Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Bible is nothing but hearsay

Revelation
a : an act of revealing or communicating divine truth
b : something that is revealed by God to humans 
In a religious context be it Jewish, Muslim, or Islam all of their beliefs are based entirely on a person or persons claim to have had a divine encounter with a god or supernatural deity. For the purpose of this post I will not be quoting from the Koran since I have not read it but the premise is the same for all three religions. 
In the Old Testament we are told that Yahweh revealed himself to Moses by way of a burning bush. Traditionally it was believed that Moses was also the sole author of the Pentateuch also known as the first five books of Moses. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were all believed to have been revealed to and written by Moses himself. Recent scholarship has come to believe that in fact this is not the case. There are some tell tale signs in the Pentateuch that make the authorship of Moses quite improbable. 
5And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. Deuteronomy 34:5-7

Evidently the first problem that this text presents is that Moses could not be writing about his death after the fact. So obviously whoever wrote this was not Moses. 

10Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:10-12

This second passage relates some things about Moses in retrospect. As if the author were narrating a tale about something that happened in the near or distant past. I vote for distant past since in the beginning of verse ten the author says "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses." This tells me that he is relating a story about something that happened a long time ago. He might have not even been a witness to this and much like the rest of the scriptures he was basing his tales on oral tradition/hearsay.
The scriptures themselves don't deny that they are based entirely on revelation.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
"But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it." Thomas Paine 'The Age of Reason' 1794
Thomas Paine: a truly legendary thinker way ahead of his time!
Above is my favorite Thomas Paine quote of all time. It is very clear from this logical analyses that revelation is not a valid means of obtaining knowledge. Believing and accepting that someone else had a revelation does not make it true and in fact it is not a direct revelation to you because you believe it. Once you hear it from the claimant it becomes hearsay since you were not there yourself to experience the so called revelation  first hand.
1. Unverified information heard or received from another; rumor.

An oral tradition is the manner in which information is passed from one generation to the next in the absence of writing or a recording medium.
Based on the definitions of the words hearsay and oral tradition the Bible and any other holy text from the past fall under these categories. They are entirely based on oral tradition which is basically a form of traditional story telling to help preserve ones cultural beliefs throughout the ages before they had the abilities or the resources to preserve those tales in writing. 

Native American Story telling.

One of the most common and well known examples of oral traditions is that of the Native Americans. As with the Bible their stories are full of fantastical tales of men springing forth from the ground full grown. They speak of their ancestors as protectors of their people and of their spirit guides usually believed to be some animal that represents power or wisdom that they eventually encounter through drug induced meditations. Just because an oral tradition has been passed down for hundreds or even thousands of years amongst a people does not make them entirely true. Many of these stories are meant to be taken symbolically or as allegories that reflect some truths. Others are highly embellished tales about some older original tale. 

a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable 
In the definition of tradition it is interesting to see that it relates tradition with inheritance. Religious beliefs and practices in general are for the most part even today inherited. It is because of this that they are usually taken as truths without any real research. In the end despite what many believe regarding the Bible it fits the descriptions of everything I have outlined in this post. 
The Bible is entirely based on hearsay since the stories were not written by first hand witnesses of the tales that they tell. The stories were passed down from generation to generation through oral transmission. The veracity of those tales are never questioned and in fact at this point in time are impossible to verify. Many of the stories are interpreted as literal, allegorical, or through parables as a means to convey some lessons of moral or historical value. In other words these stories as is witnessed for the most part by the Jewish community help form many or most of the religious practices, customs, and beliefs of a society. 

Once you realize that the bible is nothing but a book of ancient customs, traditions, and beliefs of a people you can appreciate it better. But trying to translate those customs, traditions, or beliefs to our modern day culture and society through wrongly interpreting them as literal and universal will always lead in the end to failure and false beliefs. It's time that we leave myths and superstitions where they belong; in the past. Science trumps religions because science unlike religions demands evidence and when evidence is not conclusive science continues to search not accepting assumptions. The scientific method is self correcting and helps to minimize errors in ones research and analyses by involving peer review and confirmation of your findings. 
Note: all biblical citations are taken from the New International Translation other word definitions are linked to their individual sources. 

4 comments:

  1. Mormonism is based on revelation, too, but during a literate time. If it weren't for the long tradition of believing revelations, Joseph Smith wouldn't have had a chance of starting a new religion.

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    1. Absolutely true LadyA. What's ironic is that Mormonisms foundation is contrary to what the bible teaches about the teachings of Jesus.

      6"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!" Galatians 1:6-9

      So much for the foundation of Mormonism and his new revelation which coincidentally came from an angel named Moroni.

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  2. Its as if when something is written in a book it makes it real. But then you point out the case of superman or harry potter and theists say its not the same.

    As for the Koran, Muslims like to say it has never changed. Well except for the whole Sunni and Shia Muslim interpretations.

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    1. Christianity is exempt from its obvious textual and doctrinal flaws. Theists only see things through the lense of their faith. Confirmation bias is their master not reason.

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