The Bible: True, False or In Between?

Discussion in 'Religions & Cults' started by dr wu, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. dr wu

    dr wu Doctor Prog

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    I'm sure there has been an historical Bible thread in the past but couldn't find a recent one....so started a new one with this video. I had not heard of this scholar before but I like her style.
    I've read a fair amount over the years including the Jesus Seminar material but this topic by her covers the whole Bible regarding it's accuracy ,etc. I'm agnostic btw and this scholar is an atheist.
    Thoughts...comments...critiques...?




     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  2. eburacum

    eburacum Papo-furado

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    Francesca Stavrakopoulou had a series on BBC back in 2011, The Bible's Buried Secrets. It was fascinating. She made some very interesting points about the lack of evidence for most of the Bible, especially for King David and his empire.

    I must admit it made me want to find out where she was wrong, since it would be nice to find some historical evidence for Moses, Abraham and the rest (and for Gilgamesh, Oedipus and anyone from those eras), but I don't think we are ever going to find such material now. Sure, Jesus probably existed, and Mohammed almost certainly did; but go back a bit further before the Babylonian Exile and so on and you start getting into mythical territory.
     
  3. GingerTabby

    GingerTabby Carbon-based life form

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    Thanks for posting these videos, dr wu. Dr Stavrakopoulou is stating what many serious biblical scholars have been saying for ages. At the risk of appearing a tremendous bore, I'll quote two posts I made in different threads on FTMB on related subjects. (My apologies for not providing a link to the posts but I can't work out how to do it. I admit I'm something of a Luddite).

    In post no. 3 in the thread "Great Video on Biblical Translation," I wrote the following on 18 February 2017:

    Julius Wellhausen, a 19th-century German biblical scholar, developed the documentary hypothesis, which states that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) is made up of four separate texts that were composed by many people over the course of many centuries. Those sources are: the Jahwist (or Yahwist), which is believed to date from the 9th or 10th centuries BCE; the Deuteronomist, written between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE; the Elohist, written during the second half of the 9th century BCE; and the Priestly source, written during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. These four source texts are usually referred to by their initials, J, D, E and P.

    In the latter part of the 20th century, biblical scholars began to question Wellhausen's hypothesis and claimed that these source texts were far more fragmented and heavily edited than Wellhausen believed. Both Wellhausen and modern biblical scholars would nevertheless agree that the Pentateuch was made up of separate sources put together over an extended span of time. It's not surprising that a text composed by many authors over several centuries would contain contradictions.

    As I've mentioned elsewhere on FTMB, the emphasis on the literal interpretation of scripture emerged only in the second millennium of the Christian era. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist insistence that a literal interpretation of the bible is the only authentic one has become widespread despite the fact that such an interpretation is untenable.

    Dr Stavrakopoulou doesn't mention Wellhausen or the documentary hypothesis but I'm certain that is what she is referring to when she says the Bible is made up of various texts written in different time periods. I'm not surprised at the omission because in both cases she was speaking to a general audience and not a group of biblical scholars.

    Regarding the literal interpretation of the Bible, in post 223 in the thread "Islamic Theology," I wrote the following on 25 July 2016:

    The emphasis on the literal meaning of scripture appeared only in the second millennium of the Christian era. From the late patristic era (5th and 6th centuries) until the late medieval era, biblical interpretation was allegorical rather than literal. Some claim the late medieval emphasis on literalism came about as the result of the rediscovery of Aristotle's thought in the West in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas stressed the importance of the literal meaning of the biblical text. He didn't reject the possibility of other interpretations but gave primacy to literalism.

    In the 16th century, Martin Luther and other Reformers stressed literal interpretation. They may have been reacting to the sometimes fanciful interpretations produced by the allegorical approach to scripture in the medieval era. The Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura -- that scripture alone is the supreme authority in matters of Christian faith -- went hand-in-hand with the literal approach to biblical interpretation. As Ramon has pointed out, the Enlightenment took many of the hard edges off biblical literalism. Christian fundamentalists nevertheless cling to literalism and insist that it is the only valid approach to the interpretation of the biblical text.

    Just to clarify, my reference in the first post above to "As I've mentioned elsewhere on FTMB" is in fact the material I wrote in the second post above.

    Below are a few thoughts that came to mind after watching these videos:

    - The fact that discussions such as those in the videos take place at all is evidence of how deeply embedded the notion of literalism is in our understanding of religion, especially Christianity. Richard Dawkins makes the point, which I've read elsewhere, that upwards of 40 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be literally true. He notes they aren't bothered by the research findings of serious biblical scholars. That's not surprising. Discussion of these matters is both complicated and nuanced but our society likes fast, simple if sometimes irrational answers, be it with regard to religion or anything else.

    - In the popular arena, literalism has become equated with orthodoxy (note my use of the lower case "o"). This perception is one that suits both fundamentalists and hardcore atheists: the former can insist that their interpretation is the only correct one while the latter can dismiss religion out of hand because of the irrational stance of the fundamentalists.

    - The rabbi made the excellent point that truth does not always mean literal or historical fact. The authors of the biblical text understood this but many modern readers do not.

    - In the first video, Dr Stavrakopoulou might have expanded a bit on the subject of Paul's letters. Paul wrote his letters in response to specific situations that arose in the various Christian communities. They shouldn't be interpreted as instructions for all times and all places. Whenever I read or hear Paul's letters referred to as "treatises" I cringe because that is not what most Pauline scholars believe he intended them to be.

    - I had to feel sorry for the Evangelical fellow sitting in the front row. When asked if he really believed Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, he replied he believed it because Jesus believed it. Nice to know he can read minds.

    - We were given brains because we were expected to use them. Any activity that expects people to check their brains at the door isn't worth doing. I would apply that to religion and anything else in life.
     
  4. Austin Popper

    Austin Popper Junior Acolyte

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  5. Coal

    Coal Sure, we're all wrong. Makes complete sense.

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    Nice maxim
     
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  6. Mythopoeika

    Mythopoeika I am a meat popsicle

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