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My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
The Bible presents us with an evolving story, writes John Shelby Spong.
December 29th, 2011
09:10 AM ET

My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions

Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World."

By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN

The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.

To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.

First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.

The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.

Actually, that's not in the Bible

Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?

Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.

This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.

Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written - that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John - we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.

For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.

In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.

Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.

My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality

Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.

The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.

Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?

The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.

The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.

The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.

It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.

The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.

It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.

One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.

The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.

That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (6,068 Responses)
  1. arthurrrr

    the person who wrote this article is a complete moron and atheist. The Bible has been proven to be 100% true over and over and over and over and over.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      You think people really lived to be over 600 years old?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • allanhowls

      In misusing the words "proven" and "100%," you have simultaneously failed theology, math, AND English.
      Where's your divinity degree from, again? You don't get to call someone "atheist" just because your preacher lied to you for so many years.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Noah, his wife and his two sons with their wives repopulated the entire human race when he was 500 years old.
      You should be so lucky as to get that much action when you're a cinqtenarian!

      December 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Nick

      @JohnQuest – Can you prove they didn't? You may not accept things that in your mind seem illogical or even unreasonable, but that is no proof. Many would never believe it possible for man to land on the moon, and even today, many still do not accept that. Reject God because you reject God, but don't use non-provable non-evidence for your reason.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Nick: I can show you 7 billion people, not a single one that is 600 years old. Can you show me one that is?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • boocat

      You're doing the same thing you accuse JohnQ of – "using non-provable non-evidence".....Pot meet Kettle.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Nick
      We can prove we landed on the Moon. Your turn.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Nick

      @SeanNJ – Keep up, we are not discussing longevity of humans today, so that is a poor argument. Give some evidence that disproves that certain humans from around 6000+ years ago did not live 600 years. "IF" there is a real God, and "IF" he indeed created everything you see, then it is reasonable to believe he could make you, me or anyone he chooses to live as long as he directed. I am not trying to convince you that it really happen; that is of no consequence to me. I am merely suggesting the possibilities.
      @Patrick – Actually, to someone who absolutely refuses to believe we landed on the moon (yes I know someone like that), I cannot prove it. They say the pictures are fake, that humans cannot venture past the radiation belt, that Hollywood used movie sets in the desert and slowed the photography and the list goes on and on. You might as well as argue with the wall. That is how I feel sometimes with those who do not accept Christianity. But that's no skin off my back. To each their own. Some of my best friends are devote pagans and Wicca and we get along just fine.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Nick: You said, "Keep up, we are not discussing longevity of humans today, so that is a poor argument."

      It's the only argument that can be made with hope of being verifiable. If you want to suggest that people 6000 years ago were had radically different lifespans than the people today, then I would think that sometime, somewhere, somebody would've doc.umented the change from 600 years to the 70-80 years we live today.

      There's no reason for any of us to believe that things that happened tens of thousands of years ago would've stopped happening, especially since things don't just "stop happening" today.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Nick
      Wrong
      You can prove something to be real or to have happen, it does not require that all people believe it. The Moon landing has mountains of physical and reproducible evidence. It is verifiable. Dinosaurs are a good example of this. Some still believe they are fake or put there by the devil. Their belief in the face of empirical evidence does not change their existence. You cannot prove the existence of god, you have no empirical evidence.

      I please.. if you respond put more thought into it than ‘you can’t prove he’s not real”.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Not to interupt...but one does not have to be aliteralist to be a Christian.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Doc,
      They had bible Viagra back then. Beliebe it, or perish.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Nick

      @Patrick – I agree with what you say, but that was not premise of my argument. It was on whether or not humans at any time had the ability to live much longer than today. My proof of God's existence is more than enough for me based on personal one on one experience, but I fully understand that that is not enough for others. For many, faith alone must suffice, even though each individual has to be the one to make that determination. Some say we have more than enough evidence based strictly on the design argument. There are other approaches one can take to agree that existence alone is not just a fluke. Every single particle exists for purpose. But alas, I am not here to argue or convince anyone of God existence. This is a discussion amongst those who agree of God's existence, but to what degree, and under what terms.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Nick- don't worry too much on Patrick. He likes to imply evidence and never provides any for his argument.

      And when he says, "You cannot prove the existence of god, you have no empirical evidence." What he really wants to say is "since you cannot prove it to my satisfaction...God isn't real". It's a foolish notion to think but it's what some atheists on here goes with.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well the Quran claims that Noah lived 950 years...as people used to live long at elder life times... Continued to become shorter and shorter ever since...

      December 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Muneef, you would be correct except that lifespans are currently increasing, as determined by actual data, while the only claim of longer than current lifespans is in discredited holy books, with no supporting evidence.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Muneef

      And We certainly sent Noah to his people, and he remained among them a thousand years minus fifty years, and the flood seized them while they were wrongdoers.(29:14)

      December 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Muneef

      How Long Did Noah Live?
      In the book of Genesis 9:29, it is said that Noah lived for 950 years. Noah is credited with building an ark when he was told of a coming flood. He was 600 years old at the time. Read More »
      Source: http://answers.ask.com/Society/Other/how_long_did_noah_live

      December 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Ace...

      Wonder if there are any evidence that flying fire dragons existed ? Any way dear if it wasn't for the life of the body then maybe the speed of spinning of both moon and sun had changed GOD only knows which is which...any way they said even mankind at those times were huge more than hulks compared to the dwarfs of this era..as well can say only GOD knows the truth of things...by the time we find evidence of things we might by then have lost every chance of repentance and belief...

      December 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I'd appreciate any and all help in understanding what Muneef is trying to say...

      December 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Muneef

      Ace.

      Am sorry if I failed to express my self properly but what am saying is that every thing is possible even though evidence are lacking..just remember and maintain that there is (No Smoke with out Fire).

      December 30, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Thanks for the clarification.

      Anything may be possible, if you ignore facts, suspend the laws of physics and disbelief, and have a supernatural being handy, but that does not mean they are probable. Given what we know about lifespans and physics, and the complete lack of evidence for any supernatural being(s), it is highly improbable that anyone lived for more than 120 years. You believe otherwise because you want/need to believe so that your cult's tribal mythologies don't fall apart.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Muneef

      Ace.
      Guess this is the main difference between Believers and Disbelievers....!

      December 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Muneef

      Ace.

      This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah – (2:2)

      Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,(2:3)

      And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. (2:4)

      Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful. (2:5)

      Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe. (2:6)

      December 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Muneef

      Ace.

      O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah , His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.

      December 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Muneef

      The sura and verse above is of (4:136).

      December 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Muneef, I don't believe in any gods and no longer read any so-called holy books, not even extracts posted here, so no point in trying to support your position with crap from your book of fiction. Of course if you would like to make a novel case for your god, go for it!

      December 30, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  2. allanhowls

    Wow...sure are a lot of people whizzing in their own water dishes here...

    December 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • boocat

      Your comment made my day!!!

      December 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  3. brandybuck

    Given a choice between garden-variety atheism and whatever it is that Spong professes, the former is far more attractive.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Yep.
      Garden variety atheists recognize the folly of attempting to apply standards of logic and reason to faith.
      This guy has the audacity to intellectualize scripture, thus inviting the faithful to really think about the consistency of their Holy Book.
      There is no such thing as a logical answer to an emotional argument, and there is no argument more emotional than an appeal to faith.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Patrick

      “Garden variety atheists recognize the folly of attempting to apply standards of logic and reason to faith.”

      This is incorrect and a fundamental misunderstanding of what an Atheist is. We do apply a standard of logic and reason the ‘faith’ (as they apply it to all things) and therefore ARE Atheist. You seem so have confused this with the actually definition of faith. Faith is a belief without reason.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • brandybuck

      I'm not sure I wish to attribute "standards of logic and reason" to Spong and his ilk. Few creatures have minds mushier than contemporary liberal theologians.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Patrick- "Faith is a belief without reason."

      You seem big on providing evidence. Can you plz provide the source for your definition?

      Some definitions I have found include:
      "confidence or trust in a person or thing" You know..like how you think you are loved
      "belief that is not based on proof/evidence" Hmm...nothing about reason
      "belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion"

      Long story short Patrick....you are wrong in your definition. Unless you can provide your source. Otherwise you will have to say I won...since that is how you judge these things right?

      December 29, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Patrick

      World English Dictionary
      faith (feɪθ)

      — n
      1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
      2. a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
      3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
      4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason

      htp://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Faith

      December 30, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Lol....why didn't you use the primary definition like I did from that exact same webpage?

      And let's be clear on something here as well....you will note the use of the word "especially". It does not mean "always" and that is how you wish to use your modified definiton of faith. Sorry...you failed yet again.

      January 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Oh..btw..plz explain since when did reason become a synonym to evidence and proof? Lol.

      January 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  4. Keefster

    @If horses had...

    OK. Whatever you said.

    No, wait a minute. Run that by me one more time?

    That's what I thought you said. Look, for the FOUR HUNNNERDN EIGHTY-THIRD TIME, atheism/agnosticism/doubt/disbelief (whatever you want to call it) is *NOT* a religion. They don't have meetings, or rituals. Or songs, or cool holidays, or "bonus" reasons to fear/hate/whack their neighbors, besides the usual ape-ish ones. Pretty boring s***, actually. Sorry about the "ape" reference.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  5. Too Bad

    Great article, same morons with the same moronic worldviews commenting. We'll all be better off when theist and atheist zealots cease to be part of the equation.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Patrick

      Remove religion and you get both. Funny how that works eh?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Reverend Cathryn Paradise

    The first misconception about spong is that he is an honest man. Quote:" every biblical scholar recognizes it." This is a lie because there are thousands of scholars who do believe it is accurate history. Secondly, he lied every time he took his ordination vows because he never believed the Bible was in any form the word of God. Though he does not state it, it is evident in his books Rescuing the Bible and Sins of Scripture.

    He denies every tenet of Christianity and still has the gall to call himself a Christian. He is an atheist in clerical garb. The books of Genesis through Deuteronomy were written about 1500 BC which was the time of Moses and the Exodus. Not after the Babylonian exile as spong believes. The ages of the sons of Noah put the last one dying within a few generations of Moses.

    spong also believes in an impersonal god like Allah and not a personal God like the God of the Bible. spong rejects inspiration of the Bible in any form and that God influenced its writing. As a former minister spong should have believed in the Bible, but he rejected it before he even went to college.

    Next he rejects the last 12 verses of Mark's gospel which DOES have the post resurrection appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dean John Burgon proved this in his book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (a book of over 300 pages published the late 1800s). I have read the King James Bible over 30 times and know of men and woman who have read it an hundred and more times (one preacher I know is approaching 200 times) and STILL believe it is the word of God.

    If the Bible is not “static” as spong believes, then it is unreliable at best and a wicked book at worse. But if it is the word of God and IT IS static and unchanging then it is the best book in the world (which it is). It is not Christian history that fuel the anti's of the Bible but Roman Catholic History which can be separated from Christian history.

    spong's method of reading the Bible is the allegorical method. With this method, for example, you read “In the beginning” to mean “The cars are speeding down the street” or whatever else you want it to say.

    If I were the pastor of a local church I would not let spong in the door much less in the pulpit. This is not prejudiced unless you consider it equivalent to letting a dozen starving lions in your church.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Wrong. (Surnames are capitalized in correctly written English). You are clearly trying to be insulting. Very Christian of you. Next, your judgmental att'itude that he was a liar, is very typical of "true" Christians. Episcopalian priests do not "take vows". So from the start you have no clue what you are talking about. Next, why does, what he "meant", by reciting his "creed", have to "mean" exactly what you do when you say your's to be authentic ? There are 20,000 different sects of Christianity. They ALL claim to have THE truth, just like you. They all have different views on all kinds of things. Why exactly do YOU have THE truth ?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Paulwisc

      You have proven that you are far more ignorant and rigid than the author of the article. Sure he could have written "most credible biblical scholars", but it's not really necessary.

      Belief that you are unfailingly right is not a positive characteristic, but it seems to be one you hold.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Paulwisc: that's just the problem! even if he'd written "most credible biblical scholars," he would have been severely misrepresenting reality – even if your standard is only the American Academy of Religion.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Darrell

      *correction* approximately 32,000 different Christian denominations in today's world, not including Catholicism.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • asrael

      Pretty intolerant stuff from an alleged "reverend", not to mention one with Paradise as an surname...

      December 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • asrael

      make that "a surname"...

      December 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      I stand corrected. Also the Catholics have almost as many sects as they have parishes. Almost every priest I have ever heard does not agree with some other of his sect, So that must make many thousands more sects, of just Catholics.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  7. Uncouth Swain

    What is most shocking to me is what Spong doesn't seem to know that would bolster is POV. Look at the Codex Sinaictus and the differences between it and the modern Bible. Look at the "long ending" and "short ending" of Mark.
    Most ppl understand that the Biblical texts are not 100% accruate.

    December 29, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Phil Ologus

    This article was written in accord with an extreme liberal theology view. That is fine, but readers should know that people on both extremes claim very different 'facts'. In politics and in theology virtually everyone quotes their opinion as fact. Many have already pointed out the errors in this article so I need not do that. To quote Russ in his 12/29 3:35 pm post: "CNN, why not do a conversational series between scholars? at least that would force some accountability... and maybe still garner you the ratings you're looking for?"

    December 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • David

      Phil,

      You're right. Many people often claim their opinions are fact, for example, Paul did it in 2 Timothy 3:16 where he states that "All scripture is God breathed..." This was Paul's attempt to say that the things he had to say were right and fact and inerrant and Godly, when in fact they were just more opinions. If everything he said was right, and good, and inerrant, and perfect and inpired by God then ALL of his letters to the churches would be included in the bible...which they are not. So, apparently he was wrong when he said that "All scripture is God breathed...". Even the bible proves your point Phil. People always try to prove their opinions are fact.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: it is my opinion that the Nazi Holocaust was reprehensible.
      Is that an objective, moral fact that everyone should believe?
      or an opinion that is merely relative & it should be ok for some to advocate repeating said events?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • David

      Russ,

      First, Yikes.

      But, you're right. The fact that many people contend something does not make it fact. But, it doesn't change the fact that many of Paul's letters (some of which are referred to and referenced in the current canon) are not present in the canon, which shows that not everything he said was either 1)inspired by God. or 2)properly captured in the canon...leaving the canon incomplete thus imperfect and erred. Simple logic. Don't just refute the parts of an argument that don't make sense. My argument still holds water. And, as far as Paul not reffering to his writings as scripture, that's EXACTLY what he was doing. They churches were asking whether they should weigh one of his letter against another, or one from another apostle, or the Old Testament scriptures with more weight. To which he said "All scripture is God breathed..." Hmmm...

      December 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: so what do you make of 2 Peter 3:16 referring to Paul's writings as equivalent to Scripture?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • David

      Furthermore, the fact that Paul's writings are in the bible means that they ARE included in what he referred to as scripture!! And if his other letters (referred to multiple times in the canon) aren't in there then something is wrong, or doesn't add up...

      December 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • David

      Russ, equivalent to scripture=scripture. That's what he's saying. And we don't have all the letters. So we are missing scripture. We have an incomplete bible.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Phil Ologus

      I have read commentaries from all flavors of theology, and have never encountered anyone besides you who claims that Paul was referring to his own writings when he wrote that all Scripture was God-breathed. The verses immediately preceding the "God-breathed" statement the context is clearly the Hebrew scriptures which Timothy learned as a child. The verse immediately preceding even uses the word "Scriptures" in that specific context.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • David

      So are we saying that Paul's writings are NOT in fact scripture? If no then why are they in the bible? If yes then why aren't all of them? And if you make the case that JUST the inspired inerrant writings are included as scripture, then why are other letters that Paul wrote to other churches referenced in the bible and not included?? Something doesn't add up here??

      December 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: in support of what you are saying, I believe it was Karl Barth who said something like this:

      if we were digging in the deserts of Alexandria, and came across the missing letter to the Corinthians (which Paul references), and it could be both archeologically & theologically verified (imagining some sort of inter-denominational affirmation among Christian branches), we would add it to the canon.

      However, if so, God had always known it had been there. It would not expand the canon according to God – only according to us. And Scripture (as we currently have it), is already sufficient to lead us to Christ – the Word of God in the flesh. We do not worship the Bible, but Christ. In that regard, even barring a missing so-called "3rd Corinthians," Scripture is fully sufficient as it is to lead us to Christ – the Word Made Flesh.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • David

      Russ,

      I have heard, and in fact made this argument before many times. But, if this is the case, then it is fair for me to look at the bible and scrutinize it for the things that bring me close to Jesus/God and throw out the rest. Why should we keep unnecessary, often inflammatory items in the book at all? Is it editable? Should it be?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: as I wrote below, this is a question of your doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Is this God's Word thru human instruments, or just human reflections on what God did?

      The danger here: if it's the latter, then your experience is at least equally normative to Scripture. In which case, what can God 'say' to you that actually disagrees with you? Can God get in your face & challenge you about your belief? What is more authoritative: your experience or what the Bible says?

      In the Bible, I find that a God who does not always agree with Russ' predilections, and forces me to wrestle with a personal relationship with him. If your God cannot likewise speak with authority into your life, then we're just talking about some nuanced self-projection – and no real personal relationship is possible.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Russ,
      The 4th Harry Potter said everything in the third book was true. What do you make of that ?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: In speaking to David, I am assuming I'm talking to a Christian. Hence the biblical appeals.

      From your question, I'm deriving you're not. In response: for one, the fact that JK Rowling identifies herself as a Christian (as does JRR Tolkien) tells you what she thinks of her own writings. Then, notably, the meta-narrative of the Harry Potter series is one in which self-sacrificial love is the greatest power in existence (from Harry's mom's to his final sacrifice). Such moving stories are what CS Lewis (as an atheist) called, "myths, though breathed through silver."

      Instead, as Tolkien himself said to CS Lewis of such "myths": Christianity is not one more myth that inspires us, but the truth to which all the other myths point.

      Another interesting take on Harry Potter from a NT scholar:
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxySk24J_bs&w=640&h=360]

      December 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  9. jimbo

    Using censorship on those who don't agree with you? Unheard of among religious types. Oh wait. BTW, my favorite part of your post is when you showed your innate hate when you called those that don't believe the same as you G-A-Y. Well played sir! Well played! What came first for you, your bigotry or your christianity? I hear the two tend to go very well togetherl.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Godless (and without morals, of course!)

    I am in complete awe that anyone this day in age still worships anything. Interesting article for an article about Christianity, mind numbing discussion afterwards. **headache creeping back slowly...arrggghhh**

    December 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  11. Slovensko

    http://theresurgence.com/2011/12/28/the-tyranny-of-advice-column-christianity

    December 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  12. David

    I've been reading a lot of these posts that claim that word of mouth was adequate for passing down factual information for generations. When I was in the police academy as a young man (before college, grad school, and military service) we learned that a police officer's word in court and accurate description of witnessed events were paramount, much like the ability of the old tribes in the Old Testament to pass on historically accurate tales to properly account for their histories. Well, we were all told to watch a video of an event and then individually write a description of what we remember happening. If our accounts were wrong then they were not admissible in the mock courtroom. Once we finished our instructor went over the events moment by moment. Guess how many of the 32 cadets accurately described the event? Zero. None. Zilch. We all falsely remembered some detail or another. So, if 32 bright young modern minds can't accurately remember an event that took place in front of them only moments before, in a controlled environment, when they were TOLD they were going to be asked to recall the events then how can I believe that ancient tribes accurately passed on events from generations prior through word of mouth before archaically writing them down? Many of the events of which only had ONE person present (Moses on Mount Ararat for example). Let's just go ahead and stop deluding ourselves...

    December 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      How many of your cadets were put to death and had their writings burned? That was the penalty for falsely representing God's words in ancient Israel. Hardly the same as a simplified parlor game.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      ...inconvenient truth missed the point yet again. You need to type slower for him.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • David

      @ An Inconvenient Truth: First of all, there would be no way to prove that the next generation was misrepresenting the truth or the facts, as they had no actual recording of the events. So, no one was put to death on a factual basis, it was lunacy begetting lunacy. If people didn't like what they heard or the interpretation, then someone died... and that's the Inconvenient Truth.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Keefster

      Hey @inconvenient truth:I think the OP (that's Original Poster, OK?) was saying that if you cannot trust thirty-something observers in a CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT (like a law-enforcement classroom full of observers/reporters/describers-in-training) to accurately remember and describe something immediately after collectively seeing the exact same thing (which is what you would EXPECT, right? Except OP said they FAILED, spectacularly, in this case) then you almost CERTAINLY COULD NOT expect an accurate description of something to survive, intact, through an "oral" trans-generational hand-me-down path, could you?

      If anyone wants to actually *promote* his or her religious beliefs, which is a fool's errand, anyway, the words "fact," "truth," and (especially) "history" should be the LAST words to come out of their mouth. They're better off just not-mentioned. Not even in the same breath.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Midwestern

      David – thank you.

      You can also tie it to the game played as kids, known as the 'telephone game' – where someone starts with a sentence that is then told to the next person, and so on, and how different it is from the original when passed through various persons.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: In 1 Cor.15, Paul claims the risen Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at once. That's less than 30 years later. Most of those folks would still be alive. It could be checked out. You could talk to other eyewitnesses.

      And, by this time, Nero was already putting Christians to death. You could die for believing this stuff. No one dies knowingly for a lie (especially one they made up). And people don't have group (500) hallucinations in which they all see the same thing.

      Unlike other major religions, Christianity was not claiming simply to be teaching – but an event. God coming in the flesh, living the life we couldn't, dying in our place, and being raised from the dead. Either the most ridiculous claim in history, or the most wonderful. But it's that polarizing by the mere claim – and the first century hearers would have understood that.

      Which results in this: Christianity does not get off the ground unless the eyewitness accounts were verifiable. For much more exhaustive scholarship on this: read Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"

      December 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • David

      Russ,

      First of all, I believe that Christ died on the cross, and that a sermon on a mount happened. There were enough witnesses there to believe that those events happened. But, to believe that 500 people (who's average life spans were 42 years old) were interviewed and scrutinized and all knew the exact same thing to be true defies all logic. It didn't happen. No one in the bible claims to have done such exhaustive interviewing. Furthermore, to believe that it was successfully done 40-70 years later is NUTS!

      December 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: In 1 Cor.15, Paul claims the risen Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at once. That's less than 30 years later. Most of those folks would still be alive. It could be checked out. You could talk to other eyewitnesses.

      And, by this time, Nero was already putting Christians to death. You could die for believing this stuff. No one dies knowingly for a lie (especially one they made up). And people don't have group (500) hallucinations in which they all see the same thing.

      Unlike other major religions, Christianity was not claiming simply to be teaching – but an event. God c.oming in the fle.sh, living the life we couldn't, dying in our place, and being raised from the dead. Either the most ridiculous claim in history, or the most wonderful. But it's that polarizing by the mere claim – and the first century hearers would have understood that.

      Which results in this: Christianity does not get off the ground unless the eyewitness accounts were verifiable. For much more exhaustive scholarship on this: read Richard Bauckham's "Jesus & the Eyewitnesses"

      December 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • David

      Russ,

      I agree that Christ's life was recorded with say...80% accuracy (maybe). As getting large groups to agree on anything is nearly impossible. And, there is no report of an exhaustive survey or interviews ever having been completed when the gospels were written. But, the old testament, written and recorded 30 generations after the events can surely be no more than 10% accurate.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: sorry for the double post.

      1 Corinthians was written w/in about 25 years of Jesus' death, not 40-70.

      And we're not talking about a police investigation. We're talking about: "hey, Nero is trying to kill people who believe this. maybe I should check with family/friends/others who live in Jerusalem to see if anyone there actually experienced the things these people are claiming."

      It is ethnocentric to think people in the Hellenized 1st century were somehow less skeptical than we are – especially when their very lives were at stake.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Russ

      @ David: so you believe in the incarnation & resurrection, but you're not sure that God could speak through Old Testament prophets?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • David

      Trust me Russ, many police recollections have meant life or death for people... first of all, secondly, there would be no hard evidence to determine the truth one way or the other...just word of mouth. And lastly, even if they asked the fortunate few who were visually privy to such events there would still be differences amongst the recollections. It happens all the time. In fact, to relate it to a modern day event (relatively), there are many Jewish people who claimed to have been at one concentration camp who were in fact found at another, or who got dates messed up. And I assure you, the death and devastation in WWII was just as great. Even today there are people that claim to have witnessed one thing in Iraq/Afghanistan that in fact saw something different. Lives depend on flawed recollection all the time. Not just in the old testament.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Russ

      @ so, as a Christian, what do you make of Jesus' statement to the disciples (about sending his Holy Spirit): "He will remind you of everything I told you" (Jn.14:26) & "guide you into all truth" (Jn.16:13)? Or how about 1 Pet.1, that it was the Holy Spirit who carried the prophets along & spoke through them, with such precise insight that even the angels longed to look into what they were saying (1 Pet.1:10-12)?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Russ,
      Re your as'sertion that 500 people don't have hallucinations. Thousands of people saw the "sun dance" at Fatima. Mass hysteria is a well known phenomenon.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Russ

      @ George: sorry, posted this in the wrong place b/f...

      m.a's.s hysteria is certainly well doc'umented & has occurred before. but how many times do such folks claim all to have had the exact same experience?

      Paul's point: 500 people agreed on what they saw. People on an ac'id trip don't do that.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  13. JASON K

    John Shelby Spong, I don't know much about episcopals, but in that camp you are apparantly a bishop. You have devoted your life in the pursuit of scriptural knowledge of God. Based on the first paragraph of your article I see that you are not actually a believer in the Risen Christ at all. 2nd Timothy says that ALL scripture is "Inspired" (Lit: God breathed in Greek). If this is the case, you do not have to wonder if 45 generations got their history right or not because a "Sovereign" God ensured that it was recorded as he saw fit. Based on this statement along, you could questions any of the ancient historical texts we have recorded for us today as being false. Where is your faith? It would appear the spirit gifted you none.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Of course Timothy says it's "god breathed". What did you THINK he was going to say ? STOP USING THE BABBLE to PROVE the BABBLE. It's circular. Take a LOGIC course.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • David

      Jason,

      You're measuring with a rubber ruler here. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul states that "All scripture is God breathed..." However... There are a few things to take in to account here. The first of which is the fact that Paul was talking about HIS writings to the church, and trying to ensure they they were given as much weight and legitimacy as the rest of the scriptures (which were not yet fully collected and decided upon yet). Secondly, if this statement is true then the current bible IS IN FACT not the inerrant word of God, as we know that many of the "Scriptures" or letters that Paul wrote to other churches aren't included in the current canon, were purposely left out, or have been lost. So, according to that fact we actually have an incomplete work in the Bible. Furthermore, many people contend that Paul's writings and teachings should not be in the bible at all!! So this verse would not even be included in the canon. If someone wrote in a textbook that 2+2=7, then went on to say that everything in that book is truth inspired by God, does that mean that they are right? When God HIMSELF says that the things in the bible are inspired by him and hold no flaws, then we may believe it. That has not happened, only man has declared that everything in that book is perfect, and it should be accordingly scrutinized.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • double L

      There is big money for lazy people in false religion. This article is like a mechanic who doubts his repair manual. No one who doubts what is supposed to be his main guidlines for his job or purpose in life, should he really be a representative of it at all? This is quite an oxymoron to sensible people.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Phil Ologus

      Povich Bible Show: Perhaps you should take a reading comprehension course. Jason K did not use the bible to prove the bible. He used the bible to substantiate something about the writer of this article.

      David: Paul was clearly not speaking of his own writings, but of the Hebrew bible (Old Testament). You committed several logical errors in your response. Your argument that concludes with the bible being incomplete holds no water for numerous reasons. Your saying that "many people contend..." is as silly as saying that many people contend NASA never went to the moon, therefore we never went to the moon.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • David

      Phil,

      You're right. The fact that many people contend something does not make it fact. But, it doesn't change the fact that many of Paul's letters (some of which are referred to and referenced in the current canon) are not present in the canon, which shows that not everything he said was either 1)inspired by God. or 2)properly captured in the canon...leaving the canon incomplete thus imperfect and erred. Simple logic. Don't just refute the parts of an argument that don't make sense. My argument still holds water. And, as far as Paul not reffering to his writings as scripture, that's EXACTLY what he was doing. They churches were asking whether they should weigh one of his letter against another, or one from another apostle, or the Old Testament scriptures with more weight. To which he said "All scripture is God breathed..." Hmmm...

      December 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Jason, I am writing bible verses inspired by god as we speak. Believe me? why not?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • David

      Furthermore, the fact that Paul's writings are in the bible means that they ARE included in what he referred to as scripture!! And if his other letters (referred to multiple times in the canon) aren't in there then something is wrong, or doesn't add up... The verse actually states that Paul's writings are equivalent to scripture. Equivalent to scripture=scripture. That's what he's saying. And we don't have all the letters. So we are missing scripture. We have an incomplete bible.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Phil Ologus
      Wrong. He's using a babble verse to prove that what the author says about HIS version of belief about THOSE babble verses is incorrect. Circular is circular, one step removed or not.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Actually I bet Spong would say he believed in "a risen Christ". Just because it's not the 1st Grade concept does not mean it's no good. Grow up.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Russ

      @ George: m.a'ss hysteria is certainly well doc'umented & has occurred before. but how many times do such folks claim all to have had the exact same experience?

      Paul's point: 500 people agreed on what they saw. People on an ac'id trip don't do that.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  14. Dang

    This is one of several thousands instances in the Bible proving why it is the most misunderstood book in humankind:
    Numbers 31:2: God asked Moses to avenge the children of Israel .
    Numbers 31:32-35: Moses' troups invaded Midian, ordered the killing of all its men, women, pregnant women, babies, children EXCEPT virgin girls/women that were later shared as booty between his soldiers and his priests. Yes, the Moses who received the 10 Commandments directly from God and gave it to us. To the faithful contributors, please read the Bible first before arguing. It is not as nice and moral as your priests and preachers have been telling you.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • JASON K

      Dang you are absolutely right. God never claims to be nice. Infact most of the old testament is God beating down the Jews for failing to keep a law he knows they have no possible way of keeping. This is told over and over again by Paul in the New Testament. God intentionally blinded the Jews for 1500+ years of the Dispensation of Law because he didn't want them. Isaiah says that they should have eyes that do not perceive and ears that do not hear.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "God intentionally blinded the Jews for 1500+ years of the Dispensation of Law because he didn't want them."

      Yet Jesus, who is God supposedly, was a Jewish carpenter.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  15. bachmanntwit

    Michelle Bachmann uses a hollowed out bible to stash her battery operated adult s*x toys.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  16. TW

    They man's facts are simple not true unless he is talking about secular manuscripts.

    Author Date Written Earliest Copy Time Span Copies (extent)

    Secular Manuscripts: Date Written Earlist Copy Time Span Copies Available
    Herodotus (History) 480 – 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8
    Thucydides (History) 460 – 400 BC 900 AD 1,300 years ?
    Aristotle (Philosopher) 384 – 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 5
    Caesar (History) 100 – 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10
    Pliny (History) 61 – 113 AD 850 AD 750 years 7
    Suetonius (Roman History) 70 – 140 AD 950 AD 800 years ?
    Tacitus (Greek History) 100 AD 1,100 AD 1,000 years 20

    Biblical Manuscripts: (note: these are individual manuscripts)
    Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26) 1st century 50-60 AD co-existant (?)
    John Rylands (John) 90 AD 130 AD 40 years
    Bodmer Papyrus II (John) 90 AD 150-200 AD 60-110 years
    Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.) 1st century 200 AD 150 years
    Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels) 1st century 200 AD 150 years
    Codex Vaticanus (Bible) 1st century 325-350 AD 275-300 years
    Codex Sinaiticus (Bible) 1st century 350 AD 300 years
    Codex Alexandrinus (Bible) 1st century 400 AD 350 years

    December 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TW: worthy of note on your biblical manuscript dates: none of those claim to be the autographs. those artifacts are all evidence of even earlier versions of themselves.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  17. calmo

    Why do you nonbelievers troll for any forum discussing God and his inspired word to spew your same, worn-out cynicism and insulting rhetoric? If you reject the concept of a universal god, that's your prerogative. But the fact that your beliefs cannot be maintained in comfort and calm conviction, but must drive you to aggressively search for opportunities to viciously attack those who do believe, suggests that you are really still trying to convince yourselves. Perhaps that's because the Bible is, and always has been, the most revered book on the planet. You'll never change that. Nor will you change the reality that its veracity, excellence, and divinity have been upheld by millions of academics down through the centuries whose motivation was to find the truth. You don't have to glom onto some false accusation about the Bible's authenticity and eternally belabor it to be permitted to believe what you believe. You've been exposed to the concept of a higher authority who established universal laws, and rejected it You won't ever be able to claim total ignorance. The advice Gamaliel, a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin (who were questioning the apostles for preaching the gospel) gave the other members of the Sanhedrin would appropriately apply to you. "Keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them - in that case you may even be found fighting against God!"

    December 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Maybe if CNN would indulge the atheists with more stories on atheism that would plz them,

      December 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Religion Fail

      Thanks for the arrogance and condescending nature of your rabble. Once more Christians prove to be the best evidence against their own ancient dogma.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Patrick

      CNN does ‘indulge’ Atheists with said articles and on this very blog.
      I’m sorry folks but belief does not mean religion or specifically Christianity.
      Such ego, Christians.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Obviously though Patrick...topics of belief would run along more with established religions than concepts of non-belief. Don't get me wrong...I would like to see more blogs on atheism and such. But the sad truth is that more ppl would rather see stories on religions.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Patrick

      “Obviously though Patrick...topics of belief would run along more with established religions than concepts of non-belief.”
      Considering the majority of comments are from Atheist, If anything the opposite is true.

      ”I would like to see more blogs on atheism and such”
      Again you associated belief with religion, unless you meant articles and not blogs.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • JASON K

      calmo, why do you let it bother you? You are what you are, and they are what they are. Just be thankful and remember that its by grace and no doing of your own that you are what you are.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Why do you nonbelievers troll for any forum discussing God and his inspired word"

      first, stop right there. You forget that MAN wrote the bible. MAN said god inspired them, not god. Until believers understand this simple point, they will still continue to make this tired argument.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Just be thankful and remember that its by grace and no doing of your own that you are what you are."

      lol so brainwashed....so god created murderers knowing they would kill people. Your god is not too bright.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • calmo

      Clay, the Bible says that no man is without sin. It also makes it clear that belief and obedience to the Bible's laws are a matter of choice. We choose our pathways. Murdering is against God's laws. Hence, a murderer violates the law. But he took that course by his own free will. God doesn't force us to avoid sin, and he is not the author of sin. Man is. And the same law that prohibits murder spells out the consequences. Do I take it that you accept the law against murdering?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "”I would like to see more blogs on atheism and such”
      Again you associated belief with religion, unless you meant articles and not blogs."

      This is the Belief Blog..so yes..I mean blogs. Um...I did say I would like to see more on atheism correct? How is this associating belief with only religion?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  18. fred

    Looks like CNN found their perfect hand puppet. Did they have John Spong put the religious collar on as a mockery or proper attire for their never ending drumbeat that religion bad ho mo$exuality good rap. The article has the necessary requirements to stir up the two camps and it looks like it is working. Those who know God and the Bible can spot this CNN nonsense a mile off. Those who do not know God were in full attack mode just at a glimpse of that god collar. When they realized this guy was singing their song of bigotry against those who love Jesus it became sweet music in their ears.
    There are only two types of people in this world; those who seek the truth with a heart that reflects the love of Christ and those who do not. CNN has made its position clear. If anything I would hope people have greater awareness of the twisted purpose behind big media.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      You're not seeking the truth; you're living a lie.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      fred, how does someone (anyone) "know God"? Seems to me that is is Impossible to "know God" in any way. A person can read about what someone else thinks about God.l No One (sane) has ever claimed to have met God, so if know one this planet has ever met God how does anyone claim to know God?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • fred

      SCAtheist
      Lie? Tell exactly what did Jesus say, which you can prove to be lie, before a jury of intellectually honest atheists, that would convict him of being a liar?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      I know God.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Fred
      First you have to prove Jesus ever lived. Then you have to prove he was supernatural and the son of a deity. Once that’s out of the way, we can debate the he said, she said.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • fred

      JohnQuest
      Intimate personal relationship is the way you can know God. As with any relationship it takes quality time, love and all that accompanies love. This is what God first modeled for us in His creation process and throughout the Bible stories right to the very end. “In the beginning God created” are the first words of the Bible. They are not hallow but speak volumes of a personal God, a caring God that has the nature, character and power to bring about the greatest wonder known to mankind. All doubt removed that it was a cold empty void that resulted in life as we know it, rather a loving kind benevolent creator. The relationship with man was a perfect unity in a perfectly created Garden.
      That was only the beginning.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • JASON K

      SCAthiest Anyone not in possession of the truth is obiously living in a lie. The difference is if one is aware of it or not. "Seeking" truth is acknowledging that the lie exists predominately.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Religion Fail

      And when exactly did this creation process take place? I'm guessing you're going to say....6000 years ago?

      December 29, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • fred

      Patrick
      You have exposed yourself! You are naked and ashamed as Adam and Eve when they fell for the great deception. They never knew they were naked as they never knew sin until they were deceived. You have been deceived. The deception is so great you are not questioning if Jesus was God you are questioning if Jesus existed. What planet have you been living on? Over 90% of the people on this planet know Jesus as God or Prophet or the one whom others think of as God or Prophet. More people have heard of Jesus than have heard of George Washington (a former president of the United States).
      If that does not work for you I suggest you hit your thumb with a hammer as hard as you can. If the first words out of your mouth are George Washington then perhaps you’re right and 90% of the world is wrong. There is power in the name of Jesus, although often misused; there is no power in the name of George Washington. Because one is dead and the other very much alive today

      December 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • fred

      ReligionFail
      The Bible does not say when creation took place other than reference to a 6 day period. Genesis is literary wonder in how creation is presented in such few words. Six days has important religious meaning as does the day following. The words of God to His creation is key “it was good”. The simple difference between God created the heavens and earth yet “made” man in His image is striking. You should be asking why not create man as God created the heavens and the earth………..why make man from the dust of existing creation?
      The 6,000 year period you refer to as well as 13.7 billion year creation period interpretations of the Bible are just that, mans interpretations. Man always approaches life’s questions with a bias and sees to it that bias is worked into his conclusion. Stick with the 6 days and see what God has to say not man.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "Those who know God and the Bible can spot this CNN nonsense a mile off."

      Considering the writers of the bible didnt know Jesus, I doubt any believers could know him either.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "just that, mans interpretations. Man always approaches life’s questions with a bias and sees to it that bias is worked into his conclusion. Stick with the 6 days and see what God has to say not man."

      Yet MAN wrote the bible and MAN claimed to be inspired by god. Why r u blind? the cycle continues.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • fred

      Claybigsby
      Sure they did. The Old Testament spoke often of Christ either directly or through ceremony such as the perfect sacrifice, Passover lamb etc. As far as the writers go some like Paul encountered Jesus and was personally taught by Him. Some claim that; since we do not know if it was Jesus or a vision we should not count Paul in the category of those who “saw” Jesus. Paul spent several years with “Jesus” and the apostles spent at least 3 years.
      Others like you and I can also “know” Jesus simply by spending time in the presence of God.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • fred

      Claybigsby
      re: inspired by God or not
      Let us say one person interprets the Bible to say 6,000 years ago God made Adam and another says 285,000 years ago God made the first hominid and called him Adam. Do those thoughts appear inspired by God or something else? One is based on an evolution time line and makes assumptions about the image of God put into man as a point when the cranium was of sufficient size to exhibit language skills while the other assumes all the geneology is accounted for beginning with Adam.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • calmo

      Clay, I'd never in my 78 years heard anyone claim that the writers of the Bible didn't know Jesus. If you don't accept the idea that Jesus lived, then the question is moot. If you do accept the idea that Jesus lived, what about the historians of the first and second centuries who knew the apostles, and knew they wrote the New Testament books, and thus knew people who knew Jesus? And then there's the matter of the massive continuing Christian scholarship throughout the centuries who found these facts to be undeniable? How many volumes of their work have you read? On what basis do you push an opinion that, in effect sweeps away all of their combined scholarship? In other words, who are you?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  19. OrthodoxGuy

    I come looking for good discussion on the merits of a story about Christianity, and lo and behold, it's crowded with angry g-a-y athiests who will never truly know the love of God due to their own evil and ignorance. Yes, non-believing is evil and iniquitous. Iniquity caused the destruction of Sodom, iniquity caused Jesus to level the Temple in Jerusalem, and then to rebuild it overnight as a show of His divinity as the Son of, and being of, the Almighty. I'm getting tired of coming to CNN, because every time someone posts in the Op blog the athiests have to jump all over it. At this point, I'm just reporting abuse on all of them.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I think you're the angry one. The atheists are just having a good time.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Interesting YOU introduced the gay theme. What do YOU have on the brain ?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Patrick

      Your first mistake, is believing god is real. Your second, is believing that you would find only like minded individuals on a left leaning NEWS blog. Perhaps you would be more comfortable being coddled on your churches website.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • jimbo

      Using censorship on those who don't agree with you? Unheard of among religious types. Oh wait. BTW, my favorite part of your post is when you showed your innate hate when you called those that don't believe the same as you G-A-Y. Well played sir! Well played! What came first for you, your bigotry or your christianity? I hear the two tend to go very well together.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • JASON K

      SCAthiest, please understand that not all "christians" are hate spewing filth trying to convert everyone. While I claim to believe in Yeshua bar Yosef, I am never on here trying to convert anyone. Granted if anyone asks me, I'll say it like it is. You are you, and I am me. And that's exactly how it should be. Please don't feel that anyone especially me represents the person of Christ, because we are all hateful, and scornful SoBs. The difference is that I'm not bothered in the least by gays, athiests, or ::gasp:: worse yet, Armenians. (^_^)

      December 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Well, aren't you just the cutest little repressed bugger! FYI, though, every time you hit the 'report abuse' link, a gay atheist gets a BJ.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "Your first mistake, is believing god is real."

      Mistake? Why? Because you say so? Talk about a lack of authority.

      "Your second, is believing that you would find only like minded individuals on a left leaning NEWS blog. Perhaps you would be more comfortable being coddled on your churches website."

      Since when did "Left" become a synonym for "anti-religious"? And I hate to burst your bubble..but there are Christians and other religious ppl that come on here. They're just not as noisy as certain of those leaning atheist.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  20. Matthew G

    "and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write." Wrong. Paul the Apostle wrote and spoke fluent Greek, and many of his epistles were written only a few years after the death of Jesus; these epistles also made mention of the eye witnesses to his crucifixion and resurrection appearances. A written statement like this could have been decried at the time as false, if indeed it was known by the surrounding populace that there were no actual eye witnesses.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • J.W

      Well Paul was not technically a disciple, but I do agree that I am not sure that the author is correct on this. The reason the Bible was translated into Greek is because more people were speaking Greek, although many spoke Aramaic.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Russ

      So much of this is blatantly bad scholarship... but then again, what gets the ratings?

      CNN: why not do a conversational series between scholars? at least that would force some accountability... and maybe still garner you the ratings you're looking for?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • calmo

      JW, the entire Mediterranean Basin was thoroughly Hellenized by the time of Christ, and Koine Greek was the prominent language. The New Testament books were written in Greek.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • J.W

      The New Testament was, but the Jewish Bible was originally in Hebrew and later translated into Greek.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Russ,
      Name ONE piece of "blatantly bad scholarship" ?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: as I posted earlier...

      Spong here demonstrates several fundamental flaws in his scholarship – especially biblical scholarship.

      1) he comes to the text assuming the miraculous is impossible. That is particularly problematic with a text that – as its foundational premise – states the opposite. So, his scholarship is a self-fulfilling prophecy because he discounts anything (which is a vast majority of the text) that speaks to the contrary.

      2) he clearly misrepresents biblical scholarship. "every biblical scholar" absolutely opposes the notion that the bible represents an accurate account of history? not only does this hugely misrepresent the American Academy of Religion, but it also discounts a vast number of archeological affirmations of the biblical account of history. and, maybe most problematic, it is the clear contention of the bible on several occasions that it is explicitly an historical account: particularly Luke 1:1-5 & 1 Cor.15:1-5, as well as the entirety of the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua – Kings).

      Another example of his problematic dating: assuming the notion of Jesus' birth & crucifixion is late (as in 80s or 90s). He completely forgets what virtually all scholars (from most conservative to most liberal) recognize: Paul assumes these claims throughout his writings, and he died circa AD 64. 1 Cor.15:1-5 blatantly states to the contrary, and Php.2:6-10 is a pre-existing hymn whose theological complexity directly denies what he is claiming. Both Philippians & 1 Corinthians are uncontested Pauline writings.

      3) The Bible itself claims (repeatedly) to be the 'literal Word of God', even as it comes to us particularly through human means. For example, Paul said: "we thank God that you received our words not as merely the words of men but as they really are, the very word of God" (1 Thess.2:13).

      Spong acts as if he's pulling back the curtain on biblical scholarship when ironically these contentions have long been raised & dismissed – with good reason. Spong is projecting his own pre-existing assumptions onto the text, failing Ludwig Feuerbach's classic critique: "all [such] theology is merely anthropology" – making God just a human self-projection.

      This sort of scholarship sells books, but does not demonstrate academic integrity.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • JASON K

      Russ, Spong is a Pharisee plain and simple. He does not believe in the sovereignty of God, nor has any faith in the deity he claims to serve. While anyone on this forum from any walk of life doesn't bother me in the slightest, what does p!ss me off is clergy that go so far as to deny their teachings publicly while identifying themselves as "bishops" or what have you.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Jason K: no, Pharisees are punks like me who actually believe in the resurrection of the dead but live hypocritically (and are in deep need of God's grace). Biblically speaking, Spong is a Sadducee – those who didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead or the miraculous, but still sought religious positions for the sake of power, prestige, etc.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "and many of his epistles were written only a few years after the death of Jesus"

      a few years? try at least 40.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Russ

      @ claybigsby: most scholars date Jesus' death around AD 30. Paul died in AD 64. that's not 40 years.

      Moreover, most scholars date 1 Corinthians b/t AD 53-57. That's less than 30 years. With many of those 500 eyewitnesses (1 Cor.15) still very much alive & able to testify to what they saw.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      One does NOT have to be a "traditional believer" to be a Biblical scholar, nor does one have to accept YOUR version of the myths as authentic to study those myths. Anyone who says they buy the "miraculous", first has to demonstrate there is a phenomenon of "miraculous". So your premise is false. YOU assume THAT the writers of those myths thought in "miraculous" terms. What if they didn't, and what if you don't even know how they thought ?
      He "misrepresents" what YOU know about Biblical scholarship. Actually Dr Ehrman, the eminent Bible scholar, agrees with him. YOU are the one misrepresenting what the Bible myths are all about. Just because there are known historical events referenced in those texts, does not support the conclusion that the author's/editors of those texts, with their VERY limited knowledge of reality, is true. I don't care what the Bible writers say about other Bible writers. And clearly Paul radically changed the message of Jesus, and the Jerusalem community, to suit his views, and make it into the "salvation paradigm", which Jesus NEVER talked about. Where, EXACTLY does the Bible claim to be the "literal" word of god, (repeatedly please) ? What if those magical thinkers never ever thought about what "literal" meant, or had that "modern" concept cross their minds ?

      "Spong acts as if he's pulling back the curtain on biblical scholarship when ironically these contentions have long been raised & dismissed ". Proof please. Another unsupported statement. By whom, when ? This is the SAME thing Ehrman says. They have not been dismissed, and the fact that YOU don't know what Biblical scholars talk about only proves that YOU don't know about Biblical scholarship.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: Dr. Ehrman, by his own reckoning, is not in a majority position among bible scholars.

      Per your statements on myth, as I have posted elsewhere: from an expert on myths & fables – why the Bible cannot be regarded as one...

      CS Lewis' essay, "Fern Seed & Elephants" delivered among fellow academicians, some of whom were making such a claim. Here, in CS Lewis' own words [except for my square bracket clarifications] – selected highlights...

      1) he distrusts them as critics – b/c they miss the obvious
      [if they’re claiming these are legends, they haven’t read many like he has – there's no myths with superfluous detail like this]

      2) all liberal theology seems to thrive on the idea that Xnty was quickly corrupted & only modernity has begun to exhume it as it really was originally [self-projection w/o awareness]

      3) they all begin by as.suming the miraculous isn’t possible – but the text doesn’t teach that. They come with that disposition

      4) if contemporary critics of my own works almost always (if not always) get it wrong [when they try to reconstruct his motives/audience/meaning/etc.], & they actually *share* his culture, how much more impossible is it for biblical scholars dealing w/ more barriers

      http://orthodox-web.tripod.com/papers/fern_seed.html

      December 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: a quick search on bible verses about itself will give you many such verses. or just about any classically orthodox biblical theology book:
      here's a link: http://faithbibleonline.net/BasicChristianDoctrine/7.htm

      More to the point: Jesus himself bases an entire argument on a single word from the Old Testament (Mt.22:41-46). And he chastises the Pharisees for studying the BIble but failing to see it is all about him (Jn.5:39-40). Then after he's risen, he opens the Scriptures (OT) to his disciples, showing them how everything points to him (Lk.24:27, 44).

      The problem for the so-called Christianity of Dr. Ehrman is what Christopher Hitchens so often pointed out: there's no room for riding the fence like this. Either the texts are true or they are lies. Such "Christianity" (that disbelieves the text) is really self-deluded atheism.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Lewis was a Catholic. He clearly is in no position to lecture on myths.
      "majority position" is the Argumentum ad Populum fallacy.
      And as for that "either or" business, THAT is precisely the problem with your position. YOU are as'suming the Biblical writers have the SAME world view as you do. They did NOT. Have you ever taken a Cultural Anthropology course ? Obviously not. I tried to address the question of "fact" and "true" ,and literal", but it went over your head. You cannot PRESUME that the way YOU see the world, is the same as they did. You are slapping your science/fact based world view onto a culture which had no clue about those concepts, and was essential "magical". So you read their texts, with YOUR worldview. It creates tremendous distortions. Unless you can get into their heads, you cannot as'sume they thought as YOU do.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: Lewis, as a former atheist & a leading expert in the 20th century on myths, is definitely in a position to point out the major flaw of labeling the Bible as such. No ancient myth has such detail. Either the writers of the Bible believed they were giving reportage/news/facts, or they employed a form of literary genre that had no equivalent for 1700 more years.

      In other words, I'm not bringing my worldview to the text. Your position is in denial about what the text blatantly claims.

      Per your anthropology objection, you are guilty of your own criticism – and that was Lewis' whole point. If you read his whole essay, he makes that clear. The only way you can come to those conclusions is if you bring them to the text. The text itself will does not allow that position. And the historical facts of literary genre do not allow that interpretation.

      I was not arguing that popularity makes the truth, but supporting the rightful criticism that the author of this article severely misrepresents biblical scholarship. And even in the AAR, Dr Ehrman would recognize that. It's the very thing that has him so driven, if I'm gathering his motives accurately.

      And I do have a postgraduate degree in this field, actually from the same seminary as your esteemed Dr.Ehrman. And I came to definitively different conclusions than he did – despite the fact that he claims that is where he had his eyes "opened."

      Help me out here: read Luke 1:1-4. How is the author (whom we are told is a medical doctor elsewhere), saying he is not reporting historical facts, even by the modern definition?

      December 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      "Either the writers of the Bible believed they were giving reportage/news/facts, or they employed a form of literary genre that had no equivalent for 1700 more years".

      They were speaking in "mythological" terms, a genre that many cultures have known about before, and after. Actually that statement makes no sense. Care to restate it ? It doesn't "blatantly claim" what you say, unless you are reading it with YOUR world view. The concept of "fact" did not enter human thought until many centuries later. They were relating "experiences". THAT is NOT the same thing. I really could care less about what "seminary" anyone went to. Ehrman basically rejected his education from your's, and says he came to his conclusions later, not AT that insti'tution. There are no "historical facts" in that literary genre. I will try to re-read Lewis, but I generally can't get beyond paragraph 2, because he defines NONE of his terms, and they are ALL couched in 19th Century unexamined as'sumptions, which he doesn't even realize he holds, and NEVER examines. I still don't buy the as'sertion he misrepresents Biblical scholarship. Have you ever taken a course at an Ivy League school. His views are clearly the MAINSTREAM of that thought. One of Ehrman's contentions is that the public simply does not realize what real Biblical scholars are really teaching, (which is what I certainly saw). Gotta run. Great discussion. Be back next year. 🙂

      December 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Maury: Ehrman's opinions were founded at the same Ivy I attended. That's the point I'm making. And there's nothing about "Ivy" that guarantees truth.

      The point Lewis is making: if you read myths, none of them make these sorts of claims, particularly with such detail. Homer never says, "Odysseus left the Cyclops cave & rowed out to sea... about 3 or 3 & a half miles... around 3:30pm." But that's exactly the kind of details included in the Gospel accounts. And that's not mere happenstance. It's because (as Lk.1:1-4 & 1 Pet.1:1 are pointing out) this is eyewitness reportage, not myth.

      Myth is an entirely different genre. It arises hundreds of years after the fact, unrelated to eyewitness accounts. Read Lewis' essay & he states it plainly. Experts on myth do not make the mistake some liberal modern biblical scholars are making: the biblical accounts may be lies, but they cannot be myth.

      December 29, 2011 at 8:51 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.