The Bible Comes From A Time Of Imposters And Scalawags

I’ve seen countless times the Bible handled in a ceremonious way during church services. I’ve seen a large and beautiful copy displayed on a pedestal in some busy area of a church.

We all know this comes from the belief the contents of the Bible have been channeled in some way or another from God to humans who then wrote it down. There is not one shred of evidence this happened, but a billion some people believe it did happen.

What is there evidence of? There is a lot of evidence that in the ancient times of both New and Old Testament writing there was lots of chicanery going on. The evidence is not all from modern scholars piecing together bits of inferences, but from allegations of chicanery made by those writing at the very time it was taking place. In fact, it was so rampant, some of those who alleged chicanery in others where committing it themselves.

If you read the Bible and commentary about the Bible, you know several of the books where the author claims to be Paul is not actually Paul but an imposter. The names assigned to the gospels are not the name of the authors but names assigned in relatively recent history. The problem of forgery was so great in those times Paul notes this.

Professor Bart Ehrman published an exhaustive work on ancient authors, Forgery and Counterforgery; The use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. He found accusations made by authors of imposters where the accusers were themselves imposters.

All of which begs the question, why is it call “The Word of God?”

32 Responses

  1. Parson

    Jon, I am reasonably sure that if one of your students read and reported on a book the same way you do, you would give them a failing grade. You portray Bart D. Ehrman as some sort of infallible authority on all things Biblical. You give him credit where he does not even claim it. One example, in his book”The New Testament and other Early Christian Writings” in the introduction says in part “Scholars are reasonably sure that the Gospel of Mark was one of these predecessors” referring to Matthew. He says “reasonably sure” while you try to state it as fact. He goes on to mention the source Q, but there is no Q, nobody has ever in the history of the church ever claimed to see it, it was never even talked about as a possibility till the 19’th century. There may have been aQ but there is absalutly. no emperical evidence to support it, only wishful thinking. You say the named writers of scripture were not the real authors, you nor anyone else can prove that. To be honest you could say “I don’t believe they were the authors” and give your reasons for believing that but you cannot prove it. The list goes on and on but as an atheist why do you even care. If atheism is true then it doesn’t matter, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, just our opinions but then why do we even have opinions or care rather anybody agrees or not. The reason you care is because like most atheists you find true atheism, namely neilism unlivable so you make up rules for everybody else to live by

    1. Parson–Welcome back. Thanks for sharing your views.

      If atheism is true then it doesn’t matter, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, just our opinions

      I’ve never heard an atheist say, “…it doesn’t matter, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad…” Have you ever heard one say it? I know I have never said that.

      1. Matt Noah

        It is said that actions speak louder than words.

        The actions of atheists are so loud it is hard to hear a word they say.

        1. Matt 12:29 The actions of atheists are so loud it is hard to hear a word they say.

          When you start down the road of “actions”, comparing the actions of Christians against atheists and evaluating them against moral standards, you are skating on some pretty thin ice. According the prison statistics I have seen, Christians are over represented in jails and prisons compared to their percentage in the general population and atheists are under represented.

      2. nemo81

        no, you have never said anything of the sort. you, In fact, you have some notably absolutist views of right and wrong, mostly rooted in a utilitarian vision. Nevertheless, I don’t think that an atheist can dodge parson’s bullet. Ultimately, I submit, an atheist take on ethics boils down to ethical relativism and/or nihilism; the view that ultimately there is no meaning in the world, therefore it is up to each individual to create his/here own meaning, his/her own ethic.

        1. entech

          Alternatively if there is no meaning some people cannot stand the idea that they are alone and responsible for themselves and so invent a deity that defines a meaning for them. A deity that imposes an idea of good and bad, and gives them an excuse for being bad – born in sin, naturally evil.

          Could it be that an atheist will do good things simply because he believes they are good, because he is a part of humanity and feels part of it. Perhaps then, a religious person does good because God tells him to, because he is afraid of punishment.

          Now both the atheist and the theist is capable of being very good and very bad, it is dishonest to claim otherwise.

      1. Tracy

        Not to pee in your Wheaties but its often been said that Jesus resides in the US Prison system and the reason for that is that so many criminals “find Jesus” or simply find religion once they are behind bars.
        So that really skews your statistics.
        Maybe you could find some stats that talk about how “Christian” these folks were when they were out on the street before they got caught.
        It really is sad how much you dig at those who beliefs are different from your own.

        1. Tracy 5:54 Not to pee in your Wheaties but its often been said that Jesus resides in the US Prison system and the reason for that is that so many criminals “find Jesus” or simply find religion once they are behind bars..

          No doubt there are some, especially since it is said that sometimes claiming to be a born again Christian may help get an early parole. But, could not the same thing be said about those who are threatened with hell and fall on their knees to avoid it? The faith is full of these threats about the after life. I receive these threats here all the time–about 35 of them. The entire faith is based on the carrot and stick.

  2. nemo81

    Now let me weigh in on the “forgery” question. Let’s say that I want to write a letter to Obama. I can write it myself, in full and in my own words. Or I can tell someone else to write a letter to Obama, telling my scribe what I want to say. Or I can ask someone else to write a complete letter under my name, trusting that he/she simply knows me well enough to know what I want to say to Obama. These three “levels” of authorship are commonplace and quite legitimate. There was, however, a forth and more suspect level: namely writing something under someone else’s name, whether to honor a particular person or to enhance one’s own reputation. I am told that that sort of thing was common in the ancient world. Then there is outright forgery/fraud, a deliberate attempt to cause harm/mislead and/or to enrich ones self at the expense of some unsuspecting party. Such things, of course, still occur. Remember Dan Rather and the infamous Bush letter. The bogus Donation of Constantine clearly falls into this category. Bottom line, if you take these distinctions of authorship into account, the ancient practices, it seems, are, on balance, less widespread or sinister than you have suggested.

    1. nemo81 Bottom line, if you take these distinctions of authorship into account, the ancient practices, it seems, are, on balance, less widespread or sinister than you have suggested.

      If the forgery and imposterism is only one half as bad as I implied, this is not exactly a reason to take “the work of God” as the truth.

  3. entech

    Bottom line, if you take these distinctions of authorship into account, the ancient practices, it seems, are, on balance, less widespread or sinister than you have suggested.

    I don’t think that this necessarily follows. If we are talking about biblical writing as being the word of God or at least inspired by God we need a lot more veracity. At the risk of being accused of attributing something to someone in whom I do not believe (almost inviting and expecting it actually) I do wonder why God permitted all this to be put out as his word when it clearly was not.

  4. Henry

    Jon: “When you start down the road of “actions”, comparing the actions of Christians against atheists and evaluating them against moral standards, you are skating on some pretty thin ice. “

    This makes me think of the front page article in the Forum today. There is an article of a wealthy pioneer Fargo atheist who promoted two Christmas trees being shipped into Fargo. Of course, he took up a collection to have other people pay for his idea. When the trees arrived in Fargo, they were “stolen”. In response to this, some straw effigies were hung from trees in a lynching to send a warning that the trees should be returned. They were amazingly “found” right before Christmas in the boxcar from which they were “stolen”, and the atheist was the savior. Everyone celebrated through the night until light of the next morning.

    I found the story very curious at the very least. Is there really anything new under the sun?

    1. Henry

      P.S. Of course, the wealthy atheist took up another collection to decorate the “found” Christmas trees. Brilliant.

      1. Henry P.S. Of course, the wealthy atheist took up another collection to decorate the “found” Christmas trees. Brilliant.

        Thanks for mentioning this. what a great story.

        It just goes to show godless heathens have been in Fargo since day one–they have even been Mayors. No wonder there is sin in Fargo.

        I’ve always said there were gay people in Fargo since day one. They were not in the news back in the 1800’s like godless Mayors, but they, too, are a part of its history.

        1. Henry

          We can certainly agree on that. Nothing new under the sun, just slightly different forms and presentation. Lying, idolatry, adultery, stealing, murdering, and coveting were all there,

          1. Henry 12:36 Lying, idolatry, adultery, stealing, murdering, and coveting were all there,

            I hate to have you describing your Christian friends that way–but there are some who fit. 🙂

          2. Henry

            We do not have any available data on the early Christians in Fargo and their sins. We just have available the little bit on the atheist.

            As far as some fitting, I am sure there are.

          3. Henry 7:51 We do not have any available data on the early Christians in Fargo and their sins.

            I have a little information on sin in Fargo. I had book about a Mayor from about 1895 in about 1905. He was a known nationally, traveled the world and his speeches and newspaper coverage were compiled by a daughter into a book. He bragged in speeches about Fargo’s success while allowing no bars. What he did not mention was the ND had liberal divorce laws so people came from all over the country to stay in ND for some 30 days so they could divorce. He did not mention that Moorhead was lined with bars, their customers walked over and staggered back across the bridge.

            My impression is Fargo was high in the sin city rankings. And, now it has gotten so bad it hosts this blog.

  5. Tracy

    Its a simple concept called FAITH.
    That’s why people believe in things that they can in no way prove did or didn’t happen.

    I will never understand why Atheists feel the need to comment about religion or belittle others for their beliefs.
    You choose to believe that we just rose from rocks, so be it. I don’t show up at times of the year YOU deem important and go out of my way to treat you with disdain and disrespect.
    Seems to me if Atheists were as good as they like to portray themselves i wouldn’t see billboards telling people God doesn’t exist or to stay home from church on Christmas.
    I used to believe Atheists were just normal people with different beliefs and ideas, it wasn’t until recently that i have seen they are also a very spiteful lot that cant simply sit back and let others believe in whatever they choose.
    Christmas now means two things to me, first is the celebration of the birth of Christ and second is the time of year the Atheists come out to attack Christian beliefs.
    See you again at Easter for the next round of anti-religious attacks.

    1. Tracy 8:50 Thanks for coming to post your thoughts. Many of the readers here agree with you.

      I will never understand why Atheists feel the need to comment about religion or belittle others for their beliefs

      Could not the same question be asked of Christians? There are many more Christian billboards than atheist. On this site, Area Voices, there are about 15 Christian blogs and only one Freethinker. Our currency, the pledge of allegiance and every address from a President includes God, not atheism.

      Its a simple concept called FAITH.

      I liked this sentence in your post. The point I often try to make here is that the Bible is not a historical book but a book of propaganda–meaning it is to persuade. It does not appear to me the unknown authors meant it to be historical in the sense we treat history. They were trying to persuade.

      1. nemo81

        Jon, a few thoughts here. If Scripture was merely written to persuade (which it may or may not have been) then we are all in trouble. Most of what we say or write is meant to persuade at some level. Therefore…… ? Which is to suggest, that all rhetoric is propaganda: no real distinction between rhetoric in the Aristotlean sense and in the Stalinist sense. Moreover, the Bible is mostly a historical book: consider the enormous amount of historical detail which it contains. Sure, there is some gilding of the lily. That said, I think that Scripture does as well or better in the history business than a lot of other histories from the ancient world. Finally, as to Tracy’s point: the objection to some atheist propaganda is that it is often nasty, ill mannered. If Christian propaganda was equally ill mannered, you would have a point.

        1. nemo81 11:17 Good post. I was a little reluctant to use the term, “propaganda”, because it has a negative connotation going back to when we referred to the information flowing from Communism. What Communists were telling the world was their political message, their rhetoric. So, in my view, when the Bible tells us there is something called “sin”, there is hell and heaven, there are invisible spiritual being floating about, someone walks on water, floats into heaven and all the rest, it is material not unlike Communist propaganda or the propaganda. The platforms of our political parties is propaganda in the same sense.

          When you say the Bible is primarily history it does not define what we mean by history. The definition I use is events that have independent verification. There were lots of people and events from the same period as when the Bible was written that have such independent verification. When we have this verification we can conclude the people or events were “likely” to have happened or existed. When we don’t, as is the case with the Bible, they are regarded as “unlikely”. The latter does not “prove” they absolutely did not happen. They is a far lower probability to have happened than those that were “likely” to have happened.

          Actually, a better term for the Bible is that it is literature.

        2. entech

          If Christian propaganda was equally ill mannered, you would have a point.
          Nemo, have you been reading what Matt has to say lately or Henry? Were you around when Father (someone, sorry can’t remember the name) was shouting )metaphorically, of course) about how everyone that was not a Catholic hated Catholics and the non believers were the worst of all.

          Who of the regular writers on this blog at this time says things about religion being a mental illness and similar to the things Matt, in particular says. We have had some in the past but the abusive ones of the non-religious (anti or whatever) don’t last long, just spout off for a while and disappear when they don’t get much support from the regular freethinker posters. Most posters write that they do not believe themselves and ask for reasons to accept the “scripture” and frequently discuss how the scriptures are not believable etc. any disagreement is taken as attack by the Christian bloggers (most of them) that come here.

          1. nemo81

            I have read some of Henry’s remarks. I haven’t found them particularly offensive. But maybe offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder. As to the others you mention, I have not seen any of their posts. Tracy I thought was quite respectful. And how do you know that most posters write what they do not believe themselves. Are you a mind reader?

          2. entech

            Ok Henry per se is not offensive, his constant references to “atheists” in an ad hominem manner is irritating. Much less so once you realise that is the reason he does these things.

            Of “the others” you have not read I only mentioned one, Matt, quote:
            True, atheism is a form of mental illness. The undying desire to discredit feelings, beliefs and emotion is peculiar, at the least. Christianity recognizes the value of humanity but atheism worships science and only science.
            While we occasionally get non-believers who write like this as I said they do not last very long because that is not the way this blog works, in spite of all the squeals to the contrary. Few write like Matt and may say that we believe that belief is an illusion or even delusion it is a long time since I have seen anyone here say Christians are mad. As you say Tracy is respectful and is entitled to the opinion that atheists are spiteful and can’t sit back and let others believe as they choose, atheist can’t sit back because they get defensive every time a religious idea becomes a subject for civil law.
            My last sentence was very badly phrased the intended meaning was more like: Most freethinkers that post here are writing about a religious view that they themselves do not hold or believe hence they write about scripture as being unbelievable (to them), the fact that this is not in agreement with Christian belief is taken as an attack on Christianity when it is mostly simply a difference of opinion.
            I apologise if it is offensive and you consider it an attack when I say that your religious beliefs are your opinion, this is my sincerely held belief, the main reason I write is to discuss and perhaps learn why I should consider it more than an opinion (this is a general you and not Nemo as a particular you).

  6. nemo81

    Jon, I am not a middle eastern Scripture scholar or an archeologist. Thus I have to approach your contention with some caution. Nonetheless, I think that there is considerable evidence supporting most of the “history,” especially that in the OT. Granted, a lot of the miracle stories cannot be corroborated: as Tracy said you must take them on faith (a bad word in a skeptic’s world). Remember also that many of the ancient records have been lost: the Temple was sacked and destroyed in 70AD, Rome itself was sacked numerous times. Also the great library at Alexandria. (We probably lost quite bit of the works of Aristotle as a result of the last event). These are facts, which I think, probably mean that we have lost a lot of material that could have served as supporting evidence, especially from the the life of Jesus. In addition, I think, that there is such a thing as internal corroboration: stories as detailed as many of those in Scripture are unlikely to have been made up of whole cloth. BTW, as to miracles, if Jesus was who he said he was, then the miracle stories are credible. If he wasn’t what he said he was, then he was akin to a madman who thought himself to be a poached egg (as C.S. Lewis put it). Anyway, I wish you a Merry Christmas: atheists like us, I am certain, can enjoy a holly, jolly time.

  7. nemo81

    entech, guess I missed Matt. Or if read any of his posts I had forgotten the name. Full disclosure: I don’t read everything that is posted here. As to Henry, he does make some good points. But it seems to me that he and Jon go back a ways and, accordingly, seem to have a habit of jousting with one another. Sort of a game that they seemed to have played for some time past. And I don’t think that you can fault Tracy’s remarks. Some atheists (not you, I hope) appear to delight in saying very nasty things about Christians. Nasty things that go quite a way beyond a mere clash of opinions. May I suggest that you look around the internet and elsewhere if you want tangible evidence of atheist rage. As to religious views being a mere matter of opinion: I demur, and demur strongly. There are a pastel of deep seated, existential issues at play here. And ultimately either the atheists are fundamentally right or the theists are. In the end, there ain’t much middle ground. Do you agree?

    1. entech

      Matt has been the most prolific of posters lately and the most vehement, if you have read any at all I am surprised you missed Matt. Henry has been posting regularly for a few years now but I am not sure if they know each other personally, I seem to remember from somewhere Jon has known the Noah family for a long time. As a former Mayor a lot of people would be at least familiar with Jon by name.
      I first came to this site a few years ago, nothing to do with religion at the time, Jon was saying something about Adam Smith and I was challenging his meaning (I think Smith is almost totally misunderstood in America). I did and do have an interest in the fundamentalism that seems to an outsider quite rampant and American politics is fascinating, we don’t see much “on the ground” stuff, so to speak, so I have stayed around posting mostly on religious issues and observing the political chit chat, though I find it fascinating I feel that I cannot have much to say not being a resident or tax payer.

      As to other sites, I have not bothered much for a long time. A couple of times Henry has pointed me toward PZ Myers et.al and I would agree that they are pretty awful (as are quite a few on the apologist blogs). The reason I keep coming here is
      A). It is quite local and gives me something to think about local issues, religious and political.
      B). In general it is not like the type of site you are talking about, ones that demonstrate vehement “Christian Rage” 😉 as well as “Atheist Rage”:)

      Demur away, object to the opinion of mine that it is only an opinion. The only objective views about religion and existence are those written in the old books, anything more recent is interpretation, reading from it or into it what one wants it to mean – in short opinion. That I take it to have no relevance to existence of a deity, written by people that do believe or have an interest in the existence of such a deity, that is my opinion.
      I would agree that the existence of “A” creator is an issue with no middle ground. There is a great deal of ground to cover within each position.
      There is no creator, not much more to say here.
      There is a creator. From here we can go in many directions
      Deism, where we have a creator with no personal interest, set the wheels in motion and let it ride. Perhaps a little nudge now and then to keep it on track, ala Newton.
      Monotheism (The God of Abraham) A creator with a personal interest, one for whom not a sparrow falls and so on. this can be a single unique entity as in “The lord thy God is one” as attested by Jews and Muslims are something more complicated like the triune God of Christianity.
      Not sure where Zarathustra comes into this being that there is a good God and a Bad God, I think there was an influence on the development of monotheism. The problem was that with a true monotheism a single God is responsible for everything good and bad and so the idea of Satan had to be introduced – of cause this is just my opinion, the Creator may have created an opposer for reasons of its own.
      Then we have different ways that God and the universe are related, instead of the Creator as a separate entity as above.
      We could have the one God of Hinduism, where Brahman sleeps for aeons, wakes and dreams the universe which eventually collapses back into a dream world , only to repeat the process. I quite like the idea of a cyclic universe myself, either as some kind of energy in constant change and transformation either as a self contained thing or, less likely in my mind, the manifestation of some living entity.
      Then there is a great number of folk religions, animist religions, Taoist etc.

      Sorry, I do tend towards verbosity sometimes. Essentially I would say that if you take all the possibilities and work out which one you think is most likely then you will form an opinion on that basis. It is not possible to know categorically which one is correct in the present state of knowledge and level of technology, that may change and it would be a new definition of irony if science did prove the existence of God – only my opinion but I could be wrong.

      There are a pastel of deep seated, existential issues at play here. Don’t mean to be critical for the sake of it here, never a good strategy in a sensible argument, but I really do not follow.
      I agree deep seated existential issues exist, but perhaps we should work out a meaning for existential so that we are talking about the same thing. Are or is a pastel is obviously a slip of the finger, perhaps you could elucidate.

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