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Monday, October 31, 2011

Comparing the bible with other ancient texts

One argument I seem to have with many Christians is over the idea that I treat the bible differently than other older texts. I would agree that I subject the bible to a different degree of scrutiny than other secular books for one simple reason. The other books do not claim to have been inspired by god. The other books do not make claims about eternal salvation. It may be true that Julius Caesar did not do all the things that are attributed to him. However, no one is arguing that a belief in the life of Julius Caesar is necessary for salvation. Yes, there are other religious texts. I also put them through the same type of scrutiny as I do the bible.

The US Constitution was recently brought up in one of these discussions. Now, there are significant differences in what we know about the US Constitution and what we now about the bible.  People are trying to equate a book that has unknown authors, with no original texts, that has been translated many times with a single document that is in its original language, with known authors and actual letters from the founders on the intent of the document. Since there are no originals with the bible, there is absolutely no way to know if the verse you are reading is what was originally written. You have no idea if it has been altered, added to or subtracted from. The current version is compared to older copies, but once again, you have no idea if the oldest copies have any mistakes in them. There are no translations issues with the Constitution. There is no question over who wrote it. There is no comparison whatsoever.

Occasionally I see a bumper sticker that reads: “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  My response is always, what if God did not say it?  What if the book you take as giving you God’s words instead contains human words.  What if the Bible doesn’t give a foolproof answer to the questions of the modern age-abortion, women’s rights, gay rights, religious and supremacy, western style democracy and the like?  What if we have to figure out how to live and what to believe on our own, without setting up the Bible as a false idol–or an oracle that gives us a direct line of communication with the Almighty. 


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