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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. John

    Sounds like a logical error to me. Not A (The Bible as most people perceive it) does not equal to B (The Bible a fabrication).

    1) Only the morally bankcrupt would "add" that Jesus rose from the dead (and allow that to become the foundation for the whole religion).

    2) "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5) No, I don't consider this the literal "word of God," either, thank you.

    3) Neither is The Alamo the word of God, but as they say in the film festivals, "The universal is found in the particular."

    December 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Bryce

      Religions rationalize the great unknowns of mankind.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  2. W.G.

    Like the author of this article there are a lot of people here on this blog giving opinions that are based on feelings .
    Like the one that says that they do not believe in God are like people who never picked up a math book and can´t count .

    December 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • AthensGuy

      huh?

      December 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  3. Blessed Geek

    Everyone calls the other side a MISCONCEPTION.

    And BTW, there is no such thing as the "Old Testament". There is only one "testament".

    OK, the promise made to Noach was the "old testament". The "new testament" was the one made with Moses.

    OK,
    Testament with Adam and Hava before the eating the fruit = v 0.1 beta.
    After eating the fruit = v0.9 beta
    With Noach = v1.0
    With Moshe = v.20

    With Jesus? Who is Jesus?

    No such thing as old testament except the one made with Adam and Noach.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  4. NeilPeart

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o&w=640&h=360]
    Great commentary by George Carlin.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • W.G.

      Geoge Carlin was somebody that probaly never really studied the Bible . If the Bible is true where do you think Carlin is now ?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • squelch

      W.G. where do you think he should be?

      December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • NeilPeart

      Most people that are agnostics or atheists have read the Bible. There was also a recent study done that atheists know more about the Bible than believers! As for George Carlin, and all deceased once living beings, they are in the ground being recycled. No 'paradise', no 'hell', no 'superior being', or 72 virgins. Sorry.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  5. RedRussian

    Demuth, i think it is YOU who is the retard, since you actually believe that humans came from monkeys and fish, and by the way, if you really believe the atheist crap about evolution, if you did a lot of homework evolution does not stand up to scientific standard (and for a real retard like yourself, it means physics, chemistry, biology, and geology). but buttwipes like yourself believe in theory espoused by another retard, Darwin, who didn't have any degree or formal study in any of the hard sciences, which by the way is still required by anyone who is a scientist, physicist, chemist, geologist. But hey! You're a retard!

    December 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • NeilPeart

      You wouldn't understand the science behind evolution if your life depended on it anyway! The brainwashing seems complete.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • squelch

      so, according to you, where did man come from? Your answer: god. How do you know that? Your answer: the bible. Why should anyone believe anything that is in the bible? Your answer: it is the word of god. How do you know? Your answer: because it says so in the bible. Am I missing anything here?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  6. mckinney man

    The problem with the article by John Shelby Spong should clear. He is a "former Episcopal bishop of Newark, NJ" Sounds like he fell away from the faith or never had it, a known issue with the Episcopal church. Let it be known the Bible was written by men under the direction of God. So it is real and historical correct.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  7. AthensGuy

    Not only all said i the article, but the Bible was a heavily censored book. Constantine, manipulating and oppressing the Council of Nancea, handpicked the books that would be included in the "final version", which happens to be one of the 60-70 versions in existence today. Back then, those who continued to read the apocrypha books (e.g., the Gnostics) were simply put to death, without trial. The Bible of today is a fraction of the original book, and to make matters worse, it has been translated an re-translated many times, which brings tremendous imperfection to the text.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • nominal

      Interesting. Didn't know that, but it does make sense.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • AthensGuy

      for exaple: book of Mary and (possibly) the Book of Mary Magdalena

      December 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  8. TruthandBeauty

    Jesus didn't write anything down. Neither did he ever say: "Hey, there will be these guys that are going to write about me years from now. Their stories won't exactly line up, but that is ok. Believe them anyway".
    There is no predictions in the old testament about Paul. And yet he wrote most of the New Testament. Hum? Seems someone would have mentioned that.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • AthensGuy

      It seems that none of the books were actually written by the apostles.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • nominal

      Jesus didn't know how to write. Very few people did in those days. Another uneducated moron.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  9. sheetiron

    I no longer gave the article any credibility after the third paragraph.

    Every word in the scirptures is the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, Living Word of God and THE absolute truth. It is the final authority on doctrine and morality. End of discussion.

    Feel free to dispute my assertions. I however will not be likely to reply. I typically do not engage regularly in debates because I am not insecure in my convictions and therefore do not have the need to reinforce them through debate.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • nominal

      you sh...t on iron?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Bryce

      Weak, frightened people who feel overwhelmed by their world turn to religion as a source of strength. Personally I cannot live with a fairy tale as the basis of my existence, not with the understanding of the world we now have through science.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • nominal

      Bryce – religion, in my opinion, is a sort of mental opiate drug. It allows the believers to escape reality and create thier own.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • sheetiron

      Speaking of insecurity, it will always amaze me how people use science, their education, and buzz words such as reason, logic, and rational thoughy to hide behind so that those whom they debate with will not see their own flaws, and insecurities. They throw these words around in their comments without knowing what they mean or even how they apply to the topic hoping that people will be too intimidated by their "intellectual superiority" to comment back.

      December 30, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • TR6

      @sheetiron:” it will always amaze me how people use science, their education, and buzz words such as reason, logic, and rational thoughy to hide behind so that those whom they debate with will not see their own flaws, and insecurities”

      Typical impotent christen maneuver. Minimizing and criticizing science, education, reason, logic and rationality (while using a computer and the internet) and focusing on a person attack

      December 30, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  10. nominal

    Jesus himself is a creation, written about about 80 years after his supposed death.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Bryce

      True. He reflects what his writers wanted him to be. Not much imagination in their writing though.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • nominal

      The writers were uneducated morons. What do you expect?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  11. md2205

    There are so many falsehoods and fallacies in this article. I think the person who wrote this article does not have any understanding of the Bible. However, that is not unusual. It is not possible to understand the Bible unless it is learned with an Orthodox rabbi. That is because the meaning of the Bible was passed down from Moses' generation, one generation to the next, to the Jewish people. The translations into English are all mistaken and don't make sense because they are mistranslated. Anyone who wants to understand the Bible should read a book called "The Bible Unauthorized" which can be found in a Jewish bookstore.

    Contrary to the writer's assertion that the people in the Bible are portrayed as perfect, that is absolutely not so. The Bible is the only book in the world that portrays the Jewish leaders as doing anything wrong. All other countries portrayed their leaders as g-ds, as perfect. Only in the Bible will you find that G-d was angry with Moses, that Moses made a mistake, that Joseph made a mistake, that his brothers made mistakes, that King Saul made a mistake, that King David made a mistake, and admitted it. These are the greatest leaders of all times having their faults written for posterity. You will not find that anywhere else. Why do the leader's faults appear in the Bible? Because they were on such a high level of thought, speech and action that whatever they did that G-d thought they could have done better, G-d pointed out to them and to us. The message, thought, philosophy behind those mistakes would teach us what we should try to avoid to think, say or do. If we had done those same mistakes, G-d wouldn't even blink an eye, so to speak, because we are on a much lower level and that type of action wouldn't have even counted as a mistake. In fact, after the Jews left Egypt, they rebelled against Moses. Which people would portray themselves in such a highly derogatory way? But that is what happened and the lessons must be learned from one generation to another. That is why G-d wanted those passages included in the Bible. We can only learn from them if we know what the Bible really means, and why G-d gave us the Bible in the first place.

    G-d chose the Jewish people to create a society that would focus on improving the world to the point where the Messiah would come. This would make the world return to the way G-d created it before Adam and Eve made their mistake. Their mistake was to think they knew better than G-d. G-d told them to stay away from the fruit of the tree that would make them internalize evil. If they had pushed away their desire to do what G-d didn't want, they would have merited to have the days of the Messiah come immediately, and this is what G-d wanted of them. Their rationale was that if they would eat from that fruit, it would make evil part of themselves, and every action they would do after that would be the same: pushing away the evil, time and time again, which would be a greater accomplishment than before because the evil they would be pushing away would be from inside themselves. The Jewish people were chosen to bring the world back to that original state. We are almost there, as it is hard to recall when the days were that people all over the world were cannibals, would murder each other, steal, etc. and do so without a government to stop them. The Jews did teach the world all the laws of civilization and we have reached this point. It is the Torah (Bible) that G-d gave to the Jews that carries the basic message to each generation and must be deciphered properly through learning with an Orthodox rabbi who knows how to do it. He doesn't make up whatever he thinks. There are rules to learning the Torah that make sure the meaning is passed down faithfully and exactly to each generation without changes.

    Why is this writer making nonsensical statements like Avraham wasn't written in the Bible until 900 years after he lived. What is wrong with having Avraham written in a book about 900 years after he lived? Why is it impossible that Moses wrote the Torah (Bible) when he was alive and someone else finished it after he died? He could write what G-d told him to write about himself. After all, it says in the Torah that he was the most humble person of that time. It says in the Torah 24 times that G-d gave the Torah to Moses in front of the entire nation waiting for him at the foot of the mountain.

    Also, to say that the Torah doesn't reflect history is the same as saying no historian who ever lived reflects history. The Torah was given to 3 million Jewish people who left Egypt. They passed it down generation to generation, along with the holy days that they celebrated that are written within the Torah. What do you think happened? The Jews made up a Bible somewhere along the passage of time, and someone decided to make up the holidays and they just started? No person would agree to observe those holy days after not having observed them – you can't tell someone he has to observe the holidays because G-d said he has to do it. Where was G-d yesterday? You can't just make up this stuff, guys. No one would believe the person who makes it up and rightfully so. Passover was observed right after the Jews came out of Egypt, and then year after year thereafter, in a certain way. What would happen if someone a thousand years later came along and told his kids G-d said they have to start observing Passover (for the first time ever) because G-d took all the Jews out of Egypt. The kids would think their father is nuts. They hadn't been doing it before. Where was G-d before?

    The name of G-d changes not according to the whim of any "writer", but because each name reflects a certain aspect of G-d that He is revealing at that time. For example, Y-H-W-H reflects the transcendent kindness of G-d, that G-d is infinite throughout the world and expanded outside of it as well, and infinite in kindness and mercy. The name Elo-him reflects the imminent aspect of G-d as he rules us and our world within the nature He created, and judges us with justice, not kindness and mercy.

    Anytime G-d tells someone they must do something, it is moral. G-d is not immoral. G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews. The whole world knew He gave the Torah to the Jews, and the Land of Israel as well. Only those people who wanted to fight with G-d fought with the Jews about that. The rest of the peoples left the land on their own as they saw the Jews approaching to claim the Land G-d gave them. Whoever G-d told the Jews to kill were people that were fighting against Him. Remember, God wants the peoples of the world to live a certain way. Not according to the way they wish, because they tend to what is pleasurable or convenient, but the way he wants the world to run so that we all can have a world of peace and civility to one another (as I explained above that G-d wants all peoples to practice the seven basic laws of morality). Those peoples G-d wanted the Jews to kill were those who He knew would never comply. G-d wanted the firstborn of Egypt to die because the entire Egyptian people had been persecuting the Jews for hundreds of years, enslaving them and not allowing them to leave so they could form their own society to live as G-d wants. There were nine other plagues on the Egyptians as well. Why did G-d want them to die? That doesn't reflect that our image of G-d as written in the Torah was faulty. Everyone dies. Why doesn't he ask why does G-d want anyone to die? Our image of G-d, by the way, is faulty because we have such a juvenile outlook, thinking He is someone who sits on a throne above and throws lightning bolts at anyone who displeases him. That is ridiculous. Let us rather think of Him as a loving Creator who wants the best for us, and even if sometimes the things that happen to us are painful, that they are the work of a loving father who knows the whole picture, which we do not.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • nominal

      One word: hogwash

      December 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • squelch

      md2205, tell me 1 thing, please. Why would it matter which bible said what?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Observer

      The "loving creator" directed the killing of an estimated 1,000,000 people in the Bible, not to mention the virtual slaughter of every man, woman (pregnant or not), baby, child, and fetus on the face of the earth at one point. That's YOUR idea of "love".

      December 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      There were MANY gods. Yahweh had a wife, (Ashura), for a long time. The "covenant" was an agreement to WORSHIP one god, not an agreement to BELIEVE in one god. They knew their neighbors had gods, (why did they keep saying Yahweh was the most powerful of all gods ?).

      December 30, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  12. Bryce

    Religion comes down to power and control, nothing more, all the other stuff is just window dressing.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  13. W.G.

    Spong forgets that Hebrew was one of the first languages to have an alphabet . So it´s wishful thinking to believe that
    the Bible is JUST an oral history . Also , spong forgets about the "Holy Spirit being able to guide and teach us ".
    It´s ludicris to think that the new testament was´nt being acuratly written down even while it was happening as
    a lot of Jesus followers were able to read and write . Jesus could read and write and He started out as a carpenter .
    Also for a Jew at that time to leave his faith for Christianity well , there must have been something so compelling
    as the miracles and raising from the dead that our Lord Jesus did .

    December 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Peppermint Patty

      Prove any of that BS. You just imagined every word of that crap.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  14. David F. Hann

    Mormons have a larger view of the Bible: that it is "the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly." Through latter-day revelation and the Book of Mormon, another Testament of Jesus Christ, God has restored truths that were lost & corrected errors – both

    December 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • W.G.

      Paul said that if any man teaches a different Jesus than the one we teach then let him be accursed .

      December 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • David F. Hann

      ...both errors of mis-translation and missing writings that were in the original scriptures Heavenly Father revealed to all his Prophets, since Adam, making clear the fulness of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ was known from the beginning & giving an eternal perspective of life that rational man cannot understand. In addition to the Bible, please read the Book of Mormon too as well as other latter-day revelations in the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Brian

      I would hate to live my life based on a fantasy that is itself based upon another fantasy,

      December 29, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  15. NeilPeart

    Humans will NEVER know 'god', because 'god' is a CHIMERA, and unknowable. We can't truly know if 'he', 'she', 'it' ever existed, or exists now. So be honest, humble yourself, and set yourself free in this admission!

    December 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  16. yearightwwjd

    wow, people with closed minds really freak out when confronted with the truth.........they are the weak ones because their afraid that if they question any of their own ideas, the whole fairy tale will come crumbling down around them...they are faithless,scared children in a real world. Everything in this article is factually correct. deal with it.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  17. Day of Peace

    First, the Bible is made up of records, not stories. The Author is God; it is the God-breathed Word: theopneustos.

    You don’t get it because 1 Corinthians 2:14
    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    You got the wrong kind of spirit bud to be glad-handing for the true God.
    2 Timothy 4:3
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

    Religion is what men (inclusive noun) do to other men in the name of God, where they in truth speak for another god. You are clearly religious. You can read about yourself where God talks about Tares (weeds). His son Jesus Christ addressed the religious spiritual leaders of Israel as being born of their father the devil. Apparently, the devil can give sonship too and that would be equal to being diametrically opposed to Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as one’s neighbor (context of neighbor is Jewish brethren). You are as sincere as the lake that welcomes you.

    You do not serve the bread of life, so clearly as a spiritual man who professes to understand the Word of God to the point of dismissing it, you are a Tare. The spirit of Antichrist opposes the Word of God.

    No matter how sincere you come across as and how nice and sweet a pious man you put yourself on as, you are the opposite. You have your reward, God is not mocked. You chose poorly.

    Yours is the sin that we are not to pray for, there is no redemption for bad seed.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Bryce

      You are deluded and selfishly for your own gains.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Observer

      Timothy also supported the inferiority of women, slavery, and said that men and women shouldn't have s-x.

      What was your point?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • TR6

      Here is one of the ten commandments (look it up if you don’t believe me). Please explain why your all powerful, all knowing, all loving god of the universe decided it was more important to make a cooking instruction part his top ten list instead of mensioning something about slavery being a bad idea?

      "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk"
      – Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21

      December 30, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  18. Tripper

    To all you folks apologizing for our Christian faith... The world's apathy toward Christian spirituality/faith is understandable. Why? Because modern Christians have misrepresented the faith as the intellectual understanding of certain knowledge and agreement to a moral code. This knowledge-based approach is actually very Gnostic. In addition to being heretical, a Gnostic approach sets the stage for hypocrisy, because the chasm between head knowledge and heart knowledge cannot so easily be spanned. In its essence, Christian faith isn't about agreeing or being good, rather it's about being loved and forgiven. Moreover, in the information age, any knowledge-based approach is doomed to be lost in the sea of information in which we all swim–it will be as unique as a grain of sand on a large beach. How can Christianity be relevant today? I believe through relationships and experience. Christians need to "do God" to others rather than "explain God" to others. It is the "doing of God" that is needed by our increasingly virtual world, and it is also what promises to make Christianity wonderfully unique today.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • TR6

      @ Chris:”These are the three biggest misconceptions?! Really? This should never have made it past the CNN editors”

      Just another example of the logical contortions Christians are willing to go through in order to make sense of their religion

      December 30, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  19. Chris

    These are the three biggest misconceptions?! Really? This should never have made it past the CNN editors; it is trash. These three misconceptions are all based on assumptions that not all scholars share. Assumption #1: Oral history is unreliable. A great body of literature, in fact, suggests that oral tradition in preliterate societies is very rigid, changing little over long periods of time. Assumption #2: Moses had no hand in the writing of the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the OT, aka Torah). Without diving into some extraordinarily complex discussions of authorship, there are no historical, textual, or theological reasons to suggest that Moses had NOTHING to do with the Pentateuch. But I won't belabor this. Assumption #3: The earliest gospel's were written after AD 70. It's hard to be decisive on this. There is evidence for an earlier time period. This view usually rests on Assumption #4: Predictive prophecy is impossible. Jesus predicted the fall of the Jewish Temple, which happened in AD 70. To some scholars, that is simply impossible, so it fixes the earliest possible date for writing those books at AD 70. That, however, requires some question begging. All his gospel dates are speculative. Assumption #5: The gospels suggest embellishment over time. The idea that miracles only get attributed to Jesus in the 8th decade is a non sequitur. He assumes that Mark is the earliest record of miracles and assumes Mark was written in the 8th decade; he has no basis for the first assumption, and I've already touched on the second. And while a very selective look at the evidence might lead one to believe that there is miraculous development from Mark to Matthew to Luke, it does not wash on a closer examination as there are stylistic and thematic reasons for much of what is different between the stories, including the birth, resurrection, and ascent of Christ.

    Finally, the author's greatest assumption is that the Bible cannot be the word of God because the real God would not behave like the God of the Bible. But you see, that's idolatry. In essence, the author is saying, "I don't like the God of the Bible! A real God shouldn't act like that in my opinion, so I choose to believe in a God who acts the way I think he should." Making god into one's own image is the height of idolatry. And so, the God of the prophets (as he sees it) is a better God than the God of the Law, so he worships that God. But he does not understand either the Law or the Prophets. And as such, he does not understand Jesus.

    Pray for Mr. Song. And pray for the congregation(s) he leads that they not be led astray.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • brett

      that was a stupid post

      December 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  20. robert steele

    If you are a secular humanist, the probability that the story of Moses' life was transcribed accurately 300 years after his death is just as high as that is was not. There is no proof to support either theory. Up until the 1940's the oldest text of the Book of Isaiah was from approx. 1000 AD. In the 1940's a text from a thousand years earlier near 60 AD was found and they matched with no material errors. There is no logical basis to assume that errors were introduced in Biblical manuscripts as they passed from generation to generation. Hebrew scribes had very advanced techniques of counting lines and letters to perform quality control on copied manuscripts. The Bible has the most manuscript evidence of ANY ancient text. There is actually tremendous AGREEMENT between all of the disparate ancient manuscripts.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • That Darn Jew

      If you are talking the Tanach, than, yes, it is mostly unchanged over thousands of years. It is a sin, once punishable by death, to change the text in the Tanach. To this day, if a Tanach is not 100% accurate with the older ones, it is not used. Sadly, the same can not be said of the Christian bible or its interpretation of the Jewish scriptures. So many things changed its hard to name them all. Go buy a Tanach. Compare it to a Christian Bible. There will be many differences and not just the fact the whole Jesus part is missing.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:02 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.