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.

 

7 Responses to “Evolution of the Christian Bible”

  1. Jason Says:

    Either Jesus IS who he said He was or He was a raving lunitic~ Think about it~ He claimed to be the son of God~ there is no room for him being only a great prophet & teacher. Either He IS who He said He was or He was stark raving mad~

  2. xotictac Says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Jason. In the bible, can you tell me the passage where Jesus states that he is the Messiah? My interpretation of him being the son of God is that he is trying to teach us that we are all children of God, and therefore can all learn to treat each other as such. The passages I am finding refer to other people saying that he is the son of God, but he doesn’t refute them. Also, something to keep in mind here, none of the new testament was written during Jesus’ time. So in the modern bible, say the King James Version for instance, you will see the words of Christ in red. These are words passed down by word of mouth several generations and then written in Coptic Greek, a language Jesus didn’t speak. Take these facts and the facts that I listed in the blog, and we don’t know if Jesus or anyone else ever said anything about him being the son of God. For all we know, he could have been a martyred Rabbi that through the exaggeration of generations of storytelling became a God. For that matter, we don’t even know without a doubt that he even existed in the first place. So yes, he could have been the actual Messiah, a stark raving lunatic, a brilliant philosopher, or a character in a series of moral tales. It is my belief that we probably will never know for sure, unless of course he truly is the Messiah, and in that case, I’m sure I’ll get mine when I die or when he returns, whichever comes first.

  3. jeff rahn Says:

    I love your evolution of the Bible. Most scholars of any reputation would agree with you. Peter Gnomes, the late chaplain at Harvard once was noted to say: “If you take the Bible literally you obviously have not read it”. As to the post as to Jesus messiah ship – it has always been held, he was both human and divine neither blotting out the other. The history of Christianity is muddied with “unbalanced” Christology where either the humanity or divinity is obscured. PS I like your blog!!

  4. Jason Says:

    First of all let me say thank you for your blog, thank you for your open mindedness and kind words and for not just shutting me down for what I believe~~If you read the book of John there is no denying that Jesus claims to be the Savior and Son of God~ especially Ch. 14~17, but if you look at Luke 22:67~71 the cousel asks Him; “Art thou the Christ? tell us”. And He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe: And if I ask you, you will not answer Me nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Art though then the Son of God?” And He said to them “You rightly say that I AM” Then they said “What need we any further witness? For we ourselves have heard of His own mouth”~ There are many many more examples earlier in Luke also~Luke 21:8~ “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near: do not therefore come after them” Luke 22: 22~ “And truely the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined (through old testiment prophecey, which I shall mention in a moment); but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed.” There are so many more examples throughout the gospels~ I believe, and hopefully after you continue your search for truth (which is very comendable I must add), you shall come to realize that beyond any reasonable doubt it is safe to say that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. That being said, i do understand the need for a person to have concrete evidence but that is where faith must come in, the very backbone of any believer. Do you think it odd that 4 different accounts from 4 different men basically give the same story of Jesus? I know they all wrote what they wrote many years after Jesus’ death but 4 accounts? More than a made up story by far, I am sure there are discrepencies and errors but seems more than coincidence. Concerning the validity of the bible, are you aware of how many times Christ is prophesied in the old testament? Let’s take for example Isaiah 9. I will not write the verses out but you can see the prophesy, this very book was written 700bc and was found as one of the dead sea scrolls that was carbon dated to have been lost before Jesus’ time and reads EXACTLY the same as todays bible. Just think about it for a moment. If one is looking for concrete proof, there it is~ Again just one of many many examples of prophesy concerning Jesus many centuries before He was born~ Jesus claims to have come to fulfill these very prophecies. Jesus said that the only way to the Father is through Him~ these are not the words of a prophet or teacher. I feel that Christianity gets a bad name because of Christians. I completely understand this reasoning but true Christianity is about love, peace, forgiveness & acceptance. Those who wag their fingers and shun have a very rude awakening someday and rightly so give Christianity a bad name.I am of the belief that we are all children of God no matter what. Loved by Him no matter who we are or what we have done. Nobody has the right to judge others for ANY reason. God forgives us all and sent Jesus to take our place and us His place as whole & spotless, righteous in the sight of God~ Anyway, I know I got a little off track here and I apologize. I am not meaning to in any way trying invalidate your beliefs and how you feel. Your beliefs and values are no less valid than mine and I do not judge you, in fact I commend you for your search for knowledge and understanding~ My only prayer is that you eventually find the truth. I live by faith and have actually had very strong encounters with The Holy Spirit. I lived in darkness for a very long time, drug use, prison, you name it I have done it and I know that without guidence from my higher power i could not have ever got to where I am now~ Thank you so much for allowing me to share. I promise to remain open minded toward the beliefs of others as we continue our very healthy debate!

    • xotictac Says:

      Thank you very much, Jason, for the examples. They are very helpful for this thread. I do interpret them differently, but that is all of our rights. I definitely agree with what you said here: “true Christianity is about love, peace, forgiveness & acceptance. Those who wag their fingers and shun have a very rude awakening someday and rightly so give Christianity a bad name” This is the exact attitude that turned me off from Christian churches in the first place, and set me on the road to exploring religion and philosophy from allover the world. I agree that was Jesus’ message, and I integrate that into my philosophy to this day. I value your opinion, and I hope to hear from you again on future blog entries.

      • Jason Says:

        Awesome~ Thank you for your open-minded attitude. I really appreciate your blog & definitely look forward to your next post! I think we can both learn from each other. A healthy debate is good for all~~


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