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Bible: Absolute Truth Or Another Mythology Form?


DeborahDP
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First, I would just like to start off saying that I was "born into the Baptist faith." As such, I was trained up from the cradle. I am now in my mid-40s :o and beginning to actually CONSCIOUSLY question my beliefs. Okay... so I'm a little slow. :P I have been preoccupied with more pressing matters.

 

I have done A LOT of serious reading ie theology in the past couple years. I have become aware of the fact that Paul's writings actually come BEFORE the gospels, and that Mark is supposedly the earliest gospel. Paul's earliest writings came DECADES after the Crucifixion. Up until these things were written down, they were passed on strictly by word of mouth. The Old Testament was the same way, except it was CENTURIES before it was finally written down and NONE of it by Moses.

 

Now, I think we can all agree that word of mouth is a very unreliable way of passing on information. The temptation is too great for many to embellish, and even those who try to be exact may not have heard exactly right or expressed themselves as well as they might.

 

This brings me to my dilemma. (I apologize now for taking so long.) Growing up, I was taught that Jesus' was a Virgin Birth, Mary was impregnated by God Himself. Jesus was crucified, died and was buried and rose again on the third day. Jesus performed many miracles: healing the blind, deaf, and paralytics, exorcised demons, defied the laws of Nature (ie walked on water, fed 1000s with a mere 5 small loaves and 2 fish, stilled a violent storm, killed a fig tree instantaneously, etc.)

 

All these things are found in the Gospels, yet Paul mentioned not a one. And he wrote BEFORE Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

 

Until a few years ago, I accepted ALL of these teachings without question. Granted, there were niggling doubts in the back of my mind, but I always pushed them aside... Until now. Now the questions refuse to go away. They demand to be answered.

 

I'd appreciate any thoughts, opinions, suggestions, etc any of you might have.

 

PS: I recently converted to Episcopalian a little over a year ago. :D

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You would probably be interested in the writings of the scholars on the Jesus Seminar, particularly Marcus Borg.

 

I would also recommend the book Real Prophecy Unveiled: Why the Christ Will Not Come Again, And Why the Religious Right Is Wrong, by Joseph J. Adamson.

 

It explains why the "virgin birth" story is actually a myth. And yet it glorifies Jesus for what he was, the Christ-Avatar for the passing age.

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Yes, Spong's writings are interesting too, like Borg's. And Spong, like Adamson, advocates a new reformation as well.

 

However, Adamson's Real Prophecy Unveiled series is more comprehensive and wide-reaching. And it actually deals with why and how the humble and meek shall indeed inherit the earth.

 

In fact, it explains how and why the new "kingdom" of God will be established on earth, which will "last forever, never to be destroyed." (Daniel 2:44, Revelation 11:15, Psalm 104:5, etc.)

 

It's about real prophecy that will actually be fulfilled. It explains how allegorical and symbolic scriptural language, which was never meant to be taken literally, has been misinterpreted and misunderstood. And it explains how the time frame and meaning of other prophecies has also been misinterpreted and misunderstood to fabricate a false prophecy about the "end times" and "last days."

 

Visit http://realprophecyunveiled.netfirms.com

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While I humbly respect your opinions I have to disagree in ways.

 

I believe in all of the supernatural occurences as portrayed in the Old Testament and New Testament as well as the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, and formation of the Christian Church through Jesus Christ. Heh, I even take the Bible as an authoritative inspired word of God.

 

With a Bachelor's in Bible, an M.Div. (from a Liberal Seminary....in which I had many great debates :) ) and a Th.M. I had always believed in the same beliefs as when I first became a Christian at the age of 17 (before that age, I was an athiest).

 

Some students at the seminary usually snickered behind their backs as my faith seemed a little too "childish" for them, but I had gained the respect from all my professors (face to face at least :P ) as I never let down or gave up what I believed in.

 

While I believe in the Miracles of Christ, the sayings of Christ, etc., we can always come to a mutual agreement to disagree ;)

Edited by En1Gma
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While I believe in the Miracles of Christ, the sayings of Christ, etc., we can always come to a mutual agreement to disagree 

 

Well, it's a matter of personal belief and faith. So yes, let's agree to disagree. ;)

 

The only time I have a problem with that is when someone tries to tell me and or others that we are not Christian because we don't believe as they do. It's really not up to any of us to judge. In the end, we will all know where we are for sure. And I think we will ALL be amazed. :o

 

The key here for me, is that we were all given Free Will, and supposedly intelligence. :P We were also created in God's image. Therefore, I don't think he expects any of us to be "programmed" robots, and only believe what we are told. I think he expects us to work out our individual faith in our own way.

 

My thing is He made every one of us different. WHY would He expect us to all believe the exact same way? and to worship Him in the exact same way? We are not the same people who worshiped Him 2000 years ago, and they weren't the same people who worshiped Him 10,000 years ago. He created all the humans in all the cultures, so I seriously doubt there is only one "correct" way to worship Him. And for any one group to expect it to be this way, or to try and force it as some seem hell-bent in doing, is just pure insanity IMO.

 

/sermon ends. :P

Edited by DeborahDP
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I’m not sure who your comments were directed toward, but I agree that we should not judge. Jesus advised that we should judge not, lest we be judged in turn.

 

However, Jesus said it is left to the son of man to judge humanity. But he was not talking about himself, because he said he had not come to judge the world. (John 12:47)

 

Jesus was talking about the next son of man, the witness and servant of God who Isaiah said shall bring judgment. (Isaiah 42:1-2) That is why Jesus said even though he had “many things more to say, humanity was not yet ready to hear them.” He said he “must go away” and there would be one to come at the end of the age who would “guide you unto all truth, issue judgment, show us things to come, glorify him (Jesus), and bear his testimony.” (John 16:7-15, Revelation 19:10) And Jesus further confirmed that when he said that even though he will not judge, his “words” and testimony ultimately will. (John 12:47-48)

 

In other words, the current son of man, the messenger for the Spirit of truth who bears the testimony of Jesus and more, DOES issue judgement. And it is sorely needed right now, to deal with all the conflict and division.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am open to the possibility that the Bible is not inerrant.

 

I am open to the possibility that God is far more loving and forgiving than He has been presented to me previously.

 

I am open to the possibility that no one has "the truth" down 100%, but that many religions have bits and pieces of it and that they can help bring you closer to God.

 

I am very glad to have read one of Borg's books, and I look forward to reading more since they back up those possibilities I mentioned above.

 

~Jen

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Hi, DeborahDP, I have just seen our thread. I',m here today because my usual message boards aren't working.

 

I think it's merely common sense that the NT is not literal history, but mostly deliberate legend. that does not mean that the Christ-event is not a powerfuil influence for good in the world.

 

S.Paul never quotes Jesus and appears to know nothing of His life. No-one inthe literalsit camp ever seems to comment on this. Surely the logical answer is that Paul didn't know any of the sayings of Jesus, no the events of His life. To him, Jesus was already a legendary figiure. The gospels were therefore theological documents based onthe OT (cf. Luke and Deuteronomy) wriotten to encourage discipleship in a time of persecution, and bulding a narrative around the surviving sauyiongs of Jesus. It is quite likely that most of the 'events' inthe Gospel narrative never happened. the ancient world did not have a 20th-centurty analytical distinction between fact and legend, living as they did on apre-scientific, pre-historically-minded age.

 

But that does not weaken or invalidate the Christian message. It means we need to focus on just what that message is, for each one of us today.

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Why the hesitation and tortuous argument to justify our position: myth is a recognised way for humans to express their truths. We don't need Bishop Spong's permission to use it.

After all, a poem or a song can be true, so can a novel. Even fundamentalists use metaphors ...

 

Gerard

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Easy to say this! But for many - and not just in the states - being able to say this out loud and re-acquaint themselves with a more metaphorical way of thinking (and not just in religion) is, sadly, a new-ish thing. Have a little patience and compassion for those you consider to be less evolved :D And while there is a way in which Spong has "given permission" for people to say things out loud, it is only that he has given them courage to do so by doing it first and from a position of recognized "authority." Obviously, no one needs his permission to do anything. He opened up the dialogue, but there is no need to caricature the respect many have for him by inferring that he has more power than he does!

 

Anyway, I have met people on both sides of the ocean who are struggling with these same issues. Hope we can find ways to engage in constructive dialogue so that we may move into a the "next level" of collective understanding regarding the topic of religion as a whole.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I am open to the possibility that the Bible is not inerrant.

 

I am open to the possibility that God is far more loving and forgiving than He has been presented to me previously.

 

I am open to the possibility that no one has "the truth" down 100%, but that many religions have bits and pieces of it and that they can help bring you closer to God.

 

I am very glad to have read one of Borg's books, and I look forward to reading more since they back up those possibilities I mentioned above.

 

~Jen

I feel you summed ME up perfectly :P

 

Hey, do I know you from somewhere?

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Some general thoughts...

 

I would point out, like Borg, that there is a difference in what needs to be 'literal' to be true and what does not. When we approach Scripture, we need to see it for what it is, and not what we want it to be.

 

Of course, it is a collection of books and letters, written by many different people over many different years. These different people had different views, different styles, methods, etc. If Inspiration is understood to mean that these people really did have experiences of God, were led to write about them in their own way and that overall the Bible itself tells a "holy history" of sorts--then yes, I believe in inspiration. The notion of inerrancy, even in the original manuscripts, is problematic, and I do not wish to enter into that discussion at this point.

 

Scripture uses, many times, apocalyptic metaphor, which should NEVER be literalized or made absolute. People (Jesus himself) often tell parables--stories that though literally untrue are actually so true metaphorically that they are, in a way, more true than would-be historical accounts. Similar things could be said about myths, stories, legends, etc. Then, of course, there are some historical passages. The Bible is true, and some of it happened. It was not deceiving of them to use myths (etc) for they were not yet confined to the either/or literal-factual prison of the modern era.

 

But here the problem emerges... the lines are blurred, we are removed; and the honest truth is that sometimes we simply DONT KNOW whether the author was intending to give us history or mythology. Yet the solution is simple--meaning is what matters. Very often the literalist and the contextualist are actually believing the same meaning, they just find it expressed differently. We can all have our own opinions on what happened and what did not, but, if offered as part of learning to follow Jesus, we focus first on meaning and unity--then together we can begin to work out accurate portraits through the lenses of history and faith.

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Since this topic has been brought, and to avoid any potential misunderstandings from anyone, here is my personal conclusions on the matter, none of which I believe are "final" or "absolute"...

 

1. Genesis 1-11, as the intro to the Bible, is prehistorical mythology written as a subversion of pagan mythology. There are two creation accounts and several other stories told to give us spiritual truth... 1. All that is is from God 2. Creation is still in process, God sustains it 3. Creation is initially good, including people 4. We have a purpose, an eschatology, we are NOT here by chance, this is NOT all a mistake 5. Along the way things got ruined, we all live 'east of eden' in a state of existential estrangement 6. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel are stories that did not literally happen, but they are stories which repeat themselves everyday 7. Noah's flood was written to give providence out of a historical flood which damaged most of the ancient earth 8. the tower of babel teaches us about how it is human nature to become prideful and raise ourselves up and follow the life that 'leads to death'--and yet God subverts our pride through humility, we are cast down but not cast away.

 

2. The bulk of the Old Testament is history metaphoricized. It seems as though history is being told, though even as such it is being reinterpreted theologically. This allows for a hybrid of historical and theological truth to run throughout. Also, it shows us a dialoging of sorts between God and Israel. It shows us both the revelation of God as holy, merciful, good and forgiving and Israel's wrong perceptions at times, failings, and fallings. This "blessings and curses" theme is found also in the wisdom literature.

 

3. We have misunderstood prophecy, both old testament and new. The major and minor prophets, along with John, speak not of time as in "chronos" but of time as in "kairos". They felt the ethos of God and very often lived with the burdens of sin. We see in them prototypes of what the messiah may look like--both a messiah of peace and a messiah of vengeance (remind yourself of Jesus' editing of the Isaiah scroll).

 

4. Jesus the Jew came and lived, said what he said, did what he did, and then was crucified. The idea of Q gives us an idea of what the historical Jesus was to the common people. First and foremost, he was the Jewish messiah (the word messiah does NOT mean divinity). He taught the way of peace, not the way of vengeance. He was the messiah, but not the one people wanted. He proclaimed the kingdom of God, became a living symbol of Israel, retelling the story of Daniel 7.13. When seen with Jewish eyes, as a sacrifice of love, it makes perfect sense to say "Jesus died for our sins". I do believe Jesus saw his vocation as being the one through whom God would act, and that in a very real way, he chose to die for the world--though not in the way later "atonement theology" would project back onto him. Mark was the first gospel, and his good news was that the messiah had come. I do think Jesus healed people and cured them, both physically and psychologically. He was more than a man, as such, "God was in Christ" and thus he acted out the way of God, with the power of God. He was God incarnate, though not in a mythological deistic understanding of 'god'. He was crucified, primarily because he was a threat to Rome, but also because he was not the messiah his people wanted. As someone who was fully human, Jesus died.

 

5. Matthew and Luke retell the historical Jesus, though with obvious interpretive lenses. They are not lying, rather they are interpretting the "post easter Jesus" to their own communities. Thus, some symbolism is obvious: the shepherds portray that Jesus was for the marginalized, the story of the wise men show a subversion of conventional wisdom in the Lordship of Jesus. Matthew and Luke testify to virginal conception, not to tell us about his birth, but rather to point out (whether it be taken literally or metaphorically) that Jesus really is of one spirituality with God. Myths about virgin births were told about holy men in the ancient world, and Matthew and Luke may be using the same tactic--with a theological twist. Likewise, some sayings and deeds of Jesus become, at this point, "more than literal".

 

6. Resurrection does not mean recuscitation. What became of Jesus' body is irrelevant for the truth of resurrection, we miss the point when we engage in the age old "case of the missing tomb" type debates. Nevertheless, the resurrection is true, it happened. It is the only way to correctly explain and understand early Christianity. God did raise Jesus into a new being, which I believe was a physical and yet perfected bodily being. I think people saw him, touched him, experienced him, etc. And I think the resurrection itself and itself only explains the transformation of Saul to Paul. The resurrection made clear that Jesus was the climax of eschatology, the church was there for all people to live in. Jesus did for Israel/the Church what she could not do for herself--now we must love the world and all people in that same way. John's gospel is this good news, that 1. Jesus is Lord and 2. God raised him from the dead. In doing so, he created a spiritual gospel, which was very much NOT historical. The shift is no longer on the 'Jesus of history' but on the 'Christ of faith'. This allows John to have Jesus say things he never said--that Jesus nonetheless lived out every day of his life: Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection, the light, the vine, etc. etc. This also allows John to make up stories with metaphorical truth--the wedding at Cana and Nicodemus are both very good examples.

 

7. The rest of the New Testament is about interpretting the post-easter Jesus to their generation and the generation to come. In doing so, they point the direction forward--Jesus is the Lord, whom God raised from the dead--and yet living this out and following Jesus means something for every different person in every different time. If Paul were to have been "just like Jesus" he would have claimed himself, not Jesus, as the messiah. None of them taught timeless ethics. Also, we have to remember that each of them were real people, with their own faith journeys. Paul's theology clearly shifts throughout his life. NT Wright once said, "Jesus is Lord of all or he isn't Lord at all". The church's vocation, as a community, is to make Jesus Lord of all, through the means of peace and tolerance given to us by Jesus himself. This is the Christian life, the Church. In Christ there is no distinction of class, race, caste system, gender, sex, orientation... In Christ there is neither gay nor straight, neither born nor unborn, neither liberal nor conservative, and neither orthodox nor heretic. The reality of Jesus' resurrection, as hope, gives us true hope for the future: resurrection of all in a new, saved, recreated world. It is us who will come to Jesus--not Jesus to us.

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DeborahDp,

 

Your initial post mentioned the death, burial, and resurrection. Paul does, in fact mention this. A good book on the entire topic of "resurrection" is The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N.T. Wright.

 

The virgin birth, the inerrancy of the Bible, biblical myth, etc. don't concern me as much as the topic of the resurrection. I would agree with most of the replies that the Bible was not written for the reason of recording "history" or documenting absolute truth. However, if you take away the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth or label it a biblical myth, much of the theology and reason for Christianity is taken away.

 

Any thoughts (anyone)?

 

RB

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I was listening to a good song today that made me think of this thread. Some of the lyrics are:

Truth is after all a moving target

hairs to split and pieces that don't fit

how can anybody be enlightened

truth is after all so poorly lit

 

Is Jesus God?

Did he rise from the dead on the third day?

Did Eve actually eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

 

The answers to these questions, be they yes or no, are not going to change the way I live my life one bit, as I would hope none of your lives would change.

I am a man, created in the spiritual image of God and, like God, I seek the satisfaction of my spirit.

Through years of hard experience I have learned that excesses of the flesh and overweening pride of the intellect do not bring that satisfaction, only hunger and loneliness. I believe God knows the ones who earnestly seek him, I tell my fundamentalist friends that I'm betting the farm on it, but for now, I just want to go out there and I want to love and be loved. I'm not always good at it, I'll admit ; still I do want to keep trying. Wish me luck.

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Shiny Pebble:

 

I not only wish you luck, I wish you Godspeed in your endeavors.

 

To all:

Thank you for all your thoughts on this subject. I am still finding my way, and you have all been a great help. Thank you.

 

Carry on. This is even more enlightening than I had initially hoped.

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RB,

 

The question does not seem to be so much "did the resurrection happen?" as "what does resurrection mean?"

 

One thing that such writers as NT Wright, Marcus Borg and JD Crossan all seem to agree is that, regardless of what one means by "resurrection", the resurrection of Jesus is vital for Christian faith.

 

Did the "resurrection" happen? Yes. Early Christians really did have experiences that inspired them to continue on following Jesus, and even to be killed for faith in Jesus. Without the idea of resurrection, Christianity does make little sense.

 

But we return to the question, "what does resurrection mean?" Perhaps we could have a post board dedicated to saying what 'resurrection' means to each of us personally?

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I would disagree with the claim that "without the idea of resurrection Christianity makes little sense."

 

As I see it, the core teachings of Jesus are around peace, love, charity, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and pacifism. After all, Jesus taught that we should love one another, even the least of our brethren and even our enemies. He taught that we should judge not; resist not evil if we are tempted to judge; overcome evil with good; turn the other cheek; and live not by the sword.

 

That makes a lot of sense to me, and it's compatible with the teachings of the Buddha and all other enlightened spiritual teachers.

 

We can, I think, look at the resurrection of Jesus as somewhat similar to what happens to the soul of all human beings who seek to return to God. At the same time, we can realize that as the spiritually anointed Christ who realized he was "one" with God, his resurrection was unique and special.

 

I believe there is a way to look at the life and death of Jesus in a realistic way that sees him as what he was ... a son of man. And I believe we can view the "miracles" as myths that were created to elevate the status of the Christ and especially the status of Christianity to make it the only "true" religion founded by "God Himself."

 

Jesus should be glorified, but for what he really was, and not an idol for worship. God alone should be worshipped, as Jesus himself said.

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