not.” “After all, it was written by God (who created life and the universe).” George I personally have found the Bible to be a beautifully written book. I have read it multiple times. There is very much wisdom in the Bible about how we should live our lives. This is especially true with the new testament. I think it would be very difficult both historically and scientifically to prove that God was the one who actually wrote the Bible.
Even using the fact that the Apostles wrote some of the books in the new testament in no way confirms the accuracy or truth of them. Saying that twelve people who lived 2000 years ago believed in them so we should as well is not a very scientific method. If it is a scientific method of testing then we should be able to apply it to other similar things. There were 11 witnesses (twelve including Smith) to the gold tablets that Joseph Smith translated into the book of Mormon. In fact they even signed their name to a document that said so which actually is more than can be said for the books of the new testament (there is still much argument with scholars over who wrote which books). So can we derive from this document that the Golden tablets or the Book of Mormon are true?
George’s reply 11 October
You ask, “Can you honestly say that Christians ‘test’ the Bible to determine its spiritual or historical accuracy?” Christians continually “test” the spiritual accuracy of the Bible because they endeavour to live by its spiritual principles. It’s their spiritual guide for everyday life. But most Christians don’t “test” the historical accuracy of the Bible because they are not historians or archaeologists. Because of the age and number of manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. So the text we have today is believed to be an accurate representation of the autographs. But confirming ancient history is more difficult because of the fragmentary evidence and the influence of presuppositions (such as timing). For example, in 2009 archaeologists found a clay seal inscribed “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah”. It was found in a collapsed 10th century BC royal building in the Ophel in Jerusalem and features a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life. According to the Bible, King Hezekiah reigned from about 715 to about 697BC. Hezekiah is also mentioned in Assyrian documents and his water supply tunnel was discovered in Jerusalem in 1880. All these findings are consistent with the Biblical record.
You say, “I think it would be very difficult both historically and scientifically to prove that God was the one who actually wrote the Bible”. The books of the Bible were written by about 40 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years. Yet it has incredible unity which binds the books together and it does not contradict itself. And many of its predictions have been fulfilled. This is consistent with it being inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-27; 2 Pt. 1:20-21). How could someone know that God was not involved?
You say, “Even using the fact that the Apostles wrote some of the books in the new testament in no way confirms the accuracy or truth of them”.
Because of the age (the manuscripts are closer to the original autograph than for other ancient texts) and number (there are more manuscripts than for other ancient texts) of biblical manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. This means that we have accurate translations of the autographs. The books of the New Testament are based on eyewitness reports, which are best for historical accounts. Since the New Testament documents were written within 30 years of the events they record, other eyewitnesses would still be around to correct errors or exaggerations. Copies of biblical manuscripts throughout history show that the New Testament has been transmitted accurately. There are minor differences in manuscripts, called variants, but none of these variants impact or change key Christian beliefs or claims.
With regard to the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided textual critics with ancient manuscripts against which they can compare the accepted text for accuracy of content. As there were only minor differences between the book of Isaiah in the DSS (dated about 100BC) and in the Masoretic text (dated in the 10th century AD), the Jewish scribes had faithfully copied this text over this thousand-year period. As these texts were nearly identical, the DSS provide evidence that the Old Testament had been accurately and carefully preserved.
You say, “Saying that twelve people who lived 2000 years ago believed in them (the New Testament books) so we should as well is not a very scientific method”. As operational science can’t deal with the past, I would say it was a historical method, not a scientific one. As each case would need to be assessed on its own merits, I wouldn’t accept the Book of Mormon even though it may be similar in some ways to the New Testament.
You say, “You cannot use quotes from the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible. It is circular logic”.
I have shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. And this was done by not using quotes from itself. Therefore, it’s reasonable to quote from such a source.
Second Commentator 12 October
You say, “I have shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today.” George with all due respect you have not shown that the Bible is one of the most reliable text. Just because men have copied it correctly does not mean that what it contains is true or reliable. It just means that it is consistent with the original source. I do have to point out that it was the old testament that you were referring to and not the new. The Bible is made up of both. It is also somewhat subjective to say that “As these texts were nearly identical” as if it wasn’t a matter of interpretation as to whether those differences mattered.
George’s reply 13 October
You say, “I do have to point out that it was the old testament that you were referring to and not the new. The Bible is made up of both”. I apologise for the ambiguity. I made a statement about the New Testament, “Because of the age and number of manuscripts available, the Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. So the text we have today is believed to be an accurate representation of the autographs”. And then gave an example of archaeology confirming the existence of a character mentioned in the Old Testament (king Hezekiah’s seal).
You say, “It is also somewhat subjective to say that ‘As these texts were nearly identical’ as if it wasn’t a matter of interpretation as to whether those differences mattered”. This related to my statement that, “As these texts were nearly identical, the DSS provide evidence that the Old Testament had been accurately and carefully preserved”. This is based on investigations by textural scholars. For example, James C VanderKam Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame says, “The differences between the Judean Desert texts (DSS) and the Masoretic text (which forms the basis of the modern Hebrew Bible) are indeed numerous though frequently very slight, often ones that do not affect the meaning of the text for most purposes (e.g., spelling changes, omission or addition of a conjunction)”.
Second commentator 28 October
What you are doing is ignorant George. There is absolutely no scientific proof that Jesus was anything more than a man.There is no way to prove that he rose from the dead except the claims of his own followers. Yet you bash everyone elses faith making claims about the truth of your faith other than quoting a book that MEN wrote.
George’s reply 9 November
You say that the Bible is “a book that MEN wrote”. But if you read the books in the Bible you will see that it claims to be written under the inspiration of the God who created the universe (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:19-21). So it’s God’s words (in the original text).
Second commentator 31 October
“Bible, Creation of the World and Story of First Man Not True, Claims Israeli Newspaper”
By Cristina Silva On 10/29/17 at 8:39 PM
The Bible and its stories about the first man and the creation of the world are not true because there is no physical evidence to back it up, according to a new lengthy investigation from one of Israel’s top newspapers. Spanning roughly 5,000 words the article from left leaning Haaretz compares accounts in the Bible, from ancients Jews fleeing Egypt to descriptions of King David, and dismisses them all as fables.
“Is the Bible a True Story,” the headline asks. “Despite feverish searching with Scripture in one hand and cutting-edge technology in the other, evidence backing the Bible remains elusive.”
It goes on: “No evidence of the events described in the Book of Genesis has ever been found. No city walls have been found at Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by Joshua or otherwise. The stone palace uncovered at the foot of Temple Mount in Jerusalem could attest that King David had been there; or it might belong to another era entirely, depending who you ask.”
Researchers have long questioned the authenticity of the Bible’s version of human history, often struggling to find evidence of, say, Noah’s ark or even the possibility of Eve and Adam, the first woman and man. Young-Earth creationism, for example, directly fails science’s demands for coherence and hypothesis testing.
The mounting evidence against the Bible means fewer Americans than ever before are trusting scripture as gospel. Only 35 percent of Americans read the holy book at least once a week, while 45 percent seldom or never do, a Pew Research Center report in April found. About 36 percent of Christians said the Bible should not be taken literally, while 40 percent say it is the word of God. In all, only 24 percent of Americans said the holy book was “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,” a Gallup poll conducted in May concluded.
“This is the first time in Gallup’s four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism. Meanwhile, about half of Americans — a proportion largely unchanged over the years — fall in the middle, saying the Bible is the inspired word of God but that not all of it should be taken literally,” the poll said. “From the mid-1970s through 1984, close to 40% of Americans considered the Bible the literal word of God, but this has been declining ever since, along with a shrinking percentage of self-identified Christians in the U.S. Meanwhile, the percentage defining the Bible as mere stories has doubled, with much of that change occurring in the past three years.”
Well George it appears that not everyone is as sure of the Bibles authenticity as you have been trying to claim. So suddenly there are other claims that maybe the Bible isn’t so true based on archaeology and science. So how do you counter that argument George, by saying the Bible says so??
George’s reply 14 November
This is an example of biased journalism from Newsweek magazine. The original article by Nir Hasson says that some archaeologists believe that archaeology supports the Bible (the maximalist view) and some believe that it doesn’t (the minimalist view). But Cristina Silva only mentions the latter. Hasson presents evidence (or lack of evidence) that supports both the maximalist view and the minimalist view. So, the original article is more balanced than Silva indicates. If possible, it’s good to check the primary source.
Silva also leaves out the following statement from the heading “But there are some surprising anomalies”.
She then dismisses the Bible up to the time of David as being comprised of fables. But when Hasson answers the question “Did the Bible really happen?”, he says, “So far, what discoveries there are, tend to indicate that at the least, the timelines are off”. So, he is not as dogmatic as Silva.
An example of the difference in timing is the statement that “No city walls have been found at Jericho, from the appropriate era, that could have been toppled by Joshua”. Note the qualification that I have highlighted. Beside the fact that mudbrick walls would be eroded, they are not saying there are no walls, just that they don’t think the timing matches (there is a 4% difference in elapsed time). This is not surprising given the uncertainty in dating archaeological findings and the influence of one’s presuppositions on these dates. And such dates are always subject to revision.
Here’s Jericho’s walls as found by Watzinger (1911), Kenyon (1958) and Nigro and Marchetti (1997). The lower wall (black) bounded a sloped rampart (yellow) and fallen mudbricks (red) were evident. There had been a mudbrick parapet wall above the retaining wall and a mudbrick wall at the crest of the embankment.
The lack of “physical evidence” is a straw man argument with regard to the Israelites because they lived in tents and nomadic people don’t leave relics of buildings for archaeologists to discover. Hasson uses a subheading, “Invisible nomads”. Because nomads leave no evidence, they are invisible to archaeologists.
Finally, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Especially with regard to the topic of ancient history. They are assuming that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. But this presupposition isn’t always true like the journalist is assuming it to be.
George’s reply 17 October
I would like to make a comment on the “Book of Enoch” and the “gnostic gospels” you referred to on 3 October. You wrote,
– “The Book of Enoch was one of the books found with the dead sea scrolls and was not included in the Bible. It was written during that time period and thought to be an inspired book by many but was not included in the cannon.”
– “R. H. Charles was the leading expert on the subject (The Book of Enoch) in the early part of the 20th century. He argued the book of Enoch was written over a period of years. The latest portions were written in 64 B.C.E.”
– “As far as the Gnostic gospels are concerned dating them is somewhat dubious because the originals that they were copied from were most likely destroyed. So it is impossible to date the originals.”
– “You can proclaim your faith in the accepted cannon, that is fine, but because of all these other historical facts that question if those books were the only books accepted by Christ’s Apostles you can’t use it for what you are basing your critique on. There is no way of knowing other than your faith”.
The “Book of Enoch” is pseudepigraphical (books written in the names of ancient heroes) as it claims to be by a biblical character (but this is unfounded). It was not included in either the Hebrew or Christian biblical canons. If the Jews didn’t accept it as canonical, then neither should we. It’s not even in the Deuterocanonical Apocrypha. If the Christians didn’t accept it as canonical, then neither should we. A Jewish scholar called it “mystical speculation about Enoch”. And it contradicts scripture.
The book of Enoch was never referred to by Jesus or any of the New Testament writers as scripture. It is commonly misunderstood that the content of the Bible developed over time. But the New Testament clearly tells us that the apostles were identifying scripture as it was being written (2 Pt. 3:14-16). The New Testament books were being distributed by the apostles to the various churches to be read (Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27; 2 Th. 2:2; 3:14). By the time the apostles died, the New Testament had been written and its books were known. The Muratorian Fragment (AD 170) and several of the early fathers have left us a list of books that were identified as belonging to the New Testament. The book of Enoch was never included. Although a few early church fathers highly valued the book of Enoch, they never referred to it as scripture. It might be inspiring, but it is not inspired by God.
Oard says, “the gnostic gospels were well known to the early church fathers, especially Irenaeus (AD 115-202), who wrote ‘Against heresies’. He refuted the heresies in these alternate gospels. They were written by the gnostics in the first few centuries after Christ. The gnostics believed they had secret knowledge that was only for certain elites. These gospels were unmasked as obvious forgeries, being written well after the time of Jesus and the Apostles, and completely inconsistent with Hebrew scripture and all the writings of Paul and the eye witnesses of Jesus. It goes to show what many people will believe what they want to believe with little or no regard for the truth.”
Today Christians read other books beside the Bible. But this doesn’t make the other books canonical. The same applied to Jews – they read other books beside the Old Testament. But that didn’t make these other books (such as the Book of Enoch) canonical.
Where are “all these other historical facts that question if those books (the canon) were the only books accepted by Christ’s Apostles”? They don’t exist. There is no evidence that the book of Enoch was accepted as scripture by the apostles. And there is no evidence that the gnostic gospels were accepted as scripture by the early Christians. So, we can know what is in the canon because of authorship and usage, which is based on scholarship and not faith.
Second commentator 10 November
You keep mentioning the eye witness accounts. Mark was not an eyewitness of Christs life but was a disciple of Peter. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christ’s life but was a companion of Paul who was ……wait for it…….also not an eyewitness to Christ’s life. So this is second hand information. Since these people can be proven to not be eyewitnesses then I guess we would have to be consistent and admit they there is no way to prove the truth or the authenticity of these books. Sorry George, you have to throw out at least two books of the Bible just based on that!
George’s reply 26 November
You say, “You keep referring to the autographs in the books of the bible that just do not exist”. In this context, an autograph is “a manuscript in an author’s own handwriting”. It’s the original manuscript (text), not a signature. As with all ancient documents, the original text (autograph) is no longer available, but copies are available.
You say, “there are so many things in the bible that cannot be proven by science or that science disproves”. This is a poor statement. As science only deals with the present, it can’t prove anything about the past. History is the discipline that you should be appealing to, not science. We can’t do an experiment to prove anything about the past.
You dispute my claim about “eye witness accounts” in the Bible. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses because they were disciples of Jesus for about 2.5 years. John Mark was a close associate of Simon Peter (1 Pt. 5:13). His material would have come from the preaching of Peter (some is reported in Acts). So he is like a reporter documenting an interview with an eyewitness. Papias (~AD125) records John’s claim (~AD90) that Mark recorded accurately all of Peter’s teachings about Jesus and compiled them into a single document.
Luke was a companion of Paul (Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24) and wrote the books of Luke and Acts. He wrote, “many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” (Lk. 1:1-4). Luke was a reporter who investigated and documented “eyewitness reports”. He also travelled with Paul and so was an eyewitness of Paul’s second and third missionary journeys and Paul’s journey to Rome. So Luke was an eyewitness of many of the events he recorded in the book of Acts.
Paul wrote several books of the New Testament and was an eyewitness of events in the early church.
Your dismissal of “second hand information” is very weak. Most eye witness accounts that we come across today are from by a reporter who has interviewed one or more eyewitnesses.
Second commentator 30 November
George says “you dispute my claim about ‘eye witness accounts’ in the Bible.” George you are the one who claimed they were eyewitness accounts. If you are an eyewitness then that means that you saw or experienced the event. “Mark was not an eyewitness of Christs life but was a disciple of Peter. Luke was not an eyewitness to Christs life but was a companion of Paul who was also not an eyewitness to Christs life.”
So now you want to define what “eyewitness” means George! A reporter is not an eyewitness. Can a reporter come into a courtroom and testify against a criminal that they committed a crime because somebody else told them that the criminal committed the crime? Of course not! That is called hearsay George. In the case of Luke it was third hand information because Paul was not a witness to Christs life either. You cannot make your own definitions of commonly used words George. Eyewitness means just that, you saw it with your own eyes.
George says “your dismissal of ‘second hand information’ is very weak”. No George your claim that someone (Luke) who hears some information from another Paul, who also has heard the information from others qualifies as an eyewitness account is “VERY WEAK”!
The Bible has been translated into over 2000 languages and is one of the most widely printed and studied books in the world. Despite its claim to be a message from the God who created everything, this discussion shows that it’s difficult to convince some people of its importance.
Written, September 2019