I was taught that the Bible is true, that it came from God, and that it is to be obeyed and revered as the source of all truth. It amazes me that I never questioned, or even paid closer attention, to the stories in the Bible.
It is true that many “believers” don’t take all of the scriptures as literal or even as being direct transmissions of God’s exact words. I just want to know how you tell the difference between what is and what is not “direct revelation”.
If, as some denominations teach, the Bible is simply a guide to spiritual living, then what is the point? Are not all religions and philosophies equally valid? But that just introduces a larger problem in the form of even greater (both in quantity and quality) contradictions. Is it not enough that the Bible cannot agree with itself?
This brings me to my main topic: Abraham. Few people actually know his origin. Abram, as he was known before “Elohim” (sometimes just “El” and sometimes “Yahweh”) appeared to him, was not a native to the land of Canaan. He was, in fact, from what is now modern day Iraq. Yet the scriptures refer to him as a Hebrew in Genesis 14.
I have stated before that my main beef with the Bible (or any book that claims to be revelation from a god) is that it is impossible to find any proof of direct linkage to any deity, let alone the one being “described” in its pages. But it is good to look at specific examples of nonsensical teachings or factoids just to get a better understanding of why it is so problematic to place even the smallest amount of trust in any such book.
It is obvious from this description of Abraham, that the author is writing from a perspective many generations beyond the actual event. But when we turn off our sensors, blind faith allows us to be fooled by such simple things. The writer is simply manufacturing a connection that did not exist.
This brings up the question as to how many authors collaborated on just the first book of the Bible; and for that matter, what is the status of any of the 66 plus or minus (depending on your denomination) books that make up our modern Bibles? How do we know who wrote what is purported in any narrative, Old or New Testament?
A very good source on this subject is the very readable work by Bart D. Ehrman titled “Forged”. In it, he unravels the mystery behind authorship and how common it was, though unacceptable, for zealous believers to create letters and gospels to spread their own, selfish agendas.
Once we spend the slightest amount of time and energy to explore the details of what we have so innocently and faithfully accepted all of our lives, it becomes painfully clear that the facts do not add up. One might argue that a man’s country of origin has no bearing on truth; I quite agree. But regardless of one’s method of interpretation, accuracy in the word of god must be unquestionable.
If the tall tales told in the Bible are only meant to be parables, then what is the point of making them so bizarre? It must be admitted that the plethora of death and destruction depicted in scripture is extreme, to say the least. What is the point of a talking snake/donkey/etc? If this is our method of interpretation, should we not ask an even more important question?
Why did the author of Genesis 14 call Abraham a Hebrew? Is it not more likely that he did not know Abraham’s nationality, and was simply parroting stories he had heard from other sources? In fact, many scholars believe that the books of the Bible (especially in the OT) were created as an amalgamation of stories and fables cobbled together to sound like the history (albeit a supernatural one) of a special people.
While some may hold the position (highly untenable) that the Bible is verbatim from God’s lips, most may wonder if any of this matters. My question is this: what exactly are you saying you believe, if you cannot verify the accuracy or authenticity of your own source book? On what do you base your faith? A book that may or may not be what it claims?
Can a book where four different authors give four different accounts of the same event be trusted? Is it not the claim of Biblical apologists that the Bible would hold up in a court of law? Yet every lawyer knows that if their witnesses give differing accounts, the judge will discount them all!
Perhaps truth is higher than the stories and facts and events depicted in a book. And if that is true, then all the books in the world are merely fictions that distract our minds from that ultimate truth. And we are back to reason as the only alternative. It is our minds, by simple observation, that lead us into all truth. We are not devoid of the ability to know the truth.
Religion wishes us to believe that the human mind is incapable of discerning truth from error, and that we must submit to spiritual teachers to learn truth. But then one must wonder how the teachers are able to discern truth, if the human mind is not capable.
It is a catch-22. Unless God were to reach down into time and space to imprint his message for all to see…
And God has done it- in the universe he created and natural laws he established! Each of us is a revelation of and from God. It is when we adulterate that message by making God a dictator that we ruin the divine connection we all have. Men and women become imprisoned in the institutions of men. Only reason can free us from this institutionalization of truth.
If something seems stranger than fiction, then it probably is.
Choose reason over mythology. Trust the God you can see in Nature.