ludensian, thank you for your response of the 08.06.13 on this topic. As you have given it such a comprehensive reply I feel that I must clarify my thoughts because at the moment we are thinking on different wavelengths. This is why we are unable to see things in a similar way. It is obvious you are well versed in this subject, and as I have said, there are very few who are able to discuss with you on an intelligent or civil manner as I have, yet we do not seem to agree. I felt that I have to clear this incompatibility.
I am sure that you have spent many hours researching Christianity. But my impression is that you, as a devout Christian, are confined to the box of orthodoxy. (I know you hate this remark, but what I mean is that you will not contemplate anything that contradicts the Gospels or the New Testament or even the Bible.) I, on the other hand have searched the internet for authentication of the Bible and evidence for the historical Moses and the historical Jesus, and the historical Gospel authors outside and inside the box as a scientific researcher would do, and I am yet to be convinced that the Bible is a true account of Biblical history, e.g.,
Why do most modern scholars reject a reading of the Bible as history much less as literal fact?
1. In an age of science and technology, too much of the Bible is simply unbelievable to today’s mind and turns people away from the underlying messages. From a scientific standpoint, many of the “facts” in the Bible are simply wrong. One of many examples: according to Genesis, the universe is just over 6000 years old. According to physics, the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago.
2. Many of the stories are also scientifically impossible, like the tale of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky. This story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe. We simply know this to be false. Second, for the sun to stop would mean that the earth would have to cease rotating on its axis — an event which would destroy the planet.
3. For many of the miracle stories, natural explanations exist. The authors of these stories lived in an age when people believed that solar eclipses were divine omens, disease was divine punishment, and mental illness was caused by demon possession. In the case of Jesus, healing was an important part of his ministry. However, today we can find faith healers in Haiti who practice voodoo and in tribal Africa who practice witchcraft. Many of these modern-day faith healers have patients who are actually healed by these practices. Doctors call this the placebo effect, an effect so powerful that drugs must undergo double blind experiments.
4. Some of the mythological stories in the Bible are not original, but were borrowed from other traditions. The Epic of Gilgamesh — a Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries — contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah.
5. The other world religions also contain rich histories of mythology and fantastical sounding (to us) stories. On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy? The mythology surrounding the Buddha, who lived 500 years before Jesus, includes tales of how he healed the sick, walked on water, and flew through the air. His birth was foretold by a spirit (a white elephant rather than the angel Gabriel) who then entered his mother’s womb! At his birth, wise men predicted that he would become a great religious leader. Twentieth-century scholars Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell wrote that certain archetypal religious myths are found across cultures, histories, and religions. Examples include the Cosmic Tree, the Virgin BIrth, and The Resurrection.
6. The Bible itself is full of inconsistencies. How can it be an accurate historical record, when the various books contradict each other? Here is UNC Religion Professor Bart Ehrman:
“Just take the death of Jesus. What day did Jesus die on and what time of day? Did he die on the day before the Passover meal was eaten, as John explicitly says, or did he die after it was eaten, as Mark explicitly says? Did he die at noon, as in John, or at 9 a.m., as in Mark? Did Jesus carry his cross the entire way himself or did Simon of Cyrene carry his cross? It depends which Gospel you read. Did both robbers mock Jesus on the cross or did only one of them mock him and the other come to his defense? It depends which Gospel you read. Did the curtain in the temple rip in half before Jesus died or after he died? It depends which Gospel you read … Or take the accounts of the resurrection. Who went to the tomb on the third day? Was it Mary alone or was it Mary with other women? If it was Mary with other women, how many other women were there, which ones were they, and what were their names? Was the stone rolled away before they got there or not? What did they see in the tomb? Did they see a man, did they see two men, or did they see an angel? It depends which account you read.”
7. Reading the Bible as a literal historical account of events from the past limits the power of these stories. Rather than expressing universal truths, a literal interpretation limits the actions of God to certain events in history. God’s actions in the world become finite, confined to certain historical events: like the chess master making individual moves on a chessboard frozen in time two thousand years ago. Reading these same stories mythologically, however, can bring forth their universal qualities.
8. A literal reading of the Bible alienates much of our society. The stories were written in a different age with different views on social justice — an age in which slavery was legitimate, an age when discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation was the norm. Too often because of this history, the Bible is used to justify intolerance today.
Reading the Bible as mythology is not a new concept. Two of the early Church Fathers, Origen (185-254 AD) and Augustine (354-430 AD), both interpreted Genesis metaphorically, rejecting literal interpretations. Early in the 20th century, German theologian Rudolf Bultmann called for a “demythologizing” of the New Testament for many of the reasons given above. Rather, the movement in many fundamentalist circles today to read the Bible as inerrant (an extreme form of literalism, in which every word of Bible is viewed as true) is a late development from the 19th century as a response to the chipping away at the historicity of the stories since the Enlightenment.
I fear that an insistence on a literal or historical reading of the Bible will ultimately lead to the irrelevance of Christianity in our society. By throwing off the shackles of having to believe in the historicity of the Bible, we are free to interpret the stories as a testament to the religious experiences of people from a different age — a testament that communicates a meaning about their experiences of Ultimate Reality, of God. I understand that their experiences of the divine ground in their lives were interpreted through the lens of a pre-modern view of the world, and my own religious experiences will take on a different form today.Quotations from a few Scholars
Although some secular freethinkers and atheists accept a historical Jesus (minus the miracles), they, like most Christians, simply accept the traditional view without question. As time goes on, more and more scholars have begun to open the way to a more honest look at the evidence, or should I say, the lack of evidence. So for those who wish to rely on scholarly opinion, I will give a few quotes from Biblical researchers and scholars, past and present:
- The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus… The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information — not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.
- -Moncure D. Conway [1832 – 1907] (Modern Thought)
- Many people– then and now– have assumed that these letters [of Paul] are genuine, and five of them were in fact incorporated into the New Testament as “letters of Paul.” Even today, scholars dispute which are authentic and which are not. Most scholars, however, agree that Paul actually wrote only eight of the thirteen “Pauline” letters now included in the New Testament. collection: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul himself did not write 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus– letters written in a style different from Paul’s and reflecting situations and viewpoints in a style different from those in Paul’s own letters. About the authorship of Ephesias, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, debate continues; but the majority of scholars include these, too, among the “deutero-Pauline”– literally, secondarily Pauline– letters.”-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent)
We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)
Mark himself clearly did not know any eyewitnesses of Jesus.
-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)
All four gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid-second century and later and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.
-Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36)
The question must also be raised as to whether we have the actual words of Jesus in any Gospel.
-Bishop John Shelby Spong
But even if it could be proved that John’s Gospel had been the first of the four to be written down, there would still be considerable confusion as to who “John” was. For the various styles of the New Testament texts ascribed to John- The Gospel, the letters, and the Book of Revelations– are each so different in their style that it is extremely unlikely that they had been written by one person.
-John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)
David Friedrich Strauss (The Life of Jesus, 1836), had argued that the Gospels could not be read as straightforward accounts of what Jesus actually did and said; rather, the evangelists and later redactors and commentators, influenced by their religious beliefs, had made use of myths and legends that rendered the gospel narratives, and traditional accounts of Jesus’ life, unreliable as sources of historical information.
-Bible Review, October 1996, Vol. XII, Number 5, p. 39
The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts.
-Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels
Other scholars have concluded that the Bible is the product of a purely human endeavor, that the identity of the authors is forever lost and that their work has been largely obliterated by centuries of translation and editing.
-Jeffery L. Sheler, “Who Wrote the Bible,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Yet today, there are few Biblical scholars– from liberal skeptics to conservative evangelicals- who believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually wrote the Gospels. Nowhere do the writers of the texts identify themselves by name or claim unambiguously to have known or traveled with Jesus.
-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
According to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, a faithful account of the actions and words of Jesus is to be found in the Gospels; but it is impossible to reconcile this with the existence in the text of contradictions, improbabilities, things which are materially impossible or statements which run contrary to firmly established reality.
-Maurice Bucaille (The Bible, the Quran, and Science)
The bottom line is we really don’t know for sure who wrote the Gospels.
-Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)
Most scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers’ followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus’ life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion.
-David Van Biema, “The Gospel Truth?” (Time, April 8, 1996)
So unreliable were the Gospel accounts that “we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus.”
-Rudolf Bultmann, University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field in 1926
The Synoptic Gospels employ techniques that we today associate with fiction.
-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)
Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
-C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)
The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They’re not biographies.
-Paula Fredriksen, Professor and historian of early Christianity, Boston University (in the PBS documentary, From Jesus to Christ, aired in 1998)
The gospels are not eyewitness accounts
-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School
We are led to conclude that, in Paul’s past, there was no historical Jesus. Rather, the activities of the Son about which God’s gospel in scripture told, as interpreted by Paul, had taken place in the spiritual realm and were accessible only through revelation.
-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.83
Before the Gospels were adopted as history, no record exists that he(Jesus) was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all– or anywhere else on earth.
-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.141
Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.
- -Robert M. Price, “Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin,” Opening Statement
- It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last.“-Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 260)
Of course a historical Jesus may have existed, perhaps based loosely on a living human even though his actual history got lost, but this amounts to nothing but speculation. However we do have an abundance of evidence supporting the mythical evolution of Jesus. Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew stories, long before the advent of Christianity. We simply do not have a shred of evidence to determine the historicity of a Jesus “the Christ.” We only have evidence for the belief of Jesus.
- ludensian you posted,”My first reply to you has clearly shown that The Old Testament and the New Testament cannot possibly be contaminated by Egyptian paganism as such paganism is so frequently condemned by the God of the Bible. I emphasise this because I have given you all the relative verses and yet you remain convinced that corruption exists.
I have to doubt that you even look-up these verses for confirmation.”
You see, as a dedicated Christian you said that; “the New Testament cannot possibly be contaminated…” and I fully understand your views. How could you possibly believe otherwise as a believing Christian? You can’t. And this is where you cannot understand my mentality (or because you refuse to), although I see yours clearly.
The totality of my post above has indicated that I am far from having been convinced that the Bible and the Gospels are nothing but anonymously written literary unauthenticated tales written to glorify the Kingdom of God on earth and to establish the person of Jesus as the son of God. But searching as scholars of Christianity have done, no one has been able to authenticate the authors of the Gospels, or the historical Moses, or the historical Jesus. Thus it is unavoidable, that until such evidence can be produced, that the tales in the Gospels must be accepted as examples of great works of literacy or basically mythical tales as many other scholars too have so concluded. If, therefore, I can only see the Bible, and the Gospels, as literary accounts of anonymous man’s imaginative minds, and not as proven facts, I cannot possibly view your Biblical quotes as anything more than that. So I would be dishonest to accept any quotations from the Bible as anything but ancient tales or myths. This is where our minds operate at totally different frequencies.
I doubt if you will ever convince me that I am wrong, and I doubt if you will budge from your convictions either. Your views are orthodox views, that I am quite familiar with as I was brought in a very Christian environment most of my life. But I have, in latter years, begun to look for the historical Jesus that has unearthed views showing a different aspect to the historical Biblical stories. But if my writings have made you aware that there are other perspectives about historical Jesus and the origins of Christianity and Judaism, it may point the way for you and some others to look into the facts outside the box.
Muhammad’s Horse Buraq
The Isra begins with Muhammad praying in the Kaaba in Mecca, when the archangel Jibral (Gabriel) comes to him, and brings him the steed Buraq, the traditional “heavenly steed” of the prophets. Buraq carries Muhammad to the Masjid Al Aqsa the “Farthest Mosque”, which Muslims believe is “the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.”
Muhammad alights, tethers Buraq to the Western Wall and leads other prophets including Adem (Adam), Musa (Moses), and `Īsā (Jesus) in prayer. In the second part of the journey, the Mi’raj (an Arabic word that literally means “ladder”), Buraq takes him to the heavens, where he tours the circles of heaven, and speaks with the earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He is then taken by the angel Jibril to meet God.
I am quoting that this Islamic story about Muhammad on his flying horse and his visit to Heaven and meeting Adam and Moses and Jesus to illustrate that Muslims believe in this myth and is the basis of the Palestinian claim to Jeruslem. Now Christians would say it is rubbish, Islamic fantasies, Islamic myths. And you have every right to pass such judgement because it is not in the Bible. But the Muslims also believe that Jesus is just a prophet and not the son of God. So are the Muslims wrong, and the Christians right? If you consider this one story about the flying horse, Buraq, and Muhammad’s visit to heaven mythical rubbish, why do we sonder that the Muslims do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus? What I am attempting to say is that until it can be proven, all these religious stories are so far been shown as pure myths. Neither Judaism, Christianity, nor Islam has ever been able to prove any of their myths contained in their scriptures.