I'm reading the Bible - The New International Version as placed by the Gideons in my Mum's Guest House. I am trying to understand for myself the reason many religious people say I should accept this as the word of God, unquestioningly and without proof. I want to examine the claims that this book holds passages of unsurpassed, sublime beauty and whether it can bring any comfort in times of sorrow. I have more sorrow than most in my life right now, and surely there must be something here from which I can take comfort and learn about the 'love of God'? I also want to come to a conclusion as to whether there is any value in teaching this book as a work of literature, as even some atheists claim. This journal is a step-by-step account of my reading and my thoughts about it as I go.
Yes, I am judging it by today's standards - it cannot be held to have any relevance to my life today if it cannot be judged by today's standards.
I would urge anyone who considers themselves to be an atheist to leave a copy of Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' in any hotel room they happen to visit. Leave a note inside stating:
"THIS BOOK IS FOR THE USE OF SUCCESSIVE READERS PLEASE DO NOT TAKE IT AWAY"
These are the exact words written inside the Gideon's Bible I have here. It is these words which my Mum is using as a defence not to get rid of these books which have been placed in every room of her Guest House.
- There is a section contained within the preface to this bible that attempts to inform the reader as to the Bible’s purpose and place within everyday life.
It’s composition The bible is a collection of 66 separate books and letters, written over a period of some 1,500 years culminating approximately 100 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. It is divided into the Old Testament (the first 39 books) and the New Testament (the last 27 books). The Bible has stood the test of time, the greatest test of all literature. It was completed nearly 2,000 years ago, yet is now read more than any other book and by people of widely varying cultures.
- I would say that the Bible is the most widely sold book of all time, but not the most widely read. I received a Bible while I was at school, and apart from compulsory study of the Gospel of Luke, I never read it at all. I can’t think of a single one of my classmates who did either. The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the other myths and legends from ancient Mesopotamia which have only comparatively recently been rediscovered, are older than anything written in the Bible and there seems to be a growing appreciation for the works collectively. It has come to light that many of these stories have been appropriated into the Bible, in much the same way that Roman and European Pagan celebratory days have been appropriated by the Judeo-Christian religion.
It’s writers. There were many different writers, who lived and wrote in different countries. They came from different walks of life and different social positions. One wrote history, another biography; another wrote on theology, another poetry, another prophecy. Some wrote on philosophy, and some stories of adventure, travel and romance. Most of them had no contact with each other and no means of knowing that when their writings were all put together as one book it would be complete, all parts agreeing in doctrine, teaching and prophecy.
- Well that would account for the widely differing styles within the book and perhaps many of the discrepancies and inconsistencies. But that simply reinforces the fact that this was a book written by men, and not by God. I have heard the argument that the book was written by so many people who had no contact with each other, yet when it’s all put together – it fits! Surely that must mean something – surely it must have been dictated by a higher power? Sure, maybe they didn’t know each other, but they were all living in similar circumstances – and they all knew the myths and legends which had come before them – the Sumerian stories, for example – much better than we do today. It’s not, therefore, surprising that much of their storytelling is compatible with each other’s. It’s like getting twenty Star Wars fans from different countries to write some fanfic, then, when it was all collected together and translated to one language, it would not be surprising if there was little in the way of contradiction, and that they all advocate similar morals and lessons.
Its Author. Christians believe the Bible to be the Word of God because the Lord Jesus Christ believed it to be so. He constantly referred to the Old Testament in His teachings. In every case His words show that He believed in its historic accuracy and Divine Authority. Here are three (of many) passages which show His Attitude to the Old Testament, called by the Jews “The Law and The Prophets”.
1. Matthew 5:17-19; Here Jesus underlines the Authority of the Law. “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
2. Luke 24:27; Here He underlines the Message of the Prophets. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”
3. John 5:39, 40; Here He speaks of them as pointing to Himself as the source of eternal life. “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scripture that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
- So basically, everything in the Old Testament is true and if you don’t believe it God will reject you. Jesus is very keen to point out to people that the prophets were talking about Him. Surely if it were true, it would have been self-evident? Today if I were to say that ancient prophets had been talking about me, and that I was the saviour of the human race, I would be locked up ‘for my own safety’ before I’d finished the sentence.
He also gave the seal of His Authority to the New Testament in advance of it being written: 1. Matthew 28:19,20. Here He commissioned His disciples to teach all nations “Everything I have commanded you.” This would have been impossible without a written record. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- This is the passage that gives people the right to hassle you with pamphlets in the streets, and to knock on the door of your home and tell you you’ll burn in hell if you don’t buy their magazine.
2. John 14:26. Here He promised that the Holy Spirit would bring back to their memories “Everything I have said to you.” “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
3. John 16:12-14. Here He promised that the Holy Spirit would teach them the things they were not ready to understand at that time, but which were a vital part of His message. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”
- These passages basically give Jesus’ followers the authority to make up anything they like and call it ‘God’s Truth’.
Therefore to believe that Jesus is the Son of God is to believe in the Divine Authority of the Bible. Further, St. Paul wrote: “All Scripture is God – breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16) (“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”) and it is clear from 2 Peter 3:16 that St. Peter regarded St. Paul’s writings as part of the Holy Scripture. (“He (St. Paul) writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”)
Its translation The Bible, or portions of it, has now been translated into over 2,000 languages and dialects. There have been many different from the time of Wycliffe in the fourteenth century onwards. The one which has been used for the longest period of time id known as the Authorised Version. This translation was the work of 47 Biblical Scholars commissioned by King James I and was completed in 1611. There are more recent translations and paraphrases available in modern English. This is a copy of the New International Version which was produced by a panel of 100 internationally recognised Bible scholars.
-The fact that the Bible has been translated into so many languages is not a testament to its quality or to its value – it’s a testament to the fact that the Christian Church had all the money and swords for centuries and part of the inherent doctrine of the Bible is ‘teach others’. Christians are simply good at ‘spreading the word’. I suppose now I could call myself a ‘Biblical Scholar’, I am certainly making a study of it. You could say that I am making a translation of the Bible – into the language of rationality.
Its contents The Bible is the story of God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is not primarily a book of history, but its stories of God’s dealings with individuals and with nations are as pertinent to the modern world as they have been to every age since they were written. It is not primarily a book of science, but it is not at variance with any proven scientific fact. Some of its statements show a knowledge of the world of science which the writer could not have had apart from Divine revelation.,
- I can’t believe they wrote that there. What’s more I can’t believe they believe it. ‘Not at variance with any proven scientific fact’? It states quite emphatically, without room for debate that God created the world in six days. It states that the entire surface of the world was covered in water. It states that the genetic diversity we humans enjoy today comes in fact from just two individuals. How is that in accord with our current scientific knowledge of the universe? - and these are just the ones I've come across so far. Discovering the Atom; The Theory of Evolution; The Theory of Relativity, Gravity, Electricity; The Computer; Aeroplanes; Anaesthesia; the eradication of Smallpox…the list of science’s achievements is endless and each of them would still have been thought of, and would still work the same way if Religion did not exist in the world. Everything in science is interconnected in exactly the way that the bible claims to be, but isn’t. E.G. That emergency Caesarean I had, which saved the lives of both myself and my daughter, makes no sense without medical science; medical science makes no sense without biology; biology makes no sense without evolution; evolution makes no sense without the Laws of Physics; the Laws of Physics make no sense if God created the world in six days.
If the Laws of Physics make no sense then everything we know about anything is false, with a blatant disregard of the evidence to the contrary.
“Ye cannae change the laws of physics” – Chief Engineer Montgomery (Scotty) Scott, USS Enterprise.
‘Some of its statements show a knowledge of the world of science which the writer could not have had apart from Divine revelation.’ Bullshit. For a start; show what knowledge of the world of science, exactly? As I stated above, there has been nothing so far which seems especially predictive of science, and many examples of contradictions to science. It seems to me that this statement is in fact an out-and-out lie. However, I am only currently halfway through Genesis, and I am open to the fact that I may yet be proven wrong, so I will reserve final judgement on that until I reach the end of the book. If this passage is trying to state that knowledge of science can only come from Divine revelation then, I'm afraid, I would still have to denounce it as false. Human beings are extraordinary creatures. We can analyse facts, weigh up odds and take great leaps in our understanding of the universe. We are then capable of employing critical thinking and the scientific method to prove our hypotheses, and we are also capable of disproving them and changing our minds in accordance with what the evidence shows us. What a pity that so many people do not employ these most admirable of human qualities. I read with some fascination an article on www.richarddawkins.net recently about Beatrix Potter and her unsung work as a botanist studying fungi and coming to the conclusion that lichen was a symbiotic life form. Because of her success as a children’s writer her scientific studies remained ‘undiscovered’ and it was forty years later when another, more mainstream (and male), scientist came to the same conclusions. It may seem like a trivial example, but it is still a valid one. Are we to assume that Miss Potter was visited by an angel who revealed God’s mysterious plan concerning lichen? No, she came to her conclusions after months of study and hundreds of drawings of her observations, some done within just twenty minutes of each other. She was curious about the world around her and made observations of it and recorded those observations in accordance with the scientific method. That is my understanding of how science happens.
It is not primarily a book of philosophy. Nowhere does it argue for the existence of God. Yet the God it reveals has been known in a personal way by many of the greatest minds who have ever lived as well as by many millions of ordinary people. It speaks to every living man from the simplest to the most sophisticated at his own level of understanding. Throughout the Old Testament the theme of the Redemption of mankind is developed and God unfolds His covenant with men and nations. In the New Testament all that has been foreshadowed in the Old Testament comes to vibrant and startling reality.
- I am looking forward to reading that. Having only just started at the time of writing this (not yet out of Genesis) I am looking forward to the pace and style established already suddenly becoming ‘vibrant and startling’. I would say that the Bible does not contain within it an argument for the existence of God, as it is in itself the whole of the argument. It states that God’s existence is a fact, one that is never challenged.
God Himself comes to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He is rejected and crucified, but raises from the dead in triumph. He sends His disciples out in the power of the Holy Spirit to carry His message of Love and Forgiveness to the Four corners of the earth.
- I have to ask it; If God really wants to forgive and love us all, why does he not reveal himself in a way that is beyond question? Why not appear in the sky over New York, London, Moscow, The Vatican, Sidney, Cape Town, etc (preferably at the same time), and simply state what he wants? I have heard that the reason for this is to give us the freedom of choice; that we must choose to be saved. But…
The great vision of the book of Revelation, with which the Bible ends, reinforces the warnings of the whole Book regarding the consequences of rejecting God’s Light and Love, and in poetic terms describes the future of the redeemed in heaven.
- There is no freedom of choice if the choices are ‘do as I say or you’ll burn forever in the fiery depths of hell’. Eternal bliss, or eternal torment; it’s really not a choice at all. By telling people that this is the truth you are taking away their ability to ‘choose’ to be a ‘good’ person. This is why when an Atheist does a selfless or charitable deed out of compassion it shows a truer sense of morality than if a Christian believer does the same act out of fear of hell.
During the British Coronation ceremony a Bible is presented to the monarch with the words: “We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom. This is the Royal law. These are the lively oracles of God”. These words are deeply significant.
- The Gideons neglect to say exactly what these words signify. I would say they signify the Church’s attempts to control the monarchy, reminding them that although they may be King/Queen over all the country, they are still a mere subject of God.
This Book has the power not only to inform – but to reform and transform lives. Through its influence countless people have been given new strength, an unerring purpose and a sure hope in life. To the dying it has brought peace and assurance of eternal life. It has brought blessing to millions in every land and age. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, divine in authorship, infallible in authority, inexhaustible in meaning, universal in readership, unique in revelation, personal in application and powerful in effect. It is given to you here in this life, it will be open at the Judgement, it is established forever. Come to it with awe, read it with reverence, frequently, slowly, prayerfully.
- This Book has been used as an excuse to kill hundreds of thousands of people.