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Old 05-13-2004, 06:08 PM   #41
Kurgan
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First off the the question is somewhat of a false dillemma.

Despite what a lot of the rhetoric between secularists and fundamentalists says today, the Bible is not one single unified document.

It was written by over 40 authors over a period of about 2,000 years.

The fact is (and you'll see this if you study history, not just fringe scholarship but the consensus of scholarship over the past few centuries) that many of the books of the Bible ARE myths.

Now I don't mean myth in the colloquial sense of "a lie" but rather in the sense of a figurative story that is meant to teach a moral lesson.

I (and many other scholars, both religious and non-religious) consider certain books to be Myth or contain mythic elements, such as the Creation Stories in Genesis (in fact most of Genesis up until Abraham, who is more of a historical figure), the story of Job, the book of Judith, etc.

"Fundamentalism" is often defined as "a literal interpretation of Scripture." However this too is a not entirely true.

For example if you do a survey of Christan beliefs, you'll find different Christians take different parts of the Bible literally and different parts figuratively, allegorically, etc.

For example ask a Catholic if the Lord's Supper (communion, the bread & wine) is Jesus's Body and Blood and they will say "of course it is." It's taken literally when Jesus says "this is my body" and "this is my blood." etc.

Ask most Protestants and you'll get a response that it's just a symbolic thing or that it's Jesus's spirit in the bread & wine, but not literally his body & blood.

And with other issues, when you read about Paul saying that women should be silent in church and that he doesn't allow them to have authority over men.

Some read this and say "that means that women can't be church leaders and must be subordinate to men in society." Others say this is just a cultural thing that can be changed now or that Paul was a mysoginist and since he's not Jesus we can freely ignore this one teaching of his.

Some people read the lines in Deutoronmy & Leviticus that say the law is forever and interpret this to mean that the Mosaic Law (all 413 or 416 instructions including the 10 commandments) are still in effect today.

Others interpret this in light of Jesus's reinterpretation of the Law and Paul's disdain for the Law in light of the "new covenant" as proof that the Mosaic law should NOT be followed today.

And even those who say that we should "follow the whole Bible" most certainly do not. I don't see them re-building the Temple of Solomon and sacraficing animals on the altar. I don't see them stoning people to death for breaking the sabbath or executing children for cursing their parents, or who consider it a sin to mix cotton & polyester clothing, not keep kosher food laws (after all, there's more to it than simply avoiding pork in the diet, etc.)

So the Bible itself is so vast and contains so many stories and teachings, it's virtually impossible to follow it ALL literally.

Then there's the issue of prophecies. Some churches will say the Book of Daniel and Revelation are perfectly true, but that they are metaphorical in nature, applying to both the past and the future, but that we can't pick up the book and use it to predict if the end of the world will happen this year. Other churches will pick up these same books and use them to tell you all kinds of things, like which country the antichrist lives in and which international organization will start World War III, etc.

There are some groups who call themselves "liberal Christians" who are almost not recognizable as Christians. These folks will basically say the Bible is a bunch of stories by people of faith that may or may not have anything to do with reality. They'll take the moral lessons they like (usually Jesus's Kingdom of God as the model for a peaceful and loving human community where everyone is equal) and ignore the rest, including the miracle claims and prophecies.

One should realize that Christianity is a spectrum of belief, going from the most liberal (virtual Agnosticism) to the most strict (only our small sect is saved, everyone else, ie: all who don't agree with us 100% and follow all our rules, is damned forever).

It's not too hard to see that even though we have the same Book (or rather collection of Books, once we set aside which translation(s) are best and which canon of books we accept as authoritative) we have so many different interpretations and how to apply that to our lives.

I believe the Bible is true, but I can't tell you what that means, without going through the whole thing and interpreting it in light of history and (what I consider) authentic tradition.

That's another deal. See in history there have been various Christian sects (and Jewish sects) that have said this or that and they go their seperate ways from the main body of belief.

Was the reform/revolutionary sect right and the majority wrong? Or vice versa?

So then you get divergant strains of tradition. The Jews of today are descendant from the Pharisees, and back in there day there were competing sects (Sadducees, Essenes, zealots, etc). Then you have the "heretical sects" of Christianity including the Gnostics, Docetists, Arians, etc. Then more recently you have the Orthodox/Catholic split, the Protestant Reformation, the English Reformation, and plenty of modern day sects that have battled it out and split up or rejoined in the modern age.

My hope is that despite all our differences we can come together with greater tolerance. At least we should be able to discuss or tolerate our differences (while still holding firm to what we sincerely believe to be the truth while keeping an open mind) and not kill or hate each other for our differences.


PS: The belief that Jesus "never existed" is a minority viewpoint in the secular community.

It's been said that as much or more evidence exists for historical existence of Jesus as other figures that we accept like Aristotle or Alexander the Great.

Why do we say that Alexander or Aristotle existed but we hesitate with Jesus?

Obviously non-believers have a problem with Jesus being the founder of a world religion and figure revered as divine. But, that doesn't mean that people haven't tried to "believe in" Jesus without accepting the claims to his divinity or his miracle-working powers. Thomas Jefferson (being a Deist) cut out all the parts of the Bible he didn't agree with (including all the miracle stories) and then called it his Bible. The modern day Jesus Seminar does a similar thing, taking all the sayings of Jesus and removing them from the context of the stories, thus allowing Jesus to be the "liberal social reformer" they want him to be.

The "mythic elements" in the life of Jesus to a person of faith are fully true (though the interpretation may vary). To a non-believer this is not proof that Jesus didn't exist. For example one could accept that George Washington existed, even if you don't believe he cut down a cherry tree and couldn't tell a lie or that he threw a silver dollar across a river or had wooden teeth, etc. Or Abraham Lincoln existed even if you don't believe he did his homework with a piece of coal on the back of a shovel or walked barefoot 10 miles to return a nickel to somebody he accidentally shortchanged, etc.

Suffice to say you can acknowledge that a historical figure like Jesus existed without worshipping him as the Son of God.


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Old 05-13-2004, 07:29 PM   #42
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Just a few scattered observations (from a Protestant Christian who doesn't exactly follow all popular Christian teaching).

Quote:
Originally posted by Kain
AH HA!! HAHAHA!! The basis of polytheism RIGHT THERE!! Several seperate parts making up the whole. Just like the Egyptian and Greek pathenons, entire entities who make the whole of existance! But Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship ONE 'God', so how can there be 3 parts to this 'God' without being polytheist?
Semantics, lovely. Semantics.

Quote:
Originally posted by Feanaro
The Bible is the word of God. it is "God-breathed" through humans to write down exactly what it is supposed to say. So God told man what to write so therefore is true.
No, God didn't (necessarily). Not everything, at least. Take the books of the Kings and Chronicles, for example, which are records. The people who put the Bible together were not, I would argue, infallible. They could've made mistakes. And certainly the Bible isn't immune from mistakes, as aptly demonstrated in translation errors. That's a tough concept to chew on that most Christians avoid. (Including me, for a large piece of my life.)

I have faith in God's word, but not faith in man-made inventions. Like the infallability of every jot and tittle in every word of every translation of the anthology of many different books we now call the Bible.

Quote:
Originally posted by InsaneSith

if god wanted to wipe the slate clean, and restart humanity pure, then with his infinite knowledge and such, he should have known noah's son would look at noah in lust, and become "corrupt". So if he is really all powerful and all knowing, couldn't he have done something to make sure his plan of purification works? I mean, to me it seems pointless that he slaughtered all those people in a flood, only to not let it work.
Noah's son didn't look at Noah in lust. Ham mocked Noah's nakedness.

Humanity still had a sinful nature. There was also the matter of the "sons of God" (angels, most likely) which bred with human women and created monstrous creatures, the "mighty men which were of old" that the Flood eradicated. God aimed to destroy civilization. If he wanted to purify the world, he could have violated free will and taken away humanity's sin nature.

Quote:
it does seem a bit odd that god wiped out all those people for no reason, as (if noah and his family were the only human survivors left) judaism (as christianity then was) was never the dominant religion even after the flood.
Wasn't any such thing as Judaism back then. (Being before Judah existed.)

Quote:
Also, surely the comment about "2 sources of light in the heavens" proves (more so than evolution or anything) that the bible isn't what actually happened, but stories to allow more primitive people to understand the broader concepts. We know that the moon doesn't emit light.
As if the people who wrote the Bible knew that? Assume if you will for a moment that the Bible is true. What does the moon not actually producing its own light have to do with anything. It lights up the night sky. I've seen way better arguments agains the validity of the Bible than that

Quote:
True, Islamic extremists take out 2 buildings and thousands of lives.

But look at Christian extremists. The crusades: Thousands of lives lost. The Salem Witch Trials: Hundreds of lives lost.

And for what? Because Christian's just HAVE to be right.
Oh look, it's the Religious Blame Game! Where the actions of the few are a valid litmus test for the actions of...well, everyone. But wait! You don't even have your facts straight! Twenty-four people died in the Salem Witch Trials. That's not quite hundreds, even though it's getting there! I give you a C-. (You did get the Crusades right, at least!)

Quote:
Originally posted by CapNColostomy
I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer too!

Quote:
Originally posted by Tyrion
Considering he went to Heaven for eternity after that, it doesn't seem that bad. Still horrible, but it's only three hours. Cancer patients too also have to endure alot of pain, and they have to endure it for a much much longer time than Christ did.
In all seriousness, I think you've missed the point. If you believe what the Bible says, God (or one-third of God) becomes human, and endures a brutal death during which he (I can safely use that gender pronoun there, because Jesus had a human gender ) is separated from the ...rest of God, if you will, and in three hours pays the accumulated spiritual price for every sin ever committed in the world.

If he was just human, what he suffered would still be terrible. But from a Christian's POV and beliefs, what he suffered is completely unimaginable.

Quote:
Originally posted by SkinWalker
There's very little evidence outside of scriptural texts that the [Jesus] even existed, much less whether or not he was executed in the manner described in the Bible.

One way to look at it is if there are other mythological elaborations present in the Bible (Noah's Flood, the Creation story, etc.), then why believe that the authors of the gospels were truthful. They weren't even kind enough to leave us with their names.
I think Kurgan already answered that pretty well.


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Old 05-14-2004, 09:19 AM   #43
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I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer too!
Me too!

I think kurgan nailed it pretty well.

Myself, im on the "Jesus existed, was probably the son of god, but even if he wasn't he taught a good message" side of things.

I also think the prophets in the bible may well have been inspired by god, but the writers, collators and editors of the bible were not. I therefore try to take the message of the bible, rather than concentrate on the minute, cultural details.

I also don't think that just becuase someone in the bible does something one way that AUTOMATICALLY means we should all do the same as them. I don't remeber any of the prophets saying "you should do everything the same as me, and everyone else i know". Situations change.



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Old 05-14-2004, 09:04 PM   #44
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Dunno if anyone mentioned this:

The bible used to have a map of the world. Its was flat, with land surrounded by water. The upper part was filled with sky, a water-gate, water, and the throne. The lower part was the ocean, land, and abyss (hell)

That certanitly isn't true! Which is why I think most of the early writings are just parables, and nothing more.


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Old 05-15-2004, 10:12 PM   #45
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From my studies (I don't claim to know all of course) I've come to the conclusion that the Creation Stories in Genesis were actually interpreted symbolically/allegorically (as Myth) until quite recently in Christian history.

St. Augustine presented several intereptations of Genesis, and the last one he wrote was the "Literal" interpretation of Genesis.

Then, somehow, in the last few centuries, some people picked up on this as the ONLY right interpretation.

In the past this might be excusable because we didn't have science to show us HOW the world came into being. Science can't prove or disprove the existence of God, but it can show how geology, astronomy, etc works.

Those who set up the Biblical myths as literal truth (as opposed to the Mythical truth they were written and interepted as for centuries) are only creating a false foundation for their faith.

Likewise, even though most people accept that Jesus existed and most Christians believe in his divinity, there are acknowledged mythical elements in the Gospels as well (without sounding blasphemous, hear me out here).

For example in John's Gospel, the Last Supper isn't mentioned. Rather, the timing of Jesus' execution is such that he dies during the Passover Sacrafice (Symbolism = Jesus IS the Lamb slain, not just for the sins of one person, but to save the WHOLE WORLD from their sins).

The author of John's Gospel is using a known symbol to his audience to express the truth of Jesus's role in the salvation of the human race.

To Christians, Jesus isn't just some figure who lived in the past and not even just some holy guy living up the clouds who doesn't care anymore, he's also "alive" in some real way in the community of believers. We're (supposed to be) living out what Jesus said to do, caring for the sick, the down-trodden of this world, loving one another and living at peace with each other, etc.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point, let other people talk... (PS: Sorry for all the typos in my previous post, was kinda tired when I wrote it, but you get the idea).


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Old 05-16-2004, 12:38 AM   #46
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Quote:
Originally posted by ZBomber
SkinWalker - I think I misread your post... but are you saying the Gospel writers don't give us their names?
If you know who they were, please share!

P.S. the authors were not the names of the books.


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Old 05-17-2004, 09:48 AM   #47
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According to tradition they were, but who does your information say they were?

Incidentally, some scholars used to give the Gospels and letters a much later date than what scholars currently assign them.

Revelation is now usually assigned to around 90 CE, and the earliest (usually Mark) assigned to about 40 or 50 CE IIRC.

As to the authorship of the LETTERS in the New Testament, scholars usually categorize "Paul's Letters" as "Definately Written by Paul" and "Contested."

The Contested letters are thought to either have been written by Paul, reconstructions of fragments of Paul's letters by later disciples or written simply by Disciples of Paul (either while Paul was in prison and unable to write himself or after his execution by the Romans).

The other Apostolic letters are generally thought to have been written by disciples of the person's traditionally given their names. This is because the style and theology is said to resemble what those persons are thought to have taught or believed (ie: James, John, Peter, etc).

Revelation is written by John, but some debate whether this is the same "Beloved Apostle" mentioned in the Gospel of John or simply another Christian writer with the same (very common) name. He would have been quite an old man at the time (90 CE), but then John was thought to have been a very young man at the time of Jesus's public ministry (circa 30-33 CE).

Acts is thought to have been written by Luke, the same Luke who is said to have written Luke's Gospel. I haven't read much to say why Luke couldn't have written the Gospel assigned to him, since he seems to use many earlier sources for his work and even admits that in the text. Luke is also thought to be Paul's traveling companian, hence the similarities in style and references in Acts (which is mainly about Paul, especially in the second half).

Then there's Mark (John Mark, a disciple of Peter) with his Gospel, and Matthew (may or may not be the actual Apostle Matthew, again a common name).

With regards to authorship, the way that these books "made it into the canon" (NT) is because the early Church fathers (major theologians and leaders of the early Christian communities) believed them to have Apostolic authority. That means they were either written by Apostles of Jesus or by their disciples (people who followed them in their individual churches and imitated their teachings). These were charismatic men in their own right, after all. A few of these books were debated for centuries until the NT canon was layed out in more or less it's final form around the 4th century (baring several "heretical" canons like that of Marcion, a gnostic teacher). Additionally a few books that didn't make it were debated (like the Epistle of Barnabus, the Shepherd of Hermas, etc) and had their adherants for a few decades or centuries until the canon we have now was hammered out.

The Old Testament was pretty much set as to what Christians followed (the Greek translation, called the Septuigit), although around 70 CE, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans (crushing the ill-fated Jewish uprising against Imperial rule) the Jewish Rabbis formed the Palestinian canon (which is incidentally the same one used by Protestant churches today). The Septuigit-based canon (a slightly larger OT) was used with the NT for centuries until St. Jerome, perhaps the first non-heretical scholar (at least that I know of) in the Christian tradition to disagree with the Septuigit based canon. In his Vulgate translation he seperated them from the rest of the OT books with a small explanation about how he felt they had "lesser authority" then the other books. From what I've read his recommendations were largely ignored by the Church, until the Reformation many centuries later.

Interestingly enough, while the Palestinian canon of Rabbinical pronouncement has endured to this day in Jewish circles, it seems there are Jewish sects in Ethiopia that adhere more to the pre-70 CE canon.

Interestingly as well we have the Orthodox and other eastern churches who's OT canon includes one or two more books than the Catholic Church's accepted OT canon.

This is why I like the Oxford English edition of the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), because it lists all the book accepted by all these groups (admittedly not in the original languages, because I cannot yet read Hebrew or Greek) and provides a lot of background material and the latest scholarly details.

As far as the Dead Sea Scrolls are concerned, remember that these are pre-Christian and concurrent with the beginning of Christianity writings (not really "scrolls" but mostly papyrii and manuscripts) now strongly thought to have been written by the Qumran community, who were of the Essene sect, an apocalyptic and ascetic reform movement within Judaism.

The Nag Hammadi codecies were another discovery in the 1940's which were of a later period. These were thought to have been from the 2nd century CE, mostly detailing heterodox (a more polite term for "heretical") Christian texts, such as Gnostic writings.

All of the readable stuff (baring badly damanged fragments) has been translated from both these bodies of work and are available in translation for the public (you can also buy super expensive art book type collections of scans of the actual manuscripts/papyrii of the DSS at least) in many languages. This was finalized about 1996-8.


There are modern day Gnostic Christians and a few other obscure sects who believe that the Bible we've got now isn't the "real Bible" or that it isn't complete, and they will point you to the books they believe in. But the point is those books are there if you want to read them and decide for yourself. If you think the Apocalypse of Peter is inspired but the Letters of Peter are not, that's your business. The logic of the mainstream Christian churches is that, if it were good enough for the Early Church, why isn't it good enough for us?

The sects would then counter that they were just drowned out by the majority "back then" (although the Gnostic movement seems to have come out of Christianity in the second century, but that doesn't stop them).

So the stuff is out there for you to study and read, I highly recommend it. Don't just take the KJV placed by the Gideons as the end-all be all of the Bible... there's a very rich history behind it and while scholars don't agree on everything, we're getting "to the bottom of it" little by little. Least that's my opinion. ; )


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Old 05-18-2004, 10:01 AM   #48
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Quote:
Originally posted by ZBomber
Dunno if anyone mentioned this:

The bible used to have a map of the world. Its was flat, with land surrounded by water. The upper part was filled with sky, a water-gate, water, and the throne. The lower part was the ocean, land, and abyss (hell)

That certanitly isn't true! Which is why I think most of the early writings are just parables, and nothing more.
was it on the back of four elephants?

ahem.

when did that get edited out?



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Old 05-18-2004, 01:51 PM   #49
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I've seen the "map" you refer to which is included as a page in some bibles, but remember that this is a modern reconstruction based on a literal reading of the Genesis text (in other words, it's not really part of the Bible).

Dunno what culture (if any) believed the world was on the back of four elephants (even a primitive culture could figure out that four ordinary elephants couldn't support something as big as the world appeared to be even from ground level), maybe you're getting this confused with the "world is on the back of a giant turtle" myth.


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Old 05-20-2004, 06:38 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally posted by ZBomber
Dunno if anyone mentioned this:

The bible used to have a map of the world. Its was flat, with land surrounded by water. The upper part was filled with sky, a water-gate, water, and the throne. The lower part was the ocean, land, and abyss (hell)

That certanitly isn't true! Which is why I think most of the early writings are just parables, and nothing more.
Before anybody flames me for saying this, I am taking a scientific approach to what ZBomber said.

Well, for the land being flat, surrounded by water, it is believed to be true. Geologists say that the continents of the world fit together like a jigsaw, which is why they think so, and they named it Pangaea. And yes, it WAS surrounded by water; water had already filled the oceans.

But long after that (the following is my speculation), the magma beneath the Earth crust exerted pressure on the Earth crust, causing faults. The plates then broke off from each other due to the movement of the magma, and drifted off.. To get what we have today. (end speculation)

As for the sky part, sounds believable.
Water-gate... Errr... Unless they have some type of advanced airplane (which they don't), or a god to do that, its kind of unbelievable. And what the heck, a water-gate and water IN THE UPPER PART? Weird... Looking at the throne thing, I've heard of this belief that there are palaces where gods live in the clouds (I'm a Buddhist)...

The rest are okay, except for the abyss thing. This is also part of the Buddhism belief that Hell exists beneath us.

So, in conclusion, I find much of this pretty dubious..



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Old 05-20-2004, 08:40 AM   #51
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um, Bremen...Pangea existed before Humans came into being...it was long seperated before bipedial intellegent creatures existed...
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Old 05-20-2004, 09:32 AM   #52
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Oh yes.... I forgot.. Sorry



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Old 05-20-2004, 12:12 PM   #53
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kurgan
Dunno what culture (if any) believed the world was on the back of four elephants (even a primitive culture could figure out that four ordinary elephants couldn't support something as big as the world appeared to be even from ground level), maybe you're getting this confused with the "world is on the back of a giant turtle" myth.
The elephants were on the turtle.


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