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My Take: There’s no such thing as the Bible and never has been
February 22nd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My Take: There’s no such thing as the Bible and never has been

Editors note: Timothy Beal is the author of "The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book." He is a Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University.

By Timothy Beal, Special to CNN

When things get messy, when the ground drops out from under us, we conjure myths of pristine and happy origins.

Unemployed, we might find ourselves longing for that former job as though it had been ideal, a time of complete self-fulfillment, forgetting how we dragged ourselves there some mornings, hoping for something better to come up.

In the middle of an ugly divorce, we might find ourselves longing for the early years of the relationship as though that had been our time in Eden, forgetting the stresses of money, unreliable used cars, in-laws and learning to live together.

These Edenic myths are illusions whose power lies not in their real presence but in their expression of what we really, really wish were true. But they also have the power to remove us from full, mindful living in the present, which is messy, unstable and insecure.

And that’s the stuff that opens us up to others, making us vulnerable to the real-life risks of relationship.

So too with the life of faith. We may long for an original, solid rock, a foundation that will not falter in the storm. For many, that rock is the Bible. But that, too, is an illusion.

Ronald Reagan once said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island and could have only one book to read for the rest of his life, it would be the Bible.

I wish someone would’ve asked, which one? Which version? Protestant? Jewish? Catholic? Orthodox? Syriac? Each has a different table of contents.

The Jewish one obviously doesn’t include the New Testament, but it also has a different order, beginning with the Torah, considered the core of scriptures, then the Nevi’im, or “prophets,” then the Ketuvim, or “writings.”

The Catholic Bible includes all of the Protestant Bible plus seven additional books, known as the Apocrypha, as well as significantly different versions of and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel.

Different Orthodox Bibles (Greek, Ethiopian, Slavonic, etc.) include those plus other apocryphal books as well as a collection of poems known as the Book of Odes. So does the traditional Syriac Bible, but it does not include Revelation and four other New Testament books found in other canons.

And which translation would he bring? There are dozens available, and they vary widely in both style and theology. Many of the most popular ones today are highly interpretive “meaning-driven” versions in which translators don’t translate word-for-word but instead write what they believe conveys the equivalent meaning of larger blocks of text.

So “my cup runneth over” might become “you blow me away.” Or a passage buried in Leviticus that prohibits a man from lying with another man as though with a woman (other no-no’s in this list include adultery, sex with a woman on her period, and marrying a divorcee or a brother’s widow) becomes a universal ban on homosexuality. Put two translations side-by-side, and you may find yourself hard pressed to know if they’re even translating the same passage.

And which edition would he bring? A good old-fashioned floppy black leather one? Or a niche-market edition like "The Golfer’s Bible," loaded with full-color pictures and “inspirational messages teed up to reach the golfer’s heart.”

Then again, depending on the terrain and climate of his island, "The Waterproof Bible: Sportsman’s Edition" might be a more practical choice. How about one of the many Manga Bibles on the market? Or a Biblezine, a Bible in magazine form filled with jump-off-the-page callouts and graphic features on balancing work and play, shopping, healthy eating, and finding love? Or one of the thousands of study Bibles loaded with notes and commentaries telling you what it means according this or that (usually conservative) viewpoint?

These various Bibles are not only different in physical form, but their value-adding content is also values-adding, steering readers toward theological, moral, and political views.

You get the point.

There is no “the Bible,” no book that is the one and only Bible. There are lots and lots of Bibles. They come in many different physical and digital forms with a great variety of content – different canons, translations, notes, commentaries, pictures, and so on.

Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a big box bookstore, check out its huge Bible section, or just type “Bible” in the search box of an online store, and prepare to be overwhelmed. The Bible business sells more than 6,000 different products for over $800 million a year – all sold as “the Bible.” It’s a flood of biblical proportions.

“Hold up!” some will say. “Stop the madness! We’ve got to save the Bible! We’ve got to get back its original, pure, unadulterated Word, before there’s no turning back the tide.” An understandable response to this alarming scene of biblical liquidation.

In my new book, "The Rise and Fall of the Bible," I say, OK, let’s try that. What we discover is even more surprising than all the diversity of Bibles on the market today. Here’s the thing: Not only is there no such thing as the Bible now; there never has been.

There is no pure original, no Adam from which all Bibles have descended. During the time of Jesus, there were many different versions of Scriptures in circulation, and no central publishing house or religious authority to standardize the process.

Same with the early Christian movement. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 4th century that there was even an official canon of Christian Scriptures. Even then, moreover, there were lots of unofficial varieties. The “story of the Book” is a fascinating one, with many surprising turns, but the upshot is that the further we go back in history, the more biblical variety we discover. “That old time religion” is an illusion.

For many of us, it’s more than a little disconcerting to realize that there’s no pristine original Bible to recover, that it’s messy and plural all the way back to the beginning. But is it not also a very familiar feeling?

Trying to save the Bible by recovering the Adam of all Bibles is as futile as trying to save the marriage by recovering the Eden of married life. There’s no such thing, so there’s no going back. Our desire for a pure, unadulterated, original Bible, “in the beginning,” is an illusion that shields and distracts us from the real, unstable, often terrifyingly ambiguous relationship with another that is the life of faith.

Life is crazy uncertain, so it’s understandable that many of us want religion and especially the Bible to offer deliverance from it. But it doesn’t. It’s not a rock but a river, not a book of answers but a library of questions. When we take it seriously, and soberly, it calls us deeper into the wilderness – away from the sunny shoreline of the island and toward the uncharted interior.

That wilderness, like the ones in which the Israelites wandered and Jesus was tested, can be a place of danger and disorientation, but also of renewal and reawakening.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Beal.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Judaism • Opinion

soundoff (1,016 Responses)
  1. Sternberg

    Did this guy ever really say anything? It is kind of like the racist saying that "Black is beautiful", must be untrue, because there are many shades of black people. That guy thought he was a wit, just like this one does.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  2. mikel

    A fool and their salvation are soon departed.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • MrEee

      You presumably meant to use 'parted', not 'departed' – but at least all copied texts are accurate because mistakes like you just made could never happen. Or maybe you're going to hell now?

      February 23, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  3. Paul Mangione

    The irrationalists, i.e., religious people, who are slamming Beal for his very good work on an important subject, are simply demonstrating once again that the truth does not set you free once your mind is closed to reality. Faith is not a virtue; faith is the abrogation of reason, a belief in something for which there is no evidence. So, the fact is that the Bible is a hodgepodge of Bronze Age stories, as Sam Harris observed, which could have been written by anyone for whom "...a wheelbarrow would be emergent technology". There is no Bible, never has been. Don't even get me started on the Koran!

    February 23, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • kirk

      YOU ARE A LIAR

      February 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Todd

      Nice comeback Kirk, you learn that from a certain congressman?

      February 24, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Jeff

      The intellect can talk the knees and heart out of anything.

      March 16, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  4. Tim

    Because there are so many different Bibles that are available, it is not surprising that some have a feeling of disdain or confusion regarding it. However, it is not God's fault that there are so many Bibles, with all the various readings. Proverbs 19:3 gives an inkling of why some feel a dislike for the Bible and its author, Jehovah God, for it says: "It is the foolishness of an earthling man that distorts his way, and so his heart becomes enraged against Jehovah himself." Thus, for the reason that "earthling man" has distorted "his way" or way of viewing life, these have blamed God and the Bible, rather than realizing that our Creator Jehovah God has seen to it that the original writings are accurate, and down till today has seen to it that there is a Bible that is concisely rendered, such as the New World Translation.

    For a careful study of the Christian Greek Scriptures, commonly called the New Testament, there are available for comparative study more than 13,000 papyrus and vellum manuscripts containing the whole or a part of the Christian Greek Scriptures, dating from the 2nd to the 16th century. Though none of the original writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly called the Old Testament, are extant today, there are possibly 6,000 handwritten copies containing all or part of the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the Nash Papyrus and Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the Greek Septuagint. Instead of critically searching for accuracy of the Bible and its deep meaning, some have taken the position as stated at Psalms 10:4: "The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; All his ideas are: “There is no God.”

    Thus, the number is increasing of those who discount the Bible or become atheistic, with a large amount of blame resting on the churches for poor to outright blatant mistranslations of the Bible, along with teachings that distort what the Bible really says. Ironically, a leading cause of atheism is religion. Historian Alister McGrath explains: “What propels people toward atheism is above all a sense of revulsion against the excesses and failures of organized religion.” Religion is often seen as a factor behind wars and violence.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • MrEee

      The issue is that there IS no original version, say what you like. No god sat down and wrote the new testament in greek – people did. Different people. Ever notice the gospels aren't all the same either – it's 'according to...'. There are old texts that some bibles include, others don't but include different texts. What's so confusing then about what Mr. Beal wrote – why put words in his mouth or turn the facts of different versions of these texts into a 'evil people hate god' diatribe?

      February 23, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • leiLnoigileR

      The only reason anyone believes the bible is true is because it says it's true.

      Here's a question. If nothing existed before creation except God, and God is nothing but good, how did any evil enter the universe? The 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' in the garden of Eden – how could there be any evil at all, let alone knowledge of it, if God is pure good? In other words, God created evil. I simply can't get around that paradox.

      Just sayin'

      February 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  5. PBMc

    Of course, Reagan was was merely pandering when he said this . . . .

    February 23, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  6. Robert

    Go to big box store and see all the many Bibles. Read them and as you will see they all read the same conceptually. Differences are in use of synonyms. It's the same for pretty much every work translated into English from a foreign language and especially one thousands of years old. I don't know anything about the Syriac etc Bibles although the "big box" study Bibles will tell you when one of those Bibles uses a different meaning. What an identical verse actually means and which verse is more important than another is where people differ and is why in part there are so many denominations.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Reality

      Hmmm?? Said topic is old news!!! This has been noted countless of times over the last 200 years.–--

      A synopsis yet one more time:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
      earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:

      Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      February 23, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  7. Bob

    Believe what you want , I am good with my believes.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  8. MP

    The Dead Sea scrolls were on display in Toronto a while back, and they included parts of the Old Testament. The display included the translation of the scrolls into English as well. It was amazing how close the scrolls were to the Bible I have at home. Granted, this was a very small portion of the Old Testament, but I still think it's a miracle that despite all of the conflicting ideologies and dogmas of the past few centuries, the word of God is still available to the world in an almost intact form.

    February 23, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • MrEee

      I find it amazing you look at texts written by people and call it the 'word of god'. The idea of an omniscient and omnipotent god having important precepts be passed on by people orally, then with different writings, prophets, and interpreters, all the while having them fought over is inherently ludicrous.

      February 23, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Q

      MrEee – Clear, succinct and excellent!

      February 23, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Muneef

      They said it had in it some difference example that Jesus told some one that it was he who will die on the cross dressed with Jesus Cloth.?

      February 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Jeff

      MrEee: Any man or woman can come to know God through sincere and earnest study, prayer, selfless service and striving to keep the commandments as outlined in scripture. Those who disbelieve in Him have only their intellect to offer as evidence that he does not exist. If God does exist, how could any intellect, however brilliant by man's estimation, ever comprehend the eternal and unseen purposes of a God in Heaven. What better way to test the merit of a person than to first require them to have genuine faith and works before he manifests himself to them. (John 7:17) No parent can effectively teach their children the lessons of life by granting them the reward before the effort, before the faith. Yet this is what the “intellectual” among us require.

      March 16, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  9. michael

    One other thought; the author's use of the "Adam" analogy to the bible is not clearly thought out. After all, didn't God start out by making Adam out of dirt? A very small compilation of dirt; from all the other dirt there was.... a little bit of the best parts and chosen kinds of dirt compiled to form a final draft as it were... before Adam it was just dirt. Before the King James bible it was just a lot of stories on different pages in different texts etc. God moved on men to compile that which He wanted in the format He wanted.
    In Christ Michael

    February 23, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • NL

      I think the analogy is that many people believe that the bible, and before that Hebrew scripture, could be traced all the way back to Moses in one continuous series of exact reproductions of a single version. Kinda like how the myth says that all humans came from a single man, Adam. The reality of both humanity and the bible is that both evolved over time, that different 'species' of both existed throughout history, that there is a huge variety in both today, and that even trying to find an 'original' is futile because of where they came from.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  10. michael

    The "Adam" of all christian, Jesus believing, holy (and wholly) inspired word of God would be the first, numero uno...
    King James bible. God addressed the issue of what was in print and what was being touted as His word at that time. He moved "on the king's heart" to cause king James to bring about an agreed on book to become our "bible". God "made" every molecule of matter that there is, He even thought up the concept of "time"... getting a council of religious leaders to bring together a compilation of books... to address the issues God wanted addressing for mankind from that moment on; well, nothing is impossible for God. In Christ Michael

    February 23, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  11. Ken Bradshaw

    It was deep scholarly efforts with real scholars with earned insights that allowed the library know as the Bible to be compiled. For any confusion or controversy there was much more agreement and understanding. The book stands strong and firm in most of its incarnations. Although I have a preference, I can get wonderful things out of most versions. True, some people do not understand its compilation history, strengths and shortcomings. Your conclusions seem the work of a person who has an agenda. Exactly why are you a Bible scholar? Your reasoning suggests that you really are not one, but that you have adopted the mantle to give credence to your debunking. Ken

    February 23, 2011 at 5:11 am |
    • Try harder

      Your comment seems to suggest that one must be a believer to be a Biblical scholar. Why? Because you say so? I've read the Bible front and back and attended a Biblical college, and I am not a believer. Surprise! Your point of view is not the only pretentious one out there. Just because one doesn't have the same ideas about religion as you doesn't mean they cannot be scholarly. More agreement and understanding than confusion and controversy? Perhaps in your own flowery dream world. Millions have died over the disagreements concerning The Bible.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Ken Bradshaw

      Try,

      I suggest he is not a scholar because he revels no depth of understand of the compilation effort nor of how the books selected are arranged to support each other nor of how some sections (poetry) are isolated because they seem more historical than doctrinal. He doe not mention how often New Testament writes quote support from the Old Testament (in all versions). There is no mention of the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts or the surprising similarities with the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is no discussion on why some books are in one version and not another. There is no counting of how few these books are or why they differ. There is no mention of the history of the texts and what led to their compilation. There is no mention of texts mentioned in the Bible that do not exist anymore. There is not linage of modern versions from their origin. Does he understand that not all believers in the Bible think the book is perfect, but find it still to be the work of God. That fact alone negates much of his premise. All of these things I would think would be on a scholar's mind and would certainly flavor this discussion. Kipling talks of a blind man thinking a elephant is like a rope because he has only touched its tail. That is what this article is like. It is extremely narrow and shallow. So the question becomes why? Does he have an agenda or is he not really a scholar?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Magic

      Ken Bradshaw,

      Do your comments about the missing items of discussion refer to this article only or to Timothy Beal's book as a whole (I have not read it)? This article is just skimming the surface of the subject, which I imagine is covered in more depth in his book.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ken Bradshaw

      Magic,

      That is a point. I suspect there has to be more to his book than in the article. I will almost concede that. The problem I have there is that if they exist, then they are fundamental to his points here also – and while they need not be examined in the same depth, this article cannot float on thin air. I get these points from this article 1) some people paint a rosy picture of the past 2) some people believe that the Bible, as compile is perfect 3) existence of conflicting versions of the Bible show problems with #2, 4) because he is a college professor on religion his arguments carry the weight of authority. Points 1, 2, 4 would fail in any college logic class and since point 3 is based of point 2, it is no longer valid. I have a deep religious faith and will not pretend that I don't. But even if this were discussed purely secularly, there is not much here. Ken

      February 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Magic

      Ken,

      "4) because he is a college professor on religion his arguments carry the weight of authority."

      Perhaps there might be an element of using his academic status as a bit of clout, but if he had published it anonymously, I think you would be asking for his credentials.

      February 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  12. Lapinski

    This is a clear case of what I like to call an "evangelical atheist." If you don't want to believe in anything then that is fine by me, but please don't attack other's beliefs. Its everyones right to follow what path they feel is best for them religiously, if your needs require you to not have any religious beliefs then so be it, but don't belittle other's faiths, its unbecoming.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • Daiv

      what if their faith compels them to knock on my door at ridiculous hours or even fly planes full of people into buildings filled with more people, yeah religion is really helpful.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • Logicrevealsall

      @Daiv

      By that logic, all believers and non believers must be evil, because I can find at least one person who has commited a serious crime that subscribes to any faith (or lack of) that you can name. Singling out individuals and claiming they represent a whole group is naive at best.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • leiLnoigileR

      If you would keep your faith to yourself, instead of trying to make our country a theocracy, it would be a lot easier to 'respect your faith', but until you expunge the Robertsons/Phelps/Swaggart types from your religion, you can expect just as much pushback from those who believe that they and/or a book holds all the answers to everything when it clearly does not.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Maybe

      leiLnoigileR,

      It is quite possible that the Robertson/Phelps/Swaggart types are what Matthew, Mark, Luke & John... and especially Paul, were. Come to think of it... Moses too, and a bunch of others from OT times who bullied their ideas along.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  13. dawnclowe

    This website printapons is too cool. I use promo codes alot and hate having to look all over the place for them.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:29 am |
  14. JOHN FROELICH

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalm 14:1

    This man knows Nothing of the operation of God in HIstory. His mind is full of intellectual dung and he offers this to the
    world on a University platter.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  15. Jeff

    Why would a GOD require a book? people really need to snap out of it.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:45 am |
  16. Mark

    As a supposed scholar of religion, I truly wonder if he has any shame regarding his lack of any scholarship whatsoever. For or against, one would think that a professor of religion would have some knowledge of the available data. Instead of thoughtful critique, he repeats playground mantras equalling "I won't let you confuse me with historical, textual, or archeological facts!"

    February 23, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Try harder

      Enlighten us, in detail, of how he is wrong with historical and archeological facts. Please, Mark. Do. You sound like you must be an expert.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • PsiCop

      I suppose you consider your own subjective personal beliefs to be a better scholarly credential than someone's time spent in academia? By all means, please explain how this works. I'd love to hear how this works.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  17. Ty

    Read the Bible again people. It's incredible to see Biblical prophecy come to pass concerning the end times in news headlines globally every week or so. Do yourself a favor. Call out to Jesus and ask Him to show himself to you and pay attention. He is calling his people to Him. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don't allow yourself to be so hardened to the truth that you stop at nothing to justify your sinful nature. Millions of people worldwide, without a comprehensive knowledge of scripture know that God is real because they can feel Him, they have a living relationship with Him, He has touched their lives and those around them can see and feel the presence of God emanating off of them. The Ancient of Days is coming soon! It is in your best interest to do some soul searching and find out if God is real for yourself and realize that science and logic is just not advanced enough to prove God loves you. It's not advanced enough to prove that your closest friends or family love you either, but you can feel it and know it exists.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Daiv

      and if you don't agree with what I'm saying you will be put in a pot of boiling oil until you do

      February 23, 2011 at 4:45 am |
    • Try harder

      Ty, this world is a worse place because of gullible people such as yourself who are incapable of providing your own solutions and insights to life. There are many of us who are trying to solve real life problems and sacrifice quite a lot doing so, while the rest of you dance around a fire chanting. Stop depending on your religion for depth and find some for yourself. It is all around you.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • PsiCop

      Re: "It's incredible to see Biblical prophecy come to pass concerning the end times in news headlines globally every week or so."

      You mean, like the predictions of disaster Jesus made in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, at which time he told his 1st century audience, "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place"? (Mt 24:34 & Lk 21:32 etc.) Yeah, those definitely came to pass as predicted ... NOT!

      I suggest it's YOU who should read the Bible and see that what you consider "prophecy" has, in fact, failed to come true in real history. These two verses are not the only failed prophecies in the Bible.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Hey Psi

      Re: "You mean, like the predictions of disaster Jesus made in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, at which time he told his 1st century audience, "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place"? (Mt 24:34 & Lk 21:32 etc.) Yeah, those definitely came to pass as predicted ... NOT!

      I suggest it's YOU who should read the Bible and see that what you consider "prophecy" has, in fact, failed to come true in real history. These two verses are not the only failed prophecies in the Bible."

      This is a great example of taking Scripture out of context and lacking the ability to "rightly divide" said Scripture. When Jesus spoke in Matt 24:34 about "this generation", He was talking about the generation out of the "Nation of Israel". Israel hadn't been a nation for several hundred years before Christ walked on the earth and for over 1900 years after His resurrection. Israel didn't become a nation again until 1948 (also prophesied in Scripture – Ezekiel 36:24) so your argument that the Bible isn't true based on the assumption that prophesy hasn't been fulfilled is far from valid. In fact, the prophesies in this passage have come to pass and continue to do so (most of which have happened since 1948.) There are 2 different interpretations of the term "generation" found in Scripture. One is taken from Ps. 90:10 and says that a generation is about 70 years. The other is taken from Gen. 15:13 and follows our "generation" terminology as 100 years. That being the case, prophecy has until 2048 until it can be said that prophesy didn't come to pass.

      Unlike some of the people who post responses to this article, I don’t get offended by other individual’s comments or beliefs. I do, however, know what I believe and have studied that belief so I can make valid arguments and hopefully conduct intelligent conversations with others.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • leiLnoigileR

      That is ridiculous. Followers of the bible have been saying that they live in the 'end times' since the Middle Ages. Guess what? Just like Nostrodamus and any other 'prophet', the bible is cleverly written to be so ambiguous as to be interpreted to have occured or will occur by almost anyone at any point in history. All except for the parts where you're expected to give up your free will and blindly obey regardless of reality. Most of the OT is re-hashed Sumerian, Egyptian and other religions that the Jewish people encountered during the authoring of the bible. They just slap some new names in and *presto* it's a whole new religion!

      February 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      He-b-rew Scrip-tures (Old Test-a-ment) dosen't paint a very pretty picture of the Is-rael-ites. If they made the whole thing up, then the Bible surely would have been more complimentary about their ancestors and more cheerful about their destiny.

      But Christians understand that God chast-ens whom He loves:

      Deuteronomy 8:5
      5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chas-t-e-neth his son, so the LORD thy God chas-t-e-neth thee.

      Proverbs 13:24
      24 He that spare-th his rod hate-th his son: but he that love-th him chast-e-neth him be-times.

      Hebrew 12:7-9
      7 If ye endure chas-t-e-ning, God deal-eth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chas-t-e-n-eth not?
      8 But if ye be without chas-t-i-s-e-ment, whereof all are par-t-akers, then are ye bas-t-ards, and not sons.
      9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in sub-j-e-c-tion unto the Father of spirits, and live?

      And that chas-t-e-n-ing is for their own good to bring them into the will of God. If they ‘created’ God then they would have brought God into their will.

      to be continued

      February 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Also, the Old Testament, which the Isr-ael-ites as well as Judah (He-b-rews all) foretells of a Mes-s-iah from the House of Ju-dah, a man like unto God who would come and save them:

      Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (Old Testament pro-ph-e-c-y given, in one of the books of the Law, written by Moses)

      15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
      16 According to all that thou desir-e-dst of the LORD thy God in Ho-r-eb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
      17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
      18 I will raise them up a Pro-phet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall com-m-and him.
      19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hear-k-en unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

      John 1:43-45 (New Test-a-ment ful-fill-ment of O.T. prop-hecy written in the Law (Torah) by Moses)

      43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Gal-i-lee, and find-eth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
      44 Now Philip was of Beth-s-a-i-da, the city of Andrew and Peter.
      45 Philip find-eth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Na-z-a-reth, the son of Joseph.

      to be continued

      February 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Old Testament Scripture also prop-he-sied what would become of this The Mes-s-iah:

      Isaiah 53:1-12 (O.T. prop-hecy of Mes–siah Jesus Christ given in approx. BC 604-588)

      1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD Reveled?
      2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
      3 He is de-s-pised and re-ject-ed of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was de-s-p-ised, and we es-tee-m-ed him not.
      4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did est-eem him stricken, smit-ten of God, and af-flict-ed.
      5 But he was wounded for our trans-gres-sions, he was bruised for our in-i-quit-ies: the chas-t-i-s-ement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
      6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
      7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shea-rers is dumb, so he open-eth not his mouth.
      8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his gen-e-ration? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the trans-gres-sion of my people was he stricken.
      9 And he made his grave with the wic-k-ed, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
      10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an off-e-ring for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall pro-long his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall pros-per in his hand.
      11 He shall see of the trav-ail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his know-ledge shall my right-eous servant justify many; for he shall bear their ini-quit-ies.
      12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the trans-gress-ors; and he bare the sin of many, and made inter-ces-sion for the trans-gres-sors.

      Approximately 600 years after the above Scrip-ture was written, in 29 AD, in acc-ord-ance with the pro-phecy;

      February 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus Christ was "des-pised and re-jected of men", "He hath borne our griefs", "He was wounded for our trans-gres-sions", "and with His stripes we are healed", "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way", "the LORD hath laid on Him the in-i-quit-y of us all", "He was op-press-ed, and He was af-flict-ed, yet He opened not His mouth", "He was cut off out of the land of the liv-ing: for the trans-gres-sion of my people was He stric-k-en", "and He made his grave with the wic-k-ed", "and with the rich in His death", "yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin", "by His know-ledge shall my right-e-ous serv-ant just-ify many; for He shall bear their in-i-q-uities", "He bare the sin of many, and made inter-ces-sion for the trans-gres-sors." All He wants us to do is to believe, is that so much to ask?

      Spring, 29 AD, on the Pas-s-over, Jesus Christ of Na-z-areth, the Son of the liv-ing God, was cruc-i-fied on the cross of Pa-gan R-ome; He was betrayed by a friend, and had a false witness brought against Him by the high-est reli-g-ious body of the time in Jer-u-s-alem (the San-he-drin) by ungodly play actors who were not of true Isr-a-el nor of true Ju-dah but rather were the sons of Cain (Ken-ites) the first murderer who called them-selves Je-ws but were not of Ju-dah.

      John 8:42-44
      42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
      43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
      44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speak-eth a lie, he speak-eth of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

      These Ken-ites (sons of Cain, the first murd-e-rer) will once again play a role in pro-p-hecy in our life-time:

      Revelation 3:9
      9 Behold, I will make them of the syn-a-g-ogue of Sa-tan, which say they are Jew-s, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      That is why every one must be learn-ed in His truth from the Bible, for the Bible warns us of all things. Those who wish to get stroked and blinded by sa-tan's lies and work along with him are the ones who tell us that the Bible is just a fairy tale. The Bible speaks of those who deny Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for our salvation.

      Read the below verse,

      You many also want to read the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians to see with eyes to see what Truth is written.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Corinthians 1:18 (The preaching of the cross (Christianity) defended)
      18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

      Finally, all those that argue in the carnal mindset have no clue that you are arguing with folks who learned His spiritual teaching, hence, thinking when you state the Bible is not true and you want to prove your carnal statement with carnal arguments as proof (LOL).

      Amen.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  18. Ty

    You have got to be kidding me. Just another non-believer who would rather do all within their power to decieve and destroy the faith of true believers in the Word of God. You have the right to believe whatever you want, you were given that choice. Humankind was created by God to be loved and to love. God also holds us accountable for the way we choose to spend our lives. There are countless scriptures that can be misinterpreted and taken out of context. Take the time to actually study the 66 books of the Bible before you go and try to refute an entire belief of salvation that no religion or other man-made theosophy can refute. Of course there is a Bible, you don't have to believe in its authority but how dare you attack the faith of people that has caused countless people to be physically and mentally healed, caused lived steeped in corruption to turn their lives around and has caused the conviction in people that has made them devote their lives to helping people. What have you done with your life? Even if, for the sake of argument, that the Bible is false and God is not real... isn't this the most positive, selfless, loving way to live that beats out all other worldviews?

    February 23, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Q

      If Christianity was only a source for positive impacts, I would agree. My freedom to believe whatever I wish is a relatively recent advance and is still absent throughout much of the world. If I refer to the death of children whose parent's faith assured them they didn't need medical attention, you'll likely invoke a "True Scotsman" fallacy. You hold up a belief system as irrefutable as if this were a virtue but apparently fail to recognize you are equally incapable of refuting other religious belief systems. That's the issue with believing in magic where anything and everything can be rationalized away under some "mysterious ways" clause. The perfect construct where your reward/punishment comes only after you die and recipients can't be cross-examined (please don't refer to Biblical resurrection mythology in rebuttal). Still, you represent the last bastion of apologetics given the failings of literalists to defend inerrancy, i.e. it may all be BS but look how good it makes people feel and behave. The same could be said of thorazine, though thorazine actually delivers and has less severe side effects. I and many others would offer that a "worldview" equally indifferent to vain promises of immortality or eternal damnation, recognizing the value of compassion for it's own sake beats a worldview founded in cosmic buttkissing hands down.

      February 23, 2011 at 3:28 am |
    • Child of a Lesser God

      "beats out all other world views" ?? Beats out all other world views in what? A Baking contest? A dance off? Oh, right, it beats out all other world views in your own finite opinion. Your reactionary response to this article reminds me of a sports fanatic who would drunkenly fight any objector to his squad's honor. I see you refuse to even consider that the ideas here presented might have more intellectual merit than your own pretentious worldview, which is most likely based on the extremely limited approach of one belief system or denomination and not a comprehensive study of Biblical history.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • The Half Baked Lunatic

      'god' is a idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded people. There is no "word of god" – the bible is just a bunch of crazy bedtime stories that were handed down from generation to generation that some folks decided to foist off on a guillable public. I can't believe people waste their time on such nonsense.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:11 am |
    • PsiCop

      Re: "Just another non-believer who would rather do all within their power to decieve and destroy the faith of true believers in the Word of God."

      Please. Stop with the childish hyperbole. The author has "destroyed" absolutely NOTHING. Not one thing. He expressed his opinion in an article and CNN published it. That is NOT "destruction" by any definition I'm aware of. It is, rather "expression." No one, and nothing, is harmed by someone else expressing him/herself in this way, except maybe the fragile feelings of believers.

      You would be much better off accepting that there are non-religious people in the world and that they have as much right to say what they want, as you do to express your belief. That's the sort of thing mature adults do. Try it sometime.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • HPNIII

      You're missing the point, the author is simply stating there are several "Bibles" which even the most devote Christian would have to acknowledge based on the different "Versions" (King James, Living, etc.) often found in any Christian home. This is without doubt, a true statement of fact. Anything else you chose to read into that, is up to you.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • TimP

      Ty,

      To be honest we really need to remove the right to believe whatever you want. I see religion as a mental illness. If I stated I was communing with faeries at the bottom of the garden I would be locked up as insane. The same should be true for any religion that cannot show some reasonable evidence.

      This is also why Barnes and Noble puts the religion section as an annex to the fiction section

      March 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  19. stormsun

    I applaud the author's courage in broaching this unbroachable subject. The thing about religion is that it demands unquestioning faith. In EVERY other aspect of our lives, we know that constantly challenging the validity of what we believe to be true is, from a practical standpoint, prudent and logical. If what we believe is true, questioning it is not a threat to truth, but it may reveal new perspectives or deeper nuances of understanding. Organized religion, demanding the acceptance of "absolute truths" laid down by men we didn't know, thousands of years ago, prevents us from seeking greater wisdom and knowledge of the great mysteries, possibly from deeper knowledge of God or His purpose, if such there is. No, organized religion, when presented as the single view that must be accepted (as interpreted by the clergyman or priest of your choice) is not about God, or life after death, or the purpose of existence at all - it is about control in the here and now, and that is the only reason questioning and challenging and testing could possibly be justified.

    February 23, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • joejoe

      I am completely bored with this article and the comments. As the author says this is not a new topic. Bible interpretations have gone on since the beginning of time. Its human nature. I am more concerned about it occuring in other modern books like Huck Finn, how will history find the true Huck Finn?

      Stop bashing the Bible, it is what it is. You claim it leads to more questions; Some find answers in it maybe not you or me. It must be a SLOW news day for you to get this out, its an old tired subject and I do not think you will sell many books sir.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus Christ was "des-pised and re-jected of men", "He hath borne our griefs", "He was wounded for our trans-gres-sions", "and with His stripes we are healed", "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way", "the LORD hath laid on Him the in-i-quit-y of us all", "He was op-press-ed, and He was af-flict-ed, yet He opened not His mouth", "He was cut off out of the land of the liv-ing: for the trans-gres-sion of my people was He stric-k-en", "and He made his grave with the wic-k-ed", "and with the rich in His death", "yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin", "by His know-ledge shall my right-e-ous serv-ant just-ify many; for He shall bear their in-i-q-uities", "He bare the sin of many, and made inter-ces-sion for the trans-gres-sors." All He wants us to do is to believe, is that so much to ask?

      Spring, 29 AD, on the Pas-s-over, Jesus Christ of Na-z-areth, the Son of the liv-ing God, was cruc-i-fied on the cross of Pa-gan R-ome; He was betrayed by a friend, and had a false witness brought against Him by the high-est reli-g-ious body of the time in Jer-u-s-alem (the San-he-drin) by ungodly play actors who were not of true Isr-a-el nor of true Ju-dah but rather were the sons of Cain (Ken-ites) the first murderer who called them-selves Je-ws but were not of Ju-dah.

      John 8:42-44
      42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
      43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
      44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speak-eth a lie, he speak-eth of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

      These Ken-ites (sons of Cain, the first murd-e-rer) will once again play a role in pro-p-hecy in our life-time:

      Revelation 3:9
      9 Behold, I will make them of the syn-a-g-ogue of Sa-tan, which say they are Jew-s, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

      That is why every one must be learn-ed in His truth from the Bible, for the Bible warns us of all things. Those who wish to get stroked and blinded by sa-tan's lies and work along with him are the ones who tell us that the Bible is just a fairy tale. The Bible speaks of those who deny Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for our salvation.

      Read the below verse,

      You many also want to read the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians.

      1 Corinthians 1:18 (The preaching of the cross (Christianity) defended)
      18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  20. A question...?

    Just a question, not really sure. Growing up, I was taught that God put Adam and Eve on Earth to start the Human population. If this is correct (per the Bible), and incest is against all Bible teachings... Wouldn't that mean that everyone is related? No, I'm not from Alabama or practice incest. Just asking a question.

    February 23, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Magic

      If you believe the Bible stories, incestuous activity occurred not only once, but twice. First with Adam & Eve and their offspring; and then again with Noah & his wife, and their 3 sons & wives, who were all that were left after the flood.

      February 23, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Earthman

      @ Magic/ And don't forget Lot and his daughters. After his disobediant wife looked back as Soddom was being nuked by God and subsequently turned into a pillar of salt, Lot and girls hid in a cave where the daughters got daddy drunk and took turns sleeping with him to get pregnant. The unsuspecting Lot never remembered the druken nights and apparently never asked who the daddy of his grandkids was.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • HeavenSent

      All the races were created on the 6th day. Adam and Eve were created on the 8th day, known as the 8th day creation.

      Adam and Eve future generations would bring forth forth Emmanuel, God who dwells with us (Jesus Christ), who died for ALL our sins.

      The sin that brought forth God's wrath in Genesis is that Adam and Eve were lied to by satan (beguiled). What happened at the beginning in Genesis holds true to this day that people will be/are beguiled by the lies of satan ... again, bringing Jesus Christ back to destroy sin.

      This is why if folks don't know what happened in the Garden of Eden (not the nonsense of eating an apple), then they certainly know what's happening now (end of days) for this generation.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.