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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. sheldon

    PBS had a good show yesterday showing how science and the bible are coming closer and closer to proving that there are stories in the bible that can now be proven... Yes there may be stories in the bible that are hard to believe, but these hyperboles shouldn't cloud the fact that there is still truth in the bible. We just haven't proven it yet my friend. We will I'm sure, but probably long after we've left...lol

    April 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Our Evolving Understanding of It All

      Saw it. Any historian knows we learn more every day about the things we once thought we fairy tales in history have some basis in fact and lessons can be learned by those capable. Much of the things that people have sworn not to exist on this blog, had pretty good evidence shown to the contrary, not only in that PBS show, but many others in the last 20-30 years. Sadly many so called scientific minds are still stuck in the early 20th century.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • HotAirAce

      So, what has science come up with that supports in any way the existence of god(s)? Until it is clearly established that god(s) exist, the fundamental premise of the bible, it remains a fairy tale.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:21 am |
    • Who was Gabriel?

      @Hot Air: Science has come up with nothing concerning your childish concepts of God, so it will remain fairy tales until you grow up in your understanding.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Who was Gabriel?

      So two posters claim science and the bible are getting closer together and I ask for examples and I'm the one with a problem? Seems to me that if science was really helping in even the smallest way, the believer's here would be hyping it to the max. I can only assume that the above claims are hollow, and that you are resorting to the fairly standard "don't question the bible, you aren't capable of understanding..." response – 'cause you have none better.

      April 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Who was Gabriel?

      @Hot Air Ace: You want simple answers and concepts which you can easily shoot down to to feel good about your own half thought out assumptions. Unfortunately you have been spoiled in your over estimated perception of your ability to do so, by so many others who are only so happy to oblige you, because they themselves don't know any better. You also have allowed others to program you into what to expect for standard responses, limited to bible only evidence. So when someone suggests you have to search elsewhere as well....well that's just to far out of the box for your own scripted defense.

      Unfortunately its too difficult to give you any advanced understanings when you can't seem to grasp the elemnatry and do not desire to evolve beyond those concepts. You want Chemistry, Psychology and Quantum Physics etc. explained by addition only. So of course under your predetermined restrictions you will never get the answers you need to underatnd those complex subjects, without a whole lot of effort on your part, which you consistently show you have no desire to make. There are plenty of evidentiary items in these posts to this one article if you only read with half an attempt to understand. The point is, you don't want to. Its more fun to zero in on the easy pickin's and leave as the conquering hero in your mind.

      So what would be the purpose of anyone attempting to help you, when its plain you don't want to help yourself?

      April 20, 2011 at 2:05 am |
    • HotAirAce

      @Who was Gabriel?

      I see lots of blah blah blah and no evidence to support your case. How about you give me just one pointer, and leave it me to determine if I can understand it. I don't think you have anything to point to beyond your own Kool-Aide.

      July 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  2. Joshua

    JJ Luis to whom i'm refering

    April 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • One in the Same

      What science attempts to understand can be no different than God, so Muneef is the one that understands. Science's true revelation can be no different than those of God. Science just does not know it all yet and the religious do not know all of God's heart and mind yet either. Both being tools of limited humans neither science or religion will ever know it all.

      April 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  3. JJ Luis

    “I believe in God, you believe in science. If I’m wrong I’m just dead lol, if you wrong you got problems” ~ im just saying

    April 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Muneef

      God urge us to go for science since only through science we will become to see and know of God majesty in his universal creativity...

      April 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Joshua

      You couldn't have said it better my friend.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  4. John C

    The Bible is clearly a work of myth that has been pieced together and has been changed many times over. It's like grabbing a a fiction book off the shelf that references real cities and fake ones, and taking the story as it it were real.
    No evidence the Hebrews were enslaved by Egyptians... No evidence that Moses and his people spent decades in the desert... No evidence that Jesus even existed.

    What makes you think that people in the future won't think of your beliefs like we think of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian beliefs today?

    April 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Muneef

      John C.

      We do believe all of your doubts,not because we know it but because the Quran told us all these stories...we believe the Quran because we chose to believe in it and every word that came within it....
      This is the whole purpose believing in the unseen is the test of God to mankind...aren't we supposed to read the signs and not to ignore the signs....life around us is full of signs but we preferred to pretend not to see or to understand the warnings...

      April 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Who was Gabriel?

      Muneef: Why are there so many different sects in Islam if its all so clear and why do these sects actually still war with each other or try to wipe each other out if it were so clear? I don't see a lot of difference there, than in what has happened to Christianity over the years. Christianity, just had a 600 year head start, so naturally there would be more diversity develop over time.

      Islam is not a monolith like many in the west want to believe it is when we talk about the war on terror or Islamic facists. It seems there are just as many having differences interpretting the Koran and its follwoing books, and possibly even using different books after the Koran, as there are differences in Christain, Buddhist, Jewish, or Hindu etc. interpretations.

      John C: Much of what we beleive today was based upon what the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians and all our ancestors before us believed. Just because so many people are ignorant of that does not mean it isn't so

      April 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  5. Steven

    Steev,

    That's funny, because I didnt use to believe. Until I examined the evidence for myself, and the Lord graciously opened my eyes to what is patently obvious. That He created the world, you, me, and everyone in it.

    Where's the evidence God does not exist? How do you know that?

    You don't. You only HOPE He doesn't exist, and therefore are also living by faith.

    April 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • max

      I hope he does exist. he can take all the boring people away. i have been waiting for rapture to come for a while so I could watch all you folks float away. the rest of us can then have discussions about substantive issues without a taint of religion across everything.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Our Evolving Understanding of It All

      Max: If there were no substance, there could be no taint. Chew on that for a while. If everything was as obvious as some believe, pro or con, there would be no discussion, and yet this one has been going on for a couple weeks now. I guess everyones an idiot, huh.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Sally

      Why would anybody *hope* god doesn't exist? That's just silly, isn't it? And I am surprised that you are ignorant enough to make a statement such as "prove god doesn't exist". Everyone knows it is impossible to prove a negative.

      I believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn. PROVE she doesn't exist. PROVE it.

      July 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  6. Adam

    Dear David,

    Just one thing: you suggest being a believer implies not being rational? According the the Catholic doctrine (see Fides et Ratio encyclical for one), faith is not purely spiritual disposition, reason is an important element of being a believer. I believe because my reason tells me this is the best thing to do, based on the interpretation of reality. Faith is not guessing or emotional feeling. Best regards,

    April 14, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  7. Adelina

    Yes, Dorothy. Secular Americans are worst regarding US history. One has to wonder what they know about the world history at all if they are so ignorant on their own ancestors. They think the mankind everywhere for all time has been always like present hedonistic Americans, thus they can't comprehend any Bible text, Christian or religious literature or any other type of people elsewhere. A true nightmare in USA. The true American population has shrunk badly.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Our Evolving Understanding of It All

      The truth about American history is that most of the first people that came here from Europe were trying to get away from the same religious persecution that so many on here are still upset about. So perhaps its you and your freinds that don't really understand American history, much less world history. Just kill them all. God will sort them out. That's what people first came here from Europe tyo get away from, and then they did the exact same thing to others once they got here. Just ask any Native American.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  8. Dorothy

    Study world history, study the origins of all religions and when and who started them, study science, study, study and study some more, before making comments here. Let's see, God said, "My people perish (are destroyed) by the lack of knowledge". Yeah, yeah, He was talking about the people of Israel at the time, but some comments here, are lacking a whole lot of knowledge. My, My!

    April 14, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  9. Steven

    Steev,

    You probably do not doubt the existence of Julius Caesar, Socrates, Plato, Genghis Khan, or Marco Polo (although I cannot prove that you do not doubt them) Yet combined, there is not even 10% of the evidence, either archaeological or textual that these men COMBINED exist that there is for Jesus Christ. Yet you doubt there ever was a Jesus of Nazareth? Why? What about Him is different than denying the existence of Archimedes? Or Henry VIII? Why do you so vehemently deny Jesus of Nazareth of all people in human history?

    The only place Jesus does not exist is in your heart & mind, because you do not WANT Him to exist. You're not interested in truth, If He exists, then the stories about Him are true. And if He exists, there is a God. And if there is a God, you will meet Him one day. And you can't handle that.

    April 14, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Steev

      I used to believe as you do. I am now free from your psychotic guilt trip.
      I can handle my own death and look it square in the face while realizing that your religion is just BS.
      Can you do that? Look death in the face knowing there is probably nothing going to happen to anyone afterwards? I can.
      I AM interested in the truth. That's why I do not believe in lies.
      You can't even handle the possibility that your religion might be BS.
      You can't even get close to admitting it, fearing for your "faith".
      Your paranoid and psychotic guilt trip is nothing to me but a cult.
      And you are the victim. Not me. You waste your time believing without proof of anything. I am not wasting my time in that manner. I waste my time trying to open your eyes to the reality of the universe around you and the con-game you were born into.
      I worry about you people. I do. And you are nuts. You are.
      If your "god" exists, then getting proof shouldn't be such a problem, should it? But, gosh, it sure is impossible for religious people to prove their god exists. Because they can't. Not even by signs and wonders.
      Not even by tiny signs, wonders, etc.
      Nothing. That's what you have. Nothing. I seek truth and you got NOTHING for me.
      So who's having a hard time handling stuff? Not me. I'm not scared of your non-existent and non-active god. He must be dead or deaf, 'cause he ain't doin SQUAT.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus doesn't come into their hearts and minds because they are the fallen ones from the beginning.

      Jude 4

      For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 5:16 am |
    • max

      reminds me of sesame street.. "one of these things is not like the other. one of these things does not belong"

      why would christ be doubted unlike the other real people you listed? real people are made from a combination of sperm and egg. hmmm.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Chris

      That is GROSS historical lie. There are MOUNTAINS of evidence as to the existence and lives of Julius Caesar, Genghis Kahn, and Marco Polo. There is great evidence and many records for the existence of Plato, though the existence of Socrates is indeed highly questionable. All that being said, there is NO good evidence for the existence of a Jesus.

      Babble on about religious nonsense all you want, but don't drag the good and honest work of historians and historical investigators through your cesspool of ignorance in order to try and prove a point. If there really was a Jesus, he wouldn't need you making up erroneous lies to prove it.

      I don't particularly care what you believe or how you believe, but leave history off of your illogical reasonless chopping block please.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  10. Steven

    The Bible is not a book that mankind would write if left to his own devices & inspiration. Mankind writes books that glorify mankind, and glorify the natural world around us. Mankind writes books that teach us the answer lies within each one of us. Mankind writes books that teach us to bring out the best in ourselves. Mankind teaches us that "seeing is believing" and that we are not bad people, but rather "misguided", "misunderstood" and "misfortuned." Mankind teaches us that we are self-sufficient, capable, and if we're "willing to go the extra mile" we can be, do, and achieve anything. Man writes books that glorify his tastes, talents, desires, and earthly fulfillments. Mankind sits at the center of his own domain. Mankind captains his own ship, and mankind determines his own fate.

    The Bible turns that kind of thinking on it's head. The Bible teaches us to trust in the invisible. The Bible teaches us that we are wretched, lost, and completely incapable of any good outside of divine influence. The Bible also teaches us that no matter what we do, how hard we try, or how much we want to, we do not qualify for anything good, or rewarding in this life, or the next. The Bible teaches us to trust in One we cannot see, touch, taste, or smell, but can only perceive within our spiritual nature as He speaks His Word to us. The Bible teaches us that just because it "feels right" doesnt mean it IS right. The Bible states we cannot do it ourselves, and are blind without remedy if it werent for the grace of the divine acting on our behalf. The Bible teaches that God is in control, God calls the shots, God is the Ultimate Authority, and God sits on the throne of the universe, not mankind.

    Simply put, either the Bible is the greatest farce of all-time, or it is truly of divine inspiration. The fact that so many parallels and stories match up throughout thousands of years and cannot be refuted, leads me, and millions of others to believe it is divinely inspired and eternally true. Jesus Himself stated that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, and that David wrote the Psalms, Isaiah wrote the book of Isaiah, Daniel wrote Daniel, and He testified to the truth of the books of Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 1 & 2 Kings, Jonah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, Chronicles and many others. Say what you want about Jesus, but no one can deny His work, influence, or wisdom. Even His own enemies couldn't do that.

    April 14, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Steev

      If I get to say what I want about Jesus, then let me just take a moment and shake my head at your whooping-cough of a religious rant before going on to say your Jesus may not have even existed. Certainly we have no proof of any supernatural event. Not a single one ever in the history of man.
      So, yes, Jesus is a farce, one that is twisted to selfish ends daily.
      And until you can prove anything, then we are also totally and absolutely free to deny anything and everything about him.
      Your delusion is long-winded. It was no doubt shorter when you were young.
      Feel free to blather on some more. I don't have much to do right now.

      April 14, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Sally

      Um, mankind writes books such as "Aliens" and "Harry Potter" and so forth. Mankind writes many books that are fiction, creating fictional characters. Your stance is just silly.

      July 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  11. Lee

    Agree with Evan. The Bible was written over a period of time but it is consistent (don't start on about human errors regarding translation, etc) from Genesis to Revelation – eg the Tree of Life and the Ark . "All scripture is God-breathed (or, inspired by) and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16)

    April 14, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  12. Lee

    I am impressed by all the thought going into the comments. FYI the God of the Christians is not the same Being as Allah.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Our Evolving Understanding of It All

      There can only be one God that matters. All others are aspects of the one true God. Leeland. Leatrice. Robert E. Lee.

      All existence is God breathed if you truly believe. People can be inspired by many things without truly understanding them in their entirity. That doesn't mean they should stop looking for God after only looking in one book. Its everywhere.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  13. Evan

    The Bible was not written by a single person.

    The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years, by authors from all walks of life (ranging anywhere from a tax collector to a tent-making Jewish Rabbi to a king), in 3 languages, on three continents, yet it remains a consistent book.

    If you took three scientists today, had them write about a single topic, and even if you allowed them to have access to each other's work, it is very likely they would all contradict each other.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • i wonder

      Evan,
      "he Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years, by authors from all walks of life (ranging anywhere from a tax collector to a tent-making Jewish Rabbi to a king), in 3 languages, on three continents, yet it remains a consistent book."

      You do know why it looks consistent, don't you?

      The books to be included in the Bible were selected by early church committees and councils to make it look like that.

      April 14, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • HeavenSent

      For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

      1 Corinthians 1:21

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

      1 Corinthians 1:22

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • Muneef

      "The books to be included in the Bible were selected by early church committees and councils to make it look like that".

      I wonder.Evan.
      Where could those old books of scriptures be? To see if they do tally with what the committees and councils made to look like that ??

      As seems the Quran was the last Chapter of these books of scriptures to complete them as One Bible but as seems the messing up and being selective on how it should be made to look like rather than what the exact message of God was?!?

      There are even verses in the Holy Quran that speaks of those who made changes although they knew it was not correct what they write and knew very well the right that they changed to wrong,with full awareness and knowledge....as well the Quran spoke of some who wrote scriptures or books telling it was from God while it was of their own that God has not inspired or reveled of for the sake of gaining money...!?
      __________________________________________________
      Distorting the Word of God
      [2:75] Do you expect them to believe as you do, when some of them used to hear the word of GOD, then distort it, with full understanding thereof, and deliberately?

      Concealing the Word of God
      [2:76] And when they meet the believers, they say, "We believe," but when they get together with each other, they say, "Do not inform (the believers)of the information given to you by GOD, lest you provide them with support for their argument concerning your Lord. Do you not understand?"

      [2:77] Do they not know that GOD knows everything they conceal, and everything they declare?

      [2:78] Among them are gentiles who do not know the scripture, except through hearsay, then assume that they know it.

      [2:79] Therefore, woe to those who distort the scripture with their own hands, then say, "This is what GOD has revealed," seeking a cheap material gain. Woe to them for such distortion, and woe to them for their illicit gains.
      __________________________________________________
      The Quran: God's Message to the Jews and Christians
      [5:15] O people of the scripture, our messenger has come to you to proclaim for you many things you have concealed in the scripture, and to pardon many other transgressions you have committed. A beacon has come to you from GOD, and a profound scripture.

      [5:16] With it, GOD guides those who seek His approval. He guides them to the paths of peace, leads them out of darkness into the light by His leave, and guides them in a straight path.
      __________________________________________________     

      April 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Muneef

      You Shall Not Make Any Distinction Among God's Messengers
      [4:150] Those who disbelieve in GOD and His messengers, and seek to make distinction among GOD and His messengers, and say, "We believe in some and reject some," and wish to follow a path in between;

      [4:151] these are the real disbelievers. We have prepared for the disbelievers a shameful retribution.

      [4:152] As for those who believe in GOD and His messengers, and make no distinction among them, He will grant them their recompense. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  14. Muneef

    The message of God to Abraham that Abraham named as 'Submission' being the Religion God wanted for us to hold to as per guidance of the scriptures inspired and revealed amongst their best of men (Prophets&Messengers of God)...kindly read the verses that explains it all and as a guidance as how it should the brotherhood between the people of the book as all be considered believers to what these verses come with;
    Honoring Previous Scripture
    [5:44] We have sent down the Torah, containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD's scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the disbelievers.

    The Law of Equivalence
    [5:45] And we decreed for them in it that: the life for the life, the eye for the eye, the nose for the nose, the ear for the ear, the tooth for the tooth, and an equivalent injury for any injury. If one forfeits what is due to him as a charity, it will atone for his sins. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the unjust.

    ____________________________________________________________
    *5:44 The Torah is a collection of all the scriptures revealed through all the prophets of Israel prior to Jesus Christ, i.e., today's Old Testament. Nowhere in the Quran do we find that the Torah was given to Moses.

    The Gospel of Jesus: Guidance and Light
    [5:46] Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous.

    [5:47] The people of the Gospel shall rule in accordance with GOD's revelations therein. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the wicked.

    Quran: The Ultimate Reference
    [5:48] Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD's revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny – all of you – then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.

    [5:49] You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD's revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of GOD's revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that GOD wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.

    [5:50] Is it the law of the days of ignorance that they seek to uphold? Whose law is better than GOD's for those who have attained certainty?

    April 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Muneef

      This meaning if the people of the book of the faith of Abraham who believed as a monotheist in God only not assigning sons or partners to him and would consider the Quran as scripture confirming previous scriptures that came before it..
      Believing in that even if each remained as with different prophets,laws&rites remaining within the truth of the revelations....
      All that has to be needed is to cross out any belief of a begotten son or trinity that has over turned the Table over the Abrahamic Faith to become scattered as it is between them and among them into many branches...   

      Seems this is the only way to untangle the mess that we reached in to... This is my Religious Advice to overcome all complications....! I think this is a better way than giving up the whole Holy Religion and Belief in Exchange for a Secular Bible that meant to take them all over with time,while the rest fight in dispute among them selves??

      April 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Who was Gabriel?

      So Gabriel and the angels mentioned in the Koran were not Partners in the mission?

      Seems like we can always see differences and difficulties in others views of how God touches us, but then have a very difficult time at turning the same eye of understanding on our own faith.

      If God were respected more than feared, I wonder how many more advances in or understaning of IT would be, and how much better we would treat others as a result?

      April 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  15. mightyfudge

    No one knows what happens when we die and anyone claiming such knowledge is a liar who probably wants your money. In this case, the price of his book.

    (Funny how you can write a book about another book and make a lot of money, which I assume will be immediately donated to charity to coincide with the author's beliefs. Yeah right.)

    April 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God can not lie.

      Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

      1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

      2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

      3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

      4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

      5 Also [when] they shall be afraid of [that which is] high, and fears [shall be] in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

      6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

      7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

      8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all [is] vanity.

      9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, [and] set in order many proverbs.

      10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and [that which was] written [was] upright, [even] words of truth.

      11 The words of the wise [are] as goads, and as nails fastened [by] the masters of assemblies, [which] are given from one shepherd.

      12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh.

      13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.

      14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • max

      who or what says god cannot lie? you quote a book of unknown origin as proof of something.

      The book itself has some good parts and some bad but the overall theme sucks. The new testament, supposedly triggered by the rise and fall of the big JC, is a painfully blatant attempt to retain some validity for a religion that should die off. Amazing in it contradicitons and even more amazing some of the fantastical arguments created to defend it.

      The strangest thing for me, overall, is why would going to heaven to hang out with a bunch of fanatical religion junkies be a reward? Jesus saves – really? from what? he may save you from feeling lost and empty but amybe the rest of us are just fine.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  16. Searcher

    The article is about the intersection of faith and reason. People who put their faith in reason most often go on to argue that there is no reason, but only cause and effect, or the "neutron dance" of some sort of probability matrix. The existence of reason actually involves the acceptance of something super-natural about existence. If there is nothing of pure creation in making a decision, for example; if decision making is purely a matter of arrangement of the inputs, then the argumentation of the non-believer is only something inevitable, like a stone lying on the side of a hill that slowly becomes unstable because of the diurnal heating and cooling cycle, then rolling down the hill. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    April 13, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Our Evolving Understanding of It All

      Unless its a big stone and it rolls on you. No one made you or anyone one else the decider of what is natural and what isn't. That's God's call, and if anything is to make any sense, then it all has to be natural; nothing supernatural, just things beyond the understanding of stupid humans. Cause and effect pretty much is God's law***. Know that and you can see through the glass more than darkly and start thinking no longer as children putting away childish things.

      ***For those that think Quantum Physics isn't based in cause and effect, its just a matter of perspective. Just because we can't see cause and effect at such miniscule levels, gives us no right to say it doesn't exist. Again, we are not the measure of God's law. God is. God also does not look like you. You were created within God's image, not like God's image. Observation proves function comes from form, so we shouldn't make our self out to be like God just to puff up our ego.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  17. M West

    I much sooner believe an authoritative source, yes, authored by perhaps a couple of dozen people, from Moses to the prophets to Paul to John, etc., than a monolithic book to which no attention has been paid over the many centuries. After at least 2 thousand years, you get a few variants. All works of ancient literature have this, but only the Bible can claim 5 thousand manuscripts which agree with each other to an impressive degree and of which the most recent copies can be dated fairly close to the originals. When you don't have originals, it takes some work to reassemble what they must have been. Your bias is in control of your facts. Little of what you state weakens the case for the authority of the Bible. Words like "mythology" and "ignorant understanding" are intellectually dishonest. "Harming and controlling millions"? Not the book, but people. Don't blame the message when it's misused by people. You can't make a good case against faith in the Bible because you have a shallow understanding of it, no reverence, no faith. In short, it's not because of any facts or arguments that you don't have faith in the Bible, you don't believe because you don't want to. It would suit you better to write about things you understand better and believe in. The Bible is about God's authority, sovereignty, love and redemption. Now what have you got against that? Take it up with God. He's got time.

    April 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Jerry2

      You have absolutely no evidence that God had anything to do with the writing of the Bible. In "Who Wrote the Bible" by Elliott Friedman, he shows quite clearly how anyone can see that at least five authors wrote the Torah, but they cannot be identified as to name and date. Yet, believers keep insisting that Moses wrote the Torah, even though in the last book, Deuteronomy, it speaks of Moses' death and states that no one knows of his burial place even "untill this day"! Obviously, Moses could not have written about his own death. In fact, there is no proof that he was a real person, which is also true of Jesus and the alleged apostles. No writings about Jesus can be found that were produced when he was allegedly alive; they all surface decades later, when the witnesses are all dead. (See "The Arabs" by Kiernan, a graduate of Notre Dame and Columbia.) The Coptic Gospels are earlier than the Christian Gospels and have different authors. God did not decide which were the true gospels, man did! And all evidence shows that that "man" was Constantine. He had 50 of the first Bibles produced, with beautiful illustrations, and distributed to the early churches. He, not God, decided what was going to be included in those bibles.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Romans 9:13-23

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:18 am |
    • max

      you cant make a good case for the bible without the bible. its circular reasoning. i believe in the word of god because the word of god tells me so...

      you cant prove the bible or god in any manner that gets beyond reasonable doubt, no matter how far you stretch. your doubts about why we are here or how we got here are not proof that god is responsible just that you had a gap that needed to be filled.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  18. kurt

    Inspiration works on the same principle as the incarnation (God becoming man in Jesus). A very human process in the creation of the Bible does not conflict with the fact that it is divinely inspired.

    Faith does not battle reason. Reason does not battle faith. They exist symbiotically within every human. In fact reason cannot live without faith nor faith without reason.

    April 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Jerry2

      Oops! My previous reply was meant for Kurt. Sorry!

      April 13, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  19. LEB

    Yes, the authors (and I say authorS because there are are at least 40 different authors for certain, plus "corrections" and inaccurate translations by hundreds more) DO matter, because it proves that the books of the Bible were written by humans (more specifically, men) and not divinely inspired. The Bible is a combination of the written record of what was once oral tradition, heavily peppered by influences of other cultures, and changed by those in power to serve their own ambitions. The Bible is a work of men, and although on occasion a source for citing actual historical events, it is mostly mythology, an ignorant understanding of the true nature of the world and universe, and a device that has been used to harm and control millions, if not billions, in the course of its history.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Jerry2

      What I find comical is that all Christians, Jews, and Muslims pray to the same God, but they all get different answers and end up killing each other over their luancy! The Pope of the Day sent the Crusaders to the Holy Lands to take them back from the Muslims. The fights raged on, back and forth, for about 200 years, but the Christians lost! God did not lift a hand to help them! The Muslims again defeated the Christians in 1453 at Constantinoble, the Eastern, Christian Roman Empire, depriving them of much of the then known world.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Johannes

      With all due respect but 'written by humans' (what the bible clearly affirms and is never been denied) does not contradict 'divine inspiration'. Read the story of Pentecost in Acts: the Holy Spirit inspires men and women to do Gods work. Wether this is writing or helping people or else, all human acts can be inspired by God. I wish sincerely that you may have a life that dwells on this source of creativeness and inspiration as well.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  20. nikto

    A far more pertinent question to ask people of faith is not who may have written the Bible, but rather:
    "How old do you think the Earth is?"

    If your answer is in the 1000s of years, your faith has killed your powers of reasoning.
    R.I.P.
    Reason died here, murdered by "Faith".

    April 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jerry2

      When you trace back the ancestors of Jesus to Adam, you will find, using simple arithmetic, that the universe and all in it were created in 4004 B.C. Archbishop Ussher of Armagh, Ireland, was the first known to present these findings in the 1600s. Anyone can do it and find the same. The problem is that we had American Indians in the U.S. as early as 12000 B.C. and numerous remains of animals, including humans and near humans, going back millions of years. Scientist can prove with uranium dating methods that the earth is 4.6 million years old, and the Universe much older! Furthermore, we do not know what the first manuscripts of the Bible said, as they are no where to be found; and the ones we have were not signed by God. We only have man's word that they contain God's word. If that is true, then He cannot be too bright, because the Bible is loaded with contradictions and nonsense. Contact " Skeptics" on the net; they have a disk that will point out over 2000 problems with the Bible. For starters, check out Gen 6:19 and Gen 7:2. In other places, Jesus said "... no one goeth to the Father but through me", then He gives us "The Lord's Prayer", which starts out with "Our father...", sending us directly to the Father and by-passing Jesus! Bah! Humbug!

      April 13, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Gaunt

      I will assume your error was in fact a typo: the earth is 4.6 BILLION years old, not Million.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Thomas

      I feel like this line of conversation has turned into the curious case of the pink and flowered tea pot that floats in the dark side of the moon and houses an omnipotent dwarf who juggles field mice while he writes history through the playing of his nose flute. Sure it could exist–but I find it highly unlikely.

      But also, I don't think most of us would find this argument very intelligent, would we? Nor would we find "blind faith" an acceptable alternative. Not to be overly romantic, or to disengage from the importance of some of the previous points–but hasn't some of the conversation hit rather off the mark? At least off the article?

      Part of the point is that, speculate as we may, we'll never really have it all figured out (even though we act like we do sometimes). Quite frankly, I've never understood the certainty of Christians and atheists alike. Can you "prove" God? Can you point to a nail or an inscription or headstone and say unequivocally, "He does exist!"? Likewise, those opposed to the existence of God have hidden behind clever quips, and educated men have refused to invest effort in trying to understand another perspective. They proceed as if they are different than the other educated men who thought long and hard in their studies only to conclude that there must be a God.

      The most brilliant men I've known–highly educated Christians and atheists alike–were often willing to wallow in the complexities of uncertainty. They weren't afraid of it, and I would argue even treated it as an integral part of their great balancing act. “Truth, what is truth?” is the flagship of modern logic. The difference between “now” and “then” is that people didn’t used to use this phrase to disregard truth: they used it to find it.

      Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins have looked at truth, both finding it under a microscope. Collins was known for his former leadership in the International Human Genome Consortium and Dawkins as a leading author and researcher in evolutionary biology. Collins is a staunch Christian, and Dawkins a staunch atheist. Who are you more willing to argue with?

      Just food for thought. If you’ll excuse me I’m going to try and find that dwarf. I’ve heard he’s a real good show.

      April 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Altro

      Not all Christians believe the 6 days of Creation and 7th at rest are literal days. Many believe they are Epochs that spanned vast of amounts of time, with incredible expenditures of Gods limitless energy creating what we now know as Earth...

      April 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Dee

      Maybe folks can't trust what a Christian person says. but should we even trust scientists?

      Why, oh why should I believe a scientist? Tell me.

      April 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Thomas

      Then why trust anyone Dee? That's not very helpful either. I don't think it's about trust: it's about sincerely and thoroughly looking into a topic.

      But it's a good question, isn't it? If you change your idea to "Who do you trust?" rather than "Trust no one!" then maybe trust is an issue of sorts. I think most would agree that you sincerely explore the most reasonable options (the nose flute-history writing dwarf on the back of the moon is probably out). After that–it would make sense that educated and thoughtful people WHO CARE ABOUT YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL representing either side would be helpful in sorting out your thoughts. Can you trust scientists? Some of them. Can you trust Christians? Some of them. Then why not seek out those people? Why not read about those questions?

      The only risk you take is looking foolish. But if we can make any major religion or major science look absolutely foolish: the chances are we haven't understood them.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      nikto, the babble nonsense you copied from non-believers site doesn't hold water. Christian that read the Bible know this earth age is about 1,400 years old with the first earth age being millions upon millions of years – eternity. You, however, never learned how to cross reference the bible to read about the 3 earth ages and 3 heaven ages. All different time spans (eons) referenced throughout the Bible. You'd know this if you had eyes to see, ears to hear His truth.

      Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 6:05 am |
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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.