“The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book. Just as human scribes had copied, and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. This was a human book from beginning to end. It was written by different human authors at different times and in different places to address different needs. Many of these authors no doubt felt they were inspired by God to say what they did, but they had their own perspectives, their own beliefs, their own views, their own needs, their own desires, their own understandings, their own theologies…this eant that Mark did not say the same thing that Luke said because he didn’t mean the same thing as Luke. John is different from Matthew–not the same. Paul is different from Acts. And James is different from Paul. Each author is a human author and needs to be read for what he (assuming they were all men) has to say, not assuming that what he says is the same, or conformable to, or consistent with what every other author has to say. The Bible, at the end of the day, is a very human book.”
Misquoting Jesus, Introduction, page 12
“In a whirlwind of dust, raised by elemental force, confused as it appears to our eyes, in the most frightful tempest excited by contrary winds, when the waves roll high as mountains, there is not a single particle of dust, or drop of water, that has been placed by CHANCE, that has not a cause for occupying the place where it is found; that does not, in the most rigorous sense of the word, act after the manner in which it ought to act; that is, according to its own peculiar essence, and that of the beings from whom it receives this communicated force. A geometrician exactly knew the different energies acting in each case, with the properties of the particles moved, could demonstrate that after the causes given, each particle acted precisely as it ought to act, and that it could not have acted otherwise than it did.”
Baron d’Holbach — The System of Nature, Vol. 1, chapter IV
Wow. I just finished reading Baron d’Holbach’s excellent counter-apologetic book Ecce Homo! A Critical Inquiry into the History of Jesus of Nazareth: Being a Rational Analysis of the Gospels (abbreviated as EH in the rest of this post). If you…
The Bible certainly tells us something about human history…and a good deal of its narration may even be recollections and recordings of real human events. But, I do not believe that its testimony is reliable enough, nor its inner witnesses…
I’ve spent a good deal of space on this blog critiquing the Old Testament portrayal of God and also looking at some of the “big picture” issues that cast doubt on the Bible’s consistency and clarity. In my reading tonight…
“In this book, all his conduct appears ridiculous. He blows hot and cold, and contradicts himself every moment. He acts imprudently, and then repents of what he had done. He supports with one hand, and destroys with the other. After having punished all the human race with death, for the sins of man, he declares, by Ezekiel, that he is just, and will not render children responsible for the iniquities of their fathers. He commands the Hebrews, by the mouth of Moses, to rob the Egyptians. In the decalogue, published by Moses, theft and murder are forbidden. In short, Jehovah, ever in contradiction with himself, varies with circumstances, preserves no uniformity of conduct, and is represented in the books, said to be inspired by his spirit, as a tyrant, which the most decided villain would blush to be.
When we cast our eyes over the New Testament, there, also, we see nothing characteristic of that spirit of truth which is said to have dictated this work. Four historians, or fabulists, have written the marvellous history of the Messiah. Seldom agreeing with respect to the circumstances of his life, they sometimes contradict each other in the most palpable manner. The genealogy of Christ, given us by Matthew, differs widely from that given us by Luke. One of the Evangelists says, that Christ was carried into Egypt; whilst, by another, this event is not even hinted at.
[after listing more New Testament contradictions]
…Nothing is more singular than the manner in which Christian divines evade these difficulties. Their solutions are calculated to satisfy only those who conceive it their duty to remain in blindness.”
– Baron d’Holbach (from chapter 10 of “Christianity Unveiled“)
So, why do people still believe that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative and even inerrant word of God? Because they have constructed a belief system which makes it impossible to believe otherwise. If you haven’t read it yet, see my earlier post “No Contradictions Allowed” which lays out this problem.
“God, we are told, is willing to render himself inconsistent and ridiculous, to confound the curiosity of those whom, we are at the same time informed, he desires to enlighten by his special grace. What must we think of a revelation which, far from teaching us any thing, is calculated to darken and puzzle the clearest ideas?”
– Baron d’Holbach (from chapter 7 of “Christianity Unveiled“)
Since coming out as a non-believer I have heard the argument (quite a few times) that “God is beyond comprehension” and people have even told me that if God were “too small” or too easily explainable or understandable by human beings…then he wouldn’t be God! The way this argument goes is sort of like this (in very casual terms) “well of course you can’t understand God, that’s why he’s God!” When I was a Christian I used to make an argument very similar to this. I said that it was possible that one of the reasons why God seemed so hidden in the world and the Bible seemed so obscure was because God didn’t want to blind us with the truth. Just like that Emily Dickinson poem says, “the truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.” My Calvinist beliefs informed me that man was simply too pathetic and sinful to rightly understand God and that was why parable, allegory and story-telling (all still true and inspired story-telling) was needed so that God could get through to our thick heads. What I realized later was that my answer to God’s hiddenness was basically a cop-out. I wanted my god to be real, so I came up with an explanation (borrowed or adapted from others) that allowed me to understand God as someone who was really trying to get his message across, but was forced to use rather odd means of doing so. Also, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, it’s important to understand the flip-side of mystery. If we say that a being is “mysterious” and that his attributes are genuinely confounding…then how can we really say that we know anything about him? How can we say that our perception of him is more accurate or more true than what anyone else (a Hindu, a Muslim, a Scientologist etc) claims to perceive about him when God’s “mysteriousness” could be big enough to cover any of those other belief systems…or all belief systems combined if you believe certain religions! Saying that God is mysterious only confounds our problems with the Christian religion and the Bible. It does not solve them.
“Martyrs prove nothing, unless it be the strength of the enthusiasm, error, and obstinacy produced by superstition, and the barbarous folly of those who persecute their fellow-creatures for religious opinions…
“If martyrs demonstrate the truth of a religion, there is no religion or sect which may not be looked upon as true.”