The Bible Then and Now

The Bible Then and Now June 30, 2016

Bible Then and Now

You’ve probably seen versions of the above that make the false claim that the Bible offered science ahead of its time – which no one noticed apparently until after the fact. John Loftus shared the above response, which pokes fun at that attempt.

My own perspective is that both the religious fundamentalists who insist that the Bible is something other than a collection of ancient human texts, and the atheists who think it is noteworthy that the Bible is a collection of ancient human texts, both distract from the more useful approach that ought to be taken to the Bible, then and now: to treat it seriously as precisely what it should always have been acknowledged to be, namely a collection of ancient human texts.

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  • Grimlock

    From my perspective the opinion that it is noteworthy that the Bible is ‘merely’ a collection of ancient texts is simply a response to those who think it is something more.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I like the chart, except “science” is getting a lot more moral credit than it deserves.

    Science tells us nothing about the morality of slavery, the social roles of women, or whether or not its appropriate to kill your children for being disobedient.

  • kwok kit ho

    The problem of this table lies on the assumption that science has the authority declaring what the truth is. The author placed God, the Creator of this universe and everything in it, also the author of the Bible , subordinate to science.
    In the view that science is so destitute that it could not prove the existence of a God, a Holy Spirit, or even love!
    In the case of “Donkeys can talk” Numbers 22:21, (this statement and the verse quoted are both erratic, for it is in Numbers 22:28, only one donkey did talk, not more than one), it was obvious “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balsam… YES, donkey can’t talk, but when God asked it to talk, it’s a piece of cake!
    If the author thought science could not agree that fire that killed the guards but did not burn the three friends of Daniel (Daniel 3:22-26), then the article is just a fiasco.
    It is a fiesco for there is no recognition that science has it’s inherent limitations, and weilding it to something which is foreign to it makes it a laughing stock.

    • kwok kit ho

      Typo: Balaam.

    • David Evans

      If you equate a literal reading of the Bible with the word of God, you must also believe that the Earth is flat and rests on pillars, and that the sky is a solid dome. Do you? If not, why?

  • John MacDonald

    Everyone knows there is bad stuff in the bible. For example, God approves of genocide after genocide:

    In Joshua 6:20-21, God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho, killing “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In Deuteronomy 2:32-35, God has the Israelites kill everyone in Heshbon, including children. In Deuteronomy 3:3-7, God has the Israelites do the same to the people of Bashan. In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they take as spoils of war. In 1 Samuel 15:1-9, God tells the Israelites to kill all the Amalekites – men, women, children, infants, and their cattle – for something the Amalekites’ ancestors had done 400 years earlier.

    This doesn’t mean a rational person in contemporary times would proof-text these texts and claim it is okay to commit genocide against one’s enemies.

    One’s own moral compass overrules the proof-texting of offensive biblical examples. On the other hand, the good stuff in the bible can inspire us to refine, or expand, the principles behind our moral compasses.

    • Pseudonym

      This doesn’t mean a rational person in contemporary times would proof-text these texts and claim it is okay to commit genocide against one’s enemies.

      One would hope that a rational person in contemporary times would not proof-text at all. But maybe that’s just me; “proof-texting” seems like a peculiarly American heresy.

  • arcseconds

    Oh, yes, I remember, the famous controlled study where they enslaved people inside a giant eudaimonometer inside the alps, and didn’t enslave a control group, and measured the difference in radiated goodness!

    • John MacDonald

      How did they measure “the difference” if there wasn’t a eudaimonometer measuring the radiated goodness of the control group?

      • arcseconds

        well, of course, they were inside another eudaimonometer, under the Rockies.

        Naturally, there’s a kind of uniformitarian assumption here, that morality isn’t different depending on which mountain range you’re under.

        • John MacDonald

          So both groups were “enslaved,” one in a giant eudaimonometer inside the alps, and the other inside another eudaimonometer under the Rockies? I thought you said the control group wasn’t enslaved. lol

          • arcseconds

            no, they were paid to do it!

  • Pseudonym

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.

    With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about [the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

    — St Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis

  • Nick G

    Surely atheists only “find it noteworthy” that the Bible is a collection of ancient human texts, because so many theists claim it is something very different.

    • Pseudonym

      You would think so, but it constantly shocks me how many people in the atheist blogosphere seem to think that the Bible is no mere collection of ancient human texts, but a collection of very special ancient human texts, with virtually no precedent in the history of ancient human texts, which we can’t understand in the same way that we understand all other ancient human texts.

      Or, at least, that’s the impression I get from mythicists.