2 of the most dangerous misconceptions about the Bible

Relatively Interesting June 29, 2012 36
2 of the most dangerous misconceptions about the Bible

For some, the Bible serves as a method to discern morality and immorality; a history lesson; and, in essence, a guide to “life” that is to be taken literally. To others, the bible is nothing more than a collection of stories, written by regular people, and loosely based on historical facts.

Two misconceptions about the bible – 1) that it is historically accurate, and, 2) that is the “word of God” – have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia. They have held back science and the explosion of knowledge. One only has to look at the history of Christianity and Judaism - amongst other religions – to see the negative implications of these simple misconceptions.

MISCONCEPTION 1: THE BIBLE ACCURATELY REFLECTS HISTORY

Contrary to biblical scholars, many people often assume the Bible accurately reflects history, even in the face of contradictory evidence:

- Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story formed the earliest content in the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

- Moses died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the Bible. This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Considering that a generation is generally approximately 25 years in length, that’s a total of 375 years. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, magnify, and become shrouded in mythology as the years go on? Is it not unlike an extended game of Broken Telephone?

- Jesus lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet, the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion. The gospels were also written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write. Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history?

- If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written – that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then Luke, and ending with John – we can see exactly how the story evolved between the years 70 and 100. For example, miracles aren’t attached to the story until the eighth decade. The virgin birth of Jesus is added in the 9th decade; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

- In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

It’s seems clear, then, that the Bible interprets life from its own particular perspective and not from a factually correct, historical perspective.

MISCONCEPTION 2: THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD

richard dawkins quote

The second major misconception comes from the claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons, and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law –  to name a few! The Bible also commands slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The list goes on. In fact, the short list consists of 238 references to violence and unnecessary cruelty.

CONCLUSION

From a historical and moral perspective, the bible is full of inconsistencies and is, at times, morally questionable.

And so, we can conclude that the Bible is not to be taken literally as the “word of God”, or as historical fact. Rather, it should be used to reflect on our culture as a species, written from the point of view of regular people throughout the ages.


36 Comments »

  1. GrampaDave March 7, 2013 at 10:55 am - Reply

    If we believe your contention that Abraham and others died long before they were written about in the Bible, that proves the Bible is the inspired word of God. How else could such facts be known so far into the future?

    And does the author honestly believe the facts in the Bible were written based on what was simply told to the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as if it were simply hearsay and gossip? C’mon man!!!

    • Jenz March 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Come on, GrampaDave, really?

      “If we believe your contention that Abraham and others died long before they were written about in the Bible, that proves the Bible is the inspired word of God. How else could such facts be known so far into the future?”

      – The idea that the bible was inspired by the word of God is fine – but the point in contention is that you say “how else could such facts be known so far into the future”… all this means is that the pen was put to paper after the events in question took place, and that they weren’t “documented” in near real time.

      “And does the author honestly believe the facts in the Bible were written based on what was simply told to the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as if it were simply hearsay and gossip? C’mon man!!!”

      – I don’t think the author does believe that. First of all, they are “facts in the bible”, they’re “stories” loosely based on SOME historical events. Second of all, have you ever heard of broken telephone? Since the stories were written well after they supposedly took place, don’t you think that the documentation would suffer from a serious case of broken telephone? Stories passed through generations almost always deviate from the original. It’s pretty safe to assume the same thing would happen with bible stories.

      Sorry, but nothing of what you have said is an effective argument against the author.

  2. Adrianna April 5, 2013 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Psalm 14:1-3 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.

  3. Ron April 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    No person who regards Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Master, should have any doubts about the authenticity of the Old Testament.

    Jesus regularly read, spoke from, taught from and referred to the Old Testament during his three and a half years ministry. From the manner in which he spoke about the many references in the OT it is clear he recognised it as the word of God as well as its accuracy. He did not have any issues with it and accepted it verbatim.

  4. Tina October 2, 2013 at 9:01 am - Reply

    @Adrianna

    “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

    Wow from this verse there’s no escape for anyone including you, everyone’s going to get roasted. Now that’s what I call fair!

  5. Tina October 2, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    @Ron

    ” From the manner in which he spoke about the many references in the OT it is clear he recognised it as the word of God as well as its accuracy”
    Why didn’t Jesus know and teach the solar system if he knew all that God knew, why didn’t he mention the universe and our planet’s insignificance in it, did Jesus know of the Chinese civilization, did he mention the Indonesians at all, or the Mayans, or even the Vikings, the red Indians perhaps, or, that places on earth like the Galapagos or Australia existed?
    Did Jesus know how to speak Urdu or any other African language, did he in fact know any language other than Hebrew?
    Did he do missionary work amongst the African Tribes? Why didn’t all the world know instantly about Jesus if he knew the mind of God?
    Did Jesus secretly know the world was spherical and not flat as indicated in the OT. Why didn’t Jesus, if he knew all that God knew, explain disease and viruses, why didn’t he tell people how to avoid the plague?
    Indeed why didn’t he tell us why Almighty God allowed any of these terrible afflictions? If only he had addressed all these problems and explained all knowledge of the universe in the NT life might have been easier to bear for humans, and everyone might have been better able to really trust his teachings.
    So many questions were left unanswered by JC, and so the suffering masses of the world have had to claw their way through so much misery, war and pestilence in a slow and dreary fashion, hampered and impeded at every turn by the teachings of the “good book” as channelled through the bigoted minds of avaricious clergy men.
    Perhaps most thinking people today doubt the veracity of anything written in the bible because none of it has proved to be very helpful to any one at all, most especially those who could not have had the remotest chance of being able to call Jesus Christ Lord.

  6. Space Disc Jockey January 5, 2014 at 11:06 am - Reply

    People get all pissy when you point out how obviously made-up religion is.

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