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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. Herewe Goagain

    Yes, we get the point. You're an idiot.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  2. TheTruth

    Suppose (enlighten me those of unbelief or without faith)... While sleeping in your bed late at night that your house catches fire and becomes completely engulfed and there is only 1 exit and it's blocked by your "god" (insert your most wordly prized possession here). Faith is trusting and believing that the fire department will show up and save you before it's too late, science is knowing what will happen if they don't. As believers and those of faith we know there is only 1 such fireman that can save us/you from the "fire of all fires" – and by faith we know Him as Jesus. Those of unbelief or without faith – if you want to know about the 'fire' I'm speaking of – read the Book of Revelation (however based on more current world events), I would suggest backing up to the Book of John, Chapter 3, Verse 16 before it's too late – in the Bible translation of your choosing of course.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Godless

      "While sleeping in your bed late at night that your house catches fire and becomes completely engulfed and there is only 1 exit and it's blocked by your "god" (insert your most wordly prized possession here). Faith is trusting and believing that the fire department will show up and save you before it's too late, science is knowing what will happen if they don't."

      You realize this doesn't compute, right? I wouldn't have faith that the fire department would show up in time, but I would sure HOPE they do. Question: If you pray that the fire department shows up in time, how does that make it different? If god answered your prayer, what would be different? Would the fire truck break the laws of physics to get there faster? Would the fire magically stop spreading until they got there?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Eric G.

      If I am without faith, how can the exit be blocked by my "god"? "My most worldly prized possession" is irrelevant because no possession is worth my life. How about "what I care about most in this world"? That would be my children. So, if my house was on fire and my children were blocking the only exit, I would pick them up and take them to safety. "Faith" is knowing that I will do everything to protect my children, regardless of the efforts of the fire department.

      Thank you for the threat of "fire of all fires". The last position of a believer with no argument, threaten others with hell.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @The Truth
      You are conflating two different kinds of faith.
      Relgious faith – belief in something despite the absence of proof – is not the same as faith – confidence in the proven abilities of others.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Godless

      Besides, if hell really is for all eternity, I would think you'd get used to it after a while. I mean, yeah, the first few decades would probably suck, but after a while, you'd kinda get numb to it. I mean, how long can your face burn with fire before you finally go "Yeah, I get it, this is hot, whatever."

      February 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • CW

      @ Truth,

      Very well said....I h-'ate to break it to you but those like Doc V...etc...don't believe and no matter what you or I say they must have that "burning bush" in order to believe. You know they can't see gravity but yet they believe it b/c they can see what they think is gravity work on objects...but is it gravity?.....they accept that it is b/c some man researched it and found it to be true.

      You see they are a group of "prove it before I believe" type of people. Just remember what Jesus did....he performed miracle upon miracle and the people still didn't believe so in ess-'ence..its there choice...NO FAITH...OR...HAVE THE FAITH. Don't worry maybe they will open their eyes one day before its too late.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  3. Johnna

    Find yourself and you find GOD!

    February 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Estevan

      I found myself but I still can't shoot lightning bolts out of my eyes and I still can't make my girlfriend's bosom more ample with a snap of my fingers....

      February 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  4. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Godless

      Exactly. The sooner people accept this, the better the world will be.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  5. Brad

    But.. what you say is false. The Hebrew scriptures are remarkably consistent, considering that it was mostly an oral culture. The Gospels are remarkably consistent. There are many many more early copies of the Bible than any other book from antiquity. Sure, there are creative interpretations of the Bible. But there are also standard ones that represent the original text faithfully.

    You can attack the Christian faith from many directions. But sorry, you can't attack the accuracy and "existence" of the Bible. You can claim that the books were forgeries or lies, but you can't claim that they don't exist in a specific, accepted form.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • michael

      Brad,

      Like most folks, apparently you haven't realized that Genesis 1 tells one creation story and Genesis 2 tells another, different creation story.

      IMHV, what the blog author is challenging is any notion of using the definite article, "the," in relation to biblical text.

      BTW, this is a very long ways from a new idea or challenge.

      February 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  6. michael

    So, i have a challenge for all those who reject the author's viewpoint out of hand. This is an 'open book' challenge, in other words you can consult your Bible text. Here's my question: according to Genesis, does God create humans first, i.e., before other life, or last, i.e., after other life?

    February 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Brad

      Genesis 1 says after other life, on the sixth day. Why?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Estevan

      Well Brad....according to the King James bible:

      Genesis 1:25-27 "And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and the cattle after their kind ... And God said, Let us make man ... So God created man in his own image. "

      According to Genesis 1 god made man AFTER the animals.

      Genesis 1: 18-19 "And the Lord God said it is not good that man should be alone; I will make a help-meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.

      Wait. God made man BEFORE the animals? I'm confused....

      Oh. Yeah. Many versions of the bible contradict themselves in the supposed order of creation in Genesis. In this case Genesis 1 tells us that man was born both before AND after the animals. Guess the authors couldn't make up their minds!

      February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Brad

      It says he created the animals and brought them to Adam to be named. I do not see that it implies that he made them after he made Adam.

      Don't nitpick about little "contradictions" like that. Genesis 1 is a story. I'll say it, it's a myth. It's completely possible to believe that God created the world and all life, without contradicting any scientific discoveries.

      Really, if you want to find contradictions, you can find much worse ones than that.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Estevan

      Actually, Brad, many different versions of the bible contradict themselves in Genesis. Also, you couldn't be more right....there are even more glaring contradictions in the bible. I was merely answering michael's original post with the obvious answer: that the bible can't even get what was supposedly created first right.

      Brad you say "Don't nitpick about little "contradictions" like that." Absolutely we should nitpick. People believe in these myths and legends and their beliefs inform their actions. The supposed stories from which they draw their beliefs are contradictory, illogical and often immoral. Why would I not nitpick?

      Contradictions within the same bible and across different bibles indicates that there are errors of interpretation and translation....AND that if there is a god he is incredibly inept at getting his word out. All god has to do as an omnipotent being is snap his fingers and make all the bibles in the world exactly the same – his true word – and quell all the various religious sects who over the past several thousand years have fought against each other trying to promote their "true" version of the word. The fact he doesn't means that he's either really inept, doesn't care about human suffering, or more likely, doesn't exist at all.

      So yes. We should all nitpick when it comes to the bible and any other religious works. "Nitpick" and at the same time point out how ridiculous it is to believe in these fairy tales.

      February 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  7. tim

    What a Moron this is why I detest CNN

    February 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  8. Brent

    I hope that this message possibly helps someone out if they have questions or concerns. I think people misinterpret religion and faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ because someone had to pay for the sins committed by man. God proactively sent His son to not only live perfectly, but die on the cross. Jesus defeated sin by not only dying on the cross taking on past, present, and future sins but resurrecting 3 days later. So since I can never pay the penalty for the sins I've committed I place my faith and give my life to Jesus who has defeated sin by dying on the cross for my behalf. No matter the translation of the text, all 66 books of the Bible were written to show people Jesus. I love you all and hope someone is encouraged not by my text, but for what Jesus has done for you and me.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Is it moral for someone to accept punishment and guilt for the crimes of another? Is it moral for someone to accept the assignment of guilt and punishment for ones actions to another person?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Estevan

      Saving our "sins" by sacrificing his son (himself according to many) is actually pretty lame. It stinks of teenage drama. Really all god had to do if he is omniscient and omnipotent is decide that our sins were forgiven and "make it so". If he HAD to sacrifice his son then he is not omnipotent.

      Jesus didn't really sacrifice anything. Knowing (as he told his disciples before he died) that he would ascend before dying on the cross negates the concept of sacrifice. It's not much of a sacrifice if I know beforehand that I will rise from the dead and ascend to immortality. It would only be a sacrifice if Jesus knew that once he died on the cross he was going to hell for all eternity. Knowing you're going to heaven after you die on the cross is hardly what I call a sacrifice. Who wouldn't accept a few hours of pain in exchange for immortality in heaven?

      It's all a moot point anyways. There is no evidence or proof to believe that a god or gods exist. Just like I don't have to prove the Easter Bunny does not exist – one does not have to prove a negative in this case – I don't have to prove god exists. Burden of proof is on the believers and they have not met it.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Woody

      Why didn't god just snap his godly fingers and make everything right? And how did things get so messed up in the first place? God was supposedly the perfect being, incapable of erring. He could also see into the future, knowing all things that will ever happen, so why didn't he do it right in the first place? He sent his son to earth to die a horrible death to fix things that he, himself, screwed up? He sounds like a rather sadistic being, not the all merciful, all loving god of legend. He could have just blinked like Barbara Eden and made everything hunky-dory. Why all the blood and gore? Can't anyone with more than three working brain cells see how ridiculous this whole story is?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  9. Sybaris

    Religion: A ponzi scheme protected by law

    February 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Guy

    The fact that the Catholic and Protestant Bibles are very different shows you how much credence the book should hold. The fact that at the Council of Nicaea they literally picked and chose which books to include in "the Bible" shows you how much credence the book should hold.

    It's no more legitimate than any work of Greek mythology.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • independentlyowned

      What we call Greek mythology now was their religion back then. They took those stories as facts, just as people take the Bible, Torah and Koran as fact today.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  11. Eric Flickinger

    The study of the origin of the book we call the Bible is nothing short of spectacular. Setting versions temporarily aside, consider this: The 66 books of the Bible were written on three continents, in three languages, by about 40 different people (kings, shepherds, scientists, attorneys, an army general, fishermen, priests and a physician), over a period of about 1,500 years, on the most controversial subjects, by men who (in most cases) had never met, by authors whose education and background varied greatly.

    Yet … though it seems totally inconceivable, the 66 books maintain harmony with each other. Other new concepts on a subject are expressed, but these concepts do onto undermine what the other Bible writers say on the same subject.

    Either this happened by chance or something else is going on.

    Looking for a good source of study material on the Bible? Check out http://www.BibleProphecyTruth.com. Great for believers and skeptics alike.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Richard McCarthy

      It's hardly a surprise that when the early church assembled (and interpreted) the Bible that they would have included anything that was inconsistent. But it's not surprising that many books of scripture did not make the cut. Why? Because they conflicted with what the church needed in order remain consistent. Indeed, the fox is guarding the hen house.

      February 23, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  12. Roger Yargah

    Wow, I'm not so certain about the book this guy is publishing. First of all, his argument stating that there is no definitive bible, though somewhat accurate, it about as old as the bible itself. Of course, each religion (Catholic, Judaism, Protestant) chooses to include or exclude some different books of the bible depending upon their theological lean. This does not, however, mean that the books chosen are altered in some way, based upon religion. Reading the Pentatuch is going to be VERY similar to reading the first five books in the Old Testament of the Catholic or Protestant bibles. . . because they are essentially the same text!
    As far as what get's lost in translation, this is another example of the bible actually being more accurate than other texts merely based upon the sheer number of early texts and translated texts in existance. This is not to say that some phrases or ideas cannot and do not get lost or obscured depending upon which translation you read, and in which language you read it, but overall, the substance of the bible is fairly consistant in meaning.
    I would tend to agree with the author that the bible in any form should be the beginning of faith and not it's culmination, but to claim that the text is somehow less valid because some editions say "thou shalt not bear false witness" and another might say "do not lie" is a bit silly.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • momof2

      I agree that the Bible should be a starting point of faith, not it's culmination. But try telling that to a fundamentalist who says the earth is 6000 yrs old and they know this by counting the begats in Genesis. Or dinosaurs didn't exist because they weren't mentioned in the Bible. Neither were kangaroos but they exist.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Believer

      mom of 2 the Bible does talk about dinosaurs...if you look in the book of Job, he describes one in great detail....
      And by the way, did you know most dinosaurs were less than five feet tall? Read a book and check your facts before you speak of things you obviously know nothing about...

      February 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Believer

      Source: Posted on 12 November 2009 by Pinoy Atheist. Tags: bible, dinosaurs, Science

      When paleontologists discovered the existence of dinosaur fossils, Christians retorted by saying that these bones were placed by Satan to deceive us to believe that Genesis didn’t happened…Well so far so good. When people didn’t buy this explanation, some Christians made stories that say God created the dinosaurs together with human being, and what best reference they can show is what was written in their “Holy Bible”.

      According to these Christians, the Book of Job is the evidence that dinosaurs can be found in the Bible.

      The writer of Job is not talking about dinosaurs here. The New Living Translation says that it’s a hippopotamus.

      In the original Hebrew, the word behemoth is of Egyptian origin. According to the Easton Bible Dictionary, “Some have supposed this to be an Egyptian word meaning a “water-ox.”

      The Revised Version has here in the margin “hippopotamus,” which is probably the correct rendering of the word.

      The hippopotamus is truly a wild animal that “eateth grass like an ox,” can never be tamed, and makes his home in the swamps, lakes, and rivers of Africa.

      They were once common in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, but were not seen anymore in that area due to them being hunted down for their ivory teeth, meat, and hide by humans.

      Damn! I love you fundies. You try so hard! Give it up dude! Science will always best a mythical god.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  13. Candace Cornwell

    Thankful this is only one huMAN's opinion... This country was founded on FAITH... I prefer to believe...

    February 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Godless

      And I prefer to believe this country was founded on freedom. So which one of us is right? (Hint: it's not you.)

      February 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Believer

      Ms Cornwell is correct...read your history! The first settlers from England came here to escape religious persecution. They wanted to be able to worship their God their way...

      February 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Godless

      The first settlers did not come here to form a new country.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  14. gizmo79

    The two examples at the beginning of the article are a stretch to tie into the remainder of the article. There is no Edenic myth that having a bad job is better than no job, nor is the longing for the happiness of the beginning of the relationship than the trials at the end of it. Your examples are not myths or illusions, they are longings and regrets. I don't anyone who does or does not believe in God or His word really sees your point. The bottom line is, if you can place any of the Bibles side by side with your own beliefs, and logically conclude that what you believe in is the right way, then you have nothing left to prove.

    There is no logic in believing "there is no God because it's not possible", nor is there any logic in "God exists because the Bible says so".

    For the science buffs out there, religion relies on science all the time, but science will never prove religion wrong.

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

      Amen! Just ask Lee Strobell, the author of "the case for Christ" and other wonderful books. He was a scientist who set out to prove there was no God, he, like us, now knows beyond the shadow of any doubt that God is real....

      February 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Magic

      Believer,

      Lee Strobel is not a scientist. He is a journalist and legal editor.

      You can read several rebuttals to his "case for Christ" and the questionable (to put it mildly) methods he used in it IF you want the facts.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Believer

      You said: " Just ask Lee Strobell, the author of "the case for Christ" and other wonderful books. He was a scientist who set out to prove there was no God, he, like us, now knows beyond the shadow of any doubt that God is real...."

      Lee Strobell is not a scientist. He is a writer, creationist, former journalist and former megachurch pastor.

      His books are a sham. His experts all creationists.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  15. godsman

    As I stated previously, this site is a wonderful place to belittle, make fun of, and generally tear down anyone who doesn't think like many the poor lost souls that post here. Not one of you atheists have provided a shred of proof that what I believe is NOT true. You, just like me, are putting forth what you believe to be true. The only difference between me and you is that you feel justified in putting me down and making fun of my beliefs. tsk, tsk, tsk.....

    February 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Godless

      As has been said so many times before, how is one to prove a negative? The burden of proof is on you. If I were to tell you that I have a pet unicorn, the burden would be on me to prove it, not on you to disprove it. How would you disprove it? If you didn't find it at my house, I could say I moved it to the barn. If you went to the barn, I could say it went for a walk. See?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • independentlyowned

      Agreed with Godless. It's a logical fallacy to prove a negative. Doesn't mean your beliefs are any less valuable, but they're just that: beliefs, not facts. You believe your thing and I'll believe mine, and by the inherent nature of the word "belief" I'll think mine is more right than yours and vice versa. There are respectful ways to debate.

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

      So you don't think you would "belittle, make fun of, and generally tear down anyone" who posted here that they believed that Barney the dinosaur was a real live talking dinosaur and wondered why more study's hadn't been performed on this magical purple being who appeared when children said his name three times? Really?

      February 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Believer

      You are so right. And, an interesting fact to point out...EVERY single scientist who has ever set out to prove that God does not exist has in the end become a Christian. Why exactly do all you non-believers think that is? It's you people who need to check the facts before it's too late.....

      February 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Pagan

      I would never dream of belittling a person because of his religious beliefs. It's a personal thing. You know the whole Christian idea to be true. How? Because no one can prove to you that it isn't? Well, no one has proven to me that it is. You believe. I don't. And ne'er the twain shall meet.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Magic

      Believer,

      "EVERY single scientist who has ever set out to prove that God does not exist has in the end become a Christian."

      Proof please. And I mean proof of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. EVER.

      February 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @godsman

      You said: " Not one of you atheists have provided a shred of proof that what I believe is NOT true."

      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.

      As far as the Christian God is concerned:
      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, if 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 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?

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Believer

      You said: " And, an interesting fact to point out...EVERY single scientist who has ever set out to prove that God does not exist has in the end become a Christian. Why exactly do all you non-believers think that is? "

      I think it is because you are an idiot.

      No credible scientist would ever set out to "prove that god does not exist".

      The scientist would not set out to prove fairies or leprechauns do not exist.

      The scientist would know, you can't prove a negative.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • believer

      Allan Sandage, Richard Smalley, Michael Polanyl, Lee Strobel, Mortimer Adler, Francis Collins, Larry Darby, Simon Greenleaf (who is one of the founders of Harvard law school). Nicky Gumbel, Ignace Lepp, Felix Leseur, C.S Lewis, Alister McGrath, George Price, Michael Reiss, to name just a few...

      February 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Rob

      @believer

      -Alex Sandage, an astronomer, said numerous times that God's existence couldn't be proven, especially not by science.

      -Richard Smalley, a chemist, converted to Christianity at the very end of his life. He never said that God's existence could be "proven" by anything but faith.

      -Michael Polanyl (not "officially" a scientist, but worked in scientific areas) did criticize a purely mechanistic view of life. But, again, he never says that God can be proven through reason or scientific method.

      -Lee Strobel is a crackpot Journalist, not a scientist.

      -Mortimer Adler was a philosopher turned Thomistic Catholic, not a scientist.

      -Francis Collins, noted geneticist, said explicitly to Richard Dawkins that "God does not need an explanation." His belief was faith, not science, based as well.

      -Larry Darby is an attorney, not a scientist.

      -Simon Greenleaf was an attorney, not a scientist.

      -Nicky Gumbel was a priest, not a scientist.

      – Ignace Lepp was a writer, not a scientist.

      -Felix Leseur was a physician and a priest, not a scientist.

      -C.S. Lewis was an English Professor, not a scientist

      -Alister McGrath was a molecular biologist and theologian. I'll grant you him. He did think a scientific account of God was possible.

      -George Price, a population geneticist, briefly converted to Christianity, wrote one book about his faith (completely unrelated to science), and then abandoned his faith.

      -Michael Reiss is a philosopher and priest, not a scientist.

      I would say you have VERY BADLY misrepresented yourself and these individuals. DJ said "No credible scientist would ever set out to "prove that god does not exist" and "The scientist would not set out to prove fairies or leprechauns do not exist," and then you list these names as if they're an answer to him. Only one of these names believed that God could be "proven" in any scientific way.

      I detest it when believers create these ad hoc lists of "scientists who prove god's existence." Utter nonsense.

      February 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  16. thesciencerebel

    This dude is straight up wrong. His facts are wrong, he has no understanding of the times of jesus.

    i wouldn't believe a thing he says.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • independentlyowned

      Just because you don't want to believe what he says doesn't make him wrong. It sounds like he's done extensive research into the time of Jesus (and before, hence the Old Testament). The scriptures weren't written until well after Jesus was dead, in the case of John, 100 years after he died. The people who wrote them didn't even know Jesus. And the way the monks interpreted the original Greek from which it was written is still disputed.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Mike

      Religion: For those too lazy to learn the complexities of the world around them.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • aklucia

      Obviously ... as you have already made up your mind about the world. What a sad and confining place it must be for you.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  17. keith

    This guy is some crackpot professor....Regardless of what translation or version of the Bible you read the same core stories, concepts, figures, and passages are found in all of them...and even by ad 180 Irenaeus affirmed most of the canon...So many people with so little information writing so many bad articles

    February 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  18. Ziggy

    Religion and science are moving on common paths leading to the same destination – THE TRUTH.

    GOD created the universe – physics and mathematics took it from there.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • girl from MI

      Neither physics nor math created anything.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @girl from MI

      You said: "Neither physics nor math created anything."

      Neither did you make believe god. And physics and math can be demonstrated to be true.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Estevan

      Neither did god...

      February 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  19. Woodb51

    Glenn Robert: "No one dies in the name of Satan?" Actually, he went by a different name, Marxism and Nationalist Socialism.

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

      I believe giving your life for any imaginary being the same as dieing for Satan. And further, everyone who loves true capitalism loves them a little Satan too, Marxism and socialism don't have a monopoly on evil.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  20. jackarouu

    ProfessorTimothy Beal's book (review) sounds like a "Projection" of some sort of previous mental anguish he had in his life.
    Perhaps it was a failed marriage (which he repeatedly draw an analogy to), or some other relationship he had in the past that he now realizes he cannot regain. He, once, may have thought of the bible as a 'ROCK of truth' and that is why he became a professor of religious studies. Who knows – but one can certainly read between the lines and sense disappointment in the what he rationalizes as truth.

    It is true about the bibles' historic past – a collection of various books collectively gathered by whoever. The bible is not a "Rock" but good advice for those who "believe" that Jesus had the "words of eternal life". Where else can one go if you believe.
    If you don't believe, that watch TV and play Video games till you die and then find out if at death everything turns to "black" OR the is a final Judgment.

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

      People of faith, when backed into a corner, always go for this ridiculous kind of psychologizing. "If you make arguments against my faith, then you must be mentally ill." How low is that?

      Yes, Jesus did have a few good words of advice. Thousands of self-help books have better advice. Lots of fictional characters have better advice. The Bible is by no means a shining example of tenable morality. Quite the opposite, in fact.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • girl from MI

      Well said, sir. I find that those with objections to faith have usually had some sort of pain caused by someone of faith… they long to receive the promise offered by faith, but they keep missing it somehow. In their frustrations, they blame the religion. This reminds me of something my pastor once said (I am paraphrasing), “People have a false perception of who God is, and then they get upset at God because THEY are mistaken.” Even with the varying books include and not, the message of The Bible remains the same. This is clear for those who really want to know what it’s all about but maybe not so much to those who just want to know about it for the sake of making a living.

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

      Did this author ever pay attention in his Biblical Thematics class? After reading his article, I lost count of how many inconsistencies and errors there are in his conclusions about the scriptures. When people are determined to negate the Bible, they seem to be more than willing to inject subjectivism rather than objective facts to make their errant points. A careful study and centuries of sound research by many great minds will plainly show how ridiculous and amateur this author's claims are. CNN should consult Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul or other noted Christian scholars about Biblical integrity and get the other perspective. If the Bible is truly God's word, then we as human beings need to look at the scriptures more carefully and thoughtfully.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Rob

      You said: "Yes, Jesus did have a few good words of advice. Thousands of self-help books have better advice. Lots of fictional characters have better advice. The Bible is by no means a shining example of tenable morality. Quite the opposite, in fact."

      The "golden rule", that Christians credit Jesus for "inventing", actually was in vogue, before Jesus was born.

      The sayings and deeds of Jesus may well have all been made up by whoever wrote the Gospels.

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • ScottK

      @girl from MI – "they long to receive the promise offered by faith" What promise? The promise of clouds & harps or the promise of not being tortured for eternity because you didn't convert in time?

      Hey, I can give you a promise as well, just go to the site "givemeallyourtimeandmoney(dot)god" and donate all your earthly possesions because I guarantee you will get in to the first tier of my afterlife program where you will be given $100 billion "afterlife" dollars to spend however you like and get all those things you so desired back on earth but couldnt afford!! (likely because you gave all your time & money away to get in). And to all those doubters that I cannot produce the goods upon your death, prove me wrong...

      February 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Jeff B.

      Ummm...Tim ?
      Perhaps you would be more believable if you knew some basics. The Torah IS the Jewish Bible. The "Tanach" is an acronym for "Torah, Neviim (Prophets) and "Ktuvim (Chronicles). The Torah, the Jewish Bible only comprises the 5 Books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers...there ARE no different versions of the Torah. All sects of Judaism read from the same text.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • aklucia

      Jackarouu, it sounds like you have a great deal invested in your beliefs. Maybe you ought to try a day "being in the day." You might be pleasantly surprised.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
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About this blog

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.