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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. Juan

    From the dead sea scrolls we find that the Old Testament books haven't changed much in the last 2 thousand years. We have copies of new testament books from as early as 250 A.D. and fragments confirmed to earlier than 150 A.D. Other fragments suspected to be as early as 70 A.D. although evidence of this age is considered inconclusive. Evidence for the accuracy of what is called the Bible is stronger than for most other ancient writings.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Rob

      "Evidence for the accuracy of what is called the Bible is stronger than for most other ancient writings."

      Pure ignorance. Ever studied historiography, guy? Check out how historiographers have verified the accuracy and authenticity of all kinds of ancient texts, from the Babylonian to the Egyptian to the Ancient Greek and Roman. Your sweeping generalization that somehow the Biblical text is more historically accurate and better verified than "most other ancient writings" is simply nonsense, spoken out of ignorance.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Juan, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. The BIble is one of the most error filled, forged, and corrupted book ever created. Have you ever studied early Christian history?....and NOT from a christian source...that doesn't count. The Bible is a complete mess. I am not an athiest by the way.... I believe in a "god" or some type of " Creator " but in no way does it resemble the Christian " God ".......The Christian god and the Christian "story " are completely made up.

      February 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Mark from Middle River

    I wonder how this article would have gone if Little Timmy Beal had of gone and said the Koran was not real. Something tells me the CNN and Timmy are not that brave to cross the Muslim faith. Due to the Holocaust, Beal will not go after any of the Hebrew books.

    If Little Timmy were not just another reporting "hack" that is just making a name by attacking Christianity he would have included how many other holy books.

    There are mornings and times when I wish Christians would be more like Muslims. If we Christians were then little Timmy would be in hiding this morning and CNN would be doubling security down in Atlanta. But, we are not so we will continue to get gutt-less wonders like Timmy Beal who in the end is just a scared kid behind a keyboard.

    If there were a reason or a cause for me to convert to Islam, this would be it.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark

      If Beal had determined (wrongly) that the King James was the inerrant word of god, I bet you would be praising him.

      Wishing Christians were more like Muslims, seems not to be in the Christian spirit.

      Be calm. There is nothing that believers cannot accept or ignore. Reality and facts, never get in their way.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Dave- Its a thing of respect. If Timmy had of gone after every book of faith ....such as in Reality "style"... then I could respect him, and his writing because it would be a even attack. Not having my respect will not cause Timmy any sleepless nights but if this is a place to throw rotten tomatoes and eggs then so be it.

      The respect I am speaking of is, while I disagree with folks like you who dislike all faiths and Reality who... Well I have no idea if he is a atheist or a rabid agnostic... but I respect the even handedness post of dislike of "all" the faiths. Timmy, took a cheap shot at just Christianity, something he would not have the guts to do to Muneef and others of the Muslim faith..... You have been here for a while... this article was pure "troll flop". All it was meant to do was get post numbers spiked, arguing a issue that most of us here already accept as the baseline of an established belief. The baseline is that there are those who do have a relationship with God and there are those that do not. You can plug in Muslim, Buddhist and Jew, the argument is the same.

      We wake up this morning and Timmy is going over established feelings in society, as if he were the first one who has thought such since the Bible or any book of faith was put out. It does not matter if he said that it was truthful, if he said the Bible was the truth it would still be a waste of an article because in the end ...its nothing new. Without the attack or expression of saying that all books of faith are fake then Timmy just is another Troll, but a Troll on CNNs pay roll. Its easy to publish on Christianity, but it takes a brave reporter and network to do the same against a group such Islams.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ummmm

      @Mark from Middle River
      I expect the article author wrote about the Christian bible because he is a strong Christian, a scholar of Christianity, and has a lot of knowledge regarding the bible. The article is not saying that Christianity is not real or the Christian bible is not meaningful, but that there is no one "the bible" or interpretation of it, which is something many people, even many posters to these article comments, do not seem to get. Particular telling, even in your case, is that just making this statement is taken as an attack on the poster's faith and ellicits an attack in response. Do you, or any of the other posters, really believe that the version and interpretation of the bible used by your denomination is obviously inerrantly the correct one, even obvious to people in other denominations? Have you spent enough time studying different Christian denominations to realize that there in fact are many interpretations of core Christian beliefs? Yes these are old issues, but given the many responses here, including yours, that seem oblivious to these issues, it seems relevant that they are raised once again.

      February 23, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  3. Ryan

    Yeshua is LORD!

    February 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  4. David Johnson

    I think this was a really good article!

    No such thing as the Bible you say?

    I feel warm and fuzzy!

    Cheers!

    February 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Davey, .. dude, I think it was a crap article and you, as a atheist, have made better arguements then Timmy Beal.

      Heck, how often do folks just skip or skim the CNN blog articles garbage and just go straight to the comments. The better text always have been there. 🙂

      February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • theTruth

      why, does it help validate your behavior or free you of guilt?

      February 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  5. stevie68a

    Many good points. One you didn't make, is this: People who believe in the buy bull, haven't even read it! Pure nonsense.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  6. catadmin

    The idea of the Bible not being factual has been around forever. The opinion of the auther is not fresh. It's a very obivious statement that even a child who just learns to read can come up with should they read the various Bibles. But when one is young and not very experienced, one would think stating the obivious are great arguements to justify their beliefs.

    All this story does is 'keep whipping a dead horse' and it sounds like children playing with ideas.

    After asking these elementary questions and getting elementary answers, one will begin to ask the tougher questions. When you recieve those answers, perhaps you'll join the faithful? It's not like the people who believe in God did not start out asking the same questions many non believers asked about the Bible or Hell. The faithful took the questions to a much higher level and recieved answers.

    So I don't believe the faithful are closed minded people. I believe them to be more enlightened than many others.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Rob

      Guess what - the statement "I believe [people of faith] to be more enlightened than many others" is a close-minded position.

      Catadmin, there are people of faith who are very wise. I think, of course, of people such as Buddha, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Jr.. But, of course, faith is not a pre-requisite for wisdom. Socrates didn't have the kind of faith you're talking about, and he was wise. Same with Aristotle, Plato, Hume, Hobbes, Paine, and many other non-believers.

      There is no correlation between faith and wisdom.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      No, the faithful knew deep down knew there wasn't a real answer, so they picked the next best thing, blind faith. You have no real answers, only a strong feeling, and thats good for you. But, the rest of us are comfortable searching for truth and asking questions. Because the faithful are not strong enough to accept facts and question their beliefs, they continue to be the faithful, because they bet all there $$$ and energy on it. For the rest of us, we are taking a more educated and practical approach.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • catadmin

      I did not say anything about wisdom in my statement. I said that many people of faith have already asked the simple questions that many state in these forums and moved on to the tougher questions. From asking the tougher questions they recieved answers. I did not say anything about whether this process produced wisdom. I did say it produced answers. For me, those questions produced 'faith'.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Rob

      Fine, take out wisdom. It's not just people of faith who've asked the tough questions. In fact, faith often leads people to avoid the tough questions. Grappling with life's difficult questions doesn't always lead a person to faith. All the philosophers I named are a testament to that.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • flux

      Real answers to real tough questions produce experiential knowledge, not faith. Faith has oft been described as the "hope of things unseen," well, what happens once you have seen those things? Of what use is the hope in them? None. Instead you've replaced hope with experiential knowledge. I don't have to hope that a light turns on when I flip the switch. I know that it will, or else there is something faulty with the wiring. It can all be explained.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • catadmin

      Faith is the same thing as believeing your 'lightbulb' will turn on when you hit the switch. It is a 'knowing' as well.

      I believe everyone has the right to their beliefs but to say that one is closed minded (as many have said in this forum) because their opinion does not jive with theirs is simply silly.

      I only stated my belief that people of faith are not closed minded.

      Does everything require proof? Isn't anything taken on faith? Perhaps parents don't have faith in their children. Maybe they do? If they do, where's the proof that gives them that faith?

      Should I have to prove something, I guess I can prove:
      Love as I've experienced it
      Hope as I've felt it
      Honor as I've tried to live it.
      God as I've died

      February 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Rob

      @catadmin - Faith is inherently close-minded. Open-mindedness is the willingness to change opinions and beliefs in light of new evidence. Faith is exactly the opposite of that. Faith is, by definition, "belief without evidence." People of faith believe what they will despite any evidence to the contrary. That is not only foolhardy, but dangerous.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  7. Sean BG

    When the issue of faith finally meets fact (and it must at some point), and on demand reproducible proofs of trans-dimensional experiences are presentable and verifiable, then perhaps we can find a common ground of desire for something greater than our measly selves. Most of us do not behave near well enough to earn any kind of eternal salvation – I personally like the reincarnation model of sliding scales – up for right living and down for wrong living. If you can't figure out the basic rights and wrongs alone, you do need help, but likely not of the dogmatic kind.

    In the meantime, we have a fair confidence that many who are having conversations with voices in their heads deeply believe that those voices are 'real'. Hallucinations of divine visitation(s) are in the same category. Perhaps some of them are. Perhaps not.

    As long as such beliefs do not get imposed on others without fully informed consent, and are binding only on those who've given fully informed consent, I have no problem with the Cosmic Muffin or Hairy Thunderer crowd. I strive not to bend fold spindle or mutilate...

    As a kind friend's mother once said on this topic, 'We all need a good myth, Christianity, despite its flaws and flavours, generally makes a better one than many others.' To me, Buddhism has some real merits, and my favorite is Bahá'í. But I really enjoyed the Book of Ur.

    As Gracie Lou says: it really is about World Peace...

    February 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Godless

      "When the issue of faith finally meets fact (and it must at some point), and on demand reproducible proofs of trans-dimensional experiences are presentable and verifiable, then perhaps we can find a common ground of desire for something greater than our measly selves."

      If faith ever DOES meet fact, and on demand reproducible proof of trans-dimensional experiences ARE presentable and verifiable, I will be the first person to sign on to this blog and say I was wrong and I deeply apologize to all the believers. However, I have a pretty good idea that I won't have to fulfill that promise.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • elcrabo

      Cosmic Muffin or Hairy Thunderer! Fabulous! DETERIORATA! You are a higher being!

      February 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Jugger75

    Is that like Catholics must eat fish on fridays or it is sinning to use contraception? Back in the day the Catholic Church owned the fishing industry, they were weren't making enough money(people were eating more red meat) so it is decreed that you must eat fish on Friday. Instant income. After the Black Plague wiped out a good portion of the population, the Church decrees not to use contraception to boost the population. Neither of these are written in the Bible.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  9. glenn robert

    Millions killed in the name of God. No one dies in the name of Satan!

    February 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  10. Jim

    You may argue that the "Bible" is the center of faith, but the point of the article is that humans flavor it any way they want. So, we have extremes from a God of Love to a God who gets really nasty if we even think about s. e. x.
    The reality is Christianity is more a loose, interpretable concept than a single belief system. The next time someone says "Its in the Bible", I may fall over laughing!
    By the way, the oft-quoted "Word" is a Latin mistranslation of a Greek term "Logos" borrowed from Stoicism and describing a framework of logic defining the universe. I guess many theologians also have blinders on when it suits them.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Rob

      Jim,

      I agree with you on your main point, but you're wrong about "logos." First of all, "logos" is not a word borrowed from Stoicism. "Logos" is a greek word used long, long before Stoicism came onto the stage. And it can mean many things. "Word" is one of those meanings.

      But, more importantly, I agree with you about Christianity and the Bible in general.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  11. independentlyowned

    Most people when they think of one complete Bible think of the King James Bible, which is what is most commonly printed today. Keep in mind, that was a day when religion ruled, so things were most likely translated loosely to accommodate the politics of the time. If scholars went back to the original texts (which, as the article points out, are still debated) and re-translated, you'd probably get a very different story.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  12. jason

    Bottomline is we all will stand before God and give account. You better hope your right, I know I am.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @jason

      You said: "Bottomline is we all will stand before God and give account. You better hope your right, I know I am."

      I'm curious. How do you know you are right?

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • tommas

      Really, what are the chances that you are worshiping the correct sky fairy out of so many. We are all going to someone else's h3ll

      February 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Smite Me

      jason,

      I suspect that your knowledge of the meaning of life corresponds with your knowledge of English grammar.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  13. john316

    The Bible has been and continues to be a great "marketing" tool for organized religion.....a best seller ...if you will...but why?....it's a collection of stories written by "men" for whatever purpose they had at the moment in their history....people constantly trying to re-write history for whatever reason....I..It's a "pick and choose" self help book....otherwise, anyone who is divorced would never pick it up......and that goes for all the organized religions ..........

    February 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  14. Jugger75

    I have faith, belief, whatever you want to call it. I just don't believe in organized religion. Kind of the "I like the CEO/President, I just dont care for the corporation" thing. What is "HIS" name? Take your pick, God, Allah, Buddah, Yeowah (sp?), The Almighty, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, (just a sampling, not all inclusive by any means). Heck, you could even add Bill and Ted to that list, the message is the same: Be excellent to each other!

    February 22, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  15. saywhat

    In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming

    Easter and Passover Holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a
    discrimination case against Christians and Jews and observances of their
    holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheist had no such
    recognized days.

    The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the
    passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, "Case dismissed!"

    The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, "Your
    honor, How can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have
    Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and
    Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays."

    The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, "But you do. Your
    client, counsel, is woefully ignorant."

    The lawyer said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any special
    observance or holiday for atheists"

    The judge said, "The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day.
    Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God'

    Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that, if your client says there is
    no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned."

    You have to love a Judge that knows his scripture!

    This is too good NOT to forward!

    "For evil to flourish, all that is needed is for good people to
    do nothing." Edmund Burke

    God Bless America

    February 22, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • john

      AMEN!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      Your joke alone makes me right 🙂

      You people open your mouths or start typing and it proves me right 🙂

      Your little chain email joke and commentary at the end, proves me right 🙂

      February 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Godless

      I bet you my soul that that didn't happen. Lame...

      February 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @saywhat

      Just as shining the light of truth on your god, reveals that He is no more real than Santa Claus, so to is your story garbage.

      This is a joke that has been widely circulated over the years and we have found no evidence of any such court case.
      Source: TruthOrFiction.com

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Something

      Florida? FLORIDA?? - Bwahahahahaha

      This joke has been circulating since the 1980s -

      February 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Godless

      Of course this joke is set in the South. No self-respecting Northern judge would ever rule a case in that manner.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • R.

      That... was all kinds of awesome.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • flux

      lol.

      Absurd name-calling does not a righteous point make.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • theTruth

      @godless- you use the truth.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  16. hillbilleter

    This opinion piece covers ground that has been covered over and over and over, ad infinitim. The topic is tired and those who have already heard or read about the subject are probably not interested. Want to write about the love of a good dog? Your trip to Disney World?

    February 22, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  17. Quran

    Read the Quran...its the only book that is unchanged and memorized, not only word for word, but letter by letter...open ur eyes people, dont believe biased media and haters...this is the TRUTH..GOD'S TRUTH

    February 22, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • R.

      No it's not.

      Amos 3:7 "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."

      Anything God did was with prophecy. He let it be written before they happened. The Quran was not in prophecy of the Bible. Nor was the Book of Morman. Quran doesn't even contain the truth to Eternal Life which is the Passover of the New Covenant which is listed all throughout the Old and New Testament. If the Quran does not have this, it goes against God's word/will.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Rob

      It's always amusing to watch two people of different faiths with different "innerant" texts go at it. Don't you see that the other guy will never change his perspective, and can find as many text-based quotes to damn you as you do?

      Again, this is the problem with faith. People of different faiths have no inherent mechanism by which to overcome conflicts. The Muslim will quote the Quaran, and the Jew will quote the Torah. Meanwhile, thousands will die bloody deaths over these conflicts.

      But when people of reason have a disagreement, they have a common mechanism by which to appeal: logic. We rational people use reason, evidence, and argumentation to resolve our conflicts. The chances of gaining mutual understanding are much, much better when people appeal to reason than when they bash each other continually with their faith-based texts.

      Don't you see how many millions have been sacrificed because faith has no mechanism for admitting when it's incorrect? People's lives literally hang in the balance.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      Kids! Kids.....you are both wrong, go to your corners and take a nap.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @R.

      Both of your religions are B.S. It is like arguing who is stronger, the Hulk or Superman. They both don't exist, so what does it matter.

      There are no gods. Not even one.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • R.

      @David Johnson

      Prove it doesn't exist. You're just saying an empty statement with no backup.
      It is always... your choice that is.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Godless

      @R. – How does one prove a negative? I can't prove that just beyond our solar system is a pink planet where unicorns and leprechans live in harmony, but does that mean I should believe it to be true just because I can't disprove it?

      February 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @R.

      You said: "Prove it doesn't exist. You're just saying an empty statement with no backup.
      It is always... your choice that is."

      Actually, it is your job to prove that a god exists. You are making the extraordinary claim. But:

      Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence that god does not exist. I think we can rule out god, in the same way we do Santa and his 8 tiny reindeer. Never actually proving there is no god, but close enough for arguments sake. A preponderance of the evidence if you will.

      One of the most compelling to me, is the fact that there are so many versions of god(s). Some, not even human (The elephant-faced god – Ganesha etc.). Each religion, each denomination of each religion, defines god's wants differently. All of these religions cannot be right. But they can all be wrong. Why would the true god(s) leave room for confusion?

      1. If God existed, this fact would be more obvious.
      So obvious in fact, that EVERYONE, or nearly everyone would believe in His existence. There would be only worshipers of the one true god.

      2. God's existence is not, in fact, as obvious as we would expect, if he existed.
      This fact is evidenced by all the different religions, plus us nasty atheists.

      3. Therefore, God does not exist.

      On the same vein as the above, notice how many denominations of Christianity there are. Each denomination can show you scripture, that "proves" theirs is the true faith. Many believe only their members will be saved.
      If god exists, and he is all knowing and all powerful, why didn't he provide a bible that could not be misinterpreted?

      1. If god exists, He would want everyone to know His wants, without ambiguity.

      2. The bible god provided, is ambiguous.
      This fact is evidenced by all the different denominations of Christianity.

      3. Therefore, god does not exist.

      Another reason to reject the idea of a god, is because there appears to be no need for one. Each hour of each day, science fills another gap in man's knowledge, that god once filled. We don't need to postulate what isn't necessary.

      If god so loves the world, why does he allow so much suffering? Disease, famine, floods, earthquakes etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. ?

      If god is all good, He would want to rid the world of suffering / evil.

      If god is all powerful, He would be able to rid the world of suffering / evil.

      Yet, evil persists.

      Either god does not care, or He does not exist.

      I can explain the existence of these horrors as natural disasters, but my explanation fails when I include an all loving god in the equation.

      The Christian god is said to be all knowing and all powerful.
      If god is all knowing, and the future can be known, then even god would be bound by events in the future. Everything would be predestined.
      If god, knows what will happen in the future, and does something else...then, He is not all knowing.

      If god knows the future and cannot change it, then He is not all powerful.

      The attributes attributed to The Christian god conflict with one another. The Christian god cannot exist.

      Evolution, with its evidence of transitional fossils, geological column, DNA evidence, vestigial organs etc., is very damning to the biblical Creation Story.

      If god created all the organisms on the planet, then He must have created even the germs that have caused and are causing so much death and suffering for humans and animals. How could an all good god do such a thing?

      Evolution explains the diversity of the planet's organisms, including the germs that are harmful to humans, plants and animals.
      If the Creation Story is not true, then there was no original sin. No original sin, then no need for a redeemer. No redeemer, then the Christians need a new heart throb. If the Creation story is a myth, then there is no reason to believe any of the bible. God is a myth.
      LOL, which is why the fundies fight so hard against evolution.

      If God created the Universe, which must have been created, then who or what created God?

      God is just as unlikely to be real, as Santa Claus.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Rob

      @David Johnson - your comparison of the two religion to Hulk and Superman is ridiculous. Everybody knows that 1) they're from two different universes (Marvel and DC, respectively) and 2) that Superman is obviously stronger. Geesh.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  18. Person

    Joe, I suspect that the author of this article understands perfectly well the "different claims of those who believe in different version of The Bible." But that's not the subject of his article. His subject is that many different versions exist, and he's correct.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  19. Harvey

    The book you call the buy bull is primative mythology writen by people who had NO understanding of science. Unicorns? Sun standing still? Sun revolving around the earrth. Give me a break !!

    February 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Jon

      Science can't answer everything. Even those "learned" in science have been perpetually embarrassed by what they believed before more modern understanding. For example – everyone in the medieval age was convinced that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that everything was composed of four elements – not just us ignorant faithful.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • tommas

      Jon, the difference is that our scientific understanding is allowed to grow and change as new data is acquired. All the faithful do is hide in the gaps of our current knowledge, and guess what those gaps grow smaller everyday.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • WhatWouldHorusDo?

      Jon. I had a lot to say to you, but it's pointless.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Jon

      You said: "Jon
      You said: "Science can't answer everything. Even those "learned" in science have been perpetually embarrassed by what they believed before more modern understanding. For example – everyone in the medieval age was convinced that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that everything was composed of four elements – not just us ignorant faithfu"

      The difference, is that when science finds out they are wrong, they correct their mistake(s) and move on. The fundies, do not have that luxury. They are stuck with the fairy tales in their bible. That is why the fundies hate science. Science is drowning their god in it's discoveries.

      So, the fundies cover their ears and bleat: "Is Not, Is Not".

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Rob

      Jon - you say that science has been "embarrassed" by previous beliefs that have since been disproven. I continually find that people of faith hold this misunderstanding. Science CELEBRATES the methodology that allows it to disprove earlier hypotheses. That's the error-correcting machinery that science possesses but faith doesn't. Science evolves. Science lets go of previous claims if new evidence proves those claims to be false. That's the beautiful thing about science.

      Faith, on the other hand, has no error-correcting machinery built into it. A person of faith will go on making a claim no matter how much evidence arises to the contrary. That's a kind of insanity. It's also very dangerous.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jonathan

      This is for " Jon" ......you do not have to be an athiest to know that Christianity is a man made myth. I am not an atheist but I absolutely do not believe in organized religion's version of " God ". Organized religion's (Christianity) version of God is primitive, childish, and comletely made up. Anyone who has more than a double digit IQ and is familiar with the making of the Bible would know this. We have to protect our children and our future generations from these lies that have damaged so many people.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • BP

      @David Johnson (also @ Harvey)

      Your so-called "fundies" make up a rare minority of the faith-driven people who read the Bible and follow what it teaches. Yes, I said teaches. They are few are far between (and admittedly many are fairly well off their respective rockers) who believe the Bible as a book of facts. Unicorns and the sun revolving around the earth are, as others have said, things of the past. A modern, faith-driven Catholic (which I am, but I know it applies for many other Christian denominations) is not encouraged to take their science out of the Bible. Anyone who claims otherwise does not claim appropriately.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • john

      David J. – man your spinning out of control don't you get dizzy?

      February 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Rob

      @John - why don't you come up with an argument, using reasons (ever heard of those?) as to why you disagree with DJ instead of just accusing him of "spinning out of control"?

      February 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  20. Joe

    Everyone here is going to spend all day arguing whether there is absolute truth, and those who claim that there is none, will not recognize that claiming that there is no absolute truth is in fact claiming an absolute truth.

    The difference is that Protestants, unlike all others who claim a Bible, believe that their Bible is via plenary inspiration, inerrant. The Roman Catholics believe that the church is inerrant. The Jews have added the Talmud. Only those emanating from The Reformation believe that their Bible is absolutely inerrant and do not add or subtract from its claims and view it as the ultimate authority with regards to God's claim of dominion over the universe.

    Now anyone who has read the Protestant Bible believe its claim to be The Word of God, because that's what God says and the Spirit has move them to agreeing with said claim. So ultimately, we do not base our faith on proof, we believe in the Bible's inerrancy because of supernatural revelation.

    Therefore, the author of this article does not understand the different claims of those who believe in different versions of The Bible.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Sybaris

      Yet there is no supernatural proof to back up your supernatural claim.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • flux

      What I will never understand is that some people cannot look at evidence and accept it for what it means, but can look at a book, and because IN the book it says it is right, just automatically accept it as such. So... if I created a book and in it, I said it was correct, would everyone who followed it then have the one true path to righteousness?

      February 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • tommas

      I guess it is inerrant because the gospels of Mary, Peter, Judas, and Thomas were chosen not to be included? You have to love the way ignorant people will do anything to hold onto their small grasp of reality.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Not only is “that old time religion an illusion", but all religion is.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:55 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.