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. Maybe


    Welcome to the internet. This 'buffoon' is what is called a troll... throwing out nasty comments to tick people off. There is a great likelihood that he is a believer who is just trying to make non-believers look bad.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Joyce

      Thanks NL, I will read the link

      March 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  2. Joyce

    nl...you said

    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.

    I was under the impession the bible was comiled by the Catholic Chrch? Does that have any effect on the apostolic sucession then?

    February 23, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • NL

      Dan Brown conspiracies notwithstanding, the church did essentially craft the bible out of what was available, and then it was in charge of copying it by hand for over a thousand years. So, the real question is whether dogma comes from scripture, or if scripture was selected on the basis of how well it matched the already accepted dogma, right?

      February 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Joyce

      I think this was in reponse to my question:

      Dan Brown conspiracies notwithstanding, the church did essentially craft the bible out of what was available, and then it was in charge of copying it by hand for over a thousand years. So, the real question is whether dogma comes from scripture, or if scripture was selected on the basis of how well it matched the already accepted dogma, right?

      If it was, are you saying that they took it and ran with it, laid claim to it as thier own? Or, it was concurrent to beliefs they held anyway?

      February 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • NL

      Who can say for sure? The RCC wrote it's own history, but they certainly had the means, the opportunity and the motive to pick and choose scripture that only matched existing doctrine, and edit specific content to better fit as well.

      Want a good read on this try Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. by Bart D. Ehrman


      February 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    My favourite version of the Bible is Andy Schlafly's "Conservative Bible".
    Apparantly other versions were translated by left wing hippies who inserted their liberal bias, as evidenced by words like "comrade" and "government".
    Jesus weren't no red commie, dangnabbit!

    February 23, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  4. buffoon

    "All" religions are one big pile of dung! 🙂

    February 23, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  5. gerald

    The Bible is not the rock except that it helps us to know, love and server God, to the degree that we properly interpret and understand it. God is the ROCK. We put our faith in him through the trials that this life leads us through, through the difficulties that are not taken away and are inevitable and we will come through it okay in the end.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • NL

      Unfortunately, God is a "rock" that people love to bash others with, yes?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Unfortunately, God is a "rock" that people love to bash others with, yes?
      You are correct! Just as much as people without faith bash those that have faith! Not everyone bashes, yet there are those that do! I know as a Christian, folk will disagree with me and and challenge me. That is to be expected! What the name callers (all sides) don't seem to know is name calling shows one has no argument and that reflects more on the name caller or basher than it ever could on their "target".

      February 23, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • NL

      Steve the real one-
      And not all non-believers call names, yes? Even those who occasionally do usually have legitimate criticisms to make of religion. I find it telling that so many believers dismiss us all offhandedly as "haters." Fear of even entering into an open-minded discussion of the topic, maybe?

      February 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  6. claidheamh mor

    Why are all the christian cluster-fundies so brainless as to get on here and evangelize? That is stupid behavior.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  7. Raj

    (A) The author's dilemma regarding which Bible version to choose from a plethora of versions is exactly what Satan wants to achieve. To clear the author's confusion regardung which Bible he should use – there is nothing greater than the King James Version (KJV). ROMANS 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." It has been the device of the devil to ensure that people's faith is weakend from reading the other distorted versions.
    (B) Also, just reading or listening to the KJV does not guarantee faith. Note the example of Esau – HEBREWS 12:16,17 "Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Predestination is the key : ROMANS 9:13 " As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." You know that a person has never known God as his Lord and Saviour when you see articles like this.
    (C) Praise God, He has promised a restoration of faith in this last age according to MALACHI 4:5,6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Time is very close for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be prepared to meet Him in the rapture and not get distracted by the devil's devices.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Godless

      Give me a break. People have been claiming it's the end of times for centuries. Why is now any different. If you want the rapture so bad, if you want to go to heaven so badly, why not just step in front of a bus this afternoon?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  8. kihgskid

    the 'Bible' is jam packed with many factual accounts, archeologies, ancestries, etc., so where pray tell would you place this Great Book (regardless of version), in a library, fiction, non-fiction, or reference, or would you prefer to make your own section?!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • NL

      "factual" accounts of 900 year old men?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Logicrevealsall


      Why is it hard to believe that the Bible contains factual accounts, yet when science claims something, we take it on face value without raising an eyebrow? Isn't science nothing more than a bunch of ideas that, as of yet, have not been proven false? Sounds eerily like religion to me.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Godless

      "Why is it hard to believe that the Bible contains factual accounts, yet when science claims something, we take it on face value without raising an eyebrow? Isn't science nothing more than a bunch of ideas that, as of yet, have not been proven false?"

      You clearly do not understand what science is.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Logicrevealsall


      Then I would clearly love an explanation. I enjoy hearing counterpoints almost as much as I enjoy making them. In my admittedly amatuer studies of science and nature, I have learned that scientists start with a hypothesis, or an idea if you will. If they test this idea and it works, it becomes a theory, or plausible explanation. If this theory stands the test of time without being disproven it is accepted as fact. Again, I admit I have an amateur understading of science at best, so any education on this point would be appreciated.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • NL

      You do indeed appear to have a working idea of how science works. So why is it that you claim that people accept what science says on 'face value?' On face value would imply believing without any supporting evidence that it actually works, right?

      "Isn't science nothing more than a bunch of ideas that, as of yet, have not been proven false?"
      As opposed to what? A bunch of ideas that have been proven false, as in the case of scripture? I really don't see where you're going with this, sorry.

      February 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Logicrevealsall


      I have yet to see one example of the scriptures being proven false without some very liberal interpretations being used. I have, however, seen science proved wrong almost daily. Science once said the Earth was flat, science once said the whites of eggs were bad for you, then it was the yolks, then it was the whole egg, etc.,etc., etc. Then there is the theory of Evolution, which has so many wholes in it, it could be used as a strainer! My point is, science is an ever evolving process. When something new is discovered, an old "truth" is discarded in light of the new discovery. Now, I haven't been alive since the first Bible was written, but I don't believe it has changed much at all over time. So which one is more believable, the field of thought that is constantly changing what they consider to be the truth, or the one that has had the same message since the beginning?

      February 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Logicrevealsall

      That should read "holes". My auto correct is working overtime!

      February 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • NL

      "I have yet to see one example of the scriptures being proven false without some very liberal interpretations being used."
      I think you need the liberal interpretation machine working overtime to make 900 year old men jive with any kind of reality. Seriously man, just take a look at this link for a summary list of biblical falsehoods, and these are just the ones that relate directly to science:


      "Science once said the Earth was flat,"
      Ah, ... no! That would be primitive folk beliefs, like the kind the bible passes off as truth. It actually does argue that the Earth is flat. Remember when Satan supposedly takes Jesus up to a high place where he can see 'all the world's kingdoms. No such place exists on a globe where the Aztecs and Maya live on the opposite side as the Romans and Chinese. Not that the bible had the slightest clue as to the existence of these peoples, or the Americas.

      "Then there is the theory of Evolution, which has so many wholes in it, it could be used as a strainer!"
      And what are these holes? Funny how no creationist can actually name them, isn't it?

      "So which one is more believable, the field of thought that is constantly changing what they consider to be the truth, or the one that has had the same message since the beginning?"
      If the bible were never proven wrong you might have a point here but, alas, you don't. What you actually have is something akin to two adults that a kid can give his trust. Both make mistakes. However, one makes far fewer with each year, has a rational process by which he reaches conclusions, and is more than willing to admit to the mistakes he does make. The other is set in his ways, a bigot, way behind the times, merely repeats old superst itions and folk beliefs and never ever, ever admits to making mistakes even when he obviously has made a great many. So, between these two, who ya gonna trust more?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      A quick example of the scriptures being wrong:
      "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches."
      – Matthew 13:31-32

      Mustard seeds are not the smallest of all seeds, it does not sprout into a tree and birds are extremely unlikely to perch on it.

      February 24, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The bible is clearly referring to a now extinct mustard known as Giganticus Mustardium Microseedinius. It once roamed the land adding a tangy yet oddly bitter flavor to the wild Hotus Dogus. Of course, there are NO roaming trees left because of the flood.

      February 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Logicrevealsall


      I'm a bit confused by your link because it provides the answers to why the Bible is still actually correct on the link itself. Maybe I'm missing something but I'll move on to the other past of your post, mainly because it excites me more.

      You Said;
      "And what are these holes? Funny how no creationist can actually name them, isn't it?"

      I'll start with just a few.
      Problem #1
      Evolution states that there are two types of evolution, macro and micro. Micro evolution is a well known fact and its examples can be seen everyday. It is the small changes within a creatures DNA such as polar bears having clear fur to blend into their surroundings. The problem with evolution is that its main theory hinges on macro evolution, that is, the changing of one species to another. Not only has this type of evolution never been seen anywhere on the planet, not one single fossil has ever been found of a creature in a "transitional stage" if you will. Now, if I'm to believe that all species evolved from other species over the course of time, there should be millions upon millions of these intermittent fossils everywhere. A fossil of a dinosaur with chicken wings or a fish with legs, something. But there is not. Not even one.

      Problem #2
      No matter how hard science has tried, creating life in a non living object has been found to be impossible. So, how did life get here. For the sake of argument, lets say the big bang actually happened. All rocks, trees, lakes, etc. suddenly just burst into existance. Where did life come from then? Science tells us that the mathematical defintion of impossible is 1×10^50. According to Biologist Hubert Yockey (just one of many biologists that tackle this subject, but he gave the most favorable results to argue evolution so I'll go with his) the statistical odds of a single protien just appearing by random chance is 2×10^-44. What does all that math stuff mean? In laymens terms, the odds of a single protien spontaneously appearing are just a shade away from impossible. Take into consideration that even the most basic life forms require two protiens and you've got one heck of a longshot.

      We'll start with those two for now. If your curious I got my stats from Hubert Yockey's book, "Information Theory and Molecular Biology."

      February 24, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • MarkinFL

      There are millions of things that happen in nature that humans cannot reproduce. At least yet. However that hardly makes them impossible. We have yet to be able to artificially reproduce any life. Yet it appears to exist in profusion. There are a huge number of phenomena that occur that we cannot reproduce. So that argument is clearly bogus.

      Defining impossible? Impossible. Well I put the odds against a universally acceptable mathematical definition of impossible at 1.3456×10^123. Which in my opinion makes it more than twice as unlikely as impossible.

      Did you know that 46% of all statistics are just made up?

      February 24, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Here's a quick example of some transitional fossils following the line of dinosaurs to birds. I'll just list genus names – you can look them up for yourself for the full details.

      PedoPenna -> Anchiornis -> Archaeopteryx -> Confuciusornis -> Eoalulavis
      -> Ichthyornis

      Or the list of Human transitional fossils:
      Apidium -> Aegyptopithecus -> Proconsul -> Pierolapithecus -> Ardipithecus
      -> Australopithecus -> Ho.mo habilis -> Ho.mo erectus -> Ho.mo sapiens

      February 24, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Logicrevealsall

      @Doc Vestibule

      Please see my response on page 15 of the comments. In my rush to respond, I forgot to hit the reply button. I apologize, and will try to keep all my comments in this area in the future for the protection of my sanity and probably yours as well!

      February 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • NL

      Gonna have to break this up due to time restraints.

      "I'm a bit confused by your link because it provides the answers to why the Bible is still actually correct on the link itself."
      Not really. It merely posits ways how the bible authors could have made these mistakes. For example, the explanation for the Bible's reference to pi equalling just 3 is that 3 is actually a pretty good approximation, but the reality, as every elementary school student knows, is that actually using 3 as a value for pi wouldn't work so well. One as.sumes that the writers certainly were not craftsmen.

      In other places the link simply states what the bible says such as the entry on stars:

      "The Bible makes it clear that stars are tiny objects in sky that will fall down when Jesus comes back. Revelation 8:10"

      Now, is this actually correct, or just another example of the bible writers not having any higher source of information to draw upon than their own, primitive, folksy culture?

      February 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Logicrevealsall


      I see what you are saying now. I will re-read the link and get back to you. I seem to be having some trouble replying to anyone without having to await moderation. Once I get that worked out, I'll respond.

      February 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • NL

      "Not only has this type of evolution never been seen anywhere on the planet, not one single fossil has ever been found of a creature in a "transitional stage" if you will."
      Ah, the old "if you can't see it happening then it can't be real" argument. Are you sure you want to make that as.sertion? After all, we can't see God either, but I guess you would make a special case for him. Macroevolution and microevolution really describe the same processes, contrary to how creationists would like to split the two. To use an imperfect analogy, what creationists are saying is like claiming that what we call "current events" really has no relationship to what we call "history" where we all know that the present crisis in the Mid East will, eventually, find it's way into the history books, right? Microevolution is the 'current events' of the thing and macroevolution is the 'history'.

      You also pose the usual claim that there are no 'real' transitional fossils, which makes me laugh as it reminds me of the observation that for every new transitional fossil found a creationist will see that two 'gaps' have been formed in the fossil record, but conveniently fail to see that the gaps are getting ever smaller. To use another analogy, if the fossil record were to be viewed as a film, like a time-lapse piece, then people would have no difficulty seeing the transition of species from one to another. Because every single thing on the planet has not left a fossil creationists will point to the few missing frames as claim that the so-called "missing links" have not yet been found. Well, to take the film analogy once again, is it possible to stop a move at some particular frame and say "This is the beginning of the end of the movie", or This is the end of the beginning of the movie?" Evolution, like a movie, only really makes sense when seen in it's entirety.

      You also seem confident that the odds against 'random' chance resulting in the universe are too high, but consider what the odds have to be for you to be who you are today? Say you are at least twenty years old. That means that you've lived for over ten and a half million minutes, and had you made one single different choice, one single different thought, or experienced one single different thing during any of those minutes your entire life may be different from what it is now, right? The odds of you being who you are today are pretty astronomical, but obviously not impossible, wouldn't you say?

      February 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  9. Kjcube

    -...In my new book, "The Rise and Fall of the Bible,"...

    I was wondering what he was getting at. It's just another advert. here on CNN.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  10. ILoveJesus

    "Professing" themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:22

    February 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  11. lm

    I will miss you in heaven!!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      How very christian of you.

      February 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • NL

      I sure won't miss you in hell.

      Not having Christians ring my doorbell actually sounds like something to look forward too. 😉

      February 24, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  12. ILoveJesus

    The fool hath said in his heart that there is no God.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Raj

      Amen! This is the true definition of a fool in the Bible.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • buffoon


      February 23, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • NL

      In Paul's time, before science, that actually would have made sense, but not any more.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Shawn

      Science has always existed, just in different forms. Just because the same technology didn't exist doesn't mean that science didn't exist in Paul's time.

      February 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • NL

      Although you may be able to argue that empirical investigation started with Aristotle, I think you'd have to go way past Paul before the scientific method became widely used. There certainly weren't any evidence-supported scientific theories on the origins of the universe and life circulating at his time, so without anything to offer in it's stead supernatural creation myths were the only explanations available, and "only a fool" would discard them for a "I don't know" answer, right?

      February 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  13. Southern Celt

    They'll let anyone be a Professor these days. Even an ignoramus like Beal. The first "Bible" was the collection of letters and books that St. Jerome translated from Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek into Latin. This became the Latin Vulgate which still exists in the Vatican Archive. The Council of Trent made it official and defined the Canon of scripture as The Bible. Martin Luther deleted 7 of those books and changed the wording of two more, which is the Protestant Bible. Without the Catholic Church protecting and safeguarding the Latin Vulgate since about 406 A.D/C.E. Martin Luther would have had nothing to change so if anything can be call The Bible, it is the Latin Vulgate which is the source of all language translations today.
    Tradition existed before The Bible and is cherished along with it. Protestants reject Tradition and believe in Scripture Alone (Sola Scripture). Some of them even hate the Catholics that gave them their Scripture. Not very Christian. Having a Book and believing in it are two different things. Believing in what is written requires Faith which is all God requires.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • NL

      I think the point is, if the Latin Vulgate is the first standardized bible, then what the hell was everyone reading and taking prophesy by before that? Did Jesus and Paul even read the same scriptures? How many other creation myths were around besides the two, distinct ones that survive in today's bible?

      With that many unknowns what value does the bible actually have?

      February 23, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  14. Susan

    This article contains a very good point, one that I had kind of forgotten after formal education in a private, Catholic university – the "Bible" is all over the place in different translations. It shows very distinctly how poorly educated some of these Bible thumpers are, particularly if they are offended or defensive over this article. It should make them say, hmmm... especially if they want to improve their education.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  15. Ryan

    Mr Beal, I understand and appreciate with your questions, or propositions; I believe that they are valid. Maybe a deeper question that might shed light onto the one you present would be "what is the Bible; what does each Christian confession believe it to be, and why?" That question, mixed in with a study on Church history, I believe, would do wonders. Also, as an Orthodox Christian I must say that there are not "different Orthodox Bibles" but the same Bible in different languages – the same books, the same portions. Sure, each language is translated, but the Bible is not a Koran, which is what some confessions treat it to be.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  16. Rob

    It is hard to believe that some how something caused an explosion, (were the material came from who knows), that the earth was formed, some how water was formed, that life came from the water and some how evolved into what we have to day. (God created the heaves & earth is so much easier to believe because we believe in one thing. To believe in evaluation there are so many thing that have line up perfectly to have what we have now, on earth and in space.) It's OK to think that we came from monkeys and that the cave man some how found a cave girl and obviously had babies, I guess once again there is a double standard. Incest was ok in that case. It is ridicules to think that God had to create 10,000 people at once so that there would not be incest. In the Old Testament when the Israelite s came out of Egypt, God gave them Law to set them apart from the other nations. To keep them strong, healthy, and not act like a bounce Lawless & reckless people. There is no doubt that there are a lot of things hard to understand about the bible, but the bottom line is if the bible is right, there is one God, one Creator, one Savior Jesus, than we need to think about this very seriously. We all believe deep down that there must be more to life and the after life what we think. Heaven & serration from God, (hell) The Risk is Great .

    February 23, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • NL

      "It is hard to believe that some how something caused an explosion, (were the material came from who knows), that the earth was formed, some how water was formed, that life came from the water and some how evolved into what we have to day."

      And this is harder to believe than the story that God always existed, is all-powerful and then he created the universe out of nothing, etc...? That's like picking up a manual on rocket propulsion, scratching your head at the complicated math for a few minutes and declaring that if you can't understand it then it just can't actually work, then turning Star Trek on TV and just taking the Enterprise going into warp as a given because it's part of your favorite show.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Godless

      Wow, that paragraph makes me weep for the educational system in this country.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Godless

      My response was to Rob, in case that wasn't clear.

      To those of you who are arguing that it is more rational to assume a god made the earth, try watching some of the fantastic science shows on the Science Channel and the History Channel. It's amazing what you can learn. And we're learning more every day.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Joe

      So, what happened to your creative and mericful god? In the last couple of hundred years has he retired? Tens of thousands of people have died needlessly and in horrific ways but your god did nothing to save them.... Is he too busy now? Oh sure you will reply with the same old tired lines we've heard a thousand times about why god does not interfere.... However the real answer is that there is NO god!!! There never was! You can believe in one if you are so weak that you need to, but I can't wait to hear back from you how your religion failed you after you died.....

      February 23, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • NL

      You mean that God does not interfer except when he does, in miracles, ... randomly, for sinners and saints alike, in ways that can just as easily be seen as pure chance.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Shawn

      When you say "That's like picking up a manual on rocket propulsion, scratching your head at the complicated math for a few minutes and declaring that if you can't understand it then it just can't actually work" I'm not sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying that those people that reject the big bang theory and evolution are just too stupid to get it but are willing to believe what happens in Star Trek? Your metaphor has several flaws. I am no rocket scientist, but if I was to look at that manual, I would at least know that that manual didn't just come out of nowhere. Someone intelligent had to have written that manual, it could not have just happened by chance that all the formulas wrote themselves with ink on paper that by some accident binded itself together. You don't have to understand the content to believe it is true. I may not know the science behind gravity, yet I believe in it. Also, to compare religious faith to faith in Star Trek is slightly ridiculous, since I'm pretty sure (at least I hope) a majority of people don't believe everything they see on tv.

      Which takes me to Godless-
      As educational as the shows on the Science and History Channels can be, I would never use them as my source of truth. Much of what is said on those channels is still conjecture, and biased opinion. It's like relying on campaign commercials when trying to figure out who to vote for. All the information is not necessarily false, but not necessarily true either.

      The reason so much cruelty happens in the world is because of sin. People are just not good. God created humans with a free will- the free will to love, or to hate. If God didn't allow us this free will, then love would no longer be real since it is no longer a choice made from the bottom of the heart. As humans, we focus too much on this life, which is short whether you die at a young age, or old. What faith allows is suffering with hope. Our physical bodies no longer matter when there is an eternal life free of pain and suffering that is to come after. This only comes with faith, however.

      Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.
      Blaise Pascal

      February 23, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • NL

      I have Star Trek manuals that offer a bunch of techno-speak as to how warp engines work that look superficially just as intelligent as any actual rocket engineering text.

      Point is that evolution didn't just drop out of the sky either, and that a reading of the actual texts, an examination of the actual evidence supporting it, and a consideration of how it has actually been proven to work would convince any rational person of it's truth as much as rocket science and seeing actual rockets zooming through the sky would convince them that rockets also actually work. Why they deny this truth has to do with their religious bias, and not the actual truth of evolution, for example.

      I use Trek to illustrate believer's acceptance of things like the biblical creation myths in that the usual 'fan' can suspend their natural skepticism enough to 'enjoy the moral of the story', where some of us who examine the details cannot help but see the many contradictions, errors in logic, and other problems. In a way, this spoils the intended purpose of the story for us just as much as anyone with any expertise in a field may be put off by Hollywood's rendering of it.

      Gotta jet. TTFN

      February 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  17. David

    "There is no such thing as History and never has been". It seems like the crux of your argument is that since there are countless versions of The Bible, none are true or accurate. It seems a little naive to say that the evidence of false things proves that all things are false. If that were true, then please consider History books. Events (true events) happened, but are recorded in completely opposite ways as is often the case in history books. This does not mean that one account is not true, or that the event itself never happened. The conclusion you can draw from contradictory accounts is that one of them is not true. It is possible that neither is true, but not certain. The conclusion you can draw from very similar accounts is that this is either two versions of a true account, or two versions of a false account.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • jonathan

      No, he's not saying that there is no bible. He's saying there is no THE BIBLE. There is no one original text for people to refer to. And nowhere in his article is there anything even remotely anti-christian. For me the point of the article was for people to read the bible but to realize how different in can be from version to version. You shouldn't see each individual passage of the bible you read as the only and exact one. You should be looking for the underlying themes of your version of the bible as these are what are likely to be the same from version to version. Anyone taking offense from this article just doesn't have the mental capacity to understand what he's saying.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  18. Touche

    The further this nation runs from God, the farther from God's blessing it will be. The more this nation accepts and acts out moral attrocities and complete disdain towards God, the continued deterioration of the foundation of this nation. Today's belief that there are no conciquences and no authority over what people do, may last for a short while. They are enamoured wth themselves in their rejection of God. What will come of this when He returns? The gamble of a nation and its people, that God doesn't exist. That is the greatest gamble ever played. Vegas would be jealous of such wagers. Think you will win the bet on a hunch? Too much for me to gamble. I will follow the Lord. Call me what you like. I am not calling you names, just making a point. It seems a risky decision to me, whether you believe in Him or not. Not all things can be seen, Not all things you see can be trusted. I just can't believe that all things on this earth are by accident or random. All animals, and the cycles of earth are designed perfectly, in my experience, accidents don't result in perfect order. Just a thought.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • MSWB

      Amen Touche! speak the truth! I too stand with you to follow the Lord. This nation/world is turning it's back on the Lord and wondering why so many disastrous things happen. They continue to dilute the Word of God and still expect blessings. Well God is not fooled. I pray that our eyes are open to see the truth, the light from the darkness. God's blessings to you!

      February 23, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Rob

      Touche, I've got news for you. There is no correlation between moral behavior and religious belief. Following a religion doesn't increase your chances of behaving appropriately. People of all kinds of faiths, and atheists too, are capable of moral and immoral behavior. Sociological research indicates that atheists are just as likely to be moral (and immoral) as believers.

      So get off your high horse, please.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • NL

      "The gamble of a nation and its people, that God doesn't exist."
      Isn't it also a gamble to believe that God does exist, that he is the only god that exists, that he would approve of your own behavior, that he would have people's best interests in mind, that he wouldn't just destroy the USA anyway, that he even favors Christians over Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, or even left-handed gays named Theo?

      Face it, you're taking the bigger gamble in as.suming that you are exactly right about God.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Unikraken

      There are over 10,000 gods and you think it is less of a gamble to pick the one conveniently the same as your forefathers rather than none? That's not a gamble, that's just being lazy.

      Almost every child thinks the same thing: Of course the god of my parents is the right one.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Jess

      Touche, I find it laughable that you condemn the non-religious for being enamoured with themselves when religion is nothing if not complete and utter narcissim. The very idea that this universe was created around you and all of gods love and attention is on you is shallow to the extreme. I would rather put my faith in humanity and (provable, testable, reliable) science and try and help those around me now then ignore the constant conflict in the world and hope that there is some magical, mystical being who will forgive me of my sins so that I don't have to take any real responsibility for my actions in this (our only) life.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • buffoon

      Touche, you & your god should go & beat off, if you haven't done so! 🙂

      February 23, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Logicrevealsall

      buffoon said:
      " "All" religions are one big pile of dung!"
      "Touche, you & your god should go & beat off, if you haven't done so"

      Very well thought out and articulated points by you sir or madam. You have completely changed my outlook on religion. Excellent choice of name as well!

      February 23, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  19. Jack

    I'm confused why you people are so angry. He's stating facts and supporting religion, just not blind, false doctrine. You should be embracing it with open arms and a thank you. Your anger and hatred are not Christ-like.

    February 23, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  20. chall

    This author is SO WRONG! My old job was waaay better than this sh**h*le! I never should've left.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:58 am |
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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.