Loving Jesus But Not the Bible

MORGADO2I don’t follow the Bible, I follow Jesus.”

When I was a Christian, I used to say things like this all the time.  [And yes, for the six hundredth time, I really was a Christian.  For at least twenty years of my life, my faith was my life; everything else was secondary.  But that doesn’t seem to stop people from dismissing me with the wave of a hand, saying “Surely he was never truly one of us.”  Some people’s faith is so weak that if they ever allowed that people can genuinely and sincerely commit their whole lives to Jesus only to leave the faith later on, they would lose all hope for themselves.  So they write me off, which means that now they don’t have to listen to me or learn anything from me at all.  But I digress.]

I used to say “It’s about Jesus, not the Bible” for the same reasons that I used to say “It’s a relationship, not a religion.”  I was trying to distinguish my own particular variety of the Christian faith from all those lesser creations of men because unlike theirs, mine was The Real Deal.  I had recovered True Christianity™ unlike all those millions of misguided yahoos who insisted they had done exactly the same thing but with wildly divergent results.  Those poor souls were taught to be a “people of the book,” but I knew better.  I knew that those who truly understood their book should have understood that making the book central goes against what the book itself intended.  The book just leads to Jesus and for that reason Jesus trumps the book.  If at any point the book seems to disagree with Jesus, you go with Jesus.  These were the distinctions I learned to make, and they made sense within the context in which I lived at the time.

Now that I’m outside that context, I’ve got people throwing those same distinctions at me and I’m having a hard time getting them to see that this talk only has meaning to those who share their implicit trust in what the Bible says.  Yes, I promise I’ve heard these disclaimers and clarifications before, and for what it’s worth, I recall them having meaning for me as well at one point in time.  Like them, I once sought to present a portrait of a God who was attractive and winsome.  “It is his kindness that leads you to repentance,” I would maintain, hoping to convince others (as well as myself) that my Supreme Being was supremely likeable, and far more concerned with “fellowshipping” with us than with judging or condemning us.  That’s all well and good, but…

When you’re having this conversation with someone who doesn’t defer to the Bible the way you do, this distinction between two alternate gospels totally loses its significance because from our point of view, those are both constructs.  Yes, your construct sounds nicer than some of the competing constructs people are pushing on us pretty much every day (the culture wars are a daily thing where I live), but you don’t seem to realize that both the book-centered gospel and the Jesus-centered gospel are predicated on a book we don’t trust in the first place.  And not only do we not trust it; it appears that in many ways you don’t either.  Allow me to illustrate.

The Bible versus the Bible

Some people build their theology around the notion that the Old Testament got a bunch of things wrong, whereas Jesus got them right.  Let’s call this Jesus versus Moses.  As pastor Brian Zahnd recently argued in a post entitled, “Jesus Trumps Biblicism,” there is in the New Testament itself a clear precedent for viewing things this way.  This perspective allows us to dismiss the less savory parts of the Old Testament which portray God as an angry, vengeful, fickle deity who wipes out entire races or even entire species because he’s so upset with them for not following his rules.  The God of the Old Testament killed off an awful lot of people (and animals) both directly and indirectly.  But never you mind, folks!  The good news is that the same book that says God had people stoned for Sabbath breaking and ordered all the Canaanites to be killed later says that God sends his rain on the just and the unjust.  “You have heard it said,” Jesus said, “but I say to you…”  Again, that’s all well and good.  However…

The Bible is what’s telling us both things, and they can’t both be right.  As a Christian I was taught to “embrace the tension” between those two conflicting things but it never occurred to me that those two things cannot both be correct.  In both places it is saying that God said such-and-such, which means that in one place the book is reliable and the other it is not.  It’s not like the book just says “the Israelites thought God said to kill them all.”  It says God said it.  And then later the same book says it was wrong earlier when it said that God said. . .what God said.  Do you not see the problem here?

For Christians, this is not a problem.  Because of their prior commitment to trusting the Bible as special revelation from God, they begin with the assumption that it must all work out somehow.  The most popular rationalization is that the long history of God’s plan of salvation required a “progressive revelation” of his mind and will, which means that the earlier revelation can be “incomplete” while the later revelation is more authoritative.  The letter to the Hebrews begins this way:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

You can see the struggle to reconcile the Old and New Testaments had already begun at the very beginning.  But there is a much simpler (and to my mind more likely) explanation:  They’re both made up, and they’re both wrong.  Of course, I won’t likely be convincing them of that, but that’s not even what I’m trying to do here.  I’m just trying to explain that presenting Jesus as more authoritative than the Old Testament carries very little weight for people who don’t see any reason to implicitly trust either source.   They both come to us today between the pages of the same book.  For us today, both Moses and Jesus are literary characters in stories which we don’t believe.  Yes, Jesus is far more palatable than Moses in most places.  At times Jesus even comes across as an enlightened and liberated proto-humanist.  But there are other times when, well. . .let’s save that for last.  My point for now is that I think Christians regurgitate this explanation to us out of habit because they’re accustomed to using this as an explanation for one context (demonstrating to other Christians the “right way” to interpret the Bible) while speaking to a group situated in an entirely different one (demonstrating to non-believers how any part of the Bible is authoritative in any respect at all).

But it’s not just about the New Testament disagreeing with the Old.  In many places, the New Testament disagrees with itself.  In response to this problem, many simply pit Jesus versus Paul, as if the man most responsible for sketching out early Christian thought somehow got Jesus totally wrong.  In all fairness, I see a lot of sense in this notion myself, except that I no longer share any ideological commitment to defend the integrity of the Christian religion, so this doesn’t present a problem for me.  But if you subscribe to the notion that a guiding intelligence was supposed to be shaping the early Church in any way, admitting this dichotomy would seem to undermine your whole system.  Truly, when you read Paul’s letters and then go back and read the gospels, there’s so little repetition or overlap that you wonder if Paul had ever even heard of those stories.  The ethereal cosmic figure Paul wrote about seems like a trippy departure from a guy he never really met in real life.  Paul knew Jesus only from visions and from weaving together a kind of literary character out of Hebrew scriptures which, when you go back and read them in their original context, say nothing of the sort.  Come to think of it, even Paul contradicts Paul in such key ways that most scholars who aren’t personally bound by religious loyalties to inerrancy will admit that much of what we were told was written by Paul wasn’t written by him at all.  In other words, even Paul disagrees with Paul, so it’s no surprise that he represents a departure from Jesus as well.

But now comes the group that irritates me most of all lately.  Some people are prepared to concede that even the gospels get Jesus wrong sometimes, and they argue that places where Jesus seems to advocate judgment and condemnation aren’t really giving us the real Jesus after all.  So now we’ve got Jesus versus Jesus.  And yet somehow despite this debacle they are still certain that they can discern which portrait of Jesus is the right one:  It’s whichever one is the most likable and which, coincidentally, happens to agree most completely with all of our most cherished modern virtues.  Sure, they tell us, the Bible says Jesus spoke of Hell more than anyone else in history up until that point, but maybe that was added later.  And yes, they admit, it appears that Jesus had some harsh and dismissive things to say about family life.  But maybe the real Jesus never said such things because “that’s not the Jesus I know.”

People, are you even listening to yourselves?  On what basis are you able to tell me which words and actions are the real Jesus and which ones are the imposter Jesus?  They’re both coming from the same source.  And this time we’re not even talking about two different texts written in two different languages 1,000 years apart.  We’re talking about parsing a single story compiled by the same editor(s) at the same time (we don’t even know who wrote the gospels, and they don’t really tell us anyway).  What makes you so certain you can reliably do this?  How is it that you—living two millennia later than the original writers of these stories—can discern better which stories are “real” and which are “fake?”  Your own personal feelings?  Is your gut leading you now?  I just don’t get the cherry picking.  Or more to the point, if you have any self-awareness about how much cherry picking you’re doing, I just don’t get how you can then turn around and say you worship and love something you know you just built yourself with scissors and tape and glue.  All I can figure is that you’re convinced your hard work has simply uncovered the real Jesus as he was meant to be known.  But you have fashioned this person yourself.

Christians mock their Hebrew forbears for crafting the golden calf out of their own treasures.  Who would be so silly as to worship something they know they’ve just made, right?  Why do they think something they had to make themselves is worthy of praise?  My question is:  How is that not exactly what Christians who cherry pick the Bible are doing, especially once they start sculpting Jesus out of the bits and pieces of him they like, discarding the rest?  Fundamentalists will nod their heads to these questions and shout “Amen!” but that’s only because they fail to see that at least the cherry pickers are trying to resolve the tensions which the Fundamentalists aren’t even trying to reason out.  Some are content to just throw their hands in the air and give up, saying “His ways are higher than our ways.  It’s not supposed to make sense.”  That may work for some people but for the rest of us, we want to make sense out of the stuff we are told we’re supposed to believe.  We’ve seen enough to know that uncritically accepting unreasonable beliefs is a recipe for disaster, leading to unnecessary heartache and pain, and quite often grotesque social injustices as well.

I think I know the most sensible resolution of this whole mess.  The only reason any of this presents a problem in the first place is that all of these people are trying to save the Bible from itself.  But have you seriously considered the possibility that it’s a hopeless mess?  The Bible is a messy collection of the pious imaginings of many, many groups of people over a very long period of time.  Honestly, it gets more things wrong than it gets right, and the only reason more people don’t see it is because of centuries of reinforcement which says you’re supposed to see this as a special book—a magic book—a book which, if you read it correctly will change you.  It will shape your character and help you see things and understand things you wouldn’t be able to see any other way.

Well I did that.  I grew up in that mentality and it was my world from childhood through my early adult years.  But I see its error now.  The emperor has no clothes.  To people in my position, hearing you profess that you don’t trust the Bible but that you love Jesus is like hearing you say that you know the emperor’s weavers were charlatans, but didn’t the coat they made look splendid!  Don’t bother telling me that it’s “a mystery.”  From where I’m standing, we’ve got another word for that.

 

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About Neil Carter

I wear many hats (and none of them pay well!): I am a school teacher, a tutor, a personal trainer, a supplement pusher, a driving instructor, a swim coach, and a father. I also help moderate a growing discussion group of more than 400 atheists in Mississippi and I’ve recently started a more public forum for anyone interested in discussing issues related to skepticism and/or life in the Deep South.

  • http://bananafaced.wordpress.com bananafaced

    How do we know WHAT Jesus said if our only source is the Bible (Bible Part I and/or Bible Part II) listed under fiction in the library, written by many unknown authors who had some supposed moral agenda, expecting unconditional belief in all it contains without question or research? It cannot even be used as an accurate historical reference. A quote attributed to P.T Barnum describes, for me, that unwavering devotion to the Bible as truth and to the myth of Jesus…”There’s a sucker born every minute”.

  • FPrefect

    I agree with everything you said. However, I think it is interesting and fair to point out that some people create a really beautiful Jesus. When some people take all the pleasant parts in the bible and specifically, the most noble qualities of the Jesus character and craft a narrative that the model for their own behavior should be to practice love and forgiveness at all times practical and possible, they generate an ideal worthy of aspiration which, curiously enough, sounds almost like humanism minus the dependence on an external divine force.

    As a skeptic, a historian, and generally rational person, I know that this carefully selected optimal Jesus (“OJ”) can’t literally be true in the sense that water is wet. However, I can enjoy the pleasant fiction and praise the underlying aspiration of the hidden artist behind this myth: something made a person decide that practicing kindness was praise worthy. They found that morality appealing. The creator of OJ is a human being who uses the Jesus myth as a marker. A person wishing to improve their health and fitness may put up a picture of someone with perfectly toned abs on his wall as a goal. Similarly, a person wishing to be a good human being may put up a depiction of Jesus. Assuming that this Jesus is the OJ I’ve described, he’s a laudable character to emulate. We, at least in terms of he is imagined to treat others.

    I would personally prefer that the believers and authors of OJ recognize a similar nobility in truth and intellectual honesty and abandon him in favor of the realization that they can aspire to the same traits without a fictional character or any of the dogmatic baggage they may have given their OJ to tote around. (heaven and hell, divinity, belief in miracles, etc.) They can be “good without god.” However, I do think that at least the followers of OJ should be commended for their preference for a morality which favors kindness over one which elevates some of the alternative values one can find and choose to adopt through reading a bible.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com Captain Cassidy

      I’ve heard this type of thinking called “metaphorical truth”–does that sound similar to what you’re describing? Not literally true, but it might have some resonance anyway?

      Even the folks describing the boyfriendiest of all boyfriendy Jesuses still tend to have some pretty awful ideas of autonomy, self-will, and self-determination; they say the most terrible things about themselves, putting themselves down, refusing to take credit for their own success. But I guess it’s like a lucky black feather–the elephant thought he needed it to fly, when he was always able to fly with or without it. I think you’re right.

      • archaeopteryx1

        Speaking of “metaphorical truth,” is everyone familiar with the “Acts Seminar”? It was conducted from 2001 to 2011 at the Westar Institute, in which a recognized group of biblical scholars dissected the NT book, “The Acts of the Apostles,” and came to the following conclusions, among others (I would include links, I have 3, but the WordPress spam protection app would automatically send this into moderation – Google it!):

        1. The use of Acts as a source for history has long needed critical reassessment.

        2. Acts was written in the early decades of the second century.

        3. The author of Acts used the letters of Paul as sources.

        4. Except for the letters of Paul, no other historically reliable source can be identified for Acts.

        5. Acts can no longer be considered an independent source for the life and mission of Paul.

        6. Contrary to Acts 1-7, Jerusalem was not the birthplace of Christianity.

        7. Acts constructs its story on the model of epic and related literature.

        8. The author of Acts created names for characters as storytelling devices.

        9. Acts constructs its story to fit ideological goals.

        10. Acts is a primary historical source for second century Christianity.

        In less formal English:

        * The Acts narrative is worthless as history of first century Christianity, but quite informative as history of second century Christianity;

        * it provides us no reason to believe that Christianity began in Jerusalem — the Jerusalem centre of the faith was a myth created for second century ideological reasons;

        * some of its characters are fictional and their names symbolic;

        * Acts was created as a type of Christian “epic” (coherent and literary throughout, not a patchwork quilt of diverse sources) and as such, we have reasons to believe, is no more historical than Homer’s or Virgil’s epics;

        * the author did, indeed, know of the letters of Paul, but there was never any outside, corroborating evidence of the validity of the content of Paul’s epistles.

        Brick by brick, the house begins to crumble.

        • archaeopteryx1

          Man, you leave out one little “/” and the whole comment is in italics!

        • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com Captain Cassidy

          As Uncle George would say…. ohhhh, my. That’s going on my book wishlist right now. That’s stuff I’d kinda suspected for a while but to hear official Bible scholars say it–you could knock me over with a feather right now. Very good find, and thank you for sharing the info about it.

          • archaeopteryx1

            It’s what I do.

            I don’t think anyone would mind if I invited you to my website, where you might learn some more –

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com Captain Cassidy

            Thank you for the invitation! I don’t think I’ve ever seen your blog before.

  • http://attaleuntold.wordpress.com Arkenaten

    Excellent. One of the best pieces on this topic I have read in a long time. Well done, sir.

  • Rachel

    More like: “I don’t trust the designer, manufacturer, or pilot of this airplane…..but can I get a seat by the window?”

  • archaeopteryx1

    “I just don’t get how you can then turn around and say you worship and love something you know you just built yourself with scissors and tape and glue.”

    Hasn’t that always been the case? Haven’t we always fashioned our gods in our own image?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuzPzCqrkFA

  • Pingback: Loving Jesus But Not the Bible | Diary Of Madness

  • http://southernhon.wordpress.com SouthernHon

    You have made very good points. My husband and I have tried to define ourselves as “liberal Christians.” However, this also presents the problem of cherry picking Scriptures. When we fail to fully embrace or understand the vengeful deity known as God, yet claim that Jesus (God) loves you no matter what, we cannot claim that we are worshipping the trinity, something we have recited in our Nicene Creed every Sunday. How can you truly embrace Jesus, claim you believe in the virgin birth (and the rest of the unbelievable stories in the Bible – Noah’s ark, etc..) and still rationally believe in this guy Jesus who somehow died so that our sins would be washed away? The Jesus who walked around among us seems okay enough on the surface, yet the entire construct of the religion is based not on Jesus the human God on Earth, but the fact that Jesus the human supposedly died for us? It’s like so many puzzle pieces floating around that never fully make a whole picture that I can truly believe in.

    • Arthur202

      The trinity (son, father, holy ghost) was a forgery from the medieval period. the bishops collecting scriptures for the king james version knew it was a forgery, but put it in anyway because it sounded nice.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        If you are talking about the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7-8), then yes, it was a medieval forgery.

        However, the concept of the Trinity had already existed for a while. It developed by the 3rd century. But it was never in the Bible, until someone added it in during medieval times

        • archaeopteryx1

          It was decided by the Council of Nicea, in 325 CE, a council of bishops in Constantinople, ordered to convene by Roman Emperor Constantine.

    • Richard

      But you’ve got to remember that, even if you’re only reading about Jesus, you’ve still got to cherry-pick somewhat to find the good parts. Honestly, in my opinion, Jesus was kind of a douchebag. There’s the stuff he says about hating your family in order to be his disciple (Christians do all sorts of mental gymnastics about this one). Also, in a story that’s repeated very similarly in Matthew 13:10-13; Mark 4:10-12, 33; Luke 8:10, Jesus’ disciples ask why he speaks in parables (obviously because it’s confusing). Jesus’ reply reads to me as, “I’m being intentionally confusing because screw those folks. But I’ll let you in on some of the secrets.” So, if you’re a good guy most of the time, and you say some positive stuff – how much shitty behavior do you have to engage in before you’re a jerk? People make a lot of energy about the supposed sacrifice of Jesus, but why is it that he had to do this? Were the Jewish people running out of goats and sheep to sacrifice, to appease God? Couldn’t they have just expanded that whole program to bring the larger world into the fold? Being that God, who is part Jesus supposedly, set this whole system up, wherein we’re condemned to an eternity of torture for our imperfection (not so much how horrible we are, but by the very fact that we have fallen short of the glory of God) – couldn’t he just decide to *not* condemn us to hell? Instead he has to sacrifice himself to himself, in order to put in a loophole? And when you get down to it, is it really sacrificing your life if the whole plan is that you’re going to pop back up 2.5 days later?

      • archaeopteryx1

        For an additional treat, pop over to Revelations, and check out all of the people Jesus is going to hack down with his sword when he comes back – you’d think, in 2000 years, heaven would have invented the AK-47, we did.

  • Tim Wolf

    The only reason any of this presents a problem in the first place is that all of these people are trying to save the Bible from itself. But have you seriously considered the possibility that it’s a hopeless mess?

    This was a major component of my own de-conversion. In my own Christian journey of nearly 30 years, I often did a lot of New Testament vs. New Testament splicing and dicing that you refer to to try to make sense of it to myself and to witness to others. Then I decided to really present myself as a Biblical authority, I needed a more fuller understanding of the Old Testament. I spent two years immersed in the Old Testament (read it all twice) and came out of the period with nagging doubts. Instead of finding the clarity I hoped for, it did appear over time as a hopeless mess. And I had already been struggling mightily with the notion that James confirms Paul, he doesn’t contradict him. This contradiction is a KEY point that I never reconciled in my all of my many years active in the church. It still took me over a decade after this period of OT study to realize I am an atheist. But that period of intense Bible study was clearly the beginning point of my de-conversion journey.

    Thanks for an excellent post. You’ve articulated well many ideas that have been in my mind for a long time.

    • archaeopteryx1

      “A thorough reading and understanding of the Bible is the surest path to atheism.”

      – Donald Morgan –

      “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

      – Issac Asimov –

      “‘Scrutumini scripturas

      (‘Let us examine the scriptures‘)

      These two words have undone the world.”

      – John Selden –

      (1584-1658)

      From 600 AD to 1600 AD, The Church forbade, upon penalty of death, the printing of any Bibles in any language other than Latin, a language that very few, outside of the Church, were able to read.

  • el_slapper

    Thanks for that. You’re pitiless, but that’s unfortunately needed. What I like in your blog is that you don’t need a long list of science feats. When my wife tells me about “creation science”, I always need to search for hard scientific facts to keep my sanity. The way you present things is simple, factual, efficient, and pitiless. Without needless agressivity.

    Most other “atheist” sources I can find are usually agressive(as Jerry Coyne’s Why evolution is True) or sarcastic(as RationalWiki). I read them, but don’t like to use what they teach me as I don’t want to be agressive/sarcastic with my wife or her family. The intellectual tools you give me are simply factual, & I can use them easier.

    Lack of logic deserves no pity. Thanks for your help – you make my life easier.

  • https://www.facebook.com/rowdy.riemer Rowdy Otto Riemer

    The christians trying to reconcile all the mismatched peaces of the bible should read 1 Corinthians 14:33. “God is not the author of confusion…” If the bible is a source of so much confusion, then according to the verse, god must not be it’s author. (Well, of course he isn’t, he’s just made up.)

  • Thinker1121

    “Some people’s faith is so weak that if they ever allowed that people can genuinely and sincerely commit their whole lives to Jesus only to leave the faith later on, they would lose all hope for themselves.”

    Man, is this ever true. And I think this attitude is ultimately what separates the skeptical mindset from all others. No matter what a skeptic believes regarding human morality, philosophy, politics, religion, science, etc., the bottom line is that the skeptic will acknowledge he might be wrong about any or all of his beliefs (including liberal moral beliefs! – I run into many people that at first appear to be skeptics, but later on I find they’re not very skeptical regarding the liberal values that they themselves hold). I have never found a Christian who believes that the Bible is the Word of God or that Jesus is ultimate role model but simultaneously acknowledges that he might be wrong and that it’s possible, however unlikely, that he’d change his mind one day in the future. You can only qualify as a skeptic if you’re willing to add the statement “but I might be wrong” to every belief you hold. I would even go so far as to say the best skeptics are ones who LIKE to be proven wrong about their beliefs, simply because it means they enjoy being closer to the truth more than they dislike being proven wrong for social/ego/moral based reasons.

    • http://forthelackof.blogspot.com/ Laura

      This mindset of “I might be wrong” changed my life and ultimately led to my deconversion about 8 years later. Also, people invalidating your entire Christian experience- even when you were in missions and ministries for decades and clearly not just going through the motions – is one of the most painful experiences to go through emotionally, but I understand that they do that because they’re terrified. It’s hard not to blame them.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Nice image of Jesus, who, if he ever actually existed, would have looked far more like a bearded Ringo Starr, than the blue-eyed Nordic image designed to sell him to Europe.

  • Patrick

    And yet, you were a committed Christian for so long. Amazing really. The power of myth. It’s so obviously wrong. Which is why it’s so hard for me to discuss religion with the religious. I just can’t comprehend their “logic.”

    When your own religious book contradicts itself continuously, and yet you still believe… That’s some hardcore denial right there. This is why I’ve never understood how ministers can keep their faith. I understand that Joe Churchgoer, who never really processes much past what he hears on Sunday, stays a Christian. He defers to authority, he hears his feel good sermon (“Jesus loved all the little children!”), greets his friends and neighbors, the goes home in time to watch football. I get it.

    But the ministers, the priests, the pastors? The men (and women) whose full time job it is to actually study the Bible, understand it, immerse themselves in its ideology, its consistency, etc. And be intelligent enough to preach to the masses. How can they remain Christian? Credo quia absurdum?

    • Jen

      One word: Tithing

      For the ones that don’t make much it is one thing but for the mega millionaires it is worth it for the money they rake in, TAX FREE!

      I used to belong to a church that had multi million dollar buildings in different parts of the state and yet when a single mother who lost her job went to them for help they said she was having financial problems because she doesn’t tithe!

      Not only that but if you didn’t tithe off the first 10% of your income and trust God with the rest they said God would not honor it because paying your bills BEFORE God meant you didn’t really trust him.

  • ctcss

    But have you seriously considered the possibility that it’s a hopeless mess?

    Nope. And for a similar reason that I don’t just write off all of humanity for being a worthless species for their amazing mix of good and bad, understanding and ignorance.

    I’m not your typical Christian in that I don’t have a personal God, don’t view Jesus as God, don’t have hell and everlasting punishment, am not a literalist, am not evangelical, etc., so I come at this a bit differently.

    When I read the the Bible, I see many different people trying to grapple with their concept of the divine. I see a slow progression of thought, both in individual’s lives, and also in the larger population. To me this is a lot like learning. Individuals go to school and progress through the grades. Thus their initial ignorance is replaced, bit by bit, with better and more accurate concepts. However, their progress isn’t uniform because their knowledge and understanding aren’t uniform. They only “get” what they get. And it takes persistence on their part to keep working at chiseling away at their ignorance. Plus they (and all of us) just don’t know what we don’t know.

    And along with the individual’s lack of understanding, there is the larger population’s lack of understanding. In the US, slavery and denial of rights to women were entirely acceptable at one time. Now they’re not. Does this mean that blacks and women have somehow evolved to the point where they are now considered to be capable of being accorded a higher status and thus have been granted it? Or does it just mean that the larger population’s view of blacks and women has changed for the better? Have humans physically evolved so that blood-letting is no longer necessary, or has our view of what would help handle sickness in humans changed?

    And within the larger population, are there luminaries in various fields of study who seem to “get it” far sooner than the rest of us? And do we benefit from trying to grasp what it is that they are trying to explain?

    The Bible, to me, is not a hopeless mess because I see it as a mix of general thought and higher thought. I don’t see God changing, I see man’s concept of God changing. I find encouragement in the seeming denseness in the thought of various characters because, as a human, I know what it is like to feel dense and in the dark at times. And wherever some light touches that darkness (both in Bible character’s lives and in my own) and helps lift it off, I am grateful.

    Some people think all of the Bible is worthless and want to discard it. Some think just the OT is worthless and want to discard it. I am OK with all of it because I find useful knowledge (things to do and not to do) in all of it. My goal is not to worship the book, nor to worship a person. I am simply interested (just like the people portrayed in the Bible were) in continuing to try to understand more about God.

    So I persist because I find the journey valuable to me.

    • Lee

      ctcss, how do you find support for your faith in God without faith in the Bible? Or, do you acknowledge that your beliefs are based purely on faith in the supernatural completely unsupported? I ask, because the noble attributes and teachings you seek out in the Bible can be obtained much more efficiently through other means of study/meditation…those without superfluous belief in the supernatural.

      • ctcss

        I’m afraid I am not quite following you. I consider the Bible to be a work inspired by God. People who were focused on God did their best to capture what they thought were useful concepts and narratives relating to God. The ideas and the lives recorded in the Bible help point the way to understand more about God. Since I was brought up in a religious family and went to church, I was taught about God and have been interested in learning and understanding more about God ever since.

        And I am not sure what you mean by supernatural. I was taught that God is natural, but He is not physical. If He were physical, he would be composed of, and bound by, the rules that govern matter. Such a state of things would have God being demoted to a god, that is, something limited and finite. He would simply be another character among many, instead of being the unique source and creator of all.

        And if God is the source and creator of all, then by definition He cannot be superfluous. In fact, He is absolutely necessary because without God existing, His creation must vanish since it is the outcome and reflection of who He is. Thus, no God, no expression of God.

        So (among other things that I do) I study the Bible in order to gain a better sense and understanding of God. And since God is the source of everything, I hardly consider Him to be superfluous, or un-necessary. He’s actually vital to that which I hope to understand better.

        • http://twitter.com/TimDolores Tim Smith (@TimDolores)

          ctcss, “I consider the Bible to be a work inspired by God.” Do you consider any other works to be inspired by God? For example, Laozi, Hafiz, Milton, Dickinson?

          If so, do you consider yourself Christian, or a student of all those who have explored the sublime?

          If not, what distinguishes the Bible from the rest of the literature and art passed down from people who did their best to capture their ideas?

          • ctcss

            Do you consider any other works to be inspired by God? For example, Laozi, Hafiz, Milton, Dickinson?

            I don’t think I have read any of them, so I am not in a position to comment.

            I very much consider myself to be a Christian, although very non-mainstream.

            If not, what distinguishes the Bible from the rest of the literature and art passed down from people who did their best to capture their ideas?

            I think people have pondered the divine and the question of truth throughout history. And I think that there may be interesting works out there by people who have given this considered thought. But there is only so much time in a day (or in one’s life) to spend it looking at every possible work. For example, I married my wife without doing a survey of every eligible female on the planet. I did this because when I encountered her, she had a number of qualities that I found to be intriguing and helpful. After dating her for a while, I realized that those qualities I perceived were more than sufficient for us to embark on a life together. We did so, fully knowing that neither of us could predict what would happen because of that choice. But we had confidence that our reasoned choices, our character, and our motivations were sufficent to trust one another as partners going forward.

            Personally, I like the Bible and the teachings I perceive within it. And more specifically, I am intrigued by what Jesus taught about God. And since what he taught was non-trivial in nature (just as deciding to marry my wife was a non-trivial undertaking), I am more than willing to explore those teachings and to take as long as it takes to do so. In other words, I consider both my religion and my marriage are lifetime committments. And unless something goes horribly wrong with either (and so far they have not), I think my dance card is full.

          • archaeopteryx1

            RE: “I am intrigued by what Jesus taught about God.

            I’m a bit curious, ct – how can you know what Jesus taught about god, since none of the books that purport to report those conversations, were written until, at the very least, 40 years after his death, by anonymous authors who weren’t there?

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    I’m a bit curious, ct – how can you know what Jesus taught about god, since none of the books that purport to report those conversations, were written until, at the very least, 40 years after his death, by anonymous authors who weren’t there?

    Would you be happier with “what Jesus was said to have taught about God” in it’s place? And you do realize that oral history has played a rather large role in the religious teachings passed down through the generations, don’t you? The point being, something made a rather large impact on a group of religiously minded Jewish and non-Jewish people back in the first century. I am intrigued by what was eventually recorded, however it was passed down, and I am intending to spend my life exploring the import of what was conveyed.

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    I’m a bit curious, ct – how can you know what Jesus taught about god, since none of the books that purport to report those conversations, were written until, at the very least, 40 years after his death, by anonymous authors who weren’t there?

    Would you be happier with “what Jesus was said to have taught about God” in it’s place? And you do realize that oral history has played a rather large role in the religious teachings passed down through the generations, don’t you? The point being, something made a rather large impact on a group of religiously minded Jewish and non-Jewish people back in the first century. I am intrigued by what was eventually recorded, however it was passed down, and I am intending to spend my life exploring the import of what was conveyed.

    • archaeopteryx1

      I would actually prefer, “What Jesus was purported to have said to have taught about god, by unknown authors writing on average more than half a century later,” but that’s a somewhat awkward, though accurate, statement.

      I applaud your exploration, but remember that there are two ways to explore. One is to determine that something is true, and discard every scrap of information that fails to confirm that, and the other is to ask, “What is the truth?” and weigh all information equally.

      • ctcss

        I’d be curious to know if you think someone could determine the truth of something without actually exploring it in real life. For instance, it’d be pretty hard to know the “truth” of climbing Mt Everest without ever having done it in real life. Religion (at least to me) is something that is practiced in real life on a daily basis, not just discussed in drawing rooms, or even just in attending church services. That’s why I am exploring this. I don’t think I can just sit in an armchair and determine the truth of it. (The logical consistency of it, perhaps, but not the truth.)

        • archaeopteryx1

          I’m not sure there IS a “truth of climbing Mt. Everest.” I’m sure there are a number of truths ABOUT climbing Mt. Everest, such as HAS it been climbed? Answer, yes, it has. Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber. Any number of these truths can be determined without ever actually climbing Everest.

          Regarding the Judeo/Christian religion, we can immediately discount the first five books, basically the entire foundation of the Old Testament, with just a little study of how the Bible came to be, and in this case, the Torah, or Pentateuch, which was written, not by Moses, as purported (and for whom there is no evidence), but by four different groups, writing in 950, 859, 750 and 522 BCE, and later spliced together like a patchwork quilt by a redactor in 400 BCE. In the New, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Acts was based on the letters of Paul, not first-hand knowledge.

          If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers, I’d think long and hard about any car he was trying to sell me.

          But it’s your life and your journey and you have the right to explore in any direction you like – good luck with your exploration.

          • ctcss

            Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber.

            That’s basically a non-answer because it just pushes away the question. However, this specific question is what I was getting at. Any individual’s effort is going to come down to “Will I succeed at this endeavor?”, and for something big that cannot be predicted (unless one can fully see into the future) boils down to making the effort to try to do it. Serious religious committment is one such effort. Climbing Mt Everest is one such effort. Getting married and trying to make it work is one such effort. Life itself is one such effort. An armchair consideration will offer some input, but the actual final answer (the truth of it) will only come about through making the actual, real effort.

            If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers …

            And all you are doing here is critiquing a literalist approach to scripture. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit of a yawn. For people who aren’t approaching the Bible this way, what you are saying isn’t very much of a surprise. Most of it has been known for quite some time. It certainly isn’t a showstopper. This is one of the reasons I am not all that impressed by atheist gotchas. They are usually just aimed at people who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about these things. They don’t do much at all to people who have thought about them.

          • archaeopteryx1

            Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture. I can’t count the number of theists that I’ve encountered who say, “You don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, well guess what? Neither do I. But that doesn’t make any difference – the problem is that you aren’t looking at it right.”

            The problem is, that they never seem quite ready to extrapolate on what the “right” way of looking at it really is. Are you?

    • archaeopteryx1

      Oh, and RE: “oral history has played a rather large role in the religious teachings passed down through the generations” – hold a conversation with a competent police officer sometime, about the unreliability of current, present-day eyewitness testimony, then imagine, assuming you’ve ever played the party game of “telephone” or “Chinese Whispers,” or know anyone who has (since you don’t strike me as that much of a party animal), then ask yourself, if fresh eyewitness testimony is unreliable, how much more so, that which has passed down through numerous generations?

      • ctcss

        You are probably correct with regard to minutia, but for the larger items I am thinking that reasonably accurate information is possible. I don’t know every detail of Lincoln’s death, but I do know that he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, and that it was done at Ford’s Theatre. People usually remember the big things that directly impacted them. (I sometimes forget my wedding anniversary date, but I do know that it was in mid September in Chicago.)

        And the idea that a major event in someone’s life is the equivalent of a party game of telephone is rather lame. In the party game you have an unknown and unrelated to anything else piece of information that you are asking someone to hear and repeat. Oral history is usually repeated many times by a small group of people to a larger group and it is usually rather familiar to them. And generally the smaller group (the priests) have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent. The point being, it is not conducted like a party game at all.

        • archaeopteryx1

          It probably won’t come as any big surprise to you, that I disagree when you say, “the idea that a major event in someone’s life is the equivalent of a party game of telephone is rather lame.” If any of the Gospels can be believed, Yeshua (his real name), if he ever existed, remained in the area around the Sea of Galilee, which was outside the jurisdiction of Herod and the Sanhedrin. His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis. That he was tried and executed in far-off Jerusalem, would have meant little to the people of Galilee, as it was likely weeks before the news ever traveled that far. And yet, due to his entire ministry having been spent in the area of Galilee, his trial and death would have meant nothing to the residents of Jerusalem either – in short, his life and death meant very little to anyone until the stories began to be spread by Paul, who never met the man. And it was only by changing the rules, that Paul was able to gather a following – he admitted gentiles (not steeped in Jewish tradition, and more malleable), he eliminated the requirement of circumcision – a BIG deal-breaker – and he allowed for the eating of other than strictly Kosher foods. Other than the small groups of people he organized, little else was done about Christianity until the Gospels were written 40 – 60+ years after the event. At no given point, could it be called, “a major event in someone’s life.”

          Oral history is usually repeated many times by a small group of people to a larger group and it is usually rather familiar to them,” and the further it gets from the original source, the less factual and more fanciful it becomes.

          And generally the smaller group (the priests) have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent.” – there were only two groups of priests in Palestine at the time, the Pharisees, who goaded Pilate into executing Yeshua, after which, they went home to await the coming of their Messiah, and the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of spirits – just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

          (Sorry if I’m taking up too much space on your blog, but some points just can’t be briefly responded to, without a great deal of misunderstanding.)

          • ctcss

            His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis.

            I must be missing your meaning here. You are allowing that Jesus’ ministry would have been a major event in the lives of his followers and perhaps his family. What, exactly, makes that a non-event in those people’s lives? And it is people such as those who I am referring to. They are not likely to forget the importance of what they witnessed (the major events), even if some minor details get sidelined.

            just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

            Actually, neither. I should have used the term “leaders”, but when I said priests, I was actually looking forward to when Christianity had a clergy of its own. But yes, the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear. Once again, this is nothing at all like a game of telephone.

          • archaeopteryx1

            the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear

            Keeping the story clear, or inventing and embellishing the story as they went along, so as to make it more grand than it was? You ARE aware, I would hope, that “The Acts of the Apostles,” by the same anonymous author as “the Gospel According to Luke”, didn’t even write his story until the second century, and even then, he used the letters of Paul for his material, so while Acts was once thought to corroborate Paul, now we find it doesn’t at all.

            The more the Bible is examined, the more hinky it reveals itself to be.

            “‘Scrutumini scripturas’

            (‘Let us examine the scriptures’)

            These two words have undone the world.”

            – John Selden –

            (1584-1658)

  • http://twitter.com/GospelToday Good News (@GospelToday)

    Neil Carter, your claim of actually having been a “Christian” is you confessing that you know God exists, that Christ Jesus is God and that you reject Him as your Savior.

    Having a loving personal relationship with Christ Jesus once experienced is something only a truly fully and purely insane person would give up. http://findingtruthtoday.org/so-you-say-you-are-a-christian

  • http://twitter.com/GospelToday Good News (@GospelToday)

    Neil Carter, your claim of actually having been a “Christian” is you confessing that you know God exists, that Christ Jesus is God and that you reject Him as your Savior.

    Having a loving personal relationship with Christ Jesus once experienced is something only a truly fully and purely insane person would give up. http://findingtruthtoday.org/so-you-say-you-are-a-christian

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    The more the Bible is examined, the more hinky it reveals itself to be.

    The thing is, I am not worshipping the Bible, I am worshipping God. The Bible helps point me to God. It is not God. This is why what you are offering to me doesn’t do much to move me. You’re leaving out the most important thing. When someone decides to toss out God (both back then and now) and then ends up complaining that all they have left is an old book, I really don’t have much sympathy for how they arrived at that position.

    You ARE aware, I would hope, that “The Acts of the Apostles,” by the same anonymous author as “the Gospel According to Luke”, didn’t even write his story until the second century, and even then, he used the letters of Paul for his material, so while Acts was once thought to corroborate Paul, now we find it doesn’t at all.

    I took your advice and googled the Acts Seminar. I’m sorrry to disappoint you, but I’m not very impressed by that group. Specifically, Q9 from the Spring 2007 meeting “In the early 1st century Christian communities, miracles took place in their midst as signs of apostolic authority.” When religious scholars decide that the idea of works is highly unbelieveable, I start having a hard time believing those scholars have any sense of what God is all about. So pardon me if I don’t buy into their conclusion.

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    The more the Bible is examined, the more hinky it reveals itself to be.

    The thing is, I am not worshipping the Bible, I am worshipping God. The Bible helps point me to God. It is not God. This is why what you are offering to me doesn’t do much to move me. You’re leaving out the most important thing. When someone decides to toss out God (both back then and now) and then ends up complaining that all they have left is an old book, I really don’t have much sympathy for how they arrived at that position.

    You ARE aware, I would hope, that “The Acts of the Apostles,” by the same anonymous author as “the Gospel According to Luke”, didn’t even write his story until the second century, and even then, he used the letters of Paul for his material, so while Acts was once thought to corroborate Paul, now we find it doesn’t at all.

    I took your advice and googled the Acts Seminar. I’m sorrry to disappoint you, but I’m not very impressed by that group. Specifically, Q9 from the Spring 2007 meeting “In the early 1st century Christian communities, miracles took place in their midst as signs of apostolic authority.” When religious scholars decide that the idea of works is highly unbelieveable, I start having a hard time believing those scholars have any sense of what God is all about. So pardon me if I don’t buy into their conclusion.

    • archaeopteryx1

      Literally thousands of gods have been worshiped over the millennia since homo Sapiens evolved. The Bible is the only source of information we have about this once obscure desert god, Yahweh. Once that book has been disproven, and much of it has already been, Yahweh recedes further and further into the world of Man’s imagination, surviving less and less in the realm of reality.

      The time will come when Mankind looks back at the cult of Yahweh and says, “What were they thinking?”

      • ctcss

        I find it interesting that all of this just boils down to different approaches to this subject. You seem to be trying to disprove the existence of God, as well as the relevance of the Bible (at least the literalist view of it.) For my part, I am far more interested in working to prove (for myself) whether or not the concept of God that I was taught can be relied on, as well as the relevance of the (non-literalist) interpretation of the Bible I was taught.

        Both of us have an honest interest in finding out the truth. The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

        So since the endpoint of our individual explorations are not in close proximity to our current positions in life, I guess we need to agree to disagree, as friends, and proceed on our individual ways.

        • archaeopteryx1

          The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

          That, in large part, is due to the fact that spirits don’t exist, except in bottles of alcohol.

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture.

    IMO you can’t really get a sense of scripture if you don’t have a sense of God. While I am more than happy to have the input of scholars with regard to textual criticism and archeology and history in general, none of that will actually get me closer to God. It’s useful to see what kinds of info exists given the distance in time from then to now, but without an actual time machine, an awful lot of conjecture appears to be put forth by scholars. And the more they speculate, the less I am usually impressed.

    The thing is, they are focused on what they are looking at. And if that was all I was desiring to look at, I would be more than happy to accomodate them. But it isn’t. I am interested in God in the here and now. Because God here and now is also God there and then. So if they are simply looking at everything except for God, at some point I have to set aside their conjecture and go back to exploring the subject of God. Because the Bible, without God, is simply a book. But the Bible with God, well, that’s a whole different ball game.

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture.

    IMO you can’t really get a sense of scripture if you don’t have a sense of God. While I am more than happy to have the input of scholars with regard to textual criticism and archeology and history in general, none of that will actually get me closer to God. It’s useful to see what kinds of info exists given the distance in time from then to now, but without an actual time machine, an awful lot of conjecture appears to be put forth by scholars. And the more they speculate, the less I am usually impressed.

    The thing is, they are focused on what they are looking at. And if that was all I was desiring to look at, I would be more than happy to accomodate them. But it isn’t. I am interested in God in the here and now. Because God here and now is also God there and then. So if they are simply looking at everything except for God, at some point I have to set aside their conjecture and go back to exploring the subject of God. Because the Bible, without God, is simply a book. But the Bible with God, well, that’s a whole different ball game.

  • ctcss

    @archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture.

    IMO you can’t really get a sense of scripture if you don’t have a sense of God. While I am more than happy to have the input of scholars with regard to textual criticism and archeology and history in general, none of that will actually get me closer to God. It’s useful to see what kinds of info exists given the distance in time from then to now, but without an actual time machine, an awful lot of conjecture appears to be put forth by scholars. And the more they speculate, the less I am usually impressed.

    The thing is, they are focused on what they are looking at. And if that was all I was desiring to look at, I would be more than happy to accomodate them. But it isn’t. I am interested in God in the here and now. Because God here and now is also God there and then. So if they are simply looking at everything except for God, at some point I have to set aside their conjecture and go back to exploring the subject of God. Because the Bible, without God, is simply a book. But the Bible with God, well, that’s a whole different ball game.

    • archaeopteryx1

      I can’t see atoms or molecules, but I can have a sense of them, because there is evidence for them; I can’t see germs or virii either, but again, I can get a sense of germs and virii, simply because there is evidence for them. I cannot get a sense of God, because there is no evidence that a god exists – if you have any evidence to the contrary, now would be a good time to trot it out.

      • ctcss

        Yep, definitely a materialist. It appears that we are heading in very different directions.

        • archaeopteryx1

          Yup – East is East, and West is, not.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com Captain Cassidy

    As Uncle George would say…. ohhhh, my. That’s going on my book wishlist right now. That’s stuff I’d kinda suspected for a while but to hear official Bible scholars say it–you could knock me over with a feather right now. Very good find, and thank you for sharing the info about it.

  • archaeopteryx1

    It’s what I do.

    I don’t think anyone would mind if I invited you to my website, where you might learn some more –

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com Captain Cassidy

    Thank you for the invitation! I don’t think I’ve ever seen your blog before.

  • ctcss

    Do you consider any other works to be inspired by God? For example, Laozi, Hafiz, Milton, Dickinson?

    I don’t think I have read any of them, so I am not in a position to comment.

    I very much consider myself to be a Christian, although very non-mainstream.

    If not, what distinguishes the Bible from the rest of the literature and art passed down from people who did their best to capture their ideas?

    I think people have pondered the divine and the question of truth throughout history. And I think that there may be interesting works out there by people who have given this considered thought. But there is only so much time in a day (or in one’s life) to spend it looking at every possible work. For example, I married my wife without doing a survey of every eligible female on the planet. I did this because when I encountered her, she had a number of qualities that I found to be intriguing and helpful. After dating her for a while, I realized that those qualities I perceived were more than sufficient for us to embark on a life together. We did so, fully knowing that neither of us could predict what would happen because of that choice. But we had confidence that our reasoned choices, our character, and our motivations were sufficent to trust one another as partners going forward.

    Personally, I like the Bible and the teachings I perceive within it. And more specifically, I am intrigued by what Jesus taught about God. And since what he taught was non-trivial in nature (just as deciding to marry my wife was a non-trivial undertaking), I am more than willing to explore those teachings and to take as long as it takes to do so. In other words, I consider both my religion and my marriage are lifetime committments. And unless something goes horribly wrong with either (and so far they have not), I think my dance card is full.

  • ctcss

    Do you consider any other works to be inspired by God? For example, Laozi, Hafiz, Milton, Dickinson?

    I don’t think I have read any of them, so I am not in a position to comment.

    I very much consider myself to be a Christian, although very non-mainstream.

    If not, what distinguishes the Bible from the rest of the literature and art passed down from people who did their best to capture their ideas?

    I think people have pondered the divine and the question of truth throughout history. And I think that there may be interesting works out there by people who have given this considered thought. But there is only so much time in a day (or in one’s life) to spend it looking at every possible work. For example, I married my wife without doing a survey of every eligible female on the planet. I did this because when I encountered her, she had a number of qualities that I found to be intriguing and helpful. After dating her for a while, I realized that those qualities I perceived were more than sufficient for us to embark on a life together. We did so, fully knowing that neither of us could predict what would happen because of that choice. But we had confidence that our reasoned choices, our character, and our motivations were sufficent to trust one another as partners going forward.

    Personally, I like the Bible and the teachings I perceive within it. And more specifically, I am intrigued by what Jesus taught about God. And since what he taught was non-trivial in nature (just as deciding to marry my wife was a non-trivial undertaking), I am more than willing to explore those teachings and to take as long as it takes to do so. In other words, I consider both my religion and my marriage are lifetime committments. And unless something goes horribly wrong with either (and so far they have not), I think my dance card is full.

  • archaeopteryx1

    RE: “I am intrigued by what Jesus taught about God.

    I’m a bit curious, ct – how can you know what Jesus taught about god, since none of the books that purport to report those conversations, were written until, at the very least, 40 years after his death, by anonymous authors who weren’t there?

  • archaeopteryx1

    I would actually prefer, “What Jesus was purported to have said to have taught about god, by unknown authors writing on average more than half a century later,” but that’s a somewhat awkward, though accurate, statement.

    I applaud your exploration, but remember that there are two ways to explore. One is to determine that something is true, and discard every scrap of information that fails to confirm that, and the other is to ask, “What is the truth?” and weigh all information equally.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Oh, and RE: “oral history has played a rather large role in the religious teachings passed down through the generations” – hold a conversation with a competent police officer sometime, about the unreliability of current, present-day eyewitness testimony, then imagine, assuming you’ve ever played the party game of “telephone” or “Chinese Whispers,” or know anyone who has (since you don’t strike me as that much of a party animal), then ask yourself, if fresh eyewitness testimony is unreliable, how much more so, that which has passed down through numerous generations?

  • ctcss

    I’d be curious to know if you think someone could determine the truth of something without actually exploring it in real life. For instance, it’d be pretty hard to know the “truth” of climbing Mt Everest without ever having done it in real life. Religion (at least to me) is something that is practiced in real life on a daily basis, not just discussed in drawing rooms, or even just in attending church services. That’s why I am exploring this. I don’t think I can just sit in an armchair and determine the truth of it. (The logical consistency of it, perhaps, but not the truth.)

  • archaeopteryx1

    I’m not sure there IS a “truth of climbing Mt. Everest.” I’m sure there are a number of truths ABOUT climbing Mt. Everest, such as HAS it been climbed? Answer, yes, it has. Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber. Any number of these truths can be determined without ever actually climbing Everest.

    Regarding the Judeo/Christian religion, we can immediately discount the first five books, basically the entire foundation of the Old Testament, with just a little study of how the Bible came to be, and in this case, the Torah, or Pentateuch, which was written, not by Moses, as purported (and for whom there is no evidence), but by four different groups, writing in 950, 859, 750 and 522 BCE, and later spliced together like a patchwork quilt by a redactor in 400 BCE. In the New, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Acts was based on the letters of Paul, not first-hand knowledge.

    If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers, I’d think long and hard about any car he was trying to sell me.

    But it’s your life and your journey and you have the right to explore in any direction you like – good luck with your exploration.

  • archaeopteryx1

    I’m not sure there IS a “truth of climbing Mt. Everest.” I’m sure there are a number of truths ABOUT climbing Mt. Everest, such as HAS it been climbed? Answer, yes, it has. Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber. Any number of these truths can be determined without ever actually climbing Everest.

    Regarding the Judeo/Christian religion, we can immediately discount the first five books, basically the entire foundation of the Old Testament, with just a little study of how the Bible came to be, and in this case, the Torah, or Pentateuch, which was written, not by Moses, as purported (and for whom there is no evidence), but by four different groups, writing in 950, 859, 750 and 522 BCE, and later spliced together like a patchwork quilt by a redactor in 400 BCE. In the New, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John where not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and Acts was based on the letters of Paul, not first-hand knowledge.

    If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers, I’d think long and hard about any car he was trying to sell me.

    But it’s your life and your journey and you have the right to explore in any direction you like – good luck with your exploration.

  • ctcss

    You are probably correct with regard to minutia, but for the larger items I am thinking that reasonably accurate information is possible. I don’t know every detail of Lincoln’s death, but I do know that he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, and that it was done at Ford’s Theatre. People usually remember the big things that directly impacted them. (I sometimes forget my wedding anniversary date, but I do know that it was in mid September in Chicago.)

    And the idea that a major event in someone’s life is the equivalent of a party game of telephone is rather lame. In the party game you have an unknown and unrelated to anything else piece of information that you are asking someone to hear and repeat. Oral history is usually repeated many times by a small group of people to a larger group and it is usually rather familiar to them. And generally the smaller group (the priests) have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent. The point being, it is not conducted like a party game at all.

  • archaeopteryx1

    It probably won’t come as any big surprise to you, that I disagree when you say, “the idea that a major event in someone’s life is the equivalent of a party game of telephone is rather lame.” If any of the Gospels can be believed, Yeshua (his real name), if he ever existed, remained in the area around the Sea of Galilee, which was outside the jurisdiction of Herod and the Sanhedrin. His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis. That he was tried and executed in far-off Jerusalem, would have meant little to the people of Galilee, as it was likely weeks before the news ever traveled that far. And yet, due to his entire ministry having been spent in the area of Galilee, his trial and death would have meant nothing to the residents of Jerusalem either – in short, his life and death meant very little to anyone until the stories began to be spread by Paul, who never met the man. And it was only by changing the rules, that Paul was able to gather a following – he admitted gentiles (not steeped in Jewish tradition, and more malleable), he eliminated the requirement of circumcision – a BIG deal-breaker – and he allowed for the eating of other than strictly Kosher foods. Other than the small groups of people he organized, little else was done about Christianity until the Gospels were written 40 – 60+ years after the event. At no given point, could it be called, “a major event in someone’s life.”

    Oral history is usually repeated many times by a small group of people to a larger group and it is usually rather familiar to them,” and the further it gets from the original source, the less factual and more fanciful it becomes.

    And generally the smaller group (the priests) have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent.” – there were only two groups of priests in Palestine at the time, the Pharisees, who goaded Pilate into executing Yeshua, after which, they went home to await the coming of their Messiah, and the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of spirits – just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

    (Sorry if I’m taking up too much space on your blog, but some points just can’t be briefly responded to, without a great deal of misunderstanding.)

  • archaeopteryx1

    It probably won’t come as any big surprise to you, that I disagree when you say, “the idea that a major event in someone’s life is the equivalent of a party game of telephone is rather lame.” If any of the Gospels can be believed, Yeshua (his real name), if he ever existed, remained in the area around the Sea of Galilee, which was outside the jurisdiction of Herod and the Sanhedrin. His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis. That he was tried and executed in far-off Jerusalem, would have meant little to the people of Galilee, as it was likely weeks before the news ever traveled that far. And yet, due to his entire ministry having been spent in the area of Galilee, his trial and death would have meant nothing to the residents of Jerusalem either – in short, his life and death meant very little to anyone until the stories began to be spread by Paul, who never met the man. And it was only by changing the rules, that Paul was able to gather a following – he admitted gentiles (not steeped in Jewish tradition, and more malleable), he eliminated the requirement of circumcision – a BIG deal-breaker – and he allowed for the eating of other than strictly Kosher foods. Other than the small groups of people he organized, little else was done about Christianity until the Gospels were written 40 – 60+ years after the event. At no given point, could it be called, “a major event in someone’s life.”

    Oral history is usually repeated many times by a small group of people to a larger group and it is usually rather familiar to them,” and the further it gets from the original source, the less factual and more fanciful it becomes.

    And generally the smaller group (the priests) have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent.” – there were only two groups of priests in Palestine at the time, the Pharisees, who goaded Pilate into executing Yeshua, after which, they went home to await the coming of their Messiah, and the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of spirits – just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

    (Sorry if I’m taking up too much space on your blog, but some points just can’t be briefly responded to, without a great deal of misunderstanding.)

  • ctcss

    Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber.

    That’s basically a non-answer because it just pushes away the question. However, this specific question is what I was getting at. Any individual’s effort is going to come down to “Will I succeed at this endeavor?”, and for something big that cannot be predicted (unless one can fully see into the future) boils down to making the effort to try to do it. Serious religious committment is one such effort. Climbing Mt Everest is one such effort. Getting married and trying to make it work is one such effort. Life itself is one such effort. An armchair consideration will offer some input, but the actual final answer (the truth of it) will only come about through making the actual, real effort.

    If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers …

    And all you are doing here is critiquing a literalist approach to scripture. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit of a yawn. For people who aren’t approaching the Bible this way, what you are saying isn’t very much of a surprise. Most of it has been known for quite some time. It certainly isn’t a showstopper. This is one of the reasons I am not all that impressed by atheist gotchas. They are usually just aimed at people who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about these things. They don’t do much at all to people who have thought about them.

  • ctcss

    Can it be climbed? Answer, depends on the climber.

    That’s basically a non-answer because it just pushes away the question. However, this specific question is what I was getting at. Any individual’s effort is going to come down to “Will I succeed at this endeavor?”, and for something big that cannot be predicted (unless one can fully see into the future) boils down to making the effort to try to do it. Serious religious committment is one such effort. Climbing Mt Everest is one such effort. Getting married and trying to make it work is one such effort. Life itself is one such effort. An armchair consideration will offer some input, but the actual final answer (the truth of it) will only come about through making the actual, real effort.

    If I caught a car salesmen in that many whoppers …

    And all you are doing here is critiquing a literalist approach to scripture. I’m sorry, but that’s a bit of a yawn. For people who aren’t approaching the Bible this way, what you are saying isn’t very much of a surprise. Most of it has been known for quite some time. It certainly isn’t a showstopper. This is one of the reasons I am not all that impressed by atheist gotchas. They are usually just aimed at people who haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about these things. They don’t do much at all to people who have thought about them.

  • ctcss

    His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis.

    I must be missing your meaning here. You are allowing that Jesus’ ministry would have been a major event in the lives of his followers and perhaps his family. What, exactly, makes that a non-event in those people’s lives? And it is people such as those who I am referring to. They are not likely to forget the importance of what they witnessed (the major events), even if some minor details get sidelined.

    just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

    Actually, neither. I should have used the term “leaders”, but when I said priests, I was actually looking forward to when Christianity had a clergy of its own. But yes, the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear. Once again, this is nothing at all like a game of telephone.

  • ctcss

    His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis.

    I must be missing your meaning here. You are allowing that Jesus’ ministry would have been a major event in the lives of his followers and perhaps his family. What, exactly, makes that a non-event in those people’s lives? And it is people such as those who I am referring to. They are not likely to forget the importance of what they witnessed (the major events), even if some minor details get sidelined.

    just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

    Actually, neither. I should have used the term “leaders”, but when I said priests, I was actually looking forward to when Christianity had a clergy of its own. But yes, the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear. Once again, this is nothing at all like a game of telephone.

  • ctcss

    His existence would not have been a major event in the lives of any but a handful of followers and family, and although, – again, if the NT can be believed – he was reported to have had followers who came to hear him, there is no indication that they believed him to be anything more than a learned rabbi, in a land up to its ears in rabbis.

    I must be missing your meaning here. You are allowing that Jesus’ ministry would have been a major event in the lives of his followers and perhaps his family. What, exactly, makes that a non-event in those people’s lives? And it is people such as those who I am referring to. They are not likely to forget the importance of what they witnessed (the major events), even if some minor details get sidelined.

    just which of these two groups do believe most likely to “have a vested interest in sticking to the story and keeping it consistent“?

    Actually, neither. I should have used the term “leaders”, but when I said priests, I was actually looking forward to when Christianity had a clergy of its own. But yes, the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear. Once again, this is nothing at all like a game of telephone.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture. I can’t count the number of theists that I’ve encountered who say, “You don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, well guess what? Neither do I. But that doesn’t make any difference – the problem is that you aren’t looking at it right.”

    The problem is, that they never seem quite ready to extrapolate on what the “right” way of looking at it really is. Are you?

  • archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture. I can’t count the number of theists that I’ve encountered who say, “You don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, well guess what? Neither do I. But that doesn’t make any difference – the problem is that you aren’t looking at it right.”

    The problem is, that they never seem quite ready to extrapolate on what the “right” way of looking at it really is. Are you?

  • archaeopteryx1

    Then do us all a favor and lay out your approach to scripture. I can’t count the number of theists that I’ve encountered who say, “You don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, well guess what? Neither do I. But that doesn’t make any difference – the problem is that you aren’t looking at it right.”

    The problem is, that they never seem quite ready to extrapolate on what the “right” way of looking at it really is. Are you?

  • archaeopteryx1

    the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear

    Keeping the story clear, or inventing and embellishing the story as they went along, so as to make it more grand than it was? You ARE aware, I would hope, that “The Acts of the Apostles,” by the same anonymous author as “the Gospel According to Luke”, didn’t even write his story until the second century, and even then, he used the letters of Paul for his material, so while Acts was once thought to corroborate Paul, now we find it doesn’t at all.

    The more the Bible is examined, the more hinky it reveals itself to be.

    “‘Scrutumini scripturas’

    (‘Let us examine the scriptures’)

    These two words have undone the world.”

    – John Selden –

    (1584-1658)

  • archaeopteryx1

    the leaders of the early church would would have had a vested interest in keeping the story clear

    Keeping the story clear, or inventing and embellishing the story as they went along, so as to make it more grand than it was? You ARE aware, I would hope, that “The Acts of the Apostles,” by the same anonymous author as “the Gospel According to Luke”, didn’t even write his story until the second century, and even then, he used the letters of Paul for his material, so while Acts was once thought to corroborate Paul, now we find it doesn’t at all.

    The more the Bible is examined, the more hinky it reveals itself to be.

    “‘Scrutumini scripturas’

    (‘Let us examine the scriptures’)

    These two words have undone the world.”

    – John Selden –

    (1584-1658)

  • archaeopteryx1

    I can’t see atoms or molecules, but I can have a sense of them, because there is evidence for them; I can’t see germs or virii either, but again, I can get a sense of germs and virii, simply because there is evidence for them. I cannot get a sense of God, because there is no evidence that a god exists – if you have any evidence to the contrary, now would be a good time to trot it out.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Literally thousands of gods have been worshiped over the millennia since homo Sapiens evolved. The Bible is the only source of information we have about this once obscure desert god, Yahweh. Once that book has been disproven, and much of it has already been, Yahweh recedes further and further into the world of Man’s imagination, surviving less and less in the realm of reality.

    The time will come when Mankind looks back at the cult of Yahweh and says, “What were they thinking?”

  • archaeopteryx1

    Literally thousands of gods have been worshiped over the millennia since homo Sapiens evolved. The Bible is the only source of information we have about this once obscure desert god, Yahweh. Once that book has been disproven, and much of it has already been, Yahweh recedes further and further into the world of Man’s imagination, surviving less and less in the realm of reality.

    The time will come when Mankind looks back at the cult of Yahweh and says, “What were they thinking?”

  • ctcss

    I find it interesting that all of this just boils down to different approaches to this subject. You seem to be trying to disprove the existence of God, as well as the relevance of the Bible (at least the literalist view of it.) For my part, I am far more interested in working to prove (for myself) whether or not the concept of God that I was taught can be relied on, as well as the relevance of the (non-literalist) interpretation of the Bible I was taught.

    Both of us have an honest interest in finding out the truth. The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

    So since the endpoint of our individual explorations are not in close proximity to our current positions in life, I guess we need to agree to disagree, as friends, and proceed on our individual ways.

  • ctcss

    Yep, definitely a materialist. It appears that we are heading in very different directions.

  • ctcss

    Yep, definitely a materialist. It appears that we are heading in very different directions.

  • ctcss

    Yep, definitely a materialist. It appears that we are heading in very different directions.

  • archaeopteryx1

    The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

    That, in large part, is due to the fact that spirits don’t exist, except in bottles of alcohol.

  • archaeopteryx1

    The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

    That, in large part, is due to the fact that spirits don’t exist, except in bottles of alcohol.

  • archaeopteryx1

    The difference seems to be that your search currently lies in the direction of that which relates to materialism, and mine currently lies in the direction of that which relates to God, Spirit.

    That, in large part, is due to the fact that spirits don’t exist, except in bottles of alcohol.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Yup – East is East, and West is, not.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Yup – East is East, and West is, not.

  • archaeopteryx1

    Yup – East is East, and West is, not.

  • Richard

    But you’ve got to remember that, even if you’re only reading about Jesus, you’ve still got to cherry-pick somewhat to find the good parts. Honestly, in my opinion, Jesus was kind of a douchebag. There’s the stuff he says about hating your family in order to be his disciple (Christians do all sorts of mental gymnastics about this one). Also, in a story that’s repeated very similarly in Matthew 13:10-13; Mark 4:10-12, 33; Luke 8:10, Jesus’ disciples ask why he speaks in parables (obviously because it’s confusing). Jesus’ reply reads to me as, “I’m being intentionally confusing because screw those folks. But I’ll let you in on some of the secrets.” So, if you’re a good guy most of the time, and you say some positive stuff – how much shitty behavior do you have to engage in before you’re a jerk? People make a lot of energy about the supposed sacrifice of Jesus, but why is it that he had to do this? Were the Jewish people running out of goats and sheep to sacrifice, to appease God? Couldn’t they have just expanded that whole program to bring the larger world into the fold? Being that God, who is part Jesus supposedly, set this whole system up, wherein we’re condemned to an eternity of torture for our imperfection (not so much how horrible we are, but by the very fact that we have fallen short of the glory of God) – couldn’t he just decide to *not* condemn us to hell? Instead he has to sacrifice himself to himself, in order to put in a loophole? And when you get down to it, is it really sacrificing your life if the whole plan is that you’re going to pop back up 2.5 days later?

  • Richard

    But you’ve got to remember that, even if you’re only reading about Jesus, you’ve still got to cherry-pick somewhat to find the good parts. Honestly, in my opinion, Jesus was kind of a douchebag. There’s the stuff he says about hating your family in order to be his disciple (Christians do all sorts of mental gymnastics about this one). Also, in a story that’s repeated very similarly in Matthew 13:10-13; Mark 4:10-12, 33; Luke 8:10, Jesus’ disciples ask why he speaks in parables (obviously because it’s confusing). Jesus’ reply reads to me as, “I’m being intentionally confusing because screw those folks. But I’ll let you in on some of the secrets.” So, if you’re a good guy most of the time, and you say some positive stuff – how much shitty behavior do you have to engage in before you’re a jerk? People make a lot of energy about the supposed sacrifice of Jesus, but why is it that he had to do this? Were the Jewish people running out of goats and sheep to sacrifice, to appease God? Couldn’t they have just expanded that whole program to bring the larger world into the fold? Being that God, who is part Jesus supposedly, set this whole system up, wherein we’re condemned to an eternity of torture for our imperfection (not so much how horrible we are, but by the very fact that we have fallen short of the glory of God) – couldn’t he just decide to *not* condemn us to hell? Instead he has to sacrifice himself to himself, in order to put in a loophole? And when you get down to it, is it really sacrificing your life if the whole plan is that you’re going to pop back up 2.5 days later?

  • Richard

    But you’ve got to remember that, even if you’re only reading about Jesus, you’ve still got to cherry-pick somewhat to find the good parts. Honestly, in my opinion, Jesus was kind of a douchebag. There’s the stuff he says about hating your family in order to be his disciple (Christians do all sorts of mental gymnastics about this one). Also, in a story that’s repeated very similarly in Matthew 13:10-13; Mark 4:10-12, 33; Luke 8:10, Jesus’ disciples ask why he speaks in parables (obviously because it’s confusing). Jesus’ reply reads to me as, “I’m being intentionally confusing because screw those folks. But I’ll let you in on some of the secrets.” So, if you’re a good guy most of the time, and you say some positive stuff – how much shitty behavior do you have to engage in before you’re a jerk? People make a lot of energy about the supposed sacrifice of Jesus, but why is it that he had to do this? Were the Jewish people running out of goats and sheep to sacrifice, to appease God? Couldn’t they have just expanded that whole program to bring the larger world into the fold? Being that God, who is part Jesus supposedly, set this whole system up, wherein we’re condemned to an eternity of torture for our imperfection (not so much how horrible we are, but by the very fact that we have fallen short of the glory of God) – couldn’t he just decide to *not* condemn us to hell? Instead he has to sacrifice himself to himself, in order to put in a loophole? And when you get down to it, is it really sacrificing your life if the whole plan is that you’re going to pop back up 2.5 days later?

  • archaeopteryx1

    For an additional treat, pop over to Revelations, and check out all of the people Jesus is going to hack down with his sword when he comes back – you’d think, in 2000 years, heaven would have invented the AK-47, we did.

  • archaeopteryx1

    For an additional treat, pop over to Revelations, and check out all of the people Jesus is going to hack down with his sword when he comes back – you’d think, in 2000 years, heaven would have invented the AK-47, we did.

  • archaeopteryx1

    For an additional treat, pop over to Revelations, and check out all of the people Jesus is going to hack down with his sword when he comes back – you’d think, in 2000 years, heaven would have invented the AK-47, we did.


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