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Monday, December 10, 2012
Dennis On: "Booking on Down Life's Road"
Booking on Down Life's Road
How much of our belief is based on the contents of a book? Torah, Bible or Koran... How much of what most humans believe or practice comes from a book? How of much are OUR lives based on the experiences, real or imagined of OTHERS? How old are these books? How long ago were the ideas,perceptions, views and beliefs of others written down? For the most part, we'd have to admit that the religious views of how it all is, what life is all about, who and what a God is and what on earth it is doing, comes from the ideas of now long dead men, mostly, who simply filtered their world and experiences through the filter of their own times and perceptions. By writing Books, we can adopt their Bronze Age ideas as our own and address our own fears, guilt and shame just as they did. Whether we should do that or not is another question.
How quickly, when we read in a religious book, "and God said to Moses," or "And God said to Abraham" or "Allah, praise be his name spoke..." or "And Jesus said," depending on our orientation, think, "well, that's what God/He said to the man," as if it is an absolute fact. Then we adopt the view as our own, if it is the Book we were born into, because it was in a book and written down. It's like magic. We'd not learn and quote the Iliad or the Tibetan Book of the Dead the same way of course. Those are not our experiences and we know that Greek gods were just made up or Tibetan ideas of death are just wrong. Ours are real and right. We'd not take seriously a genealogy that instead of having Rahab the Harlot in it had Rapunzel who let down her long hair as one of Jesus ancestors.
Who knew what God said to the Council of the lesser gods, when it said, "Let us make man in our image," or "Now, lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever...let us..."? Just who recorded that heavenly scene? Who taped that? Is it not really just a story that is not only told, but borrowed from others , by men who want to tell a story that defines themselves?
Who was it that just knew what Adam said to Eve or Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden? Who was there to write it down? Did God take notes and pass them on to Moses? Some would simply say, "yeah...that's how it happened," and would not have to think about it again.
Who knew what Abraham said to Isaac just before he didn't cut his throat? Who knew the words of Jesus as he prayed alone, all distant and all disciples asleep, just before his arrest and being spirited away to a private hearing? Did Jesus shout back as he was led away..."Hey guys!!! Write this prayer down!" Who knew the contents of Pilot's wife's dream about letting Jesus go? That was a conversation just between them evidently. (Actually it's a theatric gimmick used by the story teller.)
Who knew what a serpent (NOT, by the way, ever considered Satan until many centuries later when someone needed to formulate a good story about how we all got in such bad shape and write it down in a book), said to one person alone? Or a Jackass for that matter? Who knew what God said to Cain alone or Cain to God? Who told Moses all this stuff and, in fact, who wrote down all Moses private stuff? (Hint: the same guys who wrote about Moses body being taken by God and buried where it would never be found. Moses could not have written the account of his own death and burial.)
I think we can play the "who knew" or "who heard and wrote down" these many one on one conversations or even private thoughts thousands of times from scriptures of all religions. And it is with simple faith or trust that we tell ourselves that it is not really just a story but rather a revelation or an inspiration, or really a God saying what they wanted to say or a prophet seeing and saying what he really wanted to share. We say that because it's in a Book.
I'm sure in the future someone will say, "Well, it's in The Kindle."
Now we don't take books like Hansel and Grettle or Little Red Riding Hood quite as seriously. We know that stuff didn't happen but we like the story. Those are not The Books, they are just books.
Christians are pretty sure that no Allah really spoke to the Prophet and Muslims are pretty sure no Jesus really died for all the Christians. Christians are very sure the Torah is toast because their man in the NT, Paul, said it was. Of course others think those Christians are wrong because they can take the same book and man and make it say other things that says it ain't necessarily so.
Stories in books can be debated and argued with to one's delight and utter insanity. Proof texting can lead you in a thousand directions and they do in ALL religions that depend on ancient books. It simply depends on who you read and in what order you read them. Wanna obey the law? Read Paul and Jesus. Wanna do away with the law? Read Paul only and only certain books.
Did Jesus family flee to Egypt after his birth or did they go home to Nazareth a mere 40 days later? It depends who you read. Did Mary know who Jesus was before his birth or did she forget and come get him with her sons to take him away because he was nuts? Depends who you read. Did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on one or two animals? It depends who you read and it really depends on how the one you read, read the original text in the Old Testament. Did Jesus ascend to heaven after the dinner or did he ascend weeks later? Depends who you read. Did Paul really meet Jesus on the Damascus Road or was he called from the womb with no such meeting? Depends who you read. And so it goes.
Another problem with getting stuck with the truths or ideas of truths found is books is that we can never really know what the book said originally. Remember, with the Bible, we have copies of copies of copies of copies.................and they weren't Xeroxed. Did Jesus say "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle," or did he say, "it is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle." ? You guess... Did Jesus really say anything at all about that topic? Who knows? Being a book doesn't make it so. Maybe someone just didn't like rich people along the way.
The facts are that no Moses really wrote the Pentateuch. Priests did that and did so much later in time than the time presented in the Book. In fact, it was competing priests who wrote and it all got mixed up into one. There were a few Isaiah's all cobbled into one. In Ezekiel it is a battle royal between Priests and Scribes for who did and didn't make true prophecies. Isaiah is full of prophecies gone wrong. That made the scribes laugh at the priests and the really ticked the priests off. If you could inject a failed prophecy into a book, you could make the writer look like a fool worthy of death.
The names of the authors of the Gospels were affixed decades after the originally anonymous books were written to give them credibility. Peter was not written by any Peter and no Paul actually wrote the letters to Timothy or the Ephesians and probably not Colosians either. Those books were written much later in the "how do you run a church" times rather than about issues that would arise in Paul's lifetime a mere ten to 30 years after Jesus. They are Second Century concepts, not First.
No Paul wrote Hebrews for sure as whoever did rarely talks about themselves if at all. Paul often talks nothing but about himself using "I" very often. James doesn't have to be Jesus brother James and the John of John, I John and Revelation can never be proved to be the same person or disciple of Jesus. These are all assumptions most are comfortable making to keep the story coherent. You can never know for sure and is the stuff of faith I suppose. Faith is what we plaster up our walls with until we get the facts.
And lastly, for now, we get so offended thinking that someone like Herbert Armstrong, GTA, Gerald Flurry, Dave Pack, Rod Meredith, Joel Olsteen, or thousands of other Christian Lone Rangers seem to know it all and speak on all things as if they knew. But that's how the Bible, the Torah and the Koran function too. It is just that it is easier to believe the one lone man's view if it is in a book thousands of years old than it is to believe someone who we know or are contemporary at least.
The entire Christian truth of life , death, God, Jesus, Satan and the Wonderful World Tomorrow are the product of maybe seven to ten men mostly unknown and mostly Paul in the New Testament. Strangely, Jesus wrote nothing. Jesus is simply written about and others tell us who he was and what he did and said. Hearsay mainly when you think of it.
Moses could have been a sociopath for all we know but we can't know. Isaiah and Ezekiel just may have had Schizophrenia or Jeremiah Bi Polar Disorder or melancholy, but we'd not know that. They'd not know that nor would the people who were intrigued by their behaviors know that!!! Paul may have had temporal lobe epilepsy for that matter hearing voices and seeing lights in his head, according to Luke, or not, according to Paul. Paul may have had out of body experiences and visions that being in an old book seem ok but if Dave Pack said he had one, we'd laugh our asses off, and call for medications not congregations.
The character in Gospel Jesus may have had issues with not knowing who his real father was. Maybe when pressed as a youth Mary just said "God is your father," and the rest of the story stems from a genuinely human being struggling with abandonment issues. We can't know from a Book. We weren't there and saw none of this or knew anyone who did.
Remember, no one goes to the hospital to see the birth of a later famous person. Fabulous Birth Stories are made up AFTER the adult becomes famous and bear no resemblance to the truth. All Caesars and gods are born of virgins, get visits from Wise Men and are found under a "star." Even Yassir Arafat claimed to be born in Jerusalem for credibility when , in fact, he was born in Cairo. It's how we tell our stories.
But some books are magic and evoke powerful emotions. Just this week in Georgia a woman hung the dog of a neighbor that chewed up her Bible. No joke..she hung the dog who chewed up her Bible. Had the dog chewed up her copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People," the dog would have lived. I think we know where burning a Koran can get you. Burning "Ali Babah and the 40 Thieves" not so much.
The bottom line is that all major world religious views about the who, what, where, when and why of God and life is left in the hands of a very few men who are said to have lived lives thousands of years ago, had experiences with the gods and written them down as truth which led to copies of copies of copies of copies of it all. On top of that, at times we can deduce that the writings are not actually those of just one man or of the man whose name is affixed to the book.
The Book also has contradictions, mistakes and boo boos.
What would it be like if every time someone wanted to know what life was all about , or what may happen after death, we didn't feel the compulsion to go back to a Bronze Age Book filled with people somewhat like us but somewhat not like us at all? What if every time you had a spiritual thought or scientific fascination you did not have to filter it through the Bible, Koran or Torah for verification? How nice not to have all of earth's geology and formation not filtered through Noah's Flood or the craters on the moon through Satan's rebellion.
Would it be so bad if we could get away from "The Bible says...", "The Koran says..." and "The Torah says..."?
It's kinda like hot dogs. If you really could see and understand just where they come from and how they are made, you'd not feel so compelled to serve them as if that was all there was to eat. You'd probably feel better and not feel so limited in your allowed tastes and perspectives.