Many knowledgeable people, those true believers, acknowledge that theoretically, on paper at least, the concept that the authorized Bible being the inspired word of God Almighty has merit, even if God Almighty Himself is difficult to pin down. Some Doubting Thomas’s however say that this concept is pure bovine fertilizer for a whole host of reasons, not least of which are that the Bible is full of logical contradictions. What follows arises out of a debate I had with an Accidental Metaphysician and true believer which I’ve edited for, hopefully, sake of clarity.
The “Inspired” Bible 1
If the Bible is the absolutely inspired word of God, then God did an absolutely lousy job of proofreading His Magnum Opus. The Bible (and related discards) reads like it was cobbled together by dozens of humans over a lengthy period of time, with lots of copying and plagiarism and alterations and interpretations afoot, with no particular obvious rhyme or reason why some bits and pieces of text were given the stamp of approval (the authorized Bible) and some bits and pieces were excluded. The Bible reads like the first draft of an early attempt at an anthology of interconnected science fantasy stories (complete with unicorns) that doesn’t quite hang together as a cohesive whole. For example, you get at least three different figures on exactly how many of God’s ‘chosen people’ were forced or sent into exile into Babylon.
The “Inspired” Bible 2
Writers and producers of science fiction, science fantasy and dark fantasy (horror) go to all sorts of weird and wonderful lengths to draw the reader (or the viewer) into their worldview. So too I suspect with the numerous human authors of the Bible. I mean Jonah and the ‘whale’ is marvelous dramatic plotting and a sort of “Jaws” story; we all love a good disaster film or story and thus the Noah’s Ark tale or the nuking of Sodom and Gomorrah fits that bill; ditto stories about the underdog coming out on top and the Biblical “High Noon” is your David versus Goliath fable. We also like war stories and so we have an obligatory Battle of Jericho. Another favorite is survival against all the odds and so we have the great unwashed facing off against the wilderness for 40 years. Now take the tale of Jesus missing from his tomb. That too is a marvelous supernatural plotting as were the sightings of his ‘ghost’. I mean just relating a revelation of finding a stone cold rotting corpse isn’t anywhere near as interesting.
The “Inspired” Bible 3
Why is it logical – logic being one of the favorite themes of true believers – to accept holus bolus the bona-fides of an alleged non-fiction text (the Bible) wherein the major players and major events cannot be independently verified? For example, there’s not one single shred of independent evidence that anything that’s related in Exodus ever happened, which is a super anomaly since there should be loads and loads of it. So, it’s not overly logical to accept the events in Exodus at face value, without question, holus bolus. Speaking of logic, logic suggests that Eve must have been a man since ‘she’ derived 100% of ‘her’ genetic material from Adam. In a similar fashion, Jesus must have been a woman since ‘he’ got ‘his’ genetic material from a woman. Logic also suggests that Jonah’s adventure would have been better placed as one of Grimm’s fairy tales! I mean you can’t seriously believe Jonah’s whale-of-a-tale actually happened, not and maintain your logical dignity. Now, in conclusion, can you really name me one Biblical tall tale that features at least of the major players in the Biblical drama, that has been independently verified by Mid and Near East historical scholars and/or professional archaeologists to which there is no room or reason for debate in much the same way as there is no wriggle room about Antony and Cleopatra or the exploits of Alexander-the-Great?
The “Inspired” Bible 4
Most events and most people leave relatively little or no trace at all. But here we’re talking here about the major players and major events in the most influential ‘non-fiction’ book of all time. Biblical events aren’t just any old events. Biblical characters aren’t just any old characters. The Bible raises the bar of expectations. Billions of people past and present believe that the Bible is actual history with actual characters. They deserve to have some actual evidence. If these Biblical characters actually existed, their remains, their grave-sites, would be actual evidence. Alas, such evidence, even dry and dusty bones, are all conspicuous by their absence.
As to those grave-sites, we are talking about the major players in the most famous and best read and best-selling ‘non-fiction’ book of all time and yet no one can tell me where even one of them (like Methuselah) has been laid to rest! Of course I shouldn’t pick on true believers since neither they nor anybody else can tell me either.
However, regarding the final resting place of Moses, look up Deuteronomy 34:6. You get some hardcore geography. Having done that, and having consulted a map, how about making like Indiana Jones, find the site, dig him up, and prove to the world once and for all that Moses wasn’t just a figment of Biblical mythology.
The “Inspired” Bible 5
Regarding the Biblical Ages of Man:
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten” – Psalm 90:10.
“His days shall be an hundred and twenty years” – Genesis 6:3.
The “Inspired” Bible 6
Believers can quote the Bible as much as they like but for whatever statements quoted like the alleged resurrection of Jesus*, I’d like some 100% independent verification – some other source(s) material. As that Gershwin song suggested, just because the Bible says so doesn’t mean its historical fact. Where is the independent evidence for the existence of Jesus? Where is the independent (Egyptian or archaeological) evidence that the Exodus ever happened? Can you show me the grave-sites of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Abraham, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Joshua, Solomon, David, Ezekiel, Daniel, Goliath, Methuselah, Joseph and Mary, or for that matter any other character in the Bible? Has the grave-site of Jesus himself been identified and independently verified by ancient historians and archaeologists? True, some historical Biblical figures existed, but that’s to be expected since the Bible was written by the locals who would obviously incorporate local flavor into their tall tales. However, and for similar reasons, you’ll get real historical figures mentioned in historical novels like “Gone with the Wind”. That doesn’t make GWTW an historical and believable document.
*Oh, by the way, there is no absolute historical fact about the resurrection since not all scholars or historians agree that there ever was such a person who existed to in fact be resurrected.
The “Inspired” Bible 7
It is not surprising that some of the minor players in the Bible actually existed. I call the Bible “Historical Fiction” not just “Fiction”. After all, the Bible was penned by the locals who lived in the area and would have been aware of the reality of various figures who were incorporated into their tall tales. It’s exactly the same as you’ll find real historical characters in “Gone with the Wind” or in the twin novels “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance”. However, those novels are not exactly the sources one would go to for an overall historical account of the American Civil War or the lead-up to and history of World War II.
Anyway, I’m pleased for true believers that think the Bible is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. On the other hand, knowing that they tend to be on a quest to be closer to the theological truth, they might like to also consider reading “The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible” (1991) by classical historian Robin Lane Fox and/or “Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction” (2009) by classical scholar and anthropologist Eric H. Cline.
IMHO it’s all just myths and fairy tales for grown-ups. True believers know, and I know, that had they been born in a different time into a different culture, say Ancient Egypt, they’d be spouting with total conviction about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the reality of Isis, Horus and Osiris.
The “Inspired” Bible 8
True believers say there are lots of independent (i.e. – archaeological?) verifications for alleged Biblical truths. There is historical integrity within the Bible that has been confirmed or documented, or so they would allege. I wish they would just name one such verification involving a major Biblical character and a major supernaturally-themed Biblical event like Jonah and the ‘whale’ and I’ll be happy to dance around that circle with them. I refer again to those books by Robin Lane Fox and Eric H. Cline.
The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 1
One Biblical anomaly is where did Cain get his wife from? The standard answer is that Adam had “other sons and daughters” quite apart from Cain, Abel and Seth. There may have been inbreeding and incest, but when you gotta breed you gotta breed. Still, I’m not convinced.
“Cain knew his wife” – Genesis 4:17 – which precedes…
“Adam having other sons and daughters” – Genesis 5:4.
We note that Adam begat Seth at the age of 130 – Genesis 5:3 – and post Seth he lived another 800 years (dying at 930 years) and had other sons and daughters – Genesis 5:4. So all those unnamed sons and daughters were post-Seth and Seth was way post-Cain.
So again, where did Cain get his wife from?
The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 2
Regarding Cain’s wife, as just one example, when it comes to the Bible, the left hand (Genesis 4:17) most certainly did not know what the right hand (Genesis 5:4) was doing. In general, readers of Biblical events just get multi-variations on multi-theological themes. So when it come to the Bible you can just about ‘prove’ or theologically back up or even ‘disprove’ any claim you wish to make or refute. But since you’re pontificating over an overall work of historical fiction, I’m not always sure what the overriding point is in doing so. In any event, I’m not convinced until those true believers dish up some sort of independent historical or archaeological evidence that the Bible is historical fact and not historical fiction. The burden of proof is always on those who say something is so, yet proof of major Biblical events by the major Biblical players is always conspicuous by its absence.
The “Inspired” Bible: Cain’s Wife 3
Unless true believers can provide me with some independent verification that Cain even existed, far less where his wife came from, I’ll just reword my previous comments and say it’s all mythological poppycock. It has as much reality as that of Athena being hatched fully grown from the head of Zeus, or Helen of Troy being the offspring of Zeus mating with a mortal woman by first turning himself into a swan and hence Helen being hatched from out of the resulting egg. The Ancient Greek myths zoomed in and out too but that don’t make them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You’re happy with blind faith. I want evidence, something you are unable to supply. Now, where is Cain (and his wife) buried? Surely if they existed their dry and dusty bones must be somewhere. Where?
The “Inspired” Bible: Job
Okay, here’s a little problem. I don’t believe Job actually existed! How do true believers like the Accidental metaphysician actually know Job existed? How do they know that all of the events as related in Job actually happened? They weren’t there. They can’t verify one single word of Job – the person or the Book. They are relying on a person or persons who they know absolutely nothing about relating the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Perhaps these authors of questionable bona-fides just made all of this up in order to present an interesting story. Has any independent Biblical historian verified all of this? Is there any archaeological conformation of any of this rather tall tale? Can anyone point out the actual location of the final resting place of this alleged Biblical character?
The Accidental Metaphysician quotes Job several times. How does he know for absolute certain that these Biblical quotes attributed to Job are accurate? How does he know the English translation is accurate? Who was the Johnny-on-the-spot writing this down many thousands of years ago? Does anyone know who he (she) was? Was this a case of someone who told someone who told someone who told someone?
According to the “HarperCollins Bible Dictionary” (Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor), the entry for “Job, the Book of” states “Date, place, and identity of authorship are debated.” That does auger well for the accuracy of the Biblical text.
In conclusion, how does anyone know for absolute certain that this Biblical event actually happened in the way and manner described? I say it’s all a work of pure fiction even though I can no more prove that than true believers can prove the contrary. It’s all about faith, not about evidence. It’s not logical to trump faith over actual hardcore evidence. My hardcore evidence backing my point of view is that there is no hardcore evidence!
The “Inspired” Bible: Moses
There’s no independent evidence that Moses ever existed, so there’s no independent evidence that Moses wrote anything. In any event, can true believers tell me where Moses was laid to rest, being such a major player in Biblical terms and all? So here’s Moses, leader of a rag-tag band of 200,000 souls wandering throughout the wilderness – the great unwashed of the times – who stayed with them and guided them through thick-and-thin for 40 years. When Moses dies, just before his motley crowd were to leave the wilderness and enter the Promised Land, did they just threw his body into some shallow and unmarked pit or maybe left his bodily corpse to the local buzzards? [Many of us like to put out food for the wild birds but that’s ridiculous.] That’s not a heck of a lot of gratitude the multitudes showed their fearless leader, old man Moses, did they now?
Actually as noted above, we know from Deuteronomy 34:6 the rough geographical location where Moses was laid to rest. It’s just a matter of some wannabe Indiana Jones finding the site and digging Moses up and thus proving once and for all that Moses actually existed.
Still, I find it amazing that my Accidental Metaphysician spends hours and hours debating historical events, like Cain’s wife and Job and Moses that more likely as not have no actual verified historical reality. He keeps going on and on and on about these Biblical events as if they were carved in stone and available as independent evidence for all to see. They’re not. As an accurate historical text, the Bible has just as much credibility as “Gone with the Wind”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” or “The Last of the Mohicans”. He is however presenting all of this Biblical stuff as though it was all verified historical fact, and that’s not the case, so IMHO he is being more than just slightly dishonest with his reading audience!