Sunday, July 04, 2004

A Bit of Biblical History

Christianity is based solely on the book known as the bible. It is the best selling book of all time, but ironically it is probably one of the least read books around. Roughly eighty percent of the U.S. population claims to be Christian. Despite this, if you ask the average person on the streets of America to name five commandments, I can almost guarantee you that they will not be able to do so successfully without mentioning the sixth or eighth. A sad state of affairs I would say for a nation that is mostly Christian.

There are more than two hundred and fifty complete Judeo-Christian writings that have been found from the early parts of this past millennium. All are stories, teachings, and other messages from "god", and all are similar in style to the ones found in the modern bible. Only sixty-six of these are contained in the bible (seventy seven in the roman catholic bible). How was the decision made to put certain writings in and not others? Was it inspiration from god? Hardly.

For the first one hundred and fifty years after Jesus's birth (the reality/unreality of which will be discussed at a later time), there was no bible. The people of that time, to include the apostles, twelve disciples (well if you add the names of the disciples listed in the gospels, you get thirteen even though Matthew 10:1 says Jesus had twelve), and early christians used the Jewish books of the Old Testament for their bible. In fact, there were over one hundred books that were written as gospels: stories relating the life of Jesus. This number was trimmed down to four in the latter half of the second century by St.Irenaeus. Did he do this because god told him to do so? Here is the reason St.Irenaeus himself gave, "There are four quarters of the earth in which we live and four universal winds." Sounds a bit more like the reasoning of a pagan than a christian, doesn't it? It is also important to remember that St.Irenaeus did not canonize these gospels until the last half of the second century. There were no "gospels" for the disciples, or even for Paul who is the most prolific author in the new testament.

Well what about the men who wrote these gospels? Well it is impossible that they even came from the area of Palestine considering the many geographical and legal errors that exist in the Bible. The gospels speak numerous times about incorrect travel routes, cities, and other such geographical items. In Mark 10:12, Jesus speaks of a woman divorcing her husband, and that her act is considered adultery. This was a legal impossibility at the time, something a person living there would have known. Why would Jesus teach the people this, when the only known divorce was that of a husband divorcing the wife? It is obvious that the person writing this was not very aware of well known laws regarding marriage. Also take into account that there is very little originality from one gospel to another, and it's hard to believe that these were eye witnesses, as bible scholars claim. Had they witnessed Jesus's life, wouldn't there be a number of things said in one gospel that weren't said in the others? It seems likely. Instead, we find roughly the same miracles and parables, rife with inter-gospel discrepancies in contradictions. There are so many I will not go into them all there, but as an example, compare Matthew 28:1-8 to John 20:1-18. In Matthew we have Mary Magdalene and the other Mary going to Jesus's tomb. There an angel tell them that Jesus has risen and where to find him. The women run away with great joy to tell the disciples. In John, we have Mary Magdalene running to the disciples, yelling about how somebody stole Jesus's body and that she doesn't know where he is. As the disciples were in the tomb looking around, Mary stood outside crying. Jesus appears to her and talks to her. There are a number of discrepancies between these two account alone. How did Mary Magdalene find out Jesus had risen? Was it an angel, or Jesus himself that told her? I will delve more into the contradiction that is the bible at a later date. Suffice to say that these people did not have their stories straight.

I suppose this is acceptable as they were written between a few decades and an entire century or more after Jesus lived! It would be very hard I'm sure for an old man to remember, in perfect detail, things he saw when he was a young boy. Alas, we are talking about the bible here, and it is inspired by god. Why would god purposefully put discrepancies and blatant contradictions in the only thing teaching us how to avoid the fires of the hell he has prepared for us? It's simple. He didn't. The bible is nothing more than ancient Judeo-Christian writings, that were slapped together by men as fallible as you and I centuries ago.

The bible has changed so much over the thousands of years since Jesus's life that it is hard to take it seriously. It has had dozens of iterations, translations, and interpretations. Why, the modern bible with sixty six books wasn't even put together until as recently as 1647, almost two millennia after Jesus lived!

Who Wrote the Bible - And When?
The Skeptics Annotated Bible
American Atheists
New Advent


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