essays on history, myth, ideas, books, film, music…
both religious and non-religious folk get some things confused (don’t we all?).
Text: the bible is a collection of books, has many authors even within the same ‘book’, was transmitted at first orally and then copied by hand over several centuries and finally translated into many languages other than Hewbrew/Aramaic/Greek. It thus represents an account of the Jewish people made by many writers over many centuries living in many different cultures and representing many different viewpoints and insights. Why would it be consistent? No one individual is, so why this book?
Faith: the bible contains some truly inspiring passages in which sense it can be called the ‘word of god’ (as well as some passages that are offensive and some that are irrelevant to all but first century AD Jews). As such it has enabled many to live better lives and follow a moral code that benefits their fellow humans (and enables some to be illiberal and persecute their fellow humans). God (whatever god is) can speak through the bible just as surely as through the sunset or any other aspect of the world.
The ‘word-of-god’ aspect of the bible is surely in the truth it contains (logos=word/self-knowledge/wisdom) rather than any ‘word’, sentence, opinion that has been written by biblical authors. Many passages in the bible are simply not understandable (Revelations anyone?). In fact ‘christian’ history shows how fallacious the literal approach has been, with groups who have extracted one meaning from one passage trying zealously to kill other groups who have extracted another meaning from another passage. And someone who said ‘love your enemies’ has been studiously ignored. Too confronting I guess.
Personally I believe that one’s moral code should be formulated from within, not imposed from without. I cannot forget that some of the greatest wrongs of European history: the death of seven million negroes in the 18th century slave trade; the 15 million native americans destroyed by the Spanish in South America ; the horrors of the various Inquisitions; have all been justified, bible in hand, as according to the word of god. A little caution seems in order.
Textual criticism of the bible can be truly educational and should be encouraged not repressed. But it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) disprove the validity of anyone’s faith. That is validated by how each person lives and acts.
Then again what would I know?
©2009 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.