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Old 12-20-2013, 09:00 AM
Location: Georgia
485 posts, read 695,034 times
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Ok here is something that I've been thinking a lot about lately and trying to come to a sensible conclusion. I'm aware many people believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired work of God. But there are two main things that do not make sense to me.

-The first is how the Bible says God created the Earth in 6 days, yet it is estimated that the Gospels were written upwards of 10-20 years after Jesus was crucified. It doesn't seem logical that the Bible would take longer to write if divinely inspired, than it would to create the Earth.

-The second is that most scholars agree that Revelation was written 60 years after the death of Jesus. Revelation was written by John, after having an angel appear to him. Joseph smith claimed an angel appeared to him, and he crafted the Book of Mormon about 1700 years after the death of Jesus. Why believe one over the other? I would guess that a lot of people rejected Revelation after it was first written.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:20 AM
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Hi, mhans.

Technically, the Bible does not claim for itself Divine Inspiration - whatever that means. Whenever we speak of the Bible and see it as one big book that is finished - a complete canon - and apply that understanding to verses such as the famous one found in 2 Timothy, we run the risk of anachronism: of applying a modern idea to an ancient phenomena. The ancient Jews and Christians did not have a "Bible" as we know it. They had various writings that were accepted by different groups at different times, and these writings would change in number and acceptance and only later would a group of them be collected as canonical.

The verse in 2 Timothy is the one oft-quoted by those who wish to think that it means God "wrote" the entire Bible using human hands. This is a gross misunderstanding of what "inspiration" means, and a misunderstanding of what "Scripture" meant in the verse. Here is the verse:
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
(2 Timothy 3:16, NRSV)
Two words are important here: "scripture" and "inspiration".

"Scripture" referred to the Greek Septuagint, the commonly used translation of many books that would later make up the Jewish Canon of Scripture. Though a hotly debated topic, many rabbis believed that Greek was the only language the Hebrew books could be translated into, for various reasons. The legend surrounding the creation of the Septuagint was that 72 translators worked separately from one another and produced the exact same results. This is a late legend, one not found during the time of its creation. This led to the idea that it was "inspired" by God. "Scripture" does not apply to the entire New Testament as we know it today, nor does it refer to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) as we know it today, and neither does it refer to the entire Old and New Testaments. The idea of "Scripture" as an all-encompassing collection of books that would later be known as the Bible came about later than when Timothy was writing. He was merely assuring his mostly Greek-speaking listeners that the Septuagint WAS a reliable and inspired guide.

"Inspiration" refers to a physical act, technically, of breathing the breath of life into something. When something lives, it is inspired. The same was true of works of art and literature. It could be said that the Muses inspired poets in the Greek Tradition, just as in the Jewish and Christian Tradition it was later thought that God inspired the writers. Now - this does not mean that God took control of people and they wrote down verbatim what God wanted them to. No, this is not the meaning of inspiration. Only later in Jewish and Christian tradition would it be seen as some sort of Divine Inspiration that meant the actual words of God, and thus the Bible being known as the Word of God. Technically, in the Hebrew Bible the Word of God/Yahweh are the oracles delivered by the Prophets. These are claimed to be direct messages from God via his human messengers, and thus could actually be said to have been the "Word of God" if we choose to believe such a thing. Most prophetic oracles are prefaced by the formula "The word of Yahweh came to me", or "The word of Yahweh/God".

So to sum up - many people's understanding of this verse as their "proof-text" for what they perceive as "Divine Inspiration" is quite misguided and informed by later extra-Biblical tradition.

Your two points you make: they are very good, and make much sense. To be added to them are the many errors, doublets, and downright "ungodly" passages in the Bible. But hopefully, you now see that it is not even necessary to disprove the "inspiration" of the Bible using these methods, but it is much better to understand how the tradition of Divine Inspiration began and thus nip it in the bud where it began.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:26 AM
Location: Southern Oregon
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Jesus never promised a book........ think about it.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:50 AM
Status: "Amused by BF." (set 7 days ago)
Location: Ontario, Canada
23,278 posts, read 12,061,902 times
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Was the Bible really divinely inspired?

I don't believe so.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:40 AM
Location: Northeastern US
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"Verbal, plenary inspiration" is taken as a given by inerrantists / Bibliolaters (=most fundamentalists). The justification for this is less about what the scriptures say about themselves, than it is a necessity of fundamentalist thought. In other words I think that even inerrantists understand at some level that the claims of a book about its own legitimacy are not particularly the point. As others here have pointed out, the Bible doesn't really make many claims about itself as a whole, as any given book will have been written in isolation from all the others. And even if it did, it would not be relevant to any debate about inspiration, much less inerrancy.

The basic thinking is that what can be known with any kind of certainty about god cannot come from personal subjective experiences, which are inherently -- well, personal and subjective, not to mention, something that can easily mislead. It must come from some form of direct revelation, and since there clearly isn't a shared experience of god available for all to agree on (in the sense that we can all agree that the sky is blue or that water is wet), what you are left with for some tangible artifact of god's existence and desire to communicate with us and make claims upon us, is the Bible. The Bible MUST be reliable and exact. It is a necessity. The alternatives are unthinkable to an inerrantist.

Inerrantists and literalists make much of how this represents a black-and-white, rock-solid, objective divine revelation and how it anchors "faith and practice". BUT, and this is a huge "but", it is not really "all that". There is a passage, I think in the book of Jude, that decries those who "wrest the scriptures to their own destruction" and the very fact that it is possible to do this shows up the inherent problems with written revelation. It is still subject to copy errors, debatable or dated idiomatic translations, misreading and misrepresentation and misinterpretation. One person reads the creation story in Genesis and sees a literal six day creation, another reads it and just as naturally sees a symbolic story of what loss of innocence is all about, and sees nothing about the literal mechanics or timeline of creation. The Bible thus becomes just another mirror on which we can project our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fears upon. Actually we manufacture our version of god based on all those projections and then just use scriptures to validate the god we've created for ourselves.

The only ironclad divine revelation would be direct personal revelation that is experienced identically by all persons. We do not have abstract, un-(dis)-provable debates about the color of the sky or the practical nature of gravity or what it is like to eat vanilla ice cream or to have sex or to be bereaved. Not really. These are all things that are part of the shared human experience, despite some individual variations in how we respond to them. Gods are not like that. At all. And holy books merely codify in an extremely general way the contours of a particular god; they do not actually act as a reliable guide to any fixed, concrete particulars.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:52 AM
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The 'divinely inspired' thing is a bit of a rhetorical swindle (surprise m ) in that it enables the believers to claim that what is in it is God -guaranteed true, even if it isn't actually correct.
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Old 12-20-2013, 11:29 AM
Location: Northeastern US
14,070 posts, read 8,562,897 times
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Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
The 'divinely inspired' thing is a bit of a rhetorical swindle (surprise m ) in that it enables the believers to claim that what is in it is God -guaranteed true, even if it isn't actually correct.
Yes, and also to provide religion's main product, certitude. Fundamentalists are impatient about answers like "it depends" or, worse: "we don't know for sure". Fundamentalists MUST know for sure and CANNOT TOLERATE not knowing. It's basically that simple. The more averse you are to ambiguity in life, the more black-and-white conservative you're going to tend to be in terms of your faith, your politics, your attitudes toward diversity, your need for and beliefs about the nature of an afterlife, etc.

This aversion to ambiguity tends to translate into related aversion to The Other -- to anyone who is different enough or whose experience is different enough to challenge your thinking. One of my fundie family members has worked with disadvantage inner city youth, has traveled to Mexico and Russia on mission work, etc., and so is no stranger to the poor and disadvantaged. And yet, there was this odd conversation in which she mentioned that she had enjoyed the beauty of the Southwestern US (New Mexico and Arizona). We agreed but mentioned in passing that it's sad that the native American tribes are so oppressed and co-opted and have all these huge problems with Diabetes caused by our Western lifestyle being foisted upon an essentially nomadic biology. She literally panicked and vapor locked over this, saying, "what? what do you mean?" and her eyes darting frantically around the room. She had to be rescued by a change of topic. This is the aversion to the unfamiliar or the challenging or the dissonant I'm talking about. There's a certain incuriosity associated with it as well. My reaction to this remark about the suffering of native Americans, if it had been news to me, would be to find out all I could about it so that I could be informed and fact-check it and incorporate it into my worldview. But her worldview is too restricted and inflexible and fragile for her to absorb very much into it very quickly. The Real World (tm) is a real inconvenience to fundamentalists.

I say none of this to condescend to her; I was once that way. She's a very classy and wonderful lady but she has chosen a limiting path, that is all. How we choose to frame our thinking has huge implications. My atheist world with its great big beautiful universe which nevertheless doesn't give a fig about me, is not entirely to my liking, but at least it seems to be dealing in reality and I am able to adjust to it for what it is and not for what I wish it to be. She has, on the other hand, to force fit actual reality into her simpler preconceived reality. She has limited herself so much for so long that at her age there is no point in changing. Her abstraction won't leak that much more in the few years that she has left to her, and in the meantime, she has the little idealistic plaque on the wall that states her objective to have a home where everything is in order, god is honored, visitors are welcome and it all Makes Sense. I understand the impulse, and I don't judge her for it. I just couldn't make myself embrace it anymore as I simply don't believe it.
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Old 12-20-2013, 11:53 AM
Location: Sitting beside Walden Pond
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Mhans, you probably should ask this in the Christian forum. You already know what we Atheists think.
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Old 12-20-2013, 12:36 PM
Location: Northeastern US
14,070 posts, read 8,562,897 times
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Originally Posted by hiker45 View Post
Mhans, you probably should ask this in the Christian forum. You already know what we Atheists think.
Maybe the Religion forum; the opinions in the Christianity forum are pretty much a foregone conclusion. However, I took the OP's asking it of us Atheists as reflecting at least in part a genuine desire to know not so much the unbeliever's / skeptic's answer to the question, so much as the reasoning behind it. Anytime a theist actually asks for the actual reasons we think what we think, I am happy that they have done so. Even if (and I'm not at all saying that's the case here) sometimes the motivation is not entirely or at all actual curiosity, but probing for openings to proselytize or criticize. Even then, at least they are engaging with an actual argument or attempting to deflect an actual argument, rather than some caricature of the facts on the ground that exists only in between their ears.
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Old 12-20-2013, 01:14 PM
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Yes, on the Christian forum, you know it's going to be 'well, of course it is' where it isn't 'No. it is dictated and taken down in stenographic shorthand, every inerrant word'.

At lest here, there may be some discussion about what 'divinely inspired' actually means.
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