The Atheist Philosopher Chick

Where the worlds of science, philosophy, and comparative religion meet for honest, friendly debate.

Evolution of the Christian Bible January 4, 2012

In response to a question on a post on Facebook from Puzzle Peace: Puzzle Peace Post

 

First, let me say that, even though I am an atheist, I respect people of all beliefs, including Christianity. Most Christians have good intentions, and I believe that Jesus was one of the greatest teachers/philosophers/prophets of all time.

 

That being said, the Bible has evolved in two ways since Jesus’ time. The Bible has changed literally and it has changed in the way Christians interpret it.

 

The text of the bible has changed constantly since the first century. Many biblical texts have been found that were not included in texts eventually approved by the Catholic church in the sixteenth century [1][2]. Of the books now included , many different versions have been found as ancient artifacts. Think about the monks that had to hand copy all the Bibles before the printing press. How many mistakes did they make that other monks copied over and over and compounded on? Ever play the game operator? Finally, look at all the versions we have available to us today because the different denominations of Christians didn’t agree on what books or versions of those books that they wanted in their bibles [3]. Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Greek Orthodox, and other Christian denominations all over the world have different versions of the Bible or have books in a different order.

 

Next is the way the Bible is interpreted. One example of the change in Bible interpretations over the years is clear in the article shared by Puzzle Peace (Same Sex Marriage Article). This article suggests that the way homosexuality has been treated over the years has changed. Typically, we would cite the dark ages for their savagery toward fellow man, but in the case of homosexuality, modern, enlightened man loses this match. Evidently, the people in the times that the Bible was written and compiled did not have a problem with homosexuals or their marriages, but the people today have interpreted the authors’ words differently.

 

Other examples include times when scientific discoveries warranted changes in the Bible’s interpretation. One well-known example is the Galileo Controversy [4]. In the 17th century, the Catholic church declared Galileo’s claim that the Earth and Moon revolved around the Sun as heresy. The church used passages from the Bible to make their arguments. “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . .” (Josh. 10:13), as well as passages from Psalms 93 and 104 and Ecclesiastes 1:5 that also mentioned the same phenomenon. These passages suggest that the Sun and Moon revolve around the Earth. Once the church eventually acknowledged that Galileo and other astronomers that agreed with him were correct in their reasoning, the new interpretation of these passages became that the Sun and Moon will appear to stand still in relation to the Earth.

 

Even at one time, the Bible can be interpreted based on arguments that need to be made. Just pick and choose which passages fit the cause. This can be seen in the South’s argument for slavery before and around the time of the Civil War. The Christians of the South argued that Abraham had slaves, the Ten Commandments mention slaves (don’t covet your neighbor’s manservant or maidservant), Paul turned in a runaway slave, and Jesus never condemned slavery, a common practice in His time[5]. Christians of the North stated that the Bible mentions slavery existed, but that the scriptures also condemned it, and that the Southerners were taking the scripture out of context. The Northern Christians also stated that all men are children of God and should be treated as Christ would treat them, as with the Golden Rule[6].

 

This picking and choosing passages as well as differences in opinion on the Bible’s interpretation continues to this day and will continue as long as Christianity exists.  In an atheist’s eyes, this might prove that the Bible is all a work of fiction, including some tall tales that have grown out of true stories. In a Christian’s eyes, they can still say that it is God’s will that the Bible be honed to make corrections, or some may say that it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Bible for the current era. However, all these facts and examples I listed only prove one thing, that the Christian faith and various denominations, like everything else in the World, must change with the times. Nothing can survive for 2000 years unless it is capable of evolving.

 

Please share your thoughts, I would like to hear more examples or any refuting arguments that anyone would like to make.

 

[1] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon#Constantine_the_Great
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_the_Bible
[4] http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy
[5] http://www.ushistory.org/us/27f.asp
[6] http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/bourne/bourne.html

 

© Jessi Hamer and The Atheist Philosopher Chick, 2012.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.