The origins of the Bible

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Short1
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The origins of the Bible

#1

Post by Short1 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:10 am

All right guys, so at this point I'm an atheist. Nothing has ever made sense to me as a Christian. It was like putting a round peg in a square hole. I would constantly try to find reasons not to doubt but they finally became too much.

I hate research. I hate wasting my life trying to find an answer to these questions. I hate all the deceptive information out there. But I'm not going to take it on faith that Christianity is true. Many people hold delusions of supernatural experiences besides Christians. So I'm going to start from ground zero.. REALLY do good research. Evaluate and reevaluate each claim and figure out what the heck is going on with religion and why it never worked out for me.

So my first question: what about the Bible? I watched a video based on Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" and it made the case that the Bible evolved out of previous polytheistic ideas held by primitive people. That in conjunction with numerous similarities to other belief systems from the past make the Bible look very evolved and not a new divine document.

So first: What do Biblical scholars say about Biblical origins ? Atheists say one thing, Christians say another.

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#2

Post by PaulSacramento » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:35 am

The commonality between the bible and other cultures is NOT a big issue BUT those are really surface commonalities at best.
You need to do more research, as much as you may hate it.
The tektonics website is a good place to start.
In a nutshell, the bible is a collection of books and writings over centuries, written and complied and edited by different authors.
Because the writings were held to such high regard, the chances of 'alteration and tampering" were minimal ( but still happened) and those cases are well known.
The different books are of different genre, there are historical books, prophetic books, poetic books and letters.

One thing that you must NOT do is go into with preconcieved notions ( from either extreme).
Take the bible books for what they are and not what you want or expect them to be.

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#3

Post by narnia4 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:38 am

This is a very wide subject to start a thread on, it would be hard to know what to do without.

Right of the bat I'm going to remind about methodology and presuppositions. Its true that you shouldn't just accept Christianity as true without trying to answer objections or look into the history of it, but it seems as if this is exactly what you've done with atheist accounts of the origins of the Bible. You watched one video and now a myriad of positive claims made by atheists about the history of Biblical origin is true? Its impossible to truly start from ground zero, but I suppose everyone tries. But what you attempt to do, then, is to not assume a skeptic's stance or a believer's stance. Follow the evidence, that kind of thing.

I'd agree that tektonics.org is a good place to start when it comes to a good number of specific objections to Christianity and specific claims.
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Re: The origins of the Bible

#4

Post by Reactionary » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:39 am

First, a lot of misinformation is being spread around. Like this one, easily refuted:
http://d24w6bsrhbeh9d.cloudfront.net/ph ... 5_700b.jpg

I find Tekton a useful site about the historical aspect of Christianity. Apparently it's led by J. P. Holding, author of several books about Christian history - I haven't read them (probably some here have), but his articles seem concise, well thought out and informative. There is an entire section devoted to stories about Christianity being influenced by pagan religions:
http://www.tektonics.org/copycathub.html

Also, I'd recommend works by L. Strobel, particularly The Case for Christ.

Personally, I think there are similarities that all religions could share, primarily because they are common. For instance, all religions will have some sort of afterlife, and some sort of savior, messiah, or other central figure. So we need to keep that in mind.

---------------------------

EDIT: Apparently, we all seem to share respect for tektonics.org. 8)
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6

"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#5

Post by PaulSacramento » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:27 am

There are also the works of Bruce Metzger - perhaps THE NT scholar of our time.
And:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg (Paperback - Oct 18, 2007)
The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? by F. F. Bruce (Paperback - Jul 8, 2011)
The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (4th Edition) by Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman (Apr 28, 2005)
The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance by Bruce M. Metzger (Apr 10, 1997)
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein (May 28, 2002)

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Re: The origins of the Bible

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Post by narnia4 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:37 am

While I think that many similarities between the Bible and other accounts are overstated, strictly speaking similarities with other texts by itself wouldn't disprove the Bible at all. In fact, CS Lewis wrote about that topic (sometimes controversially). He spoke of the Bible as a "true myth". Other mythical accounts could be seen as "shadows" of the truth. I don't think many of the more scholarly Christian types go in that direction too much, but the sentiment is there.

Regardless, if there are similarities (and we haven't gotten into specifics at all) then it doesn't follow that similarities means that the Bible is derivative.
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Re: The origins of the Bible

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Post by Icthus » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:26 am

I had a fairly long post written about this subject, the gist of which was that I tend to agree with most of what Narnia and Paul said, but then my internet quit on me and I lost it. To sum it up briefly, most of the parallels usually suggested as borrowing from other religions are pretty weak, either severely overstated (like similarities between the story of Joseph and Egyptian literature) or far too general to be applicable (like believing in an afterlife or having rituals). When comparing Biblical monotheism to other religions, its important to note the differences, as they are far more numerous and significant. The Old Testament isn't shy about detailing times where Israel as a nation or simply specific individuals turned to the practices of their neighbors, but it is also explicit in its denunciation of those practices. At times, the biblical writers adopt images, phrases, or models similar to those used in other cultures, but use them to convey the very different message of God. Some scholars even consider many of the so-called parallels to be polemical refutations of the material that they appear to borrow from.

I've recommended Kitchen, and I'll do so again. And again I'll say that such scholars are not leering, shifty-eyed apologists that peddle cheap lies and half-truths to make their religion look better. As a sort of a code of honor, I try to always recommend sources highly respected in their field, the best when possible. Unfortunately, the Old Testament isn't my specialty, but Paul has suggested some good reading, though mostly for the New Testament. On a related note for Paul, isn't Finkelstein rather minimalist in his view of Ancient Israel compared to the other sources you've listed? It isn't any big deal, but I thought he stood out among the others in that list. Also, yes, Metzger is great. It's sometimes hard to believe Erhman was a student of his. I think. I could be wrong.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” -G.K. Chesterton

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#8

Post by PaulSacramento » Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:04 am

On a related note for Paul, isn't Finkelstein rather minimalist in his view of Ancient Israel compared to the other sources you've listed? It isn't any big deal, but I thought he stood out among the others in that list. Also, yes, Metzger is great. It's sometimes hard to believe Erhman was a student of his. I think. I could be wrong
.
I think it is import to read the pros and cons to everything.
To just read what makes the bible "true" is not enough, we must read what critics have to say about it also.
While NO ONE is ever unbias about the bible, some tend to have a more "complete" understanding about its TOTAL origins ( not just the divine inspiration part, but the transmission BEFORE it was "put on paper" and how it was preserved).
Erhman was one of MANY students of Mr.Metzger and Bruce liked his "skepticisim" enough to include him in his book to show the "arguments" against the authenticity of the NT canon, which shows the tremendous confidence Metzger had in that said authenticity.
Bart is a facinating case, but that is another thread :)

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#9

Post by Icthus » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:42 am

I agree with you, completely, Paul. One of the saddest things I've seen in my investigations is the way opposing views tend not to interact with each other. Too often, conservatives ignore the claims of liberal scholarship for little reason other than a prior commitment to a specific view of the Bible, and too often liberals dismiss the work of conservatives as mere apologetics. They simply talk past each other, or worse, resort to cheap tactics like setting up a strawman and then claim to have refuted one another. One of my theory professors once said of the history of literary theory that each successive generation of theorists does something entirely different than the last, not because the demonstrate their predecessors to have been wrong, but because they simply do different things. It certainly isn't a perfect analogy, but it is interesting (and disheartening) to see the way liberal and conservative scholars can ignore each other's work. I don't think I could live with myself if I only studied the evidence as presented by one side, and I certainly didn't mean to suggest that one shouldn't read Finkelstein, as one should never be afraid to read another viewpoint (not to mention that Finkelstein is a good scholar and should be read just for that). I'm not exactly a maximalist myself, to be honest. I just wanted to note that his work stands out among the others you listed who, though mostly dealing with the New Testament, tend to argue for the general reliability of the Biblical material they discuss.

I know Erhman was only one of many students of Metzger's. I'm not really a textual criticism kind of guy (it's well beyond me), but I believe he did some fairly extensive work with Metzger, though I could be wrong. He (Ehrman) is a great scholar and worthy of his reputation. I, naturally, disagree with him on a number of matters and don't always appreciate it when he speaks on matters outside textual criticism, but good work is good work. I think his recent work "Did Jesus Exist" is a great, and sadly, much needed, book. I'm amazed by the number of people who still believe that Jesus never existed even as a person, and I hope they will be more willing to listen to Ehrman since he is respected by so many skeptics.

Sorry for the unnecessary length, but I didn't want you to think I was bashing your list (which I actually consider to be very good). And I apologize for apologizing so often.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” -G.K. Chesterton

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Re: The origins of the Bible

#10

Post by PaulSacramento » Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:01 am

Icthus wrote:I agree with you, completely, Paul. One of the saddest things I've seen in my investigations is the way opposing views tend not to interact with each other. Too often, conservatives ignore the claims of liberal scholarship for little reason other than a prior commitment to a specific view of the Bible, and too often liberals dismiss the work of conservatives as mere apologetics. They simply talk past each other, or worse, resort to cheap tactics like setting up a strawman and then claim to have refuted one another. One of my theory professors once said of the history of literary theory that each successive generation of theorists does something entirely different than the last, not because the demonstrate their predecessors to have been wrong, but because they simply do different things. It certainly isn't a perfect analogy, but it is interesting (and disheartening) to see the way liberal and conservative scholars can ignore each other's work. I don't think I could live with myself if I only studied the evidence as presented by one side, and I certainly didn't mean to suggest that one shouldn't read Finkelstein, as one should never be afraid to read another viewpoint (not to mention that Finkelstein is a good scholar and should be read just for that). I'm not exactly a maximalist myself, to be honest. I just wanted to note that his work stands out among the others you listed who, though mostly dealing with the New Testament, tend to argue for the general reliability of the Biblical material they discuss.

I know Erhman was only one of many students of Metzger's. I'm not really a textual criticism kind of guy (it's well beyond me), but I believe he did some fairly extensive work with Metzger, though I could be wrong. He (Ehrman) is a great scholar and worthy of his reputation. I, naturally, disagree with him on a number of matters and don't always appreciate it when he speaks on matters outside textual criticism, but good work is good work. I think his recent work "Did Jesus Exist" is a great, and sadly, much needed, book. I'm amazed by the number of people who still believe that Jesus never existed even as a person, and I hope they will be more willing to listen to Ehrman since he is respected by so many skeptics.

Sorry for the unnecessary length, but I didn't want you to think I was bashing your list (which I actually consider to be very good). And I apologize for apologizing so often.
I didn't think you were bashing my list so no need to apologize my friend.
The only issue I have with Bart is that he tends to "sensationalize" things to sell his books.
He throws around words like "fraud" when applied to the works attributed to an author but released ( perhaps even edited by another) for example, knowing that even though he is using it in the "traditional" sense that most people will view it in the modern sense.
Most scholars tend to view the pastoral letters of Paul as "spoken by Paul by written by another and added on by another" and Bart would call that a fraud letter, meaning "written by one and attributed to another" BUT knowing that the modern day reader would get a very different idea.

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