One of the participants in my class on the Bible brought the following article from a blog to the class the other day.
Millions of Evangelicals and other Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible was dictated by God to men who acted essentially as human channelers. Each phrase is considered so perfect that it merits careful linguistic analysis to determine His precise meaning.
If that were the case, one would have to conclude that God is a terrible writer. Although some passages in the Bible are lyrical and gripping, many would get kicked back by any competent editor or writing professorkicked back with a lot of red ink.
In the COG we were taught, just like the Mormons were taught, that God literally breathed the words into the minds of the scribes. They essentially channelled the words of god onto paper. It may make for a good simplistic story to feed people who have never critically studied the Bible, it is it really true or more precisely accurate? . . . . This doesn’t sound like a book that was dictated by a deity.
Most stories in the Bible, particularly the early books of the Bible were never written down till long periods later. The stories were just that, oral stories passed down through leaders, rabbi's, teachers and storytellers. COG leaders expected you to believe that each time the story was orally told, not one single thing was ever changed in the storyline. No storyteller ever changed things to fit the people he was talking to. No storyteller ever blanked out while telling the story and substituted another word or phrase to make the story sound more logical. Nope, the magical god of the church entered the mind of every prophet, sage, rabbi, and storyteller and caused them to say the exact same words for hundreds and hundreds of years without one single deviation from the original plot line being forgotten.
The article continues with this:
No question, the Bible beautiful and timeless bits. But why, overall, does it so fail to meet this mark? One obvious answer, of course, is that neither the Bible—nor any derivative work like the Quran or Book of Mormon—was actually dictated by the Christian god or other celestial messengers. We humans may yearn for advice that is “god-breathed” but in reality, our sacred texts were written by fallible human beings who, try as they might, fell short of perfection in the ways that we all do.In the church many ministers proclaimed that they knew exactly who wrote every single book in the Bible. They all said that because one man said so and that man could never be questioned.
Far from being a single unified whole, the Bible is actually a collection of texts or text fragments from many authors. We don’t know the number of writers precisely, and—despite the ancient traditions that assigned authorship to famous people such as Moses, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—we don’t know who most of them were. We do know that the men who inscribed the biblical texts had widely different language skills, cultural and technological surroundings, worldviews and supernatural beliefs—along with varying objectives.How many church members knew about two different creation stories or three different 10 Commandment sets?
Bible writers adapted earlier stories and laws to their own cultural and religious context, but they couldn’t always reconcile differences among handed-down texts, and often may not have known that alternative versions existed. Later, variants got bundled together. This is why the Bible contains two different creation myths, three sets of Ten Commandments, and four contradictory versions of the Easter story.
The Gospel According to Matthew (not actually authored by Matthew) was written for an audience of Jews. The author was a recruiter for the ancient equivalent of Jews for Jesus. That is why, in the Matthew account, the Last Supper is timed as a Passover meal. By contrast, the Gospel According to John was written to persuade pagan Roman prospects, so the author timed the events differently. This is just one of many explicit contradictions between the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
The contradictions in the Gospel stories—and many other parts of the Bible, are not there because the writers were confused. Quite the opposite. Each writer knew his own goals and audience, and adapted hand-me-down stories or texts to fit, sometimes changing the meaning in the process. The folks who are confused are those who treat the book as if were the audience, as if each verse was a timeless and perfect message sent to them by God. Their yearning for a set of clean answers to life’s messy questions has created a mess.The Bible is a messy book about messy people living messy lives. Is it all wrong? No. Myths, legends and societal stories all contain truths, whether or not the events actually happened. Do all of the parables that Jesus told have to have been actual events or were they stories told to tell a truth more plainly for the people he was speaking to at the time? Can the word of God contain non-factual stories in order to tell a truth?