Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Misquoting Jesus

Just listened to a good piece on Fresh Air on how scribes have, sometimes mistakenly -- other times deliberately, incorrectly transcribed passages in the new testament.

The book, Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, is by a former evangelical Professor at Chapel Hill: Bart Ehrman . A devote Christian, his investigation of the origins of the new testament led him to the realization that much of it is based on the desires of church leaders.

Surprise surprise.

Of course I don't expect any true believer who reads this to rush out and suddenly become a skeptical student of biblical history: on the contrary -- "true believers" are just that: they start with belief and "facts" flow from that belief.

Of course, this approach doesn't serve mankind very well: imagine if we approached science and engineering in such a manner civilization simply wouldn't have progressed beyond the Dark Ages.

But religion is not science -- so they say. It is based on a personal revelation of truth... or so some of my christian friends tell me. Well, for one, I was once christian... My answer: when you come to a place in your life where you need to cling to something bigger than yourself, your mind is more than willing to oblige.

I used to also believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy...

Besides, what of the 'personal experiences' of the Muslim; the Hindu; the Jew and the Buddhist? All claim to have 'experienced' the truth of their belief system.

So here we are: millions around the world buy into a variety of ancient 'mystic' religions. And for the majority such beliefs can be a positive influence on the individual and on society. But here, in the US, we've seen the influence of 'absolute belief' elevated to the highest levels of civil government -- where it has been imbued with the power to trump science and reason.

This is the problem -- it's the path to medievalism -- and is in exact opposition to the precepts that the founders ushered in during the enlightenment: the process of investigation based on logic and reason.

How much longer will we have to suffer 'belief' as the foundation of government policy... We surely can't endure it much longer...


bombsoverbaghdad said...

Good post.

I was raised in a nominally Christian household. We went to church every once in a while, and I went to private, Christian schools. Even at an early age, many things about the Bible and Jesus didn't seen logical to me.

Now, I am 29, a husband, a parent of one son, and I go to church every Sunday. Before you hate me--I still doubt the Divinity of Jesus. I simply don't believe that God would send a "son" in human form. I also don't believe Jesus really claimed to be the Son of God. He said he was sent to inform people that we are ALL God's children, and that we should all love our enemies. That's what I take from him the most. He was a very wise person, ROR. Check him out. Moreover, it's clear that the Bible is contradictory, inconsistent and edited by people (way after Jesus died) with a massive agenda. Preachers try to force their congregants to accpet that Jesus was God's son because it gives THE PREACHER more power over the congregants.

I go to church to listen to the wisdom that I can gain, stay connected with my community, and to make a better connection with God. (I believe in God.) I don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. But I understand your thoughts. It bothers me too. So I incorporate a lot of Buddhism into my life as well.

Reign of Reason said...

Hey BoB,

I agree completely with you.

Thomas Jefferson created the 'Jefferson Bible' by cutting out the words and deeds of Christ - he called it the most perfect philosophy espoused by man. I agree...

I know I come down hard on religion but that's because I have a half-dozen people around me trying to make me believe that god is as the bible depicts him: if that's the case, he's sure not my god. Unfortunately, that vindictive, whimsical view of god appears to hold sway in our government.

I think we're in similar boats: I think there is a lot of good to be gleaned from christianity as long as you focus on christ's life -- but there is also a lot to be said for the teachings of Buddhism.

Thanks for the comments...

bombsoverbaghdad said...

Thanks for the email. I can't stand Thomas Jefferson. He probably made his own Bible in order to justify the horrible things he did to other people, most particularly his slaves.

But I digress. Many people believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible because they feel guilty if they don't. I've experienced that myself. I've thought, "well, I should believe it all, that's easier." It's a strong temptation to resist. If you believe in the Bible, you should feel comfortable discussing it, IMO. You have to know who you are in order to resist the tendency to consider it literally. Many people are lonely, and need things like Pat Robertson's rhetoric to back them up.

Bush & Co. seem to be into the Old Testament view of God. God as killer. Protector of Israel. Part of this, IMO, comes from the neoconservatives he surrounds himself with, many of whom have a religious connection to Israel.

Buddhism is amazing to me. I read Buddhist philosophy and I listen to tapes on the subjects. To me, it's a great philosophy for life. It leads to wisdom. I see so many people making huge mistakes that Buddhism could help them with. I try to introduce it to them, but they usually fail to understand it.

Capt. Fogg said...

My knowledge of Hebrew is less than rudimentary, but I spent some time going over Isiah with a professor of Biblical Hebrew and was astonished to see how "standard" Christian tranlations mistranslate words to make them seem to be predicting a messiah.

Small things like changing "them" to "him" can make a huge difference. The mistranslation of almah (girl) to mean virgo intacta is notorious as well.

You are quite right about Jefferson - he did see Jesus as an enlightened and inspired teacher and he did see Churches as the enemy of freedom.

But "they" don't want you to follow Jesus' teachings, they want all of us to pay continual homage to their fringe interpretations.

Democracy Lover said...

For a really spicy piece on the ridiculous bit of fundamentalist "Christian" best-selling nonsense, the Left Behind series, take a look at this:

Reign of Reason said...

CF: Thanks for the comment.

It appears there are three groups of believers- those who use religion to manipulate others, those who are too intellectually lazy and ready (and need)
to believe anything, and the honest "seeker'.

Unfortunately the first couple of groups seem to have the national stage at the moment.

DL -- Interesting read. And disheartening:

"That is the sophisticated language and appeal of America’s all-time best selling adult novels celebrating the ethnic cleansing of non-Christians at the hands of Christ. If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of last book in the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing, and publish it across the Middle East, Americans would go beserk. Yet tens of millions of Christians eagerly await and celebrate an End Time when everyone who disagrees with them will be murdered in ways that make Islamic beheading look like a bridal shower.

The quote tells you all you need to know about these supposed followers of the teachings of Christ...

jj said...

I still have a hard time understanding how educated people can believe in a supernatural all powerful being watching over us and dictating how you live your life or suffer eternal damnation.

I think religion started as a way to explain the unexplainable then became a way to control the masses which has worked all to well.

Most people who believe in an all powerful supernatural being usually discount other supernatural acts.

I try to understand the mind of intelligent true believers but have still not figured it out.

Reign of Reason said...

I agree: organized religion is little more than a mechanism to exert control over the masses... and far too often those in control are questionable characters.

What makes it worse: the mechanisms of the church make it very difficult to hold these leaders accountable -- or to even discover their transgressions. They are akin to dictators who exercise a lot of power over their followers...

Windyridge said...

"it's the path to medievalism -"
Ain't that the truth!