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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. GregR

    Why not attend to and practice the messages of peace, love and compassion that Jesus gave us, instead of arguing about things written long before and long after? "Feed my sheep" "Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor". And if you don't want to do that, well, I guess you can always argue about the bible instead.

    January 4, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • My Real Name

      This is dumb and you are stoopid. Dumber than a stump. Less funny than Burns and Allen. A total failure. You're parents are understandably ashamed.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Hiyama

      Thats funny that you say "sell all your possesions" thats a misunderstood passage allot and also misquoted. All the evangelicals use that allot to get rich poeple to donate large sums but that was not what the point of "passing the camel through the eye of a needle" was about. If anyone would think and remember that Jesus says its impossible for the rich man to enter heaven but ALL things are possible unto God.

      January 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Hiyama,
      "Thats funny that you say "sell all your possesions" thats a misunderstood passage allot and also misquoted. "

      Seems pretty straight-forward to me,
      "Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" (Mt 19:21)

      January 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      @My Real Name

      Who is stupid?

      This is dumb and you are stoopid (stupid). Dumber than a stump. Less funny than Burns and Allen. A total failure. You're (your) parents are understandably ashamed.

      January 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      @My Real Name

      Who is the stupid person?

      This is dumb and you are stoopid (stupid). Dumber than a stump. Less funny than Burns and Allen. A total failure. You're (your) parents are understandably ashamed.

      January 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  2. Leucadia Bob

    There is NO GOD – There is ONLY BACON!
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E3eY94Gu0k&w=640&h=360]

    January 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  3. My Real Name

    Alright all you losers! I am a rather ordinary looking person with a mid-level job. I wasn't very popular in high school, and my social life is still pretty pathetic. I did not go to the finest schools. In person, I'm actually quite pleasant and affable. But here, in the safety of my cubicle, and on this blog, I am a cross between Einstein and Rambo. I'm smarter than everyone, and I'm tougher than everyone. I'll call you out, call you names, issue veiled threats, taunt you, mock, denigrate you, condemn you to hell, or the dunces corner. I've got time on my hands right now, a lot of pent up anger, and I'm looking for a fight that I can be nasty and caustic in – and not really get hurt – but feel like I really bloodied some people up.

    ANY TAKERS??? Come one, come all!

    January 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • chief

      ok frances.... lighten up

      January 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Glenn

      Ha ha ha ha AWESOME... Hit the nail on the head with that one.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • HellBent

      Congratulations on feeling clever.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Really?

      Christians like you is what is wrong with society.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • My Real Name

      You can't talk to me like that! What are you some kind of fundi Christian??? Or are you a heathen atheist??? You are stupid and delusional! Did you finish Kindergarten? I've forgotten more history, science, philosophy, and religion than you'll ever know. Why don't you just P off! Go somewhere else and try to push your lies! RETARD!

      January 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Yes, Really

      Not one of our sort. Must be one of yours.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • My Real Name

      @Really –

      Oooh, your dry sarcasm is so searing, so . . .Richard Belszer! You're hip! Snarky! Probably a tough genius.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Manners

      Man sagt "Pi.ss off".

      January 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • My Real Name

      Manner – why don't you eat my scat and go to hell. You'll probably end up there anyway, even though it is just a figment of Pat Robertson's imagination. You are the dumbest kid to ever fail out of 3rd grade Sunday school.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Hurt Me

      I don't know, it's not as good as when it's real. Kind of like having inflatable pals. Thanks for trying.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Ummm...is there a point in these comments besides ego?

      January 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • My Real Name

      You mean this seems forced? Not a real argument, like most of the other brilliant posts on here? Hmm!

      January 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • My Real Name

      Well someone go pay attention to GregR now. He's a brilliant and witty arguer for the cause. You wont last a minute with that day old d)uche water

      January 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  4. Johnny Boyd

    This writer represents a whole movement of thinking among “historical Jesus” scholars that was popularized in the 1980’s and 90’s by the Jesus Seminar. His positions are compelling here when presented unbalanced by their corresponding refutations. It’s unfortunate that in our impatient, lazy culture almost everyone who reads this will just accept it as a valid position, rather than pursue info about potential counterpoints. William Lane Craig disputes each of these claims in his most recent edition of Reasonable Faith, as does Craig Evans in Fabricating Jesus, as does Greg Boyd in The Jesus Legend.

    January 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  5. JDJ

    What Mr. Spong fails to take into account is that God was at work in putting Scripture together. Books were written in koine Greek since it was one of the common languages of the day. I am not sure what Mr. Spong would say about Jesus quoting the Old Testament when He was on the earth. The "transition" from the Old Testament to the New Testament is best explained in the book of Hebrews. God's law was not abolished, but fulfilled by one perfect sacrifice, Jesus, whose enemies could find no fault in Him.

    January 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Cyle

      That's an extraordinary claim – where is your extraordinary proof to back it up.

      I can claim that the bible is all lies inspired by satan to contradict and frustrate human nature, to cause war and bloodshed and suffering in the name of god, and my claim has just as much validity as yours, maybe even more validity if you look at the history of christianity. All gods share the same commonality, oral traditional stories made to control the behavior of the tribe.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  6. Truth

    I love how he takes things out of content, and then speaks about how people take things out of context to justify whatever they want to say. You sir are guilty of the same things you accuse others.

    If you study the scriptures which have been writing they ARE Historically accurate in terms of God revealed revelation.

    There is a reason why God said the things he said, in terms of what he did. It was to show seperation between what he considers holy and not.

    At the end of the world this will again happen. We are without excuse...

    January 4, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • HellBent

      " It was to show seperation between what he considers holy and not."

      So slavery is holy. So is beating your slave, as long as he or she takes a few days to die. Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I guess its all a matter of context. Clearly there was a good/godly reason for those people to be slaves. Just like the reason god tortures & kills children for the good of everyone else. There's a reason for everything and if its good enough for him then it should be good enough for you. Mysterious.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • fred

      HellBent you are hell bent on twisting the truth as given by God for your own purpose. Find and repair the bias in your heart then perhaps a ray of sunshine will warm your soul.
      If the General attribute of God and theme of the Bible is how much God loved keep that view in front of you when you put God on trial

      January 4, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • HellBent

      @fred,

      No, I just haven't gulped down the kool aid like yourself. I don't have any reason to rationalize that which is obviously evil.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • JohnR

      fred, why do you lie about what is clearly in the bible?

      January 4, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Fred, cherry picking is exactly why so many Christians come across as complete hypocrites without any credibility. If you can cherry pick, so can anyone else.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Hiyama

      My Grandmother gave me a kiss a couple of minutes after she died. If you feel I am telling the truth, you don't have to say so. If you think I am lying then waste your life chatting on this blog so loving people won't have to encounter you for a few minutes.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • fred

      JohnR
      A little help, what specifically are you suggesting is a lie?

      January 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Getting Hold of God

    Rev. Spong is pretty far outside the mainstream of Bible scholarship in claiming that miracles weren't attributed to Jesus until 80 years after his life. You can check the sources, and the Wikipedia article on the Historicity off the Bible is a pretty good starting. Catholic scholarship on this point also is quite robust. The difficulty with opinions in this area is that everyone has an agenda, and putting that agenda aside takes a strong commitment to intellectual honesty.

    January 4, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wikipedia? Really? May as well believe the bible is infallible.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Nonimus

      I thought it said "40 to 70 years after his crucifixion".

      January 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  8. TK

    OK! To all my fellow non-believers. . . Mitt Romney won Iowa. This means war! We need to start digging up every bit of dirt about Mormonism from its inception. Get ready to bring out the big gun if Gingrich or Santorum prevail in other states. The Catholic Church must be trashed yet again, and again, and again!

    January 4, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • AGuest9

      What's to dig up? It was founded by a polygamist con-man who told his followers than an angel named "Moroni" (did the guy really think his followers were morons?) talked to him about hidden golden tablets that no one ever saw and that a blond-haired. blue-eyed Jesus who visited America. If that's not enough fiction for them, what else do they need to be told? I mean, other than the standard fiction found in the bible.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • JohnR

      Christians need to go to troll school. They really suck at it.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Cyle

      Mormons believe that the american indians are red skinned jews, a story told to them by a guy with a large hat and magic rocks.

      Scientologists believe that all of us are infected with the tortured souls of aliens.

      The average christian believes that the first man was made from mud and his wife was a clone made from one of his ribs, that the world's sins were cleansed by the blood sacrifice of a man the claim was the son of a god, and that by believing in this magical zombie they will go to live in a place of peace and light for eternity.

      Potato / Pot"ah"to – is all crazy talk. Anyone claiming to believe in imaginary people should be restricted from running for office in the US.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Fredex

    I find this article and all of John Shelby Spong's other writings to be thought provoking and without malice. If you have not read any of his books or visited his website and read his articles, I recommend you give them a glance. Regardless of whether you agree with his thinking and analysis of history, it will cause you to reflect on your beliefs and they will become stronger for the effort. I have been challenged to look at history and study areas that I have not thought about in a good many years.

    January 4, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  10. George

    I see the Pope is going to Cuba in March. Doesn't he know that Cuba is officially atheist, and that there are no believers there? I mean, where has he been? Mr Castro filled that void decades ago. Oh well, at least the pontiff will be able to rack up some ff mileage on Alitalia.

    January 4, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Cindyloo Hoo

      'Tis amazing, isn't it, that after 50 years, and what with Cuba's great education system, and network of political prisons, that Fidel hasn't been able to crush faith in God once and for all. I don't think he's trying hard enough. He ought to take a page out of the playbook of ole Ho Chi Minh. Now, HE knew how to get everyone on board with the program!

      January 4, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • AGuest9

      Replacing brain-washing with brain-washing. Mmm.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Chuckles

      Take another look, there is still religion there because people want to believe and within christianity among other religions, they can without a church or a priest, heck even a bible if they're desparate. There's also a very small self-proclaimed jewish community that is still in Cuba (I would know, having been allowed to go on a religious mission there years ago to meet them).

      Sorry George, wrong again!

      January 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • J.W

      There are many believers who do not go to any church. They believe in God but not in organized religion.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • AGuest9

      J.W. – Deism may yet make a come-back.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Cindyloo Hoo, (like the name)
      Oh, 50 years is nothing, just ask Tomás de Torquemada and the other Inquistors General. They didn't get the job done with 300+ years of the Spanish Inquisition.

      January 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  11. Enlightened 1

    It's high time that we took the Bible out of the hands of believers, pastors, bishops (except Spong), and the Church community in general, and let it be interpreted through the prism of what people want today! Basically, if the teachings of the Bible don't make sense to the un-churched, the un-catechized, or the un-believer, then that section of the book has to go!
    The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.
    Don't believe all that crud? Neither do we!

    January 4, 2012 at 4:41 am |
  12. Rerun

    If I have to believe in a God, I like the one Bishop Spong is peddling. No real rules, certainly no traditional morality. Just a lot of speculation and feelings, and basically kind of inventing your own beliefs as you go. I think I can live with that God!

    January 4, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • Rick

      I agree. Your god is only the one real to you, all others are phony

      January 4, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  13. eyesopened

    the beautiful thing about the truth is that it speaks for it self, Gods word for instants what part of that does the whole world not get, its His not ours. Just like it says my ways are not your ways,what part of that does the whole world not get. the cool thing is that when you do get it its a win win situation. Apart from Him we can do nothing from manifesting the right amount of grace,to loving God. All the way to obeying Him enough or sufficiently, apart from Him we can do nothing to glorify our Father God. Win Win all one has to do is realize that they have a sin nature issue that wars against this truth and the absence of peace hope and joy by way of eternal quality. that their life as they know it is subject to the world vs Christ. Ive come to realize that we are to be used by God not the other way around, we do not use Gods word, I mean you can if you want but take a long hard look around hows that workin for ya? religion does not bring one peace any more than politics,both create bondage or slavery. Jesus and Jesus alone brings peace by way of freedom, He who the Son sets free is free indeed. So no works involved Jesus plus nothing equals salvation, in that no man can boast

    January 4, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  14. John

    Actually, Luke was a doctor. He wrote exceptional Greek. He was a disciple.

    January 4, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Small 'c' christian

      True, Luke was Greek, and also a physician. However, he was NOT an apostle. His own writings exclude him from Jesus' circle of apostles during Jesus' lifetime.

      While he may have been responsible for the initial writings attributed to him (the Gospel according to Luke and the "sequel", Acts of the Apostles), if he was not present at the events described, then he was actually transcribing stories related to him by others.

      Later in life, it appears he did travel with St Paul, but Luke himself notes that he did not witness the events surrounding Jesus death.

      January 4, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Michael

      Note that neither Luke OR Mark were apostles and there is plenty of evidence to indicate that neither were Mathew and John the same people as were listed as apostles in the gospels: The 12 apostles were:

      Simon, son of Jonas (also known as Peter or Cephas) (John 1:42)
      Andrew, son of Jonas
      James, son of Zebedee (nicknamed with his brother, Sons of Thunder) (Luke 5:10)
      John, son of Zebedee (nicknamed with his brother, Sons of Thunder) (Luke 5:10)
      Philip
      Bartholomew
      Matthew (also known as Levi)
      Thomas
      James, son of Alpheaus
      Simon, the Canaanite (nicknamed the Zealot)
      Judas, son of James (also called Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus)
      Judas Iscariot

      This list is found in Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; and Luke 6:13-16.

      January 4, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • backup666

      @John

      I believe you have the terms disciple and apostle confused. A disciple is a student and an apostle means one who is sent away which comes from the Greek word apostolos. In this case, would mean messenger. There is no way to tell if Luke was a doctor. This is a myth. The Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all written anonymously. It Saint Irenaeus that decided to have the four admitted to the NT to represent the four zone of the earth.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  15. Dave Milliman

    Exceptional. Superb viewpoint, well put, succinct.

    January 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  16. Truth Tellerz

    A lot of Satanist, pose as Christian pastors. A lot. Thats the place to do your business.

    January 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I ask again,

      So what is the truth that you tell? Believe as I do or you will be burning for all eternity no matter how good of a person you are?

      I feel I need to post it again as you seem to have ignored the last one I posted to you.

      January 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I also need to add what type of Satanist are you speaking about? Of course if you're using the term as way to incite peoples paranoia you wont know that there are multiple type of satanism.

      January 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • One one

      You make a good point about christian churches being a good place for satanists to do business. Since they have already bought one brand of BS, it's only a small leap to buy another brand of BS. On the other hand, a satanist would get no where with an atheist because the atheist wouldn't buy any BS.

      January 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • rick

      Sure, you don't agree with him, so you refer to him as a "satanist". How insightful.

      January 4, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • AGuest9

      I know several satanists who were baptized catholics. True, believe in one mythical being, what's yet another?

      January 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  17. Truth Tellerz

    This guy is not from God, so I don't worry about him.

    ISA : 8: 20 If they speak not to the Law or the Testimony, there is NO LIGHT in them.

    ( There goes 99% of them )

    January 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • rick

      Well, I am fine being without your God

      January 4, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Nonimus

      Couldn't he say the same thing about you?

      January 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  18. Pastor John Perling

    Apparently Bishop Spong believes reading the Bible to be on par with taking a Rorschach test.
    His article even reflects the kind of God and world he wishes existed.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • SkekLach

      It's simply the same as everyone else. If his imaginary friend is a bit different from your imaginary friend, it doesn't mean you can't all just get along.

      January 4, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  19. Ajibola Aries

    The second misconception highlighted in the article is the one I find most outstanding. Of course it is very obvious that the Bible is NOT the literal word of God. Right from the first sentences of Genesis, this became clear. And it is against this background that one is often baffled to see a lot of people calling the Bible the word of God. Rather, based on the largely narrative nature of the texts of the Bible, the Bible is better described as a historical record of its own kind which attempts to put forth a plethora of didactims. To this extent the Bible called 'Holy'. But unfortunately, as the writer pointed out in another observation, whatever reputation the Bible has, as a 'Holy' book also appears to have been contradicted by a good number of contents that are quite immoral in the same book, e.g. in the Songs of Solomon (if I rightly wrote the name) as well as other verses that are too violent for one's liking. Again, this makes a rational mind to doubt whether this could be from God Himself. But the ultimate truth about the Bible is that even if it is actually not the literal, unadulterated word of God, we still cannot ignore the fact that the Bible is a rich source of information about the past history of important nations and people. Also, and more significantly, we can't help but admit that through the Bible, discerning minds can still glean some good ideas of what God wants and what He does not want, how He wants Mankind to live and how He does not want us to live. Studying the lives of men like Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, Joseph, Samuel, David, Jesus etc through the Bible can and has inspired many people to live better lives. The bottomline is that anyone who will appreciate the Bible must be someone who has successfully separated the wood from the chaff and who is ready to take full advantage of the treasures in the book.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • UpstateNYSal

      OK, I'll believe what I agree with and ignore what I don't like?

      January 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Ah, Sal, that's how the move to atheist thought starts. I'll believe most of it. Then you notice one or two more things that are contradictory, then a few more that are down-right impossible. Soon, you start doubting teachings, then remember the molestation of several childhood friends, and several miserable twits in Roman collars over the years who were anything but "Christ-like". You start to research scripture in earnest, then doubt sets in. Then you begin to read other "enlightened" readings in other "holy" books of other faiths, trying to gain an understanding, or perhaps, contrast. This leads to secular philosophy. Then, you realize how far you moved away from the ritualistic dogmatism, and realize that it was wrong all along.

      January 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  20. Christ follower

    I have several contentions with this article. First, there is a problem with the statement “every biblical scholar.” Every biblical scholar does not believe the same thing. For example, there are many biblical scholars that believe that Bible is an accurate representation of history.
    In addition, it is important to remember that there are differences between the Old and the New Testament. When Jesus died on the cross and resurrected three days later, as many Christians believe, he abolished the Law which governs most the Old Testament. This allowed for grace to be more readily available to all people, not just the Israelites. Therefore, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and recognizes that Jesus is God and only God can save, is automatically saved. It is as simple as that, no works involved. This is very different from the Old Testament where the Israelites had to continually make animal sacrifices to cover the sin. Jesus’ death provided a way in which no further sacrifices had to be made.
    Furthermore, while many have misinterpreted the Bible and used them to make the case that slavery and spousal abuse is acceptable, this was not the true intention of the Bible. Slavery was a common practice at the time of the Bible and so, as Paul, wrote the letter, he was telling the man, who was a slave, to glorify God in his specific situation.
    Finally, and this will definitely not be received well, Christianity is about absolutes. It states that there is one God and one way to heaven and those that do not believe or follow this way will go to hell. It is true, these ideas are dangerous and they do not cause peace, but it is important to recognize that these ideas are at the core of Christianity, it is not just a belief that points to all other beliefs. However, it is important to understand that Christianity is a religion of peace and of community and those that use Christianity as a way to start war or do harm to other people are wrong. Every life is loved by God, but not every life is holy without God.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • OhPlz

      “as many Christians believe, he abolished the Law which governs most the Old Testament.”

      Do your homework moron otherwise you end up looking like the fool you are, Christ said "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).

      “Therefore, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and recognizes that Jesus is God and only God can save, is automatically saved. It is as simple as that, no works involved.”

      No it’s not as simple as that, your Christ demands you go and sin no more, you follow the laws of your bible.

      “Finally, and this will definitely not be received well, Christianity is about absolutes. It states that there is one God and one way to heaven and those that do not believe or follow this way will go to hell. It is true, these ideas are dangerous and they do not cause peace, but it is important to recognize that these ideas are at the core of Christianity, it is not just a belief that points to all other beliefs”

      Oh really so those living in a country that doesn’t know anything about your Christ, your god is condemned to hell by your statement. That’s not a loving god that is a tyrant and a monster. Come on now use that brain of yours what are you missing....DUH!

      January 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Small 'c' christian

      "Christianity is about absolutes. It states that there is one God and one way to heaven and those that do not believe or follow this way will go to hell."

      Darn toot'n' this will not be received well. As far a civilzation is concerned, Christianity is a late-comer to the party. Literally tens of millions of men, women and childer lived full lives, and then passed away on this blue planet in the millenia before Jesus arrived on it. Jews, Chinese, Egyptian, Indians, Oceanians and more all lived for hundreds of generations, yet your interpretation of this "truth" is that no matter how good their lives were, no matter how they conducted themselves, they were all condemmed to a Hell they were unaware of simply because their "saviour" had not yet been born.

      Many countries had vast, intelligent civilizations centuries before the events in the Gospels. Surely you don't beleive that each and every person who died before Jesus did not have a chance?

      January 4, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Christ follower,
      "Furthermore, while many have misinterpreted the Bible and used them to make the case that slavery and spousal abuse is acceptable, this was not the true intention of the Bible."
      As, I think, the author of the article is trying to point out, no one knows the "true intention" of the Bible. You admit that the Bible is capable of being misinterpreted, and yet claim to interpret it correctly. Why is your interpretation any better than anyone else's?

      January 4, 2012 at 2:41 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.