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My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible
April 1st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: It doesn't matter who wrote the Bible

Editor’s note: David Hazony is the author of "The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life," published recently by Scribner.

By David Hazony, Special to CNN

I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. Usually this oscillation between faith and skepticism serves me well, with faith giving reason its moral bearings, and reason keeping faith, well, reasonable.

It’s a nice balancing act — except when the question of who wrote the Bible comes up. My Jewish faith tells me that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. Reason tells me to be open to the idea that somebody else had a hand in it.

And there are definitely a few glitches in the text that back up those suspicions - notably the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, which describe Moses’ own death.

But try as I might, I just can’t believe that the Five Books of Moses were written by J, E, P and D – the four main authors whose oral traditions, biblical scholars say, were cobbled together to make the Torah. (The letters stand for the Jahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomist. Those, we may assume, were not their real names.)

Call me an academic infidel.

I know, it’s been generations now that Bible study scholars at universities around the world have accepted as true that:

(a) the Pentateuch was composed over many centuries through these four oral traditions, which were later written down;

(b) these main texts were woven together by an editor or series of editors living around the 6th century B.C.E.; and

(c) these different traditions are detectable by scholars today, to the point where you can justify entire conferences and an arena’s worth of endowed chairs to figure out not only the source document of every scrap of biblical text, but also the gender, political inclinations, subversive intentions, height, weight and personal traumas encumbering every one of its authors.

The first two are plausible, I suppose. But the third has always struck me as pure fantasy, the point where idle speculation gives way to heavily funded hubris. Of course, if I’m right about the third, the first two lose their authority as well.

Why don’t I buy it?

It’s not just because of how stark, uninspiring and vaguely European those four letters look in a byline. Nor is it the fact that in more than a century’s worth of digging up the Middle East by archaeologists, not a single trace of any of these postulated “source texts” has ever turned up. And it’s certainly not because the scholars’ approach contradicts my faith — after all, it was the willful suspension of faith that led me to consider it in the first place.

No, faith and skepticism dwell together in my confused bosom like pudding and pie.

Rather, my rebellion against these scholars comes from experience. Specifically, my experience as an editor.

It all started a few years back when, as the senior editor of a Jerusalem-based journal of public thought, I ran into trouble on a 10,000-word, brilliantly researched essay about Israeli social policy composed by the sweetest man on earth who, unfortunately wasn’t a stellar writer.

I spent a few weeks rewriting, moving things around, adding and cutting and sweating. Finally I passed it up the chain to Dan, my editor-in-chief.

"Hey Dan," I said. "Could you take a look at this? I added a whole paragraph in the conclusion. Tell me what you think."

A few days later I got it back, marked up in red ballpoint. On the last page, in the conclusion, he had written the words “This is the paragraph you added,” and drawn a huge red arrow.

But the arrow, alas, was pointing at the wrong paragraph.

You see, it turns out that it’s not very easy to reverse-engineer an editing job. To take an edited text and figure out, in retrospect, what changes it went through — it’s about a million times harder than those tenured, tortured Bible scholars will tell you.

Language is fluid and flexible, the product of the vagaries of the human soul. When an editor has free rein, he can make anything sound like he’d written it himself, or like the author’s own voice, or something else entirely. It all depends on his aims, his training, his talent and the quality of his coffee that morning. A good editor is a ventriloquist of the written word.

That’s when I started to suspect that what Bible scholars claim they’re doing — telling you what the “original” Bible looked like — might be, in fact, impossible to do.

Think about it. My case was one in which the author, editor and reader are all known entities (in fact, they all know each other personally); the reading takes place in the exact same cultural and social context as the writing and editing; and the reader is himself a really smart guy, Ivy-league Ph.D. and all, who had spent a decade training the editor to be a certain kind of editor, with specific tools unique to the specific publication’s aims.

Not only that, but he was even told what kind of edit to look for, in which section. And still he couldn’t identify the change.

Now compare that with what Bible scholars do when they talk about J, E, P, and D. Not only do the readers not know the writers and editors personally, or even their identities or when or where they lived. The readers live thousands of years later and know nothing about the editors’ goals, whims, tastes, passions or fears — they don’t even know for sure that the whole thing really went through an editorial process at all.

(If anything, the same textual redundancies, narrative glitches, awkward word choices and so forth that the scholars claim are the telltale signs of an editing process are, in my experience, very often the opposite: the surest indicator that an author needs an editor, desperately. If the text was edited, it was done very poorly.)

As with any field of research that tries to reconstruct the distant past, biblical scholars get things wrong on a daily basis.

And that's OK: Getting things wrong is part of the nature of reconstruction. Whether you’re talking about the origins of galaxies, dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, medieval history or World War II, the conclusions of all historical research come with a big disclaimer: This is the best we’ve got so far. Stay tuned; we may revise our beliefs in a couple of years.

With biblical scholars, however, you often feel like they’re flying just a little blinder than everyone else. At what point does a scholar’s “best guess” become so foggy as to be meaningless?

The Five Books of Moses take place somewhere in the second millennium B.C.E., centuries before our earliest archeological corroborations for the biblical tales appearing in the Book of Joshua and onward. We have no other Hebrew writings of the time to compare it with. So all that scholars really have to go on is the text itself — a wild ride on a rickety, ancient, circular-reasoning roller-coaster with little external data to anchor our knowledge of anything.

This would be fine, of course, if there weren’t so much riding on it.

With other fields, we usually don’t have our own dinosaur in the fight. But with the Bible, it’s not just the scholars duking it out with the clergy. There’s all the rest of us trying to figure out what to do with this stupendously important book — either because it anchors our faith, or because it contains enduring wisdom and the foundations of our cultural identity.

Where does that leave us? Some people, sensing their most cherished beliefs are under siege, will retreat to the pillars of faith — whether that faith is religious or academic. Either it was Moses, or it was J, E, P, and D. End of discussion.

As for the rest of us, it may raise questions about whether we really ought to care that much about authorship at all, or instead just go with Mark Twain’s approach. “If the Ten Commandments were not written by Moses,” he once quipped, “then they were written by another fellow of the same name.”

Using our reason means sometimes admitting there are things we just don’t know, and maybe never will.

Maybe that’s all right. After all, isn’t it enough to know that the book is really important, that it has inspired love and hate and introspection and war for thousands of years, that it is full of interesting stories and wisdom, poetry and song, contradiction and fancy and an unparalleled belief in the importance of human endeavor - in the possibility of a better world - despite the enduring and tragic weaknesses that every biblical hero carries on his or her back? That it is an indelible part of who we are?

Isn’t that enough to make you just read the thing and hope for the best, forever grateful to Moses, or that other fellow by the same name?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Hazony.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • History • Judaism • Torah

soundoff (2,549 Responses)
  1. Benny

    Let me begin by saying that I have my own questions concerning the almighty. I do not begrudge those that practice their faith nor those that believe otherwise. We all have the ability to choose and NOONE should have the right to force their choices on another. Enjoy your faith or lack thereof. Live your life to be the best person you can be. It's too short not to.
    That being said, why is it that "people" had to post such tripe? Is it just to inflame another? If so, have the respect for yourself and others to keep your OPINION to yourselves.
    It seems that these types of articles only want to separate the masses. The perfect example of this was the opening phrase of this article. It seems to be an open invitation for belittlement. "I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally." Is he saying that to have faith is to think irrationally?
    I look forward to the opinions of the posters on CNN. The perspectives are unique and quite often entertaining. I just wish there was a news outlet that didn't intentionally try to encourage discord.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Benny

      You asked: " "I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally." Is he saying that to have faith is to think irrationally?"

      irrational thinking: not governed by or according to reason

      Believers want faith and their beliefs to be equal to evidence. There are many religions. There are many denominations of these religions. Each, has faith that their god is the one true god, and that they understand His wants. All cannot be correct.

      Faith is worthless without evidence. Subst_ituting faith and belief for evidence is not rational.

      Cheers!

      April 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > Is he saying that to have faith is to think irrationally?

      Yes. And he is correct.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • myklds

      No Bob...David maybe right but I think that's not what he meant to say..the keyword there is "subst-itu-ting". What he was tring to say i guess is that using faith to back-up any claims rather than evidence is irrational.

      Let us say that I have faith that your BLOB ego had overwhelmed your quark-sized logic. It's rational becoz your post above has just backed and proved it, not my mere faith.

      April 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  2. aginghippy

    If ever there was an oxymoron, it would be the term "biblical scholar".

    April 1, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      You couldn't hold a candle to N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Ravi Zacharias, or Richard Mouw.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Seriously

      I'd love to see any of them have a lenghty sit-down conversation with Christopher Hitchens. Try this YouTube link:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b1aIuoCq4w&feature=feedrec_grec_index

      April 1, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      HITCHENS??? HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! He has absolutely NO credentials to even pontificate on anything he speaks about. He's a columnist for a few news rags. He gets handled regularly in debates by the likes of Craig, D'Souza, and others.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Seriously

      @BillyDaCat. Noticed how slow the posts are coming now? Seems that everyone is watching that "news rag columnist", huh. Good day, you've been handed your crow so start eating...

      April 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      All you've "handed me" was a drunk lunatic with no credentials. I'll eat that all day long. It's just like a marshmallow. Only those who are intellectually immature think it is filling.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > All you've "handed me" was a drunk lunatic with no credentials. I'll eat that all day long. It's just like a marshmallow.

      Only morons disregard arguments due to the person not having credentials.

      > Only those who are intellectually immature think it is filling.

      You've got to be a troll.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      @ seriously & the Bobinator – If this is the type of person whom you choose to follow – so be it but I am a Christian and I will say this- Christians don't 'yearn' for the death of the world. Christians yearn for the time when Jesus returns so that we can be in a place where there is no evil. There will only be peace and joy. I'm sorry, but I choose to follow a man by the name of Jesus Christ who was a perfect example for us all – showing humbleness, love, humility, peace, and respect of others. In no way shape or form did he represent what this man is speaking of.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @geauxLSUtigers
      How do u know that Jesus is coming back? Do u know that Jesus said that he would come back when the last person of his generation died, but failed to come back. Sorry to tell you, but you are waiting in vain. He was just a man (but a very good man with great character), and he isn't going to come back because he's not god (like u may think).

      April 1, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      > Only morons disregard arguments due to the person not having credentials.

      So, you uncritically accept everything that anyone has to say? Do you listen to someone give you a diagnosis on your medical problems just because they stayed in a Holiday Inn express last night?

      >You must be a troll

      Why? Because I point out your stupidity?

      April 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  3. Colin

    All of the comments he makes about the difficulty of knowing who wrote the OT apply equally to the traditional (and doubtlessly incorrect) view that Moses wrote it. Why this traditional view is granted a free pass and given an exalted default position in theauthor's mind eludes me.

    I guess it all comes down to the same thing. There is an awful lot of pretending that one must undertake in order to be a believer in the 21st Century.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  4. Sam

    Interesting article. On a side note, I have to disagree with how the author separates faith and reason, like you can put on your "faith" hat and your "reason" hat. The implication being that if you believe something on "faith" you are being completely "unreasonable". While people certainly do this I don't think that's an accurate picture of faith. If all reason clearly points to something being false, holding on to it is stupid. Fortunately faith and reason can work well together, including in the ways this author mentions. He looks at the reasons and logic behind the claims of multiple authors and finds them lacking, thus bolstering his faith that Moses was the author (or at least primary author).

    This whole idea that to have "faith" you have to suspend "reason" is poison. A person can still use reason and logic while having faith, they can complement each other, and yes there are times when we find questions we can't answer. Still best to use the best information we have to find the most reasonable conclusion. The funny thing is this author has done just that. I would encourage him to not think of faith and reason as so separate and distinct as he treats them in this article, they are much closer together.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Colin

      Sam, agreed to a point. The problem is when (i) people use faith as a surrogate for reason and try to make facts up based soley on faith – the so called "leap of faith" being a classic example; and (ii) when faith is used to overide and trump logic -as in "the Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it".

      April 1, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Seriously

      "Faith" is why "believers" are very scary people to be around. If they indeed are true believers, they are potentially life threatening to anyone at any time for reasons only defined in their "book", which others who don't hold their particular faith may or may not have read and have no idea why they act in the manner in which they do. Its strange behavior to us, so we have to act accordingly and by the laws of the land – often leading to incarceration or snuffing their lives should they become violent (very extreme cases). Now that's got to make one wonder if religion isn't a terroist cult in itself...

      April 1, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Lycidas

      @Seriously- Oh plz, that is a weak excuse for not liking someone. Because you live in fear of them? It's their fault that you don't trust them and are prejudice because of their beliefs?

      April 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  5. CW

    @ HeavenSent and Fredreica,

    Like both your posts couldn't have said it better myself.

    @ to anyone else non-believer and atheists,

    As far as I'm concerned God used man to write his truth. No matter what I would like to think or anyone would say there isn't one of us who knows everything about who when and where the Bible was wrote. The only way to know is have faith that it is God's word and live by that and then there will be a day when all these questions will be answered....the reason you ask?....we will get to ask God himself all the na-'gging questions and then and only then will we have the answers to those questions.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > As far as I'm concerned God used man to write his truth. No matter what I would like to think or anyone would say there isn't one of us who knows everything about who when and where the Bible was wrote.

      So if you don't know where it was written, by whom, by what method, how can you accept it as truth. Do you randomly find pieces of paper that have things written on them and say "Well, that has to be true!"

      The only way to know is have faith that it is God's word and live by that and then there will be a day when all these questions will be answered....the reason you ask?....we will get to ask God himself all the na-'gging questions and then and only then will we have the answers to those questions.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • David Johnson

      @CW

      You said: "As far as I'm concerned God used man to write his truth. No matter what I would like to think or anyone would say there isn't one of us who knows everything about who when and where the Bible was wrote. The only way to know is have faith that it is God's word and live by that and then there will be a day when all these questions will be answered....the reason you ask?....we will get to ask God himself all the na-'gging questions and then and only then will we have the answers to those questions."

      If god used man to write His truth, then I have the same question for you, as I do for HeavenSent:

      There are ~38,000 of different Christian denominations. Each can show you scripture, that "prove" they alone know the truth and worship the one true god. Many, think their members will be the only ones saved.

      If, one true god exists, why could he not have inspired a bible that nobody could misinterpret? Isn't He all knowing and all powerful? If the only way we get to know Him is to read His truth (the Bible), comprehend what He wrote and apply His truth to our lives, then why was He not able to supply us with a bible that is not ambiguous?

      There are a number of religions, other than Christianity. Some of the gods worshiped are not even human, like the Hindu god Ganesha.
      These religions, and the different Christian denominations, have different beliefs of what god(s) want and even in their description of Him/Them.

      Each religion has their own revelations, they consider divinely revealed or inspired.
      If there is one true god, why are there so many versions of Him?

      With all these competing gods and belief systems, how do you know that what you believe and express is correct?
      What evidence can you give, that you interpret your bible correctly and your bible was written by the god you worship?
      All the believers of each religion and each denomination, feel their god in their heart. *sigh*

      All of these religions and denominations, could not all be right. But, they could all be wrong. Maybe humans haven't discovered the one true god, yet. Or maybe god does not exist.

      So tell me, how do you know you have chosen the correct god?

      Cheers!

      April 1, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @David Johnson
      Although i appreciate the logic in your posts, I don't think u should wait for a rational response from the likes of heavensent, cw, and fredreca. They are incapable of logical thinking when it comes to their god. They have been unable to free themselves from the indoctrination into the christian faith since their childhood and it seems that no type of logical questions can get them to actually THINK and stop being delusional sheep. They believe in mythical stories like adam and eve as literal FACTs when the real truth is that adam and eve is a creation myth and can be easily logically dismantled.
      My definition of delusional people: Reject facts to maintain their irrational faith cause it makes them feel emotionally comfortable and secure.
      If they begin to accept the facts that you propose to them, they will have a huge guilt trip and feel very uncomfortable and feel like they are betraying their god. Some are strong enough to accept facts, some are not.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Tricia B.

      @ David Johnson,

      Your very arguement about different religions and beliefs can be found in the bible itself. For one in revelation the four horse man the first horse the white horse resembles false christianity. This is the spreading of false religions and false beliefs and the tearing apart of scriptures. Each denomination out there is only about 50% acuarrate in their teachings they only take the scriptures that support a theory and run with it and disregard the rest. On of the main ones is the Sunday sabbath which was adopted many years ago but there is NO scriptures to support it anywhere in the bible or that Saturday sabbath was only for the jewish people, yes there may be scriptures that can fit this but upon looking at all the scriptures in relevance to this topic you see that its not for the jews but for all the spiritual children of Isreal which is ALL Gods children not just the jews. In the first chapter of revelations it also talks about the different eras of churches with our generation being the seventh era and are called the laodecians which is the era of lukewarm christianity, where God says we are neither hot nor cold and he wishes we were either cold or hot, for once again we only have PART of christianity right and is mixed with alot of false. For instance we celebrate mans traditions and totally disregard the traditions in the bible, yet God warns of worshipping another jesus and we do just that and he also says not to teach for doctrine the commandments of men which is exactly what is being done. So many people cant understand why God would be so cruel to come down and smite the people he supposedly loves but think of it like this. If we are all God children believers or non then it would be no different then us disciplining our own children no we arent going to kill our kids, but look around how else is god going to punish his children? Plus when he comes to discipline he is going to take the ones who truely followed him and give them everything they strived for in this life which is peace, safety, and love, who wouldnt want to test this and gain all this in the end? If you study prophecy really close in the bible like matt.24 for one and watch news and weather really close how could you not see that what God is predicting is happening right now? Its all there it isnt confusing if you put the big picture together. raptures, heaven being our reward, ever buning hell, sunday worship, this are examples of false religion. Now why would God allow this to happen? He didnt allow this he just predicted that man would end up doing all this and the consequences of the actions. Jesus said this is not his world. which it isnt it states clearly that this is Satans world right now, look at the world and think about it for God says that Satan will come as an angel of light so dont be surprised when his demons come as angels of good, and that we will call good bad and bad good which im sorry we have done just that. Im not sure what your religious beliefs for or against are, i was just responding to your comment, but if you want to look into this just to see or what not go to this website http://www.rcg.org or http://www.lcg.org or http://www.ucg.org they are very interesting.

      July 6, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  6. Seriously

    The bible is a myth, by definition. It was written by man, not by a diety. If any religion on earth could come forth and proclaim that their diety had actually written a religious user's manual, then perhaps we could all relax and have true faith that its contents were 100% factual and not perversely twisted by man's innate weakness for doing such. Just as there is no such book/manual, there is no supreme being or diety – only man's inept attempt to explain his existence and reason for being here.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      By whose definition? Yours?

      April 1, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • EZNY

      The Bible is a myth
      Proof: a person cannot right about their own death.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @EZNY- Can someone left about their own death? 😉

      April 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  7. TREMILOW

    dude!!! try finding and reading about jesus... i know it was not the religion taught to you... but only through jesus will you find the kingdom of god! accept him as your personal lord and savior and you will live forever with him in heaven. his son died on the cross so that we may never taste death. so who wrote the bible?? good men who were trying to save souls. the most important thing to learn from the bible is that jesus lived and died for you. accept him!! and live forever!!

    April 1, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Ophitke38

      When you say, "Try finding and reading about Jesus," would that include reading about Yuz Asaf who is buried in Kashmir? Or would you exclude that because it doesn't fit the biblical tale?

      April 1, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • David Johnson

      @TREMILOW

      You said: "but only through jesus will you find the kingdom of god! accept him as your personal lord and savior and you will live forever with him in heaven. his son died on the cross so that we may never taste death. so who wrote the bible?? good men who were trying to save souls. the most important thing to learn from the bible is that jesus lived and died for you. accept him!! and live forever!!"

      What proof do you have that what you say is true? There is no proof that Jesus even actually existed.

      Cheers!

      April 1, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • TREMILOW

      NO IM TALKING ABOUT JESUS WHO DIED THEN RESURRECTED!!! THERE WAS NO BODY TO BURY AFTER THAT!!! HE EXISTED AS THE HOLY GHOST! PLUS HE IS OMNIPRESENT EVERYWHERE! WITH ALL DO RESPECT, IM SURE WHOEVER YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT WAS GREAT, BUT NO ONE IS AS POWERFUL AS THE ALL MIGHTY GOD!!

      April 1, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • EZNY

      Your almighty God likes to torture people and let his people suffer a lot. Can we call him semimighty? How about just Mighty? Maybe we can call him the really powerful except when you need him and he doesn't show up because he's helping the guy that's destroying you God.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @EZNY- Wow, pointing fingers much? Is God responsible for your reactions on this Earth? I think you need to look upon humanity a little bit for the problems that come about.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  8. Jim

    I'm surprised that so many people actually believe that an invisible man lives in the sky and controls their lives!

    April 1, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Anne

      Who wrote the bible?!? NOT GOD!!!

      April 1, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      And I'm surprised that so many think that there is nothing else but them.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Seriously

      Isn't it just silly...

      April 1, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • WarhammerTwo

      Hey Jim,

      First off, forgive me if I jump all over the place. I have a ton of notions in my head but not the time to organize them as well as they probably should be. That being said…

      Not all of us Christians believe that God is a big invisible guy in the sky. I think of God as more of a force, energy or feeling. I don't personify God although I will often refer to God as through some gender based pronoun like "Him" or "He" just to make talking about Him easier. Our feelings of love, mercy, compassion, empathy – our conscience – is, to me, God. It's that inexplicable force that drives (most) of us to look out for each other and take care of one another. The commandments of not killing, not lying and the like? Those are universally accepted moralistic truths. I mean, you don't need the Bible to tell you killing, stealing and lying is wrong. However, when you violate those and you feel guilty about it? To me, that guilt is God.

      And I believe in Jesus. I struggle with his divinity. I'm not sure if he was God made flesh. I suppose if you feel like I do, about God being love, compassion and empathy, then yeah, he could be. According to the stories (which I freely admit made have been greatly exaggerated after his death), he was probably the closest a person could ever be to God. And even if that's all he was (and perhaps he didn't even exist at all), I believe in the MESSAGE of peace and love that he (and his followers or the authors of texts that attribute such messages to him) preached, and that is why I call myself a Christian.

      When I have a moral problem and I consult the Bible (which I do not take literally), I can often find a passage that speaks to me. It guides me. Or should I say, what I derive from the readings guides me. And what I derive is driven by my conscience, which I believe to be God speaking to and through me. All the Bible reading does is allow me a way to focus and meditate on an issue until the answer comes to me. Some people don't need a Bible, but it's the method I prefer.

      As far as the pain and suffering argument folks make as to why a truly loving and compassionate God would even allow pain and suffering, well, I believe that God gave us free will. I don't think God creates tornados or earthquakes to purposefully hurt us. He doesn't control our lives. We can willfully ignore God if we want. I think God gave us life and then let us go. And I think all the bad stuff that happens to us, while not intentionally directed by God, is there to make us appreciate the gift of life. And we take that gift for granted. Life is short and it's precious so stuff like cancer and tornados can easily take it away – all the more reason to listen to that little voice in your head (to me, God) that tells you to love one another, be nice to each other, to care of each other. So why would a perfect God allow an imperfection like cancer into our systems? To test us, to teach us. He doesn't trigger it. He doesn't cause it. Flaws in our replicating DNA cause cancer. They happen at random or have certain man made or environmental triggers, but I think God allowed those flaws to there.

      And I do think God created us. Not like in Genesis. I believe in evolution. But I think that the odds of all the right chemicals and conditions being in the right place at the right time to create whatever single cell organisms in puddles of Paleolithic goo all those millions of years ago are just too miniscule to have happened just by sheer luck. I think there was something behind it. God? Well, yeah, since I really don't have a better explanation for it. However, I don't envision some invisible man floating in space mixing things together like some mad scientist. I can't begin to imagine God. It's a force of nature, an energy of some sort. I dunno. God is beyond my comprehension. All I know is that God touches me and moves me and drives me through my conscience, my feelings and my love.

      I still don't think I've explained myself properly and I don't know if I ever really can. It's complicated. There's so much more I can talk about, including the fact that I could be 100% wrong in everything I think. I don't know what happens when we die. Contrary to what either religious folks or atheists proclaim, no one knows what happens when we die. Does our spark of life, whatever energy it is that makes us what we are, simply extinguish or does it join into that force, that energy, that collective conscience I refer to as God? Does it get recycled into new life? I am not arrogant enough to say with any certainty that I know the answer. We'll all just have to wait and see.

      In the meantime, Jim, I just wanted to let you know that while all folks who think there is a big invisible man in the sky believe in God, not all folks who believe in God think there is a big invisible man in the sky.

      🙂

      Later gator.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • QS

      "Not all of us Christians believe that God is a big invisible guy in the sky."

      Then you are not Christian, you are agnostic. It's ok to actually set aside your indoctrination and accept that you may have your belief in a supreme being of some sort, but that it's not the "god" of the bible. If it were, then you must believe and accept the bible as truth...as you admit that you don't, you are not of that religion.

      So many people seem only to identify with any given religion out of obligation, because their family is that religion, or because they're afraid of alienating family members by actually "confessing" that they don't believe what the rest of the family does.

      I'm an Atheist but I have no problem with people who have faith in something I don't believe in. It's when that psychotic fanaticism requires them to form a 'church' and 'congregate' in order to feed off of each other's fear and prejudice that I start to take issue.

      Sadly, because of the culture and environment of guilt that religion creates and promotes, far too many people are still trapped between their own ability to reason and the fear of "coming out" as a non-believer.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • EZNY

      "When I have a moral problem and I consult the Bible (which I do not take literally), I can often find a passage that speaks to me."

      I have rock songs I can do the same thing with does that mean Metallica or Guns N Roses are the Modern Bible.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Jim sputtered, "I'm surprised that so many people actually believe that an invisible man lives in the sky and controls their lives!"

      Who believes that? Oh, that is your elementary view of Christianity. A suggestion, go take a few theology classes on the Torah and the New Testament. Maybe even a few lessons on St. Augustine might do you a bit of good too.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @QS- One does not need to be a literalist to be a follower of God.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • WarhammerTwo

      QS stated, "Then you are not Christian, you are agnostic. It's ok to actually set aside your indoctrination and accept that you may have your belief in a supreme being of some sort, but that it's not the "god" of the bible. If it were, then you must believe and accept the bible as truth...as you admit that you don't, you are not of that religion."

      Actually, QS, I have a whole United Church of Christ congregation that would disagree with you. Folks in my church have all sorts of differetn opinions and theories about God and the Bible, theology and spirituality. Our Sunday morning adult education classes are all about interpreting Scripture and it's off the wall stuff. And that's why I love our church. We actually just studied CS Lewis' "The Great Divorce" which opened up an amazing debate on the concepts of Heaven and Hell. And what's great about the church is that no one will tell you they are right and no one will tell you that you are wrong. We're all driven by Christ's call to feed the hungry, house the homeless and bring good news to the poor. We make it a focal point of our lives to volunteer at the local food bank, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and every year we get $5000 together to buy an Ark from Heifer International (look it up, it's an AWESOME charity). We do the annual Point in Time Homeless survey taking food and hygiene kits to those living on the streets. Our jail chaplaincy reaches out to council inmates and we provide toys for the inmates to give to their children at Christmas time. The kids shouldn't suffer just cuz mom or dad is in the clink. We provide food and help serve Thanksgiving dinner at our local soup kitchen. We are Open and Affirming and fully support Gay Marriage. It doesn't matter to us about who's theology and interpretation of Scripture is right. It doesn't matter what we envision God to be. All that matters is that we believe in Jesus' commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself." If you believe in that message, to us, you're Christian. EVERYTHING ELSE IS IRRELEVANT. Any conflict or contradiction in the Bible? That one one rule trumps it. It's that simple. One rule. That's all there is. You measure everything in your life, every decision you make, up against that rule, and you'll be leading a Christ-like life. To us, that makes you Christian. And if you don't agree with that? Well, frankly, we don't care. That's your OPINION and you are welcome to it. We'll love you regardless of where you stand and help you if you should ever need it. No questions asked. No judgments passed. We just do. To us, that's Christian.

      🙂

      Later gator.

      April 3, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Brandon

      @WarhammerTwo

      That is the most eloquent description of my thoughts on God I have seen. I don't place much stock on prayer, but I pray for the time that more people are as accepting and loving as you.

      Thank you

      May 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  9. Bill the Cat

    Faith and reason are not separate things:

    http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html

    April 1, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • The Bobinator

      Define faith then. Define reason.

      Then I'll show you why faith and reason are mutually exclusive.

      If you have a good reason to believe in something, for example, evidence, you don't need faith.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      Read the article and then come to Theologyweb and try to rebut it. You will be the latest chew toy in a long line of skeptics.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • The Bobinator

      I have rebutted it. It's listed above.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      If you call that a rebuttal, you will get crushed.

      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?145351-quot-The-Bobinator-quot-on-quot-What-is-Faith-quot

      April 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • EZNY

      Wow three of your members spend all day talking back and forth on your little website about how right you are without even discussing the facts. IT's cute.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  10. Tonyd0311

    I stopped reading after you claimed that morality is derived from faith. What a load of garbage.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh, and what were little Tonyd0311 parents teaching him when he was a toad?

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  11. coder

    i wonder if moses, mohammed, and jesus are as proud of the murder they have started as the people who allow it to happen - religion is about control period

    April 1, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • MIK

      The scary thing after all, is when religious fanatics meet, something blows up, sometimes is not about faith anymore... is all about mass control. Let's believe in what each one of us want to believe without trying to impose our truth. Also let's not mix Politics and Religion under the same line, and we will find ourselves living a peaceful life. MIK

      April 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I wonder if coder realizes he's all about control as he spews his nonsense on this blog.

      Period.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  12. The Bobinator

    From the author: Usually this oscillation between faith and skepticism serves me well, with faith giving reason its moral bearings, and reason keeping faith, well, reasonable.

    I'd contend that the author isn't applying reason. Faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Faith is the acceptance of something without evidence. Reason is using evidence to reach a conclusion.

    What the author is doing is applying reason to eliminate beliefs he doesn't like while not applying reason to his own beliefs.

    April 1, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      Then you have no idea what biblical faith is.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • derp

      Ding, we have a winner!

      April 1, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > Then you have no idea what biblical faith is.

      Why don't you explain it to me. Then I can show you why you're wrong.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      How about you read something instead?

      http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html

      Then you can respond to the author at http://www.theologyweb.com. Mr. Holding has his own area, "Tektonics"

      April 1, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Phaedrus

      Yeah… This bothered me as well. The author started in the middle, using ‘reason’ to pick apart an unreasonable (illogical) faith based conclusion (‘God’ exists). The only thing he got right is the fact that it doesn’t matter who wrote the Bible. Until ‘reason’ (logic) can unequivocally prove that God in fact exists, all matters of faith are irrelevant. Fat chance of that…

      April 1, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > How about you read something instead? http://www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html

      From the site...
      A reader summed it up well:
      "If our faith was supposed to be blind and not grounded in evidence, then there is no reason for God to reveal anything. There would be no reason for Jesus to perform miracles for all to see, or no reason for Jesus to teach things about the Kingdom of Heaven, no reason for Jesus to appear to his disciples after he resurrected, etc."

      I have three main arguments against this.

      1) Assuming God exists, the conclusion drawn are false. This is because no man can accurately describe and qualify the mind of God. And in fact, the bible disagrees with you. God by definition of the bible wishes us to follow the law that was set forth. This is a different motivation from "having people believe on faith." God realizes that to let people know he must appear to them or alter their culture. Given that intervention (ie, provides proof) and faith (lack of proof) are mutually exclusive, why can't God value knowledge over faith? That is to say, intervention is a neccessary act to fulfill his will. Doesn't mean he doesn't want blind faith or that he has provided enough to logically believe.

      2) Of course, this argument also presupposes that a God exists and the bible is an accurate representation. God may wish us only to have faith and the rest of the bible may be made up by man.

      3) Lastly, the argument is circular. We don't have blind faith because God gave us clues. Why did God give you clues? Because he didn't want us to have blind faith. How do you know that God doens't want you to have blind faith? God gave us clues.

      Crappy website, crappy argument.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      I've started your very own thread with that last post. Ya got the stones, big boy?
      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?145351-quot-The-Bobinator-quot-on-quot-What-is-Faith-quot

      April 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      Yes, yes I do. But hwen I get home from work.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, Jesus already knew you would question Him.

      For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

      1 Corinthians 1:22

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • BradLW

      The Bobinator:

      Gosh! Why wasn't I surprised w/r to your impression of the Tektonic site? Which I heartily share!

      April 1, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • BradLW

      Wow! Talk about a group of arrogant, condescending, troglodytes! They're out in force at theologyweb!!!

      Got a flash for you guys over there; quoting from any authority is not evidence; never has been; never will be. When you give us some verifiable/falsifiable data for your supernatural assertions, we might be willing to engage; but only if you guys are willing to have a reasoned discussion instead of childish name calling.

      Seems as though all you have is the same ole pathetic apologetic bag of nonsense.

      April 2, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • HeavenSent

      BradLW, troglodytes! I see you've been watching TV movies about nightclubs that don't even exist anymore, not to mention were popular before you started sucking up oxygen in this world.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  13. Reality

    Again, the 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis are way ahead of David Hazony. No mention of this in Dave's comments. One wonders why that is? And he does not mention The Code of Hammurabi or the Egyptian Book of the Dead both of which predate the Torah as "Ancient Moral Codes".

    To wit:

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

    "New Torah For Modern Minds

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

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

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

    "When I grew up in Brooklyn, congregants were not sophisticated about anything," said Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and a co-editor of the new book. "Today, they are very sophisticated and well read about psychology, literature and history, but they are locked in a childish version of the Bible."

    "Etz Hayim," compiled by David Lieber of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, seeks to change that. It offers the standard Hebrew text, a parallel English translation (edited by Chaim Potok, best known as the author of "The Chosen"), a page-by-page exegesis, periodic commentaries on Jewish practice and, at the end, 41 essays by prominent rabbis and scholars on topics ranging from the Torah scroll and dietary laws to ecology and eschatology.

    These essays, perused during uninspired sermons or Torah readings at Sabbath services, will no doubt surprise many congregants. For instance, an essay on Ancient Near Eastern Mythology," by Robert Wexler, president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, states that on the basis of modern scholarship, it seems unlikely that the story of Genesis originated in Palestine. More likely, Mr. Wexler says, it arose in Mesopotamia, the influence of which is most apparent in the story of the Flood, which probably grew out of the periodic overflowing of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The story of Noah, Mr. Wexler adds, was probably borrowed from the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh.

    Equally striking for many readers will be the essay "Biblical Archaeology," by Lee I. Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel's sojourn in that country," he writes, "and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect." The few indirect pieces of evidence, like the use of Egyptian names, he adds, "are far from adequate to corroborate the historicity of the biblical account."

    Similarly ambiguous, Mr. Levine writes, is the evidence of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the ancient name for the area including Israel. Excavations showing that Jericho was unwalled and uninhabited, he says, "clearly seem to contradict the violent and complete conquest portrayed in the Book of Joshua." What's more, he says, there is an "almost total absence of archaeological evidence" backing up the Bible's grand descriptions of the Jerusalem of David and Solomon.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

    The reaction to the rabbi's talk ranged from admiration at his courage to dismay at his timing to anger at his audacity. Reported in Jewish publications around the world, the sermon brought him a flood of letters accusing him of undermining the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. But he also received many messages of support. "I can't tell you how many rabbis called me, e-mailed me and wrote me, saying, 'God bless you for saying what we all believe,' " Rabbi Wolpe said. He attributes the "explosion" set off by his sermon to "the reluctance of rabbis to say what they really believe."

    Before the introduction of "Etz Hayim," the Conservative movement relied on the Torah commentary of Joseph Hertz, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. By 1936, when it was issued, the Hebrew Bible had come under intense scrutiny from scholars like Julius Wellhausen of Germany, who raised many questions about the text's authorship and accuracy. Hertz, working in an era of rampant anti-Semitism and of Christian efforts to demonstrate the inferiority of the "Old" Testament to the "New," dismissed all doubts about the integrity of the text.

    Maintaining that no people would have invented for themselves so "disgraceful" a past as that of being slaves in a foreign land, he wrote that "of all Oriental chronicles, it is only the Biblical annals that deserve the name of history."

    The Hertz approach had little compet-ition until 1981, when the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the official arm of Reform Judaism, published its own Torah commentary. Edited by Rabbi Gunther Plaut, it took note of the growing body of archaeological and textual evidence that called the accuracy of the biblical account into question. The "tales" of Genesis, it flatly stated, were a mix of "myth, legend, distant memory and search for origins, bound together by the strands of a central theological concept." But Exodus, it insisted, belonged in "the realm of history." While there are scholars who consider the Exodus story to be "folk tales," the commentary observed, "this is a minority view."

    Twenty years later, the weight of scholarly evidence questioning the Exodus narrative had become so great that the minority view had become the majority one.

    Not among Orthodox Jews, however. They continue to regard the Torah as the divine and immutable word of God. Their most widely used Torah commentary, known as the Stone Edition (1993), declares in its introduction "that every letter and word of the Torah was given to Moses by God."

    April 1, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Lycidas

      Oy vey, the first few sentences are unique enough to get the rest of the copy/paste past the moderator.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality, snooze you loose.

      No eternity for you buddy boy.

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • BradLW

      Nice summation Reality. Too bad that most of the xtian believers who blog here choose (because of fear, insecurity ???) to maintain their ignorance.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      BradLW, We've read and understand Jude 4. Don't think you and Reality are fooling anyone acting the fool.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  14. Prophet Muhammad

    It does matter who wrote it. Maybe we can explain to fairy tale beliver that these stories were made up by uneducated men who made up these stories to explain things they had no idea about.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • HeavenSent

      PM, then explain to all Christians how these men knew what to write in these scriptures:

      Genesis 2:7: "And the Lord God formed man of the DUST OF THE GROUND, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." Surely, you don't take Genesis 2:7 seriously? Do you?

      Psalm 8:8: ". . . whatsoever passeth through the PATHS OF THE SEAS." How did David (the writer of Psalms) know, over 2,000 years ago, there were "paths in the seas"? David probably never even saw an ocean!

      Ecclesiastes 1:7: "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." How did the writer of Ecclesiastes know the water cycle of condensation and evaporation in 1000 B.C.?

      Job 38:19: "Where is THE WAY where light dwelleth?" How come Job didn't say where is THE PLACE where light dwelleth? Because light is always moving. How did Job know something in 1500 B.C. ?

      Ecclesiastes 1:6: "The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again ACCORDING TO HIS CIRCUITS." How did the writer of Ecclesiastes know the wind traveled within circuits? How did he know with their so-called limited knowledge thousands of years ago?

      Leviticus 17:11: For the life of the flesh is in the blood. What Moses wrote in 1490 B.C. written thousands of years ago, by men with such limited knowledge?

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • BradLW

      HeavenSent:

      Please, please go study (notice I didn't say "read") some history of religion.

      In the process, remember that there are more non-xtians than xtians on our speck in spacetime and it is almost certain that they are not going to the xtian "hell" simply because they haven't accepted jebus as their personal savior.

      Also remember that we are all "atheists"; those of us who openly profess our atheism simply profess no belief in one less god than xtian believers; or maybe it's three fewer gods in light of the trinitarian hypothesis.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I've been posting on other sites.

      As for BradLW, you need to study (not just read) about the day of the Lord.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 5:51 am |
    • TheyNotHim

      @HS

      *FACEPALM*

      July 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  15. CatholicMom

    For those who say ‘it doesn’t matter who wrote the Bible’, I say that is just another way of trying to plant and validate one's own doubt about God’s Word.

    The Catholic Church gathered the Inspired Scriptures and placed them in the Bible, guided by the Holy Spirit; if someone is thinking that the Bible is ‘…full of interesting stories and wisdom, poetry and song, contradiction and fancy and an unparalleled belief…’ shows their own doubt about the Truth.

    What a hard-hearted way to live.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • Steve

      No, it's not doubt about the truth. It's acknowledging the truth of the human condition. The bible is a collection of writings from people who were following God to best of their ability. That means that they were still human. They still had mistakes and shortcomings. They still had terribly wrong inclinations sometimes. THAT is the truth, and it should give us comfort that God is still gracious with us like He was with them.

      As one of many examples: In Psalm 137 it says
      "7 Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did
      on the day Jerusalem fell.
      “Tear it down,” they cried,
      “tear it down to its foundations!”
      8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
      happy is the one who repays you
      according to what you have done to us.
      9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
      and dashes them against the rocks."

      So should we be bashing the heads of the babies of our enemies? Is this the truth? Was this God talking? If it is, is God loving? Doesn't that contridict Jesus' teaching to "love your enemies"?

      Obviously, this passage doesn't reflect the heart of God, and yet, it's in the Bible.

      This is why it's so important to not toss around phrases like "the Word of God" and "the truth" without understanding all of the implications of such phrases.

      It's not as black and white as you would like for it to be.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > What a hard-hearted way to live.

      Yes, because immediately accepting something because someone tells you it's so is the real way to live.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • cthulhu

      CatholicMom:

      You'll have to tell that to the Catholic Church's hierarchy. (Start with the Pope, before anyone manages to nail him with a conviction.) Their "inspired" interpretation is that various myths were most definitely never intended to be interpreted as literally true. They are metaphors and parables, literary trifles written by men to convey what they believe is a deeper "spiritual meaning" about events that cannot actually have transpired. This is what for centuries they have called "sophisticated theology." You apparently don't even know your own church's doctrines.

      Meanwhile, we atheists are criticized for mocking anyone who is so pathetically ignorant as to believe these "Truths" you think are so necessary for keeping your faith from disintegrating.

      April 1, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Cthulhu,

      Most people know what a parable is and knowing this we understand what the parable is illustrating. Jesus spoke in parables often to help the unlearned grasp an idea. Parables still work today!

      April 1, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Spencer

      What makes me chuckle is that no one is considering that the Holy Spirit could be with many of those posting here today. The Holy Spirit could be the one saying, we need to stop with these misguided interpretations of the past, use the knowledge you have learned to find the truth. But, no we continue to get these lost in the past Christians who are afraid to open there minds and acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in this century.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • dangin

      Hey, Vatican II says you don't have to read the bible. Personally, I think that is to save priests time answering all the questions about the things that don't make sense. But also, when the authority tell you you don't have to understand the rules book. Time to question that authority.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • HeavenSent

      CatholicMom, you do realize that you are blogging with a bunch of dry bones.

      Spencer, the Holy Spirit is Jesus. Have you read His letter (the Bible) He sent to all of us. No. Then either you get off your lazy duff and do so, or Jesus will say to you when you meet Him, depart from me, for I never knew you.

      The only way you can know Jesus is to read the Bible. Not listening to all the propaganda that keeps you lazy and sends your soul to the eternal flames.

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • BradLW

      Old habits die hard.

      Anyone who is capable of a very small amount of reasoning and who reads the xtian bible from cover to cover (both ot and nt) has to come away with some little amount of knowledge of how silly the whole thing is. Therefore, I submit that when anyone tells anyone else to go and read the bible, what they really mean is to go and read only the verses that I (the first person) tell you to so that " . . . your eyes will be opened . . . " has never read the xtian bible (ot and nt) from cover to cover and really has no bases for argument in support of the xtian bible.

      Catholic Mom, you really don't have a good understanding of the modern tenets of your church. Again I suggest that you spend a few dollars and obtain a searchable copy of your bible and a copy of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

      April 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  16. HeavenSent

    We have this life that soon will pass, only what we do with Jesus' love will last.

    Amen..

    April 1, 2011 at 6:02 am |
    • Ophitke38

      Doesn't that just prove the point? Substance and facts don't matter. A warm fuzzy does.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus teaches spiritual truth. When a person refuses to learn His wisdom, they stay in carnal thinking mode. Carnal thinking is what causes a person pain. Spiritual thinking causes no pain because we realize that this life is a test from God so that we can love and follow Him and spiritually become alive on earth as it is in Heaven to dwell with Him for eternity.

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  17. Jason the Pendleton Rat

    Oh oh, it's April 1st. Well with that in mind, this fool has a couple things to say. Agree with cthulhu. I appeciate the views of each of the above writers, and read with interest and value their passionate responses, but for me (as for the cthulhu author above), it is the problem of pain that is the clincher. In the end, the idea that a loving god exists in the face of all this evidence to the contrary is not even a possibility. I wish it were. I will not bore the good bloggers here with my personal story of ecesiastical hypocrisy which first motivated my path towards skepticism, but would simply add two things to this discussion.
    First, a "neither here nor there" observation. A few weeks ago I went to the King Tut exhibit at a musuem in Minnesota when I was visiting a family member, and was struck by the similarity of the strained, fatigued and convoluted belief systems which humans 4500 years ago concocted to explain for themselves the universe they found themselves in. They were no different from us, except we are maybe more arrogant, and slightly more advanced in a few areas, maybe less advanced in other areas.
    Second, and most imortantly to this discussion, in my opinion, Mr. Hazony's article does not in any way add to or advance the discussion about that which he criticises, (nor I am afraid, do any of the above bloggers challenge or refute any of the J,E,P, and D (isn't there also a known K source), theories which the "PHD's" would be more than happy, I'm sure, to revisit with any real evidence). The texts he says are fine and the source theories are unimportatnt, while he finds them implausible. Besides the actual literary process which I do NOT personally find implausible, and would be more than happy to look at with any shred of differing evidence, there is also the process of cannon formation, where some texts were chosen, by humans, for their very real, specific liturgical uses, while others were not chosen. Many of those extra cannonical texts are available, and enlightening. No matter what one thinks or believes about the authorship question, there remains the question of the formation of the cannon, which was a process, implying that there existed a contrinuum, and that it changed, from one period, to the final period when the process ended. That was a humnan process, and there is no dispute about that. Why doesn't Mr. Hazony address that ? An interesting omission.

    April 1, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • San Onofre Surfer

      Hey Jason,
      Is that Camp Pendleton ? A thoughtful marine. Wow.
      I could buy you a beer.
      Anyway, you aint nobody's fool.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • Jason the Pendleton Rat

      San Ono,
      You got it.
      Am the commanding rrresident rrrodent.
      Thanks.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:29 am |
    • Jason the Pendleton Rat

      San Ono,
      Sorry, BTW, am under age, or I'd take you up on that.
      Behave.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • cthulhu

      *clenched tentacle salute* to you, Jason the Pendleton Rat. (NB, it should be "canon" rather than "cannon.")

      "Mr. Hazony's article does not in any way add to or advance the discussion about that which he criticises, (nor I am afraid, do any of the above bloggers challenge or refute any of the J,E,P, and D (isn't there also a known K source), theories which the "PHD's" would be more than happy, I'm sure, to revisit with any real evidence)."

      Is this your first time at CNN's Belief Blog? 😉 You're right, of course. It's hard to count all of the wrongness in the article - pretty much everything. He's given an argument from incredulity against a strawman Biblical scholar, based on a rather facile analogy to what his editor-in-chief thought about one of his submissions. Here's a particularly absurd excerpt:

      "The first two are plausible, I suppose. But the third has always struck me as pure fantasy, the point where idle speculation gives way to heavily funded hubris. Of course, if I’m right about the third, the first two lose their authority as well."

      Even taking his judgments as a given, he's still saying plausible claims are equivalent with fantasy. Does he honestly believe their veracity is somehow dependent on one another, and that the more plausible ones depend on the third? (I'm starting to wonder what he thinks of the Bible's authority, given all of its pure fantasy, global floods, miracles, etc.) Moreover, can he cite a single example of a Biblical scholar determining an author's supposed "height, weight and personal traumas"? Or is this just a convenient strawman, useful for casually disregarding whatever evidence he likes?

      April 1, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • San Onofre Surfer

      OK kiddo,
      Am actually a candidate up in Miramar, (Top Gun fighter pilot).
      Grew up down in San O
      You guys ROCK !

      April 1, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • Jason the Pendalton Rat

      Apology for my many spelling errors. My fifth grade teacher told me I would never amount to anything, 'cuz I could not spell. Yup, I need to learn to spell check everything.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Sam

      For you, Jason, I suggest reading the book of Job in the bible(maybe you already know the story). Job was a God-fearing and righteous man who was tested with physical agony and tremendous loss. God allowed Satan to torment Job with boils and killing his family. I take from the story a very important point: God is God and he does not need to explain his ways to anybody. Im sure Job was asking "Why me?" exactly like people ask why there is suffering in the world. We should not doubt God's lovingness and kindness when we go though troubles in life or see others suffer. This is insulting to God when he cares for us more than a father. Suffering is in the world because world because God gave everyone the ability to make his or her own decision – plain and simple. God is currently allowing the suffering to show the rest of the universe the consequences of not following his directions. Is this so hard to understand????

      April 1, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Lycidas

      @cthulhu- All you really did was criticize the author but gave little else. Was that your intent?

      April 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  18. HeavenSent

    God, through His Holy Spirit chose those men to write the Bible. God is the author of the Bible and those men He chose scribed what He wanted us to know as a blueprint how to live our best lives while housed in human flesh on earth as it is in Heaven for eternity. It is our responsibility to know Jesus and the only way we get to know Him is to read His truth (the Bible), comprehend what He wrote and apply His truth to our lives.

    Amen..

    April 1, 2011 at 2:28 am |
    • Frederica

      HeavenSent, Amen. The authorship of the Holy Bible by God is evident both internally and externally.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • cthulhu

      If a god had authored or inspired the Bible, or any sacred text, it could've included information about how to treat or cure cancer. Forget omnipotence. It takes an incredibly weak-tea deity to fail such an easy task, besides having failed in the first place by creating cancers. Then there are earthquakes, floods, mass extinctions - anything and everything that leads to suffering and mortality. Look in any direction, and you'll see the universe itself doesn't care about us. We care about us. We have such a fragile, insignificant existence; and if we're to survive, then we have to start caring and understanding our place in the big scheme of things. I would welcome the time when we all take up moral responsibility for ourselves, rather than putting the burden on absurd interpretations of ancient myths. You can hope imaginary beings will dole out rewards and punishments, but that isn't morality. It is utter nonsense and it is immoral.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • Steve

      You are asserting with authority that 1) God chose certain men to write Bible, 2) That it is a "Blueprint" for how we should live, 3) That God's "truth" is the Bible 4) That what it means to be a Christian is to "comprehend" and apply.

      Could you show me any of those phrases in the Bible?

      Where do you find those phrases?

      I'll pre-empt you a little bit. You have made some pretty loose interpretations about certain ideas that may or may not be what a particular author intended...but that simply confirms that you are interpreting. So why do you say it as if it's true?

      April 1, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > God, through His Holy Spirit chose those men to write the Bible.

      Ok, let's say for the sake of argument that you are correct. And let's say the Bible is divinely inspired. Doesn't that mean slavery is still moral. How about stoning your child for being disobedient. Is it still a sin to eat shellfish?

      The bible states that God is eternal and perfect, and if this is the case then the moral situations God laid down previously should be moral now shouldn't they? Why is it that we don't have slavery? Why is it that we no longer stone children?

      Is it because we've fallen from grace that we don't see how righteous these things are? Or is it because we've grown up intellectually from the time of the authors of the bible?

      April 1, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • John Markham

      I suppose "ignorance is bliss"?

      April 1, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Marley

      So your "God" likes NEPOTISM? Sorry, I'm not Jewish. This existence was not created by a "Jewish God" for the enjoyment of the "Jewish people". I am not being damned because Jewish people refuse to accept "Jesus". That is just stupid. Plain and simple.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • David Johnson

      @HeavenSent

      You said: "God is the author of the Bible and those men He chose scribed what He wanted us to know as a blueprint how to live our best lives while housed in human flesh on earth as it is in Heaven for eternity. It is our responsibility to know Jesus and the only way we get to know Him is to read His truth (the Bible), comprehend what He wrote and apply His truth to our lives."

      Hmm... You have never given me an answer to this:

      There are ~38,000 of different Christian denominations. Each can show you scripture, that "prove" they alone know the truth and worship the one true god. Many, think their members will be the only ones saved.

      If, one true god exists, why could he not have inspired a bible that nobody could misinterpret? Isn't He all knowing and all powerful? If the only way we get to know Him is to read His truth (the Bible), comprehend what He wrote and apply His truth to our lives, then why was He not able to supply us with a bible that is not ambiguous?

      There are a number of religions, other than Christianity. Some of the gods worshiped are not even human, like the Hindu god Ganesha.
      These religions, and the different Christian denominations, have different beliefs of what god(s) want and even in their description of Him/Them. Each religion has their own revelations, they consider divinely revealed or inspired.

      If there is one true god, why are there so many versions of Him?

      With all these competing gods and belief systems, how do you know that what you believe and express is correct?
      What evidence can you give, that you interpret your bible correctly and your bible was written by the god you worship?
      All the believers of each religion and each denomination, feel their god in their heart. *sigh*

      All of these religions and denominations, could not all be right. But, they could all be wrong. Maybe humans haven't discovered the one true god, yet. Or maybe god does not exist.

      So tell me, how do you know you have chosen the correct god?

      Cheers!

      April 1, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • HotAirAce

      @HeavenScent, Frederica and all other believers:

      When might we expect an answer to The Bobinator's questions? Personally, I don't think you can answer them – that just like the return of your imaginary saviour, it's not going to happen...

      April 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • EZNY

      So Jesus was an editor? Because his version of God and life is way different than the OT

      April 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @EZNY- "Because his version of God and life is way different than the OT"

      In what way? There really isn't that much of a difference if one reads the scriptures. The non-biblical view does tend to be different but that is due to ppl not actually reading.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, here we go again. You post the same thing over and over again and refuse any answers.

      Answer: Every soul is God’s children. Stoning is the same thing as a pervert murderer killing someone and getting the electric chair. I would say a murderer is a disobedient child. Even though that child is in his 40s, 50s, 60s.

      Eating shellfish is a sin against your health and could/will make you sick.

      Answer: Who ever said you grew up intellectually?

      Amen.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  19. mehmet

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    And when We told the angels: Prostrate before Adam, they prostrated, except Iblis.1 * God commands that you sacrifice a cow.2 * And yet after all this your hearts hardened and became like rocks or even harder.3

    One day while reading this verses, three points were imparted to me against the promptings of Satan from the effulgence of the Qur'an. His suggestions took this form:

    He said: "You say the Qur'an is a miracle, and of infinite eloquence, and that it is guidance for everyone at all times. And so what is the meaning in its persistently repeating in historical form certain minor events like the following: how is it appropriate to mention an insignificant event like the slaughtering of a cow in terms of something significant, and even naming that important Sura, 'The Cow'? Also the event of 'prostrating before Adam'; it is rnerely a matter of the Unseen and cannot be understood by the reason. It may be submitted to and accepted with certainty only after a strong belief has been obtained. Whereas the Qur'an instructs those who use their reasons; in many places it says: So will you not think?, and refers what it says to the reason. Also, what is the guidance in showing to be important, certain natural conditions of rocks which are the results of chance?"

    The form of the Points which were imparted to me is this:

    SECOND POINT: Although the Land of Egypt is a part of the Greater Sahara Desert, through the abundance of the Blessed Nile, it has become like an extremely fertile arable field. And such a blessed Paradise-like place being found adjacent to the hellish Sahara has made its agriculture most sought after by its people and has so fixed it in their characters that it has raised it to the level of being sacred, and the cow and the bull, the means to agriculture, to being sacred, and even objects of worship. The people of Egypt of that time considered the cow and bull to be so sacred they worshipped them. Thus, it is understood from the question of 'the Calf that the Children of Israel of that time, who grew up in Egypt, had acquired a share of that custom.

    Thus, the AI1-Wise Qur'an makes understood through the sacrifice of a cow that through his prophethood, Moses excised and destroyed the concept of cow-worship, which had entered into that nation's character and worked in their natures.

    Thus, through this minor incident, it expounds with an elevated miraculousness a universal principle which is most essential instruction in wisdom for everyone at all times.

    Making an analogy with this, you may understand that certain minor incidents in the Qur'an which are mentioned in the form of historical events, are the tips of universal principles. Even, in Lemeât, in the section on the Miraculousness of the Qur'an, taking the seven sentences of the Story of Moses, which is mentioned and repeated in many Suras, we have explained how each part of those particular sentences comprises an important universal principle. If you wish, you may refer to that treatise.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      or you could have just said symbolism is powerful.
      The world is full of important, deep meaning, life lessons and forces that we are hopeless in the face of, regardless of what book you read it in.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  20. RightTurnClyde

    Well OK .. let's say the Septuagint (or Old Testament) includes the Pentatuch and the O.T. writings regardless of whether Moses wrote ll of this himself or had scribes and helpers... and let's says they got translated into Greek (and were in the hands of Christian churchmen) sometime during the 1st Century. And lety's say that as the Apostles taught catechumens by oral tradition Mark and Luke and others were writing what they were teaching (class notes) in Greek and so about the time of Nicea there was a stack of notes that ultimately became the Old and New Testaments.

    Bear in mind (as well) that prior to the printing press and mass distribution there were not a large percentage of literate people and that those who had acquired literacy were either churchmen or nobles. They were not the common man. So well into the middle ages we do not have a READING society anywhere in the Mediterranean basin or in the Germanic tribal areas. It does not matter to any of them who wrote the bible because they could not partake of ti anyway. By 1500 AD (the Reformation - Queen Elizabeth - Columbus and the New World) literacy is very limited. The bible does not become "readily available" until the time of the King James Version (1610 AD) when Jamestown and Plymouth have been established and Protestants (especially Puritans) are dedicated to universal literacy (among their own). Catholic peasants do no acquire literacy until they migrate to the U.S. and are able to attend Catholic or public schools. (about 1900 AD). Americans, the most literate and well educated of the world's population have only an elementary level education into the 1920's and secondary become more widespread during and just after WWII. A college education is still somewhat exclusive well into the 1950s/

    The point is that the bible was not as significant as many would like to believe in the propagation of the Christian faith. Preachers and evangelists (like Billy Graham) made most of the conversions. The Catholic church taught "catechumens" well into the second half of the 20th century (and that began in the churches mentioned in Revelations and in Asia Minor). Jewish faith was passed along in families and in synagogues.

    There is no mention of the bible in the Nicene creed because it is not a tenet of the Christian faith (many religions) and it is not a requisite of the Jewish faith to be either literate or well versed in Jewish scripture.

    One can thus believe in God and Jesus Christ without being at all literate. For the great majority of Christians literacy was out of reach. Indeed much of the world is illiterate today. Much is made of the bible and it is an obsession of the Protestant religions (not the faith) since the 1600's, but it is not the basic foundation of faith nor it is needed to learn of Christ and to be come a Christian.

    This is not to diminish the value of the bible or of bible study. But perspective is needed (particularly among those who are obsessed one way or the other) about the actual role of written material in the development of mankind (including faith) over the centuries.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • You Idiots

      I hate the way CNN has this forum set-up...top to bottom, hard to follow the latest comments, and there is no LIKE button..
      2Timothy 3:16 answers the question that CNN asked. "..All scripture is inspired of God.." if you can't take it for what it says, then you need to change how you take in the biblical information, or sign up for a bible study and start learning from the scriptures, not some man based forum that is upside down, in more ways than one.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Marley

      So your "God" likes NEPOTISM? Sorry, but I'm not Jewish. This existence was not created by a "Jewish God" for the enjoyment of the "Jewish people". I am not being damned because Jewish people refuse to accept "Jesus". Nor do I accept that Christians or Jews (ie. WHITE PEOPLE) have a monopoly over religions. That is just stupid. Plain and simple.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Bill the Cat

      Marley,

      Jews are not WHITE.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Ruth

      "it is not a requisite of the Jewish faith to be either literate or well versed in Jewish scripture."

      It's actually more important to have knowledge and understanding of scripture and commandments than to have "faith" in Judaism. This is why you can legitimately be an Agnostic or Atheist and still be Jewish. It's not about faith, blind faith is a Christian concept.

      Please stick to commenting about things you know about.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • EZNY

      Nice Comment. I makes perfect sense that only those that controlled religion could tell you what the text was and what it meant. At that point you can makeup anything you want.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:19 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.