Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Wrote the Bible (1)

Reading the bible has left a few lingering questions in my mind.  The main one being: Who wrote the bible?  Obviously, it was not one person as the books are from different time periods.  Trying to find a straight answer to this has been exhausting.  I was hoping I would find something definitive that would have been agreed to by believers and skeptics. I should have known that would be too much to ask for. 

I am certainly learning as I attempt to decipher different theological writings, so please be patient with me as I delve through the mire of apologists, fundamentalists, and secularists.  Since this topic is of obvious importance in giving credence to the authority of the bible as a holy, inspired text I will be looking at several different view points.  Today, I begin with an excerpt from

Who Wrote the Bible - A Letter from God
“Who wrote the Bible” is a question that is undoubtedly asked by many who are familiar with the impact this book has made on people around the world. The Bible gives guidance in our journey through life to eternity, as well as leads us to a relationship with the God of the universe. It is a historical book that is backed by archeology, and a prophetic book that has lived up to all of its claims thus far. In light of all these facts, asking, “who wrote the bible,” is a vital question that deserves serious investigation and a serious response. The Bible is God’s letter to humanity collected into 66 books written by 40 divinely inspired writers. These writers come from all walks of life (i.e., kings to fishermen) and spans over a period of 1,500 years or more. These claims may seem dramatic (or unrealistic to some), but a careful and honest study of the biblical scriptures will show them to be true.

This paragraph makes several assumptions: 
1. The bible gives guidance in our journey through life
2. There is an eternity
3. The bible leads us to a relationship with God
4. The bible is backed by archeology
5. The bible prophecies have come true
6. The bible is divinely inspired, but written by human hands
7. There are 40 authors
8. The bible confirms all the above assumptions 

(1) I imagine that the author of this piece is speaking more about the New Testament and the example supposedly set by Jesus rather than the Old Testament.  Most of the "ethical" parts of the Old Testament are no longer relevant.  Though the Ten Commandments are still preached, few preach "eye for an eye."  The bible was written in different times and different ethics seem to have applied to that specific time.  Within the New Testament, Jesus can be a divisive character and is often seen being rude to his mother.  In Catholicism, and other branches of Christianity, the sacraments are supposedly based off of Jesus' life.  

(2) I am not entirely sure if there is any mention of eternity or afterlife in the Bible.  Doing a google search is useless because more biased information shows up, without any reference to actual passages.  It seems the most common reference to anything "other worldly" is that of the "Kingdom of God" or the "Kingdom of Man."  These are popularly thought to refer to some kind of heaven, though there is no true description of what might happen there.  There is also no indication that this kingdom would be ushered in after one's death.  

(3)What kind of relationship does the bible lead us to with God?  Does somehow knowing his greatest hits make him more likely to like us or listen to our prayers?  Christianity itself has so little to do with the bible and more to do with tradition and interpretation that this seems ridiculous.  

(4)The archeological evidence for the historicity of the bible is mixed.  It is slightly difficult to find actual academic information regarding this because of all the christian propaganda floating around on the web.  PBS & NOVA have a website regarding "The Bible's Buried Secrets."  Interviews with biblical  archeologists, such as Carol Meyers and William Dever, help identify some of what is known and what has not been verified. Most significantly, there is no archeological evidence that there was ever a great flood, a mass exodus or an Abraham.  Also, it goes without saying that there is no  supportive archeological evidence for the creation myth.

(5)Wikipedia thankfully lists some of the biblical prophecies that our author did not detail.  I am not concerned so much with what is actually being prophesied, but more with the chronological order of the prophecies.  How can we be certain that the supposed prophetic event didn't occur before the relevant book was written?  I think it pretty safe to say that we know the first several books of the bible were not written down during the centuries when the supposed events occurred.  There are prophetic statements within those books that had already come into fruition by the time the books were written.  How are we to know the authors didn't just do some fancy storytelling and attribute prophetic sight where there wasn't any.

(6)After tearing up the beginning of this paragraph, I just want to be like, yeah, sure dude, the bible is divinely inspired. Except, there is no god.  The only evidence that the bible is divinely inspired is that it is so stated in the bible.  That is not evidence.  

(7)So our author here claims there are 40 authors of the bible.  Wikipedia tends to agree, claiming around 39.  The chart that Wikipedia uses to distinguish the "traditional" authors from the "modern scholarly thought" authors is quite interesting.  It tends to differ quite a bit.  I wonder what that says about divine inspiration?  I'll be looking into these differences at a later date.

(8)Even if the bible confirms all the assumptions our author has made, it wouldn't matter.  The bible cannot be given as evidence to it's own authenticity.

Who Wrote the Bible - Evidence of Divine Inspiration
“Who wrote the Bible” is a question that can be definitively answered by examining the biblical texts in light of the external evidences that supports its claims. 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is inspired by God….” In 2 Peter 1:20-21, Peter reminds the reader to “know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, … but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The Bible itself tells us that it is God who is the author of His book.

To paraphrase: we can say we know who wrote the bible because it says so in the bible.  God says so, it must be true.  This is not a logical assumption, though it is accepted by the faithful because faith does not require logic or evidence.  It is enough for the author of this excerpt that the bible "clearly" states it was authored by God.

God does not leave us with just claims of His divine handiwork in the Bible, but also supports it with compelling evidence. The design of the Bible itself is a miracle. Written over more than 1,500 years by vastly different writers, yet every book in the Bible is consistent in its message. These 66 books talk about history, prophecy, poetry, and theology. Despite their complexity, differences in writing styles and vast time periods, the books of the Bible agree miraculously well in theme, facts and cross-referencing. No human beings could have planned such an intricate combination of books over a 1,500-year time span. Bible manuscripts (remember, there were no printing presses until 1455) have survived despite weather, persecution and time. Most ancient writings written on weak materials like papyrus have vanished all together. Yet many copies of the Old Testament scriptures survived. For instance, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain all books of the Old Testament, except Esther, and have been dated to before the time of Christ. Consider Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. Only ten copies written about 1,000 years after the event are in existence. In comparison, there are over 24,000+ New Testament manuscripts, the earliest one dating to within 24 years after Christ.

More assumptions:
1. The bible was written over a period of 1,500 years
2. The bible is consistent in its message
3. The bible discusses actual history
4. The different books of the bible are similar in facts
5. Man is not capable of constructing such a work 
6. More manuscripts survived than other manuscripts of the time 
7. The earliest New Testament was dated within 24 years after Christ's death (that would be around 54 AD).

(1)This assumption appears to be valid, assuming the books of the New Testament were completed before 100 AD.

(2)I am uncertain why the author of this piece would use consistency as way to show the divine guidance given during the composition of the bible.  So far I have delved into the first couple chapters of Genesis and already the bible lacks consistency.  Also, can he really claim the message of the Old Testament is consistent with that of the New?  I feel that this writer has either not read the bible or is using "consistency" incorrectly.

(3)The historicity of the bible has already been shown to be questionable.

(4)I imagine that the author is thinking about he Gospels here, as they can be cross checked with each other.  There is some very important disparities between the 4 Gospel works that I will get to later.

(5) Man is quite obviously capable of construction such a work, for he did it.  The bible is not so unique as to stand alone among religious works.  The creation myth and the flood myth are common stories.  Further inquiry would probably highlight more similarities.

(6)I am not quite sure how I could verify this assumption.  If it is true it does not support the idea that the manuscripts were somehow saved because they are the work of god.  It would support the idea that the individuals who owned or kept those manuscripts took good care of them and protected them because they may have found them valuable.

(7)The date of the earliest New Testament writings appears to be correct, though there doesn't seem to be a point for stating it.

The excerpt I used can be found at:  (06/08/10)