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.
About this blog
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.
Just ignore the other mike from iowa. He will blow his cover soon when he says something I would never say. I'll point it out when he does, or most of you will just know.
Dude – just go away. Let me see you quote a long passage from the bible, or the founding fathers?
Dang..are we still discussing this one? Come on CNN...get a new board going that ppl want to argue the same stuff over.
“Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a guerrilla? Day after day I was with you in the Temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled. A young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen [cloth]. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen [cloth] and ran off naked. (Mark 14:48-52)
Who was this young man? Why was he not considered a disciple in the same category as Peter, James, and John, who couldn’t have been much older? Why was no one surprised that he was standing around in Gethsemane with Jesus’ inner circle of male disciples wearing “nothing but a linen”
Jesus was gay, cool.
And can you prove that he wasn't? Just thought I'd add that for all you bible thumpers.
George – we're all losers. Life's refuse. Computer geeks. Why else would we even bother to talk to a d!ck like you?
Don't use my screen name f_ckface! I'm mike from iowa.
Hey! It's Mike & Mike. Will the real mike sign in please!
no, i'm mike from iowa, and so's my wife!
That's a take from The Life of Brian, a hilarious movie about a man who the people of Judea confuse as their savior! Anyway I've been posting as mike from iowa for 3 years now...
Every once in a while some uncreative troll cops my name. I'm used to it. But you all know, there's only one mike from iowa, and that's me
You couldn't have been more right! After having just gone back a few pages in this discussion, I can see that this WORSE than a lonely hearts club – it's the land of broken toys. Sad, bitter, people looking to connect with another human over a blog page. A friend told me how "interesting" these things are. Now I wonder about him.
Just goes to show that religoin is dying out...good ridance.
We can only flourish once ALL religions are dead in the hearts and minds of humanity.
Lets get to it!
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
Definitely. We will be so much better off with Marxist, nazi regimes in charge of the hearts and minds of everyone.
What pathetic drivel from a man of his age and training. This only proves that there MUST be a regeneration of the heart/mind by the Holy Spirit in order to discern the teachings of God's holy and infallible word. It matters not that we like it or believe it. It remains steadfast Truth. There are so many errors in this piece that it is completely unworthy of being seriously considered. May I suggest that instead of reading someone who writes his/her opinion about Scriptures and we actually read them first hand, and thus permit guidance and enlightenment from God Himself. He is the one who made the sacrifice of His own precious blood for the remission of our personal sin...no one else speaks with higher authority.
We are a people of different faiths, but we are one. Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls.... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our movement is Christian.
-Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Passau, 27 October 1928
Lynn,you're really just angry because one of your own has pulled the curtain back and shown the rest of the world that their really is no wizard in the land of Oz. But I realize that people like you will never believe the facts. How else could you believe in this mysticism to begin with? It's ok. You and the holy spirit go hang out and have some beers together, or whatever it is that you do with your imaginary friend.
As for me, it's quite refreshing to see someone of the cloth actually tell it like it is. There still may be some hope for the rest of you...but I highly doubt it.
Lynn: Whether you believe it or not, it is not the truth. See how anyone can play that game?
The 3 biggest bible misconceptions:
1) The bible is ment to spread peace
2) the bible was writen witht he aid of the devine
3) people following the bible are just as smart as those who realize that this book spews hate.
I know you're looking for a reply. Why else would you be on this mind numbingly stupid webpage. My advice to you – lean back and rub one out. You'll feel better than waiting around here to pick a fight
Hey, I'm sorry you're so down on Christians. I think we (Christians) have done a lot of good in the world, but we are not without flaws, this is true. Too bad we can't have a beer together and talk about this stuff some more and learn from each other.
One point you should consider in debating with others. You spelled like 10 different words wrong, and theist/theism, etc. you misspelled repeatedly. Many people will struggle to get past your spelling and grammar to actually hear your point.
Happy blogging/posting to you.
God, I love a good argument. Anyone know where I can find one?
There's probably a better one on the Disney channel. Literally!
A better argument with thiests, not going to happen, better to argue with a sack of patatos.
Ask how many people want thier president(and the person who has the keys to the nukes) to actually believe that there is an invisible man living in the sky...I realize they all have to say they beleive( an Athiest will never get in office,unfortunently)or they would not even be considered. do you get that? you have to believe there is an invisible man or your out...wow
I find it comical that for MOST historical events the same assertions hold true. No one ever complains or doubts the existance of alexander the great, but the closest writting we have that mention him are dated 400 years after he died.
And there are statues, and buildings, and historical writers from OTHER cultures that proove he was there. You can not find any of that for thiesm. It was 100% fake, and started 100s of years after jesus' aledged life. Sorry to rain on your fake parade, I know lies are the olny way for a thiest to try to prove anything, but as always you fail.
not everyone...i don't buy anything handed down 50 generations
Is anyone claiming Alexander The Great is a god? If there is, we'd care more.
2 Peter 2:18–22 (18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped[d] from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,”[e] and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”)
People ask: is there someone fit to be our leader? Our task is not to search for that person. Either God will give him to us or he will not come. Our task is to shape the sword that he will need when he comes. Our task it to provide the leader with a nation which is ready for him when he comes!
-Adolf Hitler, 04 May 1923
dude, what the hell are you babbling on about?
This writer says that he knows the Bible. He does not! He knows what he has read or has been taught by certain philosophers and atheistic writers, but he does NOT know the Bible. Second, He does not say, but if anyone compares the accuracy of the Bible against any other book, including the millions of doctoral dissertations (the highest degree earner's last thesis), it is the most accurate book in the history of mankind. Even with the oral tradition embraced in the earliest chapters of the Bible, the accuracy is so astounding that one can only conclude that "God" must have been the author of the Bible. I cannot go into detail but can only offer my background as support for the conclusions I write above. I have taught world history on the University Level for over 20 years and have read scholar's writings on a majority of the Bible's historical assertions. Also, I earned a Ph.D. over 40 years ago and know the terrain of writings of all sorts. Please let that brief background stand in place of many details that I cannot write in this post to support my assertions. I conclude, Mr. Spong does NOT know the Bible. What he writes is his own conjecture and has no merit at all. It is sad that he is able to write such erroneous drives without relevant evidence or without having to reveal the source of his writings. My source is the Bible itself and the thousands of articles and books I have read to try to do what this man has tried to do in one article: disprove the validity of the Bible. THE BIBLE IS GOD'S INSPIRED AND INERRANT WORD!!!
Got any evidence to offer us, or are you supposed to be treated like you are yoru god? Verifiable evidence will say 100 times more than your rant ever could...
Anyone here could say they were any number of things. I could say that I'm a quantum mechanic or that I have 3 Ph.D.s. Unless you can give us some verifiable proof that you have those degrees I will take it with a grain of salt. As for the Bible being the most historically accurate book, provide some kind of links or docu.mentaries that take an objective look at it.
I have much evidence. Please see the April 2008 issue of "Affirmation and Critique" published by Living Stream Ministry and "Refuting Compromise" by Jonathan Sarfati. These books address your concern about evidence as one is centered on Christian scholarship and the other Scientific scholarship. When you finish those books, let me know if you need additional evidence. I have more. Also, God's evidence is alluded to in Romans 1:20.
"I have more. Also, God's evidence is alluded to in Romans 1:20." Huh? You are using the bible to prove that the bible is accurate? Who did you say gave you that PhD, or did you buy it online?
Apparently Zoeymama has not heard of internal validity.
That's just silly. This man is a renowned bible scholar and writer. For every cherry-picked verse you have ever read, he has spent agonizing hours reading and considering the bible from multiple points of view. You should check on his credentials and his reasoning before you jump to conclusions. Trust me, you are not as smart as Mr. Spong.
"Internal validity?" Come on. You really expect anyone to buy that? A book is true if it agrees with itself?
Victor, the author is a bishop. I am from a very catholic country, and I even had the chance met pope John Paul II. All of the priests in the Vatican that I met know that if you believe the bible literally, you are nuts. These people know more than you about your religion. How is it possible you people strayed so far from reality? You don't need the bible to be real to experience your religion.
you are an ignorant lier. Their are many book writen in the same timeframe as the bible, funny that no ancent historians ever talked about jesus, or moses, or king david, or king solomon, they are all 100% fictcious. The old test and the new and works of fiction used to manipulate the masses of ignorant semite peoples. All christians jews and muslems are liveing in a mindset of willful ignorance and malace. Thiesm is the singular biggest crouptive agent in the past 2000 years. Also, it is funny that there is no acount of the jews in egypt before the new knigdom, and that the bible does not know which pharoh they were aledgy freed from, seeing how the pharoh would have been the most widely known person in the entirity of the ancent world. I hope every single peoson who is a thiest and has ever talked bad about anyone eltse gets cancer of the throat and genatals, that way they will reap what they sow, evil vile hate. That is the sum of all thiesm.
If Mr. Spong were as smart as you say he would not have written such a fallacious and erroneous article. I know that Mr. Spong had to read and learn what he knows from some source. He gives absolutely NO evidence except his status of what he writes. So, you feel he does not need to supply his evidence but you ask me for mine. Maybe you think he was born smart. He has evidently read and believed the wrong books and writings or he would not make the obvious mistakes in his article. Almost every paragraph is filled with error. His being a Catholic Bishop makes this matter worse. it means he has been repeating these errors so much until even you believe them. And, his being a Catholic Bishop makes him an expert in Catholicism, perhaps. You may not know but Catholicism is not without its points of contention. I speak in defense of the Bible, its accuracy and its validity. If you believe that a man's earthly status makes him infallible, that is your problem. I take the view that God's word is right and opposers of it are wrong as a starting point for research and discussion, not the other way around. Internal validity, by the way, is the basis and foundation for external validity and is a stronger referent for total validity than mere external validity. It is "what" Romans 1:20 says and its far reaching significance rather than its merely being an indicator of internal validity. The "what" of Romans 1:20 is the strength of its validity. Apparently you haven't read it and as someone has stated, agonized over it to get to the depth of its meaning. Again, the Bible, is God's inerrant word, all of it. And, I do know the Catholic position on the Bible since I have studied it for almost 40 years now starting from Constantine's edict in 313 A.D. What the Catholic Church says about the Bible is not the final word on the book. We will have to wait until "all is fulfilled" to find that out. It is safe to believe the Bible. Period.
We tend to believe what we have learned as we are not born with knowledge of anything. Knowing that makes your comments understandable.
Vatican priests are not the only "priests" who know the Bible. They are not the final authority. They simply say what they are taught and nothing else.
vick, man, you cannot use a book to justify the validity of the same book, you need OUTSIDE SORCES. That is why biblical "scolars" fail every time. the argument that the bible is right, because the bible is right, is invalad and the typical thiestic argument to prove the validity of an invalad point. you fail, looser.
He is an episcopal bishop, not a catholic bishop. You are really arrogant if you really believe that you "know" more than religious scholars who dedicate their lives to the hermeneutic science. The bible was written by people who belonged to the church 1500 years ago. These same people are telling you that the way you should read it is as a metaphor and a guide. It's like you have your own interpretation of a work of art, but having the opportunity to meet with the painter, he tells you the real meaning of HIS painting is different from what you thought, but you irrationally conclude it is the painter who is wrong about his own work. This is the definition of a fundamentalist.
Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816
The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814
You consistently use logic that would require you to believe in your original thought in order to prove. This is faulty thinking and only shows how close minded you truly are. Looked up those 2 "books" you cited. The first has absolutely nothing to do with proving god's existence, it is merely a monthly booklet for christians. That particular month you pointed out mainly dealt with how people who are already Christians can know god as the writers do. It also only draws sources from scripture which is no help whatsoever.
Next is the actual book, and all I can say is Sarfati is a quack who used junk science, flawed logic, and disproved hypothesis to create some of very shaky conclusions.
You can find out a little truth by doing the same kind of expose on Islam.
Give that a try and see what happens. You will find out who hates and who doesn't
How did this become about Islam?
I don't agree with all of what the dude says but a really big misconception is that people think that the bible is the only way to have a relationship with their God. It's just an introduction or a "how to" if you will. I read a post earlier from someone that said that christians like to cherry pick passages from the bible and yeah they do but thats just shows their ego and everytime we think we have the right answer and want to tell others most of the time its ego. But remember what our lord said about the lamp, you put it on the lamp stand so all can see the light.
It's just an introduction or a "how to" if you will
I'm not even sure it's that. What it is, is the writings of human beings about things/people they didn't necessarily know, and(as the author stated) events they didn't witness. A "how to" guide would suggest it contains full truth. It may contain some excellent parables, and as such be a source for learning, but I agree with the author that it can't be considered a work of history.
Both Christians and non-Christians cherry pick the Bible to discuss points. The volume of Bible text is too great to discern in small segments; the study of it and sorting through opinions about it is an ongoing process. The only way for Christians and non-Christians both to know what the Bible says is to read it in it's entirety and then study it in depth for one self.
I guess each to his or her own. I suspect the writers social background was involved in the writing, but I do not know if I would go as far as Spong.
He apparently has some misgivings about the Bible, then why does he stayed the clergy, he should find a job somewhere else and let those who believe do the teaching
He seems to be more a philosopher then a clergy. Even though he ends his words with positive reflections most of what he says really seems to hurt ones faith. I hope that wasnt his intent and that it was unintentional.
Is this really surprising, given that the author is an episcopalian bishop? Seriously....
The author of article needs to leave the clergy! He obviously does not have the "faith" to spread the Word Of God to believing Christians. The Bible is the inspired word of God and the history of the writing and compiling (by man) do not really matter! Trust in God and don't put your confidence in man!
I guess each to his or her own. I am sure the writers social background involved in the writing, but I do not know if I would go as far as Spong.
He apparently has some misgivings about the Bible, then why does he stayed the clergy, he should find a job somewhere else and let those who believe do the teaching.
I changed that I am sure to I suspect, for I was cannot say I was sure for I do not kwow, I know only that our background influences our reponses to most things
First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it
The biggest problem is you have a bunch of people running your churches that don't believe in their own Bible.
So, you need to ask yourself why they are who they are what are they really trying to do. Well, they want to be the voice to people to bend and exert power and influence over them from their self perceived radiance of being.
Ironic that their own Bible talked about whitewashed grave types acting all clean on the outside but dirty and disgusting on the inside.
Ex-Bishop Spong is no longer an Episcopal bishop. He does not speak for the Episcopal Church of the United States. His opinions are almost entirely at odds with the statements of faith held by the Episcopal Church. His role in discussions of religion should be the same as a lay professor of religion, NOT an ordained bishop.
Bishop Spong may no longer be in Zcommunion with the Anglican Church, but he sure still embodies the very thing that is, and will continue to tear that church apart.
"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."
I believe tyhat is incorrect. The Apostles were not ignorant men. They certainly understood greek. Paul certainly spoke and likely wrote in greek. John likely wrote in or had his letters translated into greek because hi sprimary audience were greek speaking gentiles.
The Apostles Peetr, James and John as well as Paul might have relied on scribes to write and translate their letters into Greek.
I posted this early, but here we go again.....
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.
"the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D....I believe tyhat is incorrect...Paul certainly spoke and likely wrote in greek. ...The Apostles Peetr, James and John as well as Paul might have relied on scribes to write and translate their letters into Greek."
If you read Paul's letters, he makes it very clear that he never actually met Jesus. Rather he claims that God revealed things to him, Jerry Falwell style. Paul lived decades after Jesus, around the 70 A.D. time frame, so both you AND the bible are making the author's point for him.
Also if you read Paul's letters, he emphasizes where he himself takes over from the scribe to punctuate a point, so there's no "might" about it. He used a scribe.
Got any proof of that?
@666 Wrong on almost all accounts.
You may Sound knowledagble, but sadly one can easily see by your statements that you are not.
Learned men? read your Bible. the initial 12 were fishermen and peasants. it is doubtful that any had an education.
Read Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" for a detailed analysis as to why much of the Bible is long on story, short on history.
Could you be just a little more specific as to just where or when "666" "...Sound(s) knowledagble (sic)," but is actually not?
all of the disciples were illiterate. they were poor fishermen, etc. it's true, whether you like to believe it or not.
@Mike- "all of the disciples were illiterate. they were poor fishermen, etc. it's true, whether you like to believe it or not."
1. They were not all fishermen
2. No evidenece one way or another about their ability to read
You see...Matthew was not a fisherman and probably could read..it's true, whether you like to believe it or not
I have provided you with these links to prove my point. Please do your research before putting thoughts into words.
At least four were fishermen. The stories say that they "abandoned their nets" to follow Jesus. Eleven of the twelve were Galliean Jews whose day-to-day contact with their Roman occupiers would be severely limited, if only because the Romans tended to execute locals on the slightest pretext in virtually every land they occupied. Paul alone may have been better educated, Luke, reputed to be a physician, states categorically that he never met Jesus during his lifetime and therefore could not have been one of the original 12. There is dispute about Judas Iscariot's origin with some saying that he was inserted into the story at a later date to bolster the divinity of Jesus by fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy. However, with the possible exception of Paul, the rest were typical peasants of their time; hard-working men who beleived the preachings of the wandering Jesus enough to abandon their lives and give themselves over to the mission.
Don't forget Matthew.
I believe you are right that Jesus and his Apostles understood Greek and Hebrew. There are many Atheist on this site that are horrified by the Gospel message in this post-modern Christian world!
spong = bong