Let’s Do An Honest Reading of the Bible.

It’s amazing how many people make their livings reading and then explaining the Bible.  Even move interesting is the growing group of secular/atheist scholars earning a living at this as well.

I’m drawn to the atheist scholars who, even though they do not all agree with each other, discuss the Bible in a detached way.  Scholars who are believers, even well known ones, can get all misty eyed when explaining the Bible.

Reading a secular review of Genesis yields some insight into where the Old Testament came from and the conflicts going on at the time.  The first disagreement is on whether the text was referring to a single “god” or many “gods”.

As you can read below, there are arguments for both interpretations.  One conclusion is this imprecision happened because authors were combining different versions of the Adam and Eve story when both beliefs in the one and the many gods existed.

While it seems clear the Adam and Eve story was lifted from earlier creation stories, it has a unique aspect.  It is that its deity is more powerful than the leading human characters in older religions.  That is to say, the Biblical authors’ created a god which they used to intimidate strong competitors around them.

The control technique began with the Old Testament God punishing with genocide.  The NT Jesus played a mind game of guilt to accomplished control.

An honest reading of the Bible must include determining the motives of its authors.

http://www.tracinskiletter.com/2013/02/the-ur-source/

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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36 Responses to Let’s Do An Honest Reading of the Bible.

  1. dwight says:

    Jon
    Elohim. If we go on that premise and I haven’t studied Hebrew you still are missing the point. This is a very difficult point to understand for those of us who are Christian. God is a 3 person Trinity: God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you keep reading the Bible, you will find that God the Father really worked his presence until the Son was born. Jesus worked this earth until his death. He promised though that when He ascended to Heaven, that he would send another Comforter, i.e. the Holy Spirit until Jesus returns once again. Elohim might be described as a mountain that has 3 distinct peaks, yet it is one mountain. Keep searching and the truths will be revealed.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      dwight 1:08 Thank you for the first time post. I hope you post again.

      “Elohim might be described as a mountain that has 3 distinct peaks.”

      The article discusses maybe three or four possible reasons for use of the word, elohim. As I understand it, the Bible never mentions a “Trinity”. While we’ve discussed the Trinity as length here in the past, I don’t think it has been clearly decided whether the concept was a political compromise made by a dictator, (i. e., the dictator’s appointees)or something that was in the religion from day one.

      Your admonition to, “Keep searching and the truths will be revealed.” is one religious people need to be careful with. I can’t tell how many meetings of Freethinkers I’ve been at where we went around the room asking people where they stood with faith and heard often, “I was a believer until I started reading the Bible.”

      • entech says:

        Bart Erhman started as a believing evangelical, his in depth Bible study to doctoral level did not help his faith at all.

        • Jinx says:

          He sure did Entech! He received his 2 year degree at a “Bible College” and had to transfer to a 4 year University. When Erhmann wrote a convoluted argument paper regarding a passage in the gospel of john his professor only comment was “Perhaps John was just wrong”. According to Erhmann, those 5 words are what opened his eyes and he had to re-examine everything he had ever been taught or experienced. He is now an agnostic because of his extensive, rigorous methodology in his research.

    • entech says:

      The concept of the trinity has always been difficult for Christians, impossible for non-Christians – even Unitarians don’t accept it.

      The source and unity of the Holy Trinity is the Father, from whom the Son is begotten and also from whom the Spirit proceeds. Thus, the Father is both the ground of unity of the Trinity and also of distinction. To try to comprehend unbegottenness (Father), begottenness (Son), or procession (Holy Spirit) leads to insanity, says the holy Gregory the Theologian, and so the Church approaches God in divine mystery, approaching God apophatically, being content to encounter God personally and yet realize the inadequacy of the human mind to comprehend Him.
      My emphasis.

      Gregory was born in 329 in Arianzus, and is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

      • Jinx says:

        I believe George Carlin referred to the Trinity as Big Daddy, can’t remember, and spook or was it the holy spook. Can anyone help me fill in the blank for Carlin’s term for the son?

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Jinx 10:09 “I believe George Carlin referred to the Trinity as Big Daddy…Can anyone help me fill in the blank..for the son?”

          Being such Carlin fan, I had to look, but could not find the son. I did find again a few of my favorites by Carlin:

          The meaning of life is not being dead…I figured this shit out in the third grade.

  2. entech says:

    Dwight–The essential thing to remember is that it is not an eye witness account. How much was modified on the way to an accepted “final” version no one will ever know.

  3. Candyman says:

    Say Jon, I honestly can’t help to wonder when God is just about had enough of you with your cancerous blog you post about Him? God is longsuffering to a point. The fool says in his heart “there is no God”…Psalm 14:1

    • entech says:

      Quite rightly too, at the time of the psalms to say there was no God would be foolish indeed, it would have been a death sentence.

      Incidentally, Jon is actually writing about the Bible, about what other people wrote about God.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Candyman 2:50 Welcome back–haven’t heard from you for a while.

      “…honestly can’t help to wonder when God is just about had enough of you with your cancerous blog about him?”

      If there is a god, I think he would be pleased there is only one Freethinker blog and about a dozon religious blogs. But, then again, he might be not so pleased the dozon Christian blogs all disagree with each other.

      Good thing, “God is longsuffereing to a point.” Were that not the case he would have sent lightning strikes to take out eleven of those bloggers who are in error. We don’t yet know which one is correct.

      (Sometimes I think it would be fun to have a betting pool, like a World Series or Superbowl pool. Each Monday, people would throw a dollar and a number in a box for “How many times this week will Jon be threatened with eternity in hell?” Winner would take home all the dollars.)

  4. Barbara says:

    When I read the Bible (leaving indoctrination behind me and applying common sense), I think of the religious nutcases I’ve heard just in my lifetime: Jim Jones, Jim Bakker, Fred Phelps, etc, etc. And I must wonder how many of the prophets and writers of the Bible were of their ilk—pushing their own agenda for whatever selfish motives.
    And then the silly side of me says “Hey, how about if I start proclaiming in the public square that I have had a holy epiphany: “Gawd has come unto me and proclaimed that we must start showing more respect for LGBT people. He said unto me that they are a big part of HIS plan to control population and He further said unto me that He is weary of smiting entire nations to accomplish that.”
    When I get done giggling over that picture (which is no more absurd than much of the good book) I am still respecting LGBT people just because they are people who deserve respect.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Barbara 6:00 Great insight. re Jim Jones, Fred Phelps etc.

      We could start with what is attributed to the character, Jesus, before he became a BIG STAR. Bart Ehrman, and others, say he was an apocholypitic Jew and went around preaching the world would end any day, certainly in his lifetime. He sounds not unlike our comtemporary Harold Camping.

    • entech says:

      I heard a rumour that Phelps would be the next one to come out of the closet :lol:
      .
      Something Shakespearean, … doth protest too much, methinks.

      Perhaps we could have a supplement to Jon’s betting pool, see who could have the silliest idea?

    • Jinx says:

      I have also wondered the same Barbara!

  5. kay syvrud says:

    I doubt very much that any atheist could do an honest reading of the Bible. The Atheist starts with the premise that God does not exist and the Bible is a complete sham. How can anyone do an honest reading with that attitude????
    I, too, have wondered the same thing as Candyman…

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      buffalogal 12:02 “I, too, have wondered the same thing as Candyman.”

      Candyman wondered how long God would tolerate by blog. We have to remember this about God, he tests people–puts them through the wringer. Maybe he is paying me to blog just to test the faithful.

      • entech says:

        Jon, Candyman and Kay demonstrate something I learned as a child, can’t remember the full thing but it included “moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform”

    • entech says:

      Kay, you raise an interesting point. If you have been raised since childhood in a religious family you must read the Bible from a certain point of view, in fact from exactly the opposite starting point or initial premise that you describe.

      So if you are reading the Bible as an atheist, or, if you are reading the bible as a committed believer could either have an honest reading? Predisposed to interpret the thing one way or the other as they must!

      • Jinx says:

        A credible researcher approaches his subject (in this case The Bible and all original scrolls, etc.) with his scholarly mind and rigid methodology intact. It is difficult to make your search as bias free as possible but it can be done…..ie Bart Erhmann (who was a true believer and after good research became an agnostic.)

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Jink 9:06 re Bart Erhman

          I read on his site yesterday his idea as to how Jesus began to be referred to as “Lord”. He thinks it started to happen when Roman rulers began to refer to themselves in this way–the Jesus fans did it to show their independence from Rome is how I understood it.

        • entech says:

          Not sure that Buffalo Gal is complaining about the work of scholars. There seems to be a third&fourth field involved. This is the people that write about why people like Erhman have got it all wrong and that his conclusions do not follow, and of course, those that write why Plantinga and Craig etc. are lying to themselves and the world.
          They all have to make a living.

          The ordinary person reading the Bible is different, for example very few good little Christians go around boasting about Phinehas, probably most have never heard of him. Similarly atheists probably find a lot of the goody goody stories either lies or boring or both and would seek for the ‘bits’ that support their case. To make her case properly it would have to be declared that no one in America or Europe could make an honest reading of the Bible, it has been so influential for so long that everyone in that culture has been exposed to some form of bias towards their interpretation.

    • Grandma says:

      Kay, the atheist, like the scholar, approaches the Bible (a combination of various writings completed in various times and assembled well after the New Testament events it describes occurred) as a text. Are there inter-textual contradictions? Yes. Are there historical errors? Yes. Are there scientific errors? Yes. We do not begin with the inherited assumption that it is all true, but instead look at the words and beyond to determine cultural, historical and political influences which explain the text and its included mistakes. It’s called “logical thinking.”

  6. Barbara says:

    @Kay–I didn’t approach my Bible reading as an atheist. I was a total believer who found those beliefs slowly but surely eroding when I applied plain old common sense. Observing the preaching nutcases over the years caused me to exercise that same common sense, eventually realizing that the writers of the Bible were also humans and therefore susceptable to strange imaginings (and often preaching from their own agenda).

  7. kay syvrud says:

    Bible scripture is really written for Believers; I cannot see how a skeptical Athiest can read anything in it at all—- unless they want to make fun of it..that has been my experience.
    It is a waste of time to read it if you are a Scoffer..unless you want to memorize Psalm 14:1 “The Fool has said in his heart, there is no God”

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      buffalogal 12:51 “Bible scripture is really written for Believers;”

      That is a great observation. What is so interesting to me is the wide variety of reactions to the Bible. I think if you asked 100 atheists how they came to not believe, half of them would say, “It happened because I read the Bible.” It is said so often when atheists get together.

      Now, I can’t, nor can anyone, know for certain this is accurate in every case. But, it must be true in at least some cases.

      • T says:

        kay syvrud 12:51 “Bible scripture is really written for Believers;”

        If that’s the case, then proselytizing is a moot endeavor.

  8. buzz marick says:

    Don’t cast your pearls before swine is one I have heard. Can’t quote the actual scripture.

    • entech says:

      Buzz permit me to help :)

      “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)( actually a good look at verses 1 through 6 would be instructive)

      Of course, these words of Jesus are allegorical. I doubt that any were literally casting pearls before swine. The meaning is pretty simple to figure out; “Do not persist in offering what is sacred or of value to those who have no appreciation for it, because your gift will not only become contaminated and be despised, your generous efforts could also be rebuffed and perhaps even openly attacked.”
      The “dogs” and “swine” here stand for the unappreciative and worldly; unappreciative and uncaring men and women who belittle the value of what is offered to them. “That which is holy” would be the meat offered in sacrifice to God. A dog could care less whether it came from the altar or the garbage. The swine have no appreciation for either the beauty nor the value of the pearls under their feet.

      Explanation from http://www.bible.ca/ef/expository-matthew-7-6.htm, not my personal preference.
      The emphasised bit I do like, but please, nobody take it too seriously – wouldn’t be much interest without all the abuse given to atheists by religious people, while the same religious people project this abusive aspect onto any words the atheist may speak.

      I am reminded of my Hindu friends in Bali when I read about the dogs and the holy sacrifice. The Hindu makes a small offering morning and evening, an important aspect is that the offering is made on a small tray made from banana leaf, that the tray is actually made by the person making the offering and that the rice and fruit which is the main part comes from their own plate. There will also be a little flower arrangement, even from some, just to keep up to date, a cigarette. Compare this to the temple where Yeshua was so upset with the money changers, part of a system that places the preists at such a high level.
      Actually it does not take long for the local Balinese dogs to eat the best bits, this is of no concern the gesture has been made and contact with god has been made, the rest is now just stuff.

      Definition of SWINE
      1: any of various stout-bodied short-legged omnivorous artiodactyl mammals (family Suidae) with a thick bristly skin and a long flexible snout; especially : a domesticated one descended from the wild boar
      2: a contemptible person
      Merriam-Webster.
      Unclean creatures from Leviticus 11:
      7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
      8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

      How did the unclean creature get to be so close to everything that they could be where you are preaching, surely such unclean animals should be driven out of the towns and villages, in case anyone accidentally touches one. Even the pearl, by association is impure.
      12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

      Almost any shelled mollusk can, by natural processes, produce some kind of “pearl” when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mollusk’s mantle folds, but the great majority of these “pearls” are not valued as gemstones.
      Wikipedia

      So not all pearls are of value and the pigs should not be there,(pigs and pearls are unclean, anyway), interesting scripture Mathew, a bit later he has yeshua saying 10:5″ … go not among the gentiles …” and 10:14 ” If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”. Clearly Paul as all things to all men chose to ignore these bits.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        entech 6:21 We need a world wide poll, or maybe just all majority Christian countries. The question would be, “Rank the following by your distaste for them: dogs, swine, atheists.

        • entech says:

          re: Rank the following by your distaste for them, swine, dogs and atheiests.

          Not fair, at different times and in different circumstances all are an abomination in the eyes of He who made them all. A simple question would be too confusing. Not really true, for most Christians it would be atheists and then pigs quite a long way back, of course, everybody loves little warm puppies; my point would probably be valid for Islam.

  9. buzz marick says:

    entech 6:21 thank you.

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