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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. Seven Deadly Sins

    the Editirs first statement says "I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally." If this were true, he may want to re-think this precept. This statement inplies faith, but also suggest he only associates faith with religon. One does not have to have a religon to have faith. in fact, quite to the contrary. Stepping outside the box is a form of faith as well. One must have faith taht looking at things differently is going to work inorder to make that simple transition between logic and fait. Thus, Logical thinking also requires faith.Yet, has noting to do with religon As far as how important it is on "Who Wrote the bible". It is extremely important. Saying it's not important is like saying It's not important as to who wrote "Tom Sawyer. It is equally important as to when and why it was written. Was the bible actually written to spread the word of God? or Was the bible written as a way to place into written word, a concrete form of "religous laws "(The ten Commandments") goverment by which the people of those times wer expected to live. Much like the laws of modern man ( particulary in the United States).

    The US was born to seperate itself from a Kingdom of over taxing. Yet, today, taxes are the means by which the US Gov't is operated. The laws of the US are based on the Ten Commandments. interperetted by each State as well as the Highest Court in this country. So, when we say it doesn't really matter as to who wrote the bible. We have to fully understand not just their motive and intentions. But who Physically wrote the bbible. It was Written soley by men. Men who believed that Women and children shuld be treated as chattle and anyone other than "Men' in society are second Class Citizen. Even though, those Citizens are the the very people resonsible for ther position.

    So, Does it still not matter who wrote the Bible? Of Course it does.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Acually the US was conceived by people running from religions to practice their own forms. most of the people that came here in the early years were running from religious persecution, for which partial perceptions of biblical texts were used to torture and kill those who disagreed. Where do we think dictators, facists and communists got their ideas of controlling the populace from? I would argue that was more enlightened religious minds, not necessarily Christain, but holding some Christain values like those in the 10 commandments who started this country. That was pretty much the general thought of the day after hundreds of years of burning dissenters at the stake. So yes, it is important to know these things. I agree. Have we come further since then. I would hope so. Should we tie ourselves to such old ideas? The ones that still apply yes. Have a ham sandwich. Eat some lobster or other shell fish. Just make sure its refridgerated and cooked appropriately before hand (things that weren't possible or safe in the desert or at the end of rivers where people dumped their sewage).

      April 1, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Magic

      God is,
      "Have a ham sandwich. Eat some lobster or other shell fish. Just make sure its refridgerated and cooked appropriately before hand (things that weren't possible or safe in the desert or at the end of rivers where people dumped their sewage)."

      Were people back then really so stupid that they couldn't simply be told: "Pork, or shellfish, (or whatever) can make you sick and you might die from the illness." Did they have to be fed silly supernatural edicts and consequences?

      April 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • All in All

      If they disbeieved what they were told by other people just because it didn't actually happen to them, like so many here on these posts, perhaps it was necessary to keep order and preserve the tribe. Silly people need equally scary motivations to survive.

      True a lot of it was about control, but also true it was for the perceived good of the tribe. Most have grown beyond the tribe since, but to see the news every day one has to wonder. Still we need to apply what we've learned from science since and discard the portions that no longer apply, though again the evidence on the news makes those lines a little blurred as to what should be ignored considering the philosophical and social parts.

      And yes they were told in way to try and make sure they didn't wreck the tribe. Do you think they knew as much about science then as we do now? So in some way they were more stupid back then, but in other ways, living closer to or more in every day contact/feeling to the nature/universe that controls us, they were also wiser in some other ways.

      April 2, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  2. Jim P.

    "Reason tells me to be open to the idea that somebody else had a hand in it."

    Yeah, especially the rather substantial chunk of those books written *after* Moses died. Not to mention, you think if anyone knew where hewas buried, it would be the guy himself but he admits to not having nay idea. "And Moses was buried. Where? No man knoweth, not even unto this day."

    Even nore interesting is that this passage presupposed he wrote it a *long* time after his own death. "..even unto this day" sort of implies a goodly passage of time..not just a few weeks or a couple of years.

    Makes youi wonder what the scribe was doing prior to his "finding" the lost holy books that one afternoon in the Temple if I recall my Hebrew Bible correctly..

    Bronze-age fairy tales at best for a tiny little tribe who didn't always come off too well 'Though the Lord was with us, we could not triumph for they had many chariots of iron...." But when they did win, engaged in wholesale slaughter and genocide. "Nothing that hath breath shall ye let live..."

    The systematic wiping out of an entire race of people who's religion and culture you consider inferior and an offense against God and who cannot be allowed to live among you lest they corrupt the true people.. Not a whole lot of things have changed since the 8th century bc it seems. See any historical parallels?

    April 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      What goes around, comes around. Maybe that why God let the holocaust etc. happen. Stop the wheel. That's the lesson. Being ignorant of past history benefits no one. It only makes it much more likely to happen again. making yourself special with religion only makes you less so. It also doesn't seem to be what Jesus taught; just his followers continuing old bad habits. Just like the followers of so many other organized religions who don't understand as much as they think they do. God doesn't descriminate, except against those who break the real law (not necessarily the ones written down or spoken).

      April 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  3. D

    Worst analogy ever. How is your editorial experience even remotely like the study of the bible? So your editor in chief didn't pick out the right paragraph. You and the original writer wrote during the same time period, presumably with the same agenda (or with the goal of objectivity) AND only your editor in chief attempted to guess which paragraph was yours.

    Contrast that with writers who wrote at different time periods with different styles, with different agendas, and whose writing has been studied in detail by hundreds or thousands.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  4. New York Atheist

    The only problem with this article is, well, the simple fact that it does matter who wrote the Bible. Paul, who wrote many of the books in the New Testament, never even met Jesus, yet his skewed vision of the stories told to him by oral tradition from some of the apostles of Jesus, are often cited the most by modern Christians. Paul only interprets Jesus' word and then spreads his own message, rather than spreading Jesus' true message which was one of peace, humility, and love of all neighbors, no matter how different they were/are.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • crucified

      You have no read Acts.. he met and had a conversation with Jesus..also, he describes that conversation in one of the epistles.. if you read the whole bible maybe you would not be an atheist.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      On the other hand, reading the bible might strengthen your atheism. It sure did for mine.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Smite Me

      "he [Paul] met and had a conversation with Jesus."

      Ah, the appeal to ghostly apparation logic, eh? Oodles of claims of this - Paul was simply an excellent salesman about his... same stuff by Mohammad, Joseph Smith, David Koresh and a multi.tude of others.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Smite Me

      *apparition

      April 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Must of been some truth in them for so many people to follow them though. I agree Paul put his own Roman/Greek mystery religion spin on things. However, if you read the Bible the original deciples had some difficuties understanding and they hung out with Jesus, so much more than those who wrote the books down 20 to a hundred some years later; those who only heard the tales for so many years by word of mouth. Things were so unclear that many of the gospels were excluded by that Holy Christain Warrior Roman Constantine the Great, who actually worshipped Sol Invictus, the Sun God until just before he die. Sol Invictus the Sun God, why Christains worship on Sun day, just so Constantine could have a religion from which to hold the people of his empire together.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • ScottK

      "Must of been some truth in them for so many people to follow them though."

      Just an FYI, there was a time when almost everyone on the earth believed it to be flat, which did not infact make it so.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      @ScottK: And yet it really didn't matter much that the world wasn't flat, until it did matter – when man realized it was important to understand its roundish. It was only when the truth was revealed or understood, that it became an issue when people refused to learn. The problem is when folks think they have to take everything or nothing from these books. You're hurting yourself if you feel that way, and you've probably already accepted many principles in the books without realizing it. So much of everyday life was built on their foundations.

      April 1, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Jess

    I'm more impressed by the woman that wrote the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling. Look at all the joy she has brought to millions of children, as opposed to the war and hate brought on by the bible.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • ScottK

      Just wait a few hundred years when the world has been split into the 4 houses and Slytherin is in control of the worlds supply of balistic broom bombs...

      April 1, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Funny point. After all of many churches hooplah over Harry Potter and Magic, why in the world do you think the New Testament opens with the Magi, where the word magician comes from, making a great journey to pay homage to Jesus? The Magi were Persian Zoroastrian priests and the teachings of Jesus were evolved from Zoroastrian, Egyptian, Greek and other cultures of the Middle East, cross roads of the world in trade and ideas for thousands of years.

      There were a lot of tensions between the roman and the Persian Empire when Jesus was born as well, so if you look at it on a political side it may have been some good ol' attempts at philosohical conversions or psychological war fare going on, just like in the cold war between Democracies and communists, or now between extreme christains and extreme Islamists.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  6. Total believer

    The BIble is God's word. The books were all written by God. He used human beings to put it on paper. He does the same thing today when he uses his people to speak for him, reach out to help, feed the hungry. Quit trying to torture the word of God to make it fit into your puny brain. It is enlightening, life changing, comforting, and provides wise guidance for living life. Get over it.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • ScottK

      "He does the same thing today when he uses his people to speak for him, reach out to help, feed the hungry."

      So did your God sanction all the "reaching out" that your priests are doing?

      April 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      "Get over it"? Why so angry, "believer"?

      April 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • BigJoel

      Actually the statement that the Bible is written by God is not totally true in Christian belief. Christianity acknowledges that human beings wrote the Bible inspired by God, with the exception of particular moments like the Ten Commandments. This is markedly different than the Muslim understanding of the Quran, which they believe to be directly delivered through Muhammed.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Elias

      Perfectly said, charitable actions are the embodiment of Christian faith, regardless of which church. That, I am sure, is what the authors had in mind for us to do after reading their words. Regardless of who wrote them. Again, perfectly articulated!

      April 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Actually the Word for Word in Greek, what most of the New Testament was written, in is Logos. It could have been translated just as easily or maybe even more properly to be "The Logic of God". Puts a whole new twist on it, doesn't it. removes all that worship of books as idols thing. Actually all words are words of God, just like God is everything perceived and unperceived. As far as being angry, the first response seemed more along those lines and I can imagine other such responses might be the answer to "why so angry?"

      April 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  7. aizen

    whoever wrote it filled it with lots of legends and things that didnt even happen or were known by other cultures already, like noah and gilgamesh story etc....the bible was written by men and therefore not a perfect thing. the proof is simple, not even the apostle could write the same things to the point where we have everyone giving a different version, mentioning different people and place..the old testament is just as worse, full of legends that more moral lessons than anything. i would have to agree that either you are atheist or believer, the bible has lot of life lessons to learn from...it is a very good book..

    April 1, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Let the evolution of the family tree/bush continue. Many roots. Many branches. There are so many paths up the mountain.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  8. TheAlien

    Screw it.....Beliefs systems suck...seems like we're back in the stone age trying to put faith in somthing a whole lot of people really don't understand.... much like the baby that was baptised, not under their own will. Read the Bible, Torha, Quran, ect. as a story, then see what you get out of it.....(Me).Just a big history book of the Middle east and old laws to follow. Got an Idea.....Lets write a new one of the events today and say that all the tsunamis, earthquaks and mainly natural disasters where caused by a god or gods and anything that a human did that was extraordinary, did it by the grace or will of the gods or god. Come back 300 years from now and I bet that we'll have some followers.........Joesph Smith, need i say more?

    April 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      You read but you don't understand. Maybe you don't read enough. And really. How many belief systems get you through your days. Bet you at least some of them originated in these texts. As far as writing books about all of today's catastrophes etc.; hope that was a joke, because otherwise you've advanced no further than those who wrote the books you refute.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  9. Liam

    Think about what you're saying there. If The Bible turned out to have been written by, let's say, some Bronze Age peasant who wanted to gain power and prestige, instead of the omnipotent creator of the universe.....it wouldn't matter. Nonsense sir.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      True but significantly over simplified.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  10. BigJoel

    Although I understand the author's desire to reject specifics of academic claims of authorship for the oldest elements of the Bible, he makes no real counter-claim other than his own faith (no matter how many paragraphs he devotes to pretending he's making a rational deduction). It seems to me there are two claims being made: 1) the philological analysis of biblical texts is fundamentally flawed, and 2) what matters is faith, not reason. The second claim is, of course, completely true when it comes to understanding and devoting oneself to God. Science and reason cannot prove God's existence or be certain about the exact authorship or origins of scripture in most cases. The first claim, however, is complete nonsense. If you reject textual analysis as a method of deconstructing texts and arriving at some kind of truthful understanding, you reject most of the work of modern historical scholarship. This applies to religion as well. Knowing scripture without understanding its history is like reading a book with chapters missing. You can understand stories and passages as moral lessons, but you cannot come to any deeper understanding about the bigger picture. And without the bigger picture there is no understanding of religous truth.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Amun. Amen. Holy Mary/Isis Mother of God/Horus. The magicians (Magi/Zoroastrians) came to praise Jesus/Mithras at his manger/cave. Good points Joel, Joe, Joey, Joseph.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  11. Chris

    "I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally. "

    This could very well be the best line I've ever heard from a person of faith.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      We need to all stop using the word faith for "comforting blissful ignorance". If "comforting blissful ignorance" is what we mean, then say "Comforting Blissful ignorance". I have faith everytime I flip a light switch that the light will come on. It doesn't mean my faith has no basis. It doesn't mean the light might be burnt out, and my faith will have been for naught. But then I would have faith I could replace it with a new one. Faith is only bad when its used as a comforting blissful ignorance and I don't think everyone uses the word that way, even if some do.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Quag

      @God is All Ahhh, you believe that the light will turn on when you flip the switch because you have a great deal of historical evidence because you have flipped the switch many times. You have been exposed to electricity your entire life and you may even have an understanding of how electricity works. This is not faith. In fact, equating flipping a switch, something we completely understand, to believing in magic man in the sky is a very poor analogy. Those who lived thousands of years ago had no understanding of electricity and found lightening to be very magical. It is not magical at all and one need not have faith to appreciate life.

      April 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle with You

      Quag: You shouldn't let the church define your words for you. There are many definitions of Faith. Not one. Here is the one I use regardless of what church and atheists have fun with:
      --–
      That which is believed on any subject, whether in science, politics, or religion
      --–
      Note science is included and there is delusion there as well. If you don't believe that Google Big Bang and look at theories about what happened before the big bang. I like the Captain Crunch option. Reminds me a lot of Hindu theology of eternal cycles. I also saw it was questiones as being firm fact on this blog a few pages later. Check it out.

      April 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  12. Sao

    NOT EVERYONE SAYS LORD, LORD, WILL INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD....MATTHEW 7

    April 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Red

      I think it's clear that not everyone says that...

      April 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  13. John Pablo

    Mr. David, I completely agree with you, LOL! "I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things RATIONALLY". I agree that when thinking rationally one must step out of thinking with your heart and start thinkig with you head because RELIGION makes you think irrationally...

    April 1, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Only when rationality is removed from religion, but only the organized ones insist on that.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  14. Joey

    About the aliens part...idk why is deleted half the sentence...doesn't matter though... Simply stating that the bible says a lot of things that might not be as metaphoric as we think. Maybe those people really did see flying suacers in eziekel...maybe jesus was an evolved being aka an alien from the future lol..

    April 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • crucified

      you have no idea what you are talking about... there are no flying saucers in ezekiel..You may be refering to the cherubim.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      If you have no idea what Joey is talking about it would be more polite to ask him to explain it to you. If you don't know something, claiming someone else knows nothing solves nothing.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  15. johnpaul

    Joseph Smiths book of Mormom is the true bible

    April 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Joe Smith

      Dude, Joe didn't write that book. A flock of seagulls did.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Dude, Joe didn't write that book. A flock of seagulls did.'

      Nah, they wrote 'I ran (so far away)'

      April 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  16. Dave

    I agree, the bible does not matter.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Lee

      If it doesnt matter, then what does? How are we if not for a greater being? Nothing can be explained without the connection of the creator!

      April 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Everything matters. Get your head out of ........the sand.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Steve

    Bottom line, it was written by men, like all other holy scriptures, and the words inside should NEVER be considered anything else, or be made laws.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Red

      ...but laws are made by men too

      April 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Red

      I'm just joshin'...sort of

      April 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Another Steve

      So therefore this statement is your man made scripture (aka) law? Based on that lodgic, your statement should not become law...

      April 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      None of them should be made the idols that so many have made them, but that does not mean that the entire content is therefore invalidated. Its like you. Its a work in progress and must be in agreements with our best understandings of God/Everything as we learn more and more. man should not stop making laws because he doesn't get them right the first time, and anyone studying these books seriously can see how man thought on God/Everything evolved over time. it's just a shame control freaks tried to put a halt to our philosophical/regious/scientific evolution 1700 years ago by halting additions to the bible and 12 or 13 hundred years ago to the koran etc. etc.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  18. James

    The pride some men have in their own ignorance amazes me sometimes. You can't even figure out how to NOT DIE and yet you will try to tell and convince the rest of us how great you are and how you have it all figured out. I hope death works out for all of you people who just KNOW there is no God. As for me...I am finished reading this junk because prideful ignorance is one of the most frustrating things I have ever found in this world to try and deal with. I will continue to put my faith in the Good Ol Book that is honest with me about the fact that I am worth nothing, because I am worth nothing God pronounced death on me, but because of HIS love, he became what I was and died so I could have eternal life.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • James

      Prove it.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Colin

      Sooooo, James. You have the creator of the entire Universe reading your mind and looking out for you and he will cause you to be immortal and live for ever, even after you die.......and atheists are proud and ignorant.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Red

      It's like you wanna throw the line about not judging people out there, but you know it's just gonna come back around...these are the cnn.com belief blog comment sections for Christ's sake. (wah wah)

      April 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Red

      I was siding mostly with Colin, there...if it wasn't clear.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @James,
      "You can't even figure out how to NOT DIE..."
      Interesting statement, I assume you have figured this out.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • ScottK

      All religious people have firgured out how to not die. Its easy, just keep telling yourself that this can't be all there is and that you must be more important than the ants, therefore you ARE more important and must have an everliving soul because believing anything else just wouldnt make sense to your inflated ego.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • crucified

      James asked you to prove it...so prove it..

      April 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • kt2000

      prove that he's wrong

      April 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      In ~100 years or less, there will be evidence that James does not have "eternal life."

      April 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      And how will it be known that life does not continue on in some other form? Please prove that. We all have different levels of understanding. Some try and some don't. Some do and some won't. So don't try. That doesn't upset me. Some. misunderstand, why should that upset me either. It's only when some are so positive they are right and others are wrong, without an open minded examination, that any side is wrong.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @God is All aaahh,
      If you were talking to me, I stated there would be evidence, not proof. Such evidence leads me to think that there is no life after death, however I am willing to change my mind if there is evidence otherwise. I have not seen such evidence and therefore see no reason to think there is life after death.

      You ask me to prove "that life does not continue on in some other form," and yet offer no evidence whatsoever that it does. Why should I prove false an idea that has no evidence for it and no reason to think it is true.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Nonimus

      PS I like the name. : )

      April 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      @Nominus: You stated there would be evidence in 100 years that there was no eternal life. Our bodies are not fixed enti-ties. They are in a constant state of change from conception to decay. And yet we have a concept of ourself as ourself the entire concious time of our life. Who can say what is before and after, or what isn't? Perhaps in a 100 years we'll both know. I was merely trying to state that we can't be so sure of something either way, if we know nothing certain about it.

      Thanks for the name compliment. Just trying to stir up some intelligent correspondence, especially in these misguided religious times. I've heard that Allah actually is the name used for God by Middle Eastern Christians. So many flavors. Why must we think we all have to be the same?

      April 1, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @God is All aaahh,
      "Who can say what is before and after, or what isn't?... I was merely trying to state that we can't be so sure of something either way, if we know nothing certain about it."
      But we do know quite a bit, not all of course. We know through fMRIs that brain activity maps to thought patterns. Scientist have even gotten to the point where they are hypothesizing on which areas contain/process thoughts about God, morality, ethics, etc. So, since we see evidence that our thoughts are integrally tied to, and perhaps solely because of, brain activity is it not reasonable to think that when brain activity ceases, thought ceases also? Is there any reason to believe that without thought we are still conscious being? I know of none.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      @nominous: I've also saw somewhere that at the point of death that the body's weight decreases. I don't remeber where I saw it and no one explained what caused it, I guess because they couldn't. Instantly decaying matter seems a little far fetched and a last exhale didn't cut it either. Regardless though, I said there can be no proof pro or con until the time is personally experienced. Many unknowledgeable people felt had no proof the world was round until they saw it from the space missions. Even then some still think it was faked. Does that mean the world is not round? Bottom line it has to be experienced completely personally to be known for sure. At least as far as we know now.

      From a Popular Science Article: Scientists once believed that Newtonian physics could answer all the questions in the universe. When they ventured into the sub-atomic realm, though, Newtonian physics no longer applied. But quantum physics did. Similarly, the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain.

      "When you study mind and brain, you see that, although in many circ-umstances this practical model we have developed – mind and brain are the same thing – is fine, when you go to an extreme environment like during a cardiac arrest…they don't seem to apply anymore," says Parnia. "It may suggest that there's something that hasn't been discovered scientifically."

      April 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  19. Alan Litchfield

    The author vastly oversimplifies textual criticism and analysis. There are many compelling reasons to believe that the Pentateuch is written by more than one author: internal contradictions, dissimilar writing styles, problematic narratives etc. etc. The author’s example is simply not persuasive, and perhaps not even relevant.

    Also, I found the first couple of sentences rather humorous and ironic:
    “I am a person of faith. But sometimes I like to step outside of faith and just think about things rationally.”
    Indeed, this illustrates the fatal flaw in the conception of faith: One has to step outside of it to be rational. I suggest that one step outside of faith and simply decline to reenter.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Howard

      IMO, the fundamental flaw in the author's reasoning is his own solitary example. Even a schoolboy can tell you that any solitary example is very unlikely to be truly representative of all such similar cases.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Brad

      I completely agree with your comment about his oversimplification. The only evidence of anything he has is that his editor is not a very good editor. Just because his editor couldn't figure out the paragraph that was added effectively doesn't mean other couldn't. I would even argue that his editor's lack of skill points to the fact that it is fairly obvious the Bible was pieced together. (But what do I know? I am not a professional writer!).

      Unfortunately the author of this entry already knows where he is taking this blog when he starts off writing it. He is guilty of good ol' fashioned confirmation bias.

      He can believe in God all he wants...but the fact that the Bible was cobbled together ofer hundreds of years seems pretty obvious. Heck, even mis-translations of words in the New Testament (VIRGIN is incorrectly used as a translation) are well known.

      I thought there was going to be something of substance in this...sigh. Guess not

      April 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • midwstrn girl

      Your right faith is not a rational thing. But in our writings and religions there are elements of human wisdom. You just have to take time to separate them wisdom from the rubbish. Most religions believe in some sort of Golden Rule, or don’t allow for stealing (stealing of a life, someone’s spouse, etc.) Humans have developed these ideas because they make sense for our survival as a species. The other portions are added in to maintain some type of control of structure. I am not a religious person, but I can see some wisdoms in it and why people may feel the need to have it. People just need to realize that most of the bureaucratic rules created by religion are just that, made up and that they may not hold the only way/process of doing things.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Its much easier to separate the differences when you're considering the writing of people from different times and philosophies. Maybe not so easy to do the same of different people from the same culure, time and place of business. That shouldn't be too hard to figure out if you think about it a bit.

      Faith should be the spark that leads to higher logical understandings, not a block to them and a comforting reason not to try, secure in your ignorance, as so many seem to interpret the meaning of the word. Scientists use faith based on past experience that they can bring about a certain result in their experiements before they start them. If they didn't they would start....unless maybe they were stupid bumbling scientists just hoping they might discover something by accident. That's not really productive scientific method though.

      True Faith must not be based on "ignorance is bliss" but rather experience and proof leading to inclinations of faith on whether it should take you next. Aetheists have faith that they are right just as much as non-atheists. Both can often be based in "I'm so glad my ignorance is bliss".

      April 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      If a good editor adds a paragraph to a text, he will attempt to replicate the author's style and intent. So the fact that someone else cannot distinguish his paragraph from the original only proves that he has done his job well, not that the whole enterprise of textual criticism is flawed.

      Atheists don't have faith; faith is ignorance with wings. Atheists beliefs are informed by evidence. Consider: What evidence would make you consider that the bible is not the work of god, or that Jesus was just human? If you answer: None. This is faith, a complete disregard for evidence, whether it exists or not. If I found good evidence that god exists, I would change my mind. As of yet, good evidence is forthcoming.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      Ooops! I meant "No good evidence has been presented." That's more accurate.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Religious and non-religious people both have done an Orwellian 1984 double speak on the word faith. The church was probably guilty of this first and for the longest, but that doesn't make their distortion correct either. Its not right to define a word the way you want to, so it then makes it easy to pick apart. Both religion and non-religion do this though.

      I have faith that God is everything known and unknown and I don't believe a book or building is required to come to some understanding of that, but that many books as well as everything else do help that understanding – so there is evidence to support "my faith"; atheists have faith that God is no thing. They can't prove something doesn't exist, so that faith seems more incorrect. What they can do is prove that incomplete concepts of God are incorrect. But again they are controlling the definition, so they can pick it apart more easily. What's so special about that?

      My faith is based on my knowledge that I am incapable of understanding everything, but I see God's logic everywhere, in and OUTSIDE of all religious books, and knowable as much as we can try to know it. That just works so much bettter, and allows room for other peoples understandings at differnt levels based on their abilities to comprehend, rather than being so anarchistically nihilist about life. Perhaps that's an improper way to think of atheists, but if you only read their posts, that's often what you're left with.

      April 1, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      God is All aaahh: Atheists don't claim that god doesn't exist, they just require good evidence for his existence. And simply believing that he is everything known and unknown is not evidence, it is belief. You can not possibly have evidence that god is everything known and unknown; this is frankly an embarrassing statement that you should refrain from making. You also use faith as a noun. I'd like you to to define the word faith clearly and stick with that single usage. I have yet to find a definition of faith that is tenable, whether it be belief without evidence or some kind of nod to a cognitive knowledge available to believers. It's fatally problematic as a route to knowledge. Belief is easy; evidence takes work.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      Please see clarification in the "Joey" thread above. I screwed up. I won't be posting here anymore, but go(o)d luck to all!

      April 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      I can't prove a million dollars doesn't exist just because I have never seen it and you can't do the same with God just because you mind hasn't grown enough to wrap it around or get close to the full concept. Sure people talk about a million dollars all the time, but I've never seen it. So does that mean it doesn't exist? Prove to me that everything known and unknown does not exist and if it does exist has no influence on you, what so ever. I think frankly any attempt to do so would be more embarrassing than what I claimed.

      I don't believe he is everything. I believe It is everything. If the God concept is worthy of such respect as people say, then it must be the Supreme power and to be the supreme power nothing can exist outside of it, or there would be something beyond its power, therefore making it not supreme. Again its easy to deny the limited concepts of God as man's concepts evolved at points over time, but somewhat harder to deny the actual thing, regardless of how rediculous you think that concept is. It's your shortcoming not mine. Don't worry, you won't be condemned for it. Take all the thrill out of it?

      The fact that you used his and I used God as names, both limits the understanding of the concept to a man like being based on European/Western culture; but originally it was considered just as wrong to limit God with a name, as it was to pray to idols, because to tag a name limits man's concept just as much as an idol does. Making the concept again easy to refute.

      You can not prove that something does not exist, only that it does.

      Its pretty easy to prove that everything exists and also based on science finding more and more of it, that there are unknowns that exist as well. Now the hard thing to do is to prove that you are separate and distinct from the influences of any of this reality, which you can't do either. God's rules rule, whether they are written down on paper, stone or not at all. Whether you want them to or not. Whether we know them yet or not. It doesn't care what you think.

      Alan: "You can not possibly have evidence that god is everything known and unknown; this is frankly an embarrassing statement that you should refrain from making. You also use faith as a noun. I'd like you to to define the word faith clearly and stick with that single usage."

      God Is: Your quote above is starting to sound like a priest on what I can and what I can't do with my ability to understand and how to use words. There are many words, that can be used as a verb and a noun. Who said you have the right to limit how or when they are used? Again a persistent problem, you would like God and definitions of concepts about God to be limited so you can more easily refute them. Again, no one appointed you to be God in these matters.

      Alan: I have yet to find a definition of faith that is tenable, whether it be belief without evidence or some kind of nod to a cognitive knowledge available to believers. It's fatally problematic as a route to knowledge. Belief is easy; evidence takes work.

      God Is: Its only your definitions and restrictions that are limiting you and keeping you from understanding. You're allowing others or you are constructing the definitions in ways that don't make sense, so of course you can deny them.

      True faith is believing in something that has worked for you, that you do have evidence for. The same things don't work for everyone. Find what works for you. You don't get through a day or a single minute without faith. Everything you do is based on it or you wouldn't do it, unless maybe you have some medical or psychological brain issue that causes you to do things you don't believe in. What you probably have is a problem with someone telling you what you must have faith in or maybe you expect an easy answer solution like some huckster religious people try to sell. Nothing worth anything comes easy.

      True faith is merely the belief in things that you do have evidence of. Anyone insisting you have faith in things unproven is breaking the commandment about thou shalt not lie. A lie to yourself is still a lie. Again different things work for different people and that's why there are so many different religions and sects within them. In all of them though, there are mystics who know these truths, and often they are persecuted by their religions just as much as you might think you are. You may be closer to God than you know.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      If you believe in something simply because it works for you and that you have no evidence for it, you are one of two things: extremely lucky or completely irrational. I respect you, but not your beliefs, simply because you have worked so hard to convince me that they are irrational. Bring some evidence to the table, and I will be interested. Please note: I desire "evidence" and not "absolute" proof. Theists routinely conflated the two.

      April 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      Hi Allan: You wrote "you have no evidence for it, you are one of two things: extremely lucky or completely irrational. I respect you, but not your beliefs, simply because you have worked so hard to convince me that they are irrational."

      :Bring some evidence to the table, and I will be interested. Please note: I desire "evidence" and not "absolute" proof. Theists routinely conflated the two."

      God is: Untie your beliefs from just the books and groups that have been pushed upon you and look around a bit more at other attempts to inderstand, and look for similarities that make sense. I know, its more of an effort than most want to make. You will never see evidence unless you want to make an honest effort to understand what you are looking at, without feeling so superior that you think everyone else is obviously wrong before trying to make sense of what others believe.

      I spent a life time building, analyzing and fixing complex computer systems, have a high IQ, a life of personal research on religious subjects of all parts of the world to protect me from the strict continual fundementalist environment that I was indoctrinated in until I was 20; as well had an interest in scientific discoveries plus having to care for a child who had brain surgery at a very young age including having to learn about the psychological workings of the brain to help with the post effects. I spent a lot of time in hospitals, doctor offices and at home reading books on these various subjects while waiting and waiting and waiting.

      You continue to insist I have no evidence, which I must admit is a bit insulting, considering. I am far from being trained to be irrational.

      I probably reject many of the same things you do; or maybe that you should, but haven't quite thought it through enough yet.

      Pantheist might be more precise, but someone pointed out some web sites, regarding them and I guess I'm probably just as much against organized pantheists as I am any other organizations. As soon as issues of personal power come into play, things alway get distorted and degraded.

      The evidence I have is my life experience, so I'm sorry I can't give that to you in a few words. You have to use your own. Perhaps you lack understanding of literary techniques like metaphors and allegories and are getting bogged down in literalism scientific and religious. I don't mean to be offensive, but you may just need to work a bit more to get to where you can understand. I can't tell from your replies whether you don't want to or can't. A simple huckster answer doesn't exist that applies to everyone, so I can't offer that up to you for dicing either so you asked about the definition of faith and i gave you:

      True faith is merely the belief in things that you do have evidence of. Anyone insisting you have faith in things unproven is breaking the commandment about thou shalt not lie. A lie to yourself is still a lie. Again different things work for different people and that's why there are so many different religions and sects within them. In all of them though, there are mystics who know these truths, and often they are persecuted by their religions just as much as you might think you are. You are be closer to God than you know.

      April 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Right On Bye

      FAITH

      Faith without logic is delusion. So faith cannot equal delusion. It is simple Algebra. Its amazing so many who profess faith have been brainwashed to believe faith and science/logic are in opposition. What a sick world we've made doing so.

      April 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  20. Joey

    ITs crazy...when you stop polarizing and ego tripping...when you sit back and put everything together...even the things you find silly...The universe tends to make a lot more sense. Ever thought that the bible wasn't so metaphoric. Could it have been that there were aliens/higher So many possibilties that arent even that far fetched and people just over look them because they don't fit in their own belief system. Some guy is lying on there death bed and all of a sudden he hass 50 people by his side praying and giving him their energy and miraculously he comes to...Its was god right...not all those people who dedicated their time and energy into making something a reality. We are so powerless this day n age that we are so easily tamed and control...why...fear...fear of death...what is their to be scared of. 90% of people on this planet don't deserve to die and be apart of the everything. There is no peace without death. Is it so hard to believe that maybe...just maybe...we are god...All of us. Each of us a part of a whole organism. Science has already validated the fact that life is much more abundant throughout the universe then we thought. Even empty space isn't as empty as we thought. Ever thought the universe is god and has its own method of working that we will never understand ...well until we die...To even think something as incredible as god could be understood by a rational mind is silly anyways.

    April 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • holy crepes

      haha, you are funny. Crazy, but funny... By the way, you should learn there, their, and they're... it helps when introducing a ridiculous fantasy as a valid possibility...

      April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Eric G.

      "Science has already validated the fact that life is much more abundant throughout the universe then we thought."

      I think you need to check the expiration date on the yogurt.

      April 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Science has already validated the fact that life is much more abundant throughout the universe then we thought.'
      I think what you should have said was
      'Science has already validated the fact that the opportunity for life is much more abundant throughout the universe then we thought.'

      April 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Olga

      Yes, yes, Now I see it. we are gods seeing ourself through the eyes of humans!
      we are gods chosen to experince ourselfs, now everything make sense

      April 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mike in Cali

      Joey... Thank you very much for a well thought out posting. Food for thought.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • midwstrn girl

      An open mind. Refreshing 🙂

      April 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • God is All aaahh

      On the verge of understanding. There can be no other Gods before God, or having power outside of God, only if God is everything. We aren't Gods but rather parts of God. God can only be supreme and worthy of our total awe and respect if God is everything, inside and out, before what soem call the beginning which wasn't, and what some call the end of time, which won't be....and God will still be everything then. Keep on working on it Joey and the rest as well and we'll get closer, but it's right than in our human form we will never be able to comprehend the infinite complexities of God. The more we do though, the more we become in harmony with God and the better things are for us and those around us. To be self satisfied with only what we know or someone told us is to be farther from God than we think.

      April 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      I should clarify: Atheist don't claim, or shouldn't claim, that they can PROVE that god DOESN'T exist. They can and should say he doesn't exist because there is no evidence for his existence.

      April 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Alan Litchfield

      Oops! Wrong thread!

      April 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.