Dialogue with Steve (re: the Bible)

This dialogue centers on the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular – how is it that we have the documents we now have and can we trust them?  I trust that these documents are what the original authors wrote, that the documents are what they claim to be, that the authors are telling the truth in what they write, and that all the truths bear witness to Jesus Christ as Messiah of Israel and the God of all creation.  (And, yes, there is a sequence and a progression in and through those phrases.)  Steve is challenging my beliefs at various points.

My interaction with Steve (we don’t otherwise know each other) began when he entered into my Dialogue with Rob.  Steve has since commented on other posts on this blog and other posts on my other blogs.  He wrote this particular set of challenges in a response to my post I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point.  I moved them here because they deserve to be answered in a separate setting and don’t really respond to the challenge I was inviting there.

(For a quick background on dialogues that appear on this site, see the post Dialogues.)

Steve:  The New Testament documents are culled from assorted stories and lore edited by men about three centuries after many of the alleged events took place by men you seem to understand may be of dubious motivation and intent.

Mike:  If you can explain how the New Testament documents were “edited by men about three centuries after many of the alleged events took place” please post it at I Invite You to Challenge Me at My Most Vulnerable Point because that is just what I’m looking for there.  As for your statement here, it’s just an assertion I’ve heard people make but I’ve never heard anyone credibly explain how it could have happened. 

I do not claim that church leaders were so pure they could never have done anything like that.  I’m claiming that they would not deem it in their interest to do so, and even if they had, they would lack the ability to pull it off.  In other words, they lacked motive, means, and opportunity to pull off such a caper.  My goal in saying these things is not to exonerate them but rather to exonerate the New Testament

Steve:  Who actually were Mathew, Mark, John and Luke?

Mike:  Matthew was one of the original twelve apostles.  Mark was an associate of Peter, one of the original twelve apostles.  John was one of the original twelve apostles.  Luke was an associate of Paul, a later apostle.

Steve:  Where are their other works and where do other contemporaries identify them as authoritative authors that actually lived, had families, wrote additional narratives (and not mere additional characters crafted for the story to be chronicled)?

Mike:  If they did write other works, those works have not yet been recovered.  Those that wrote are all contemporaries and bear witness of each other.  For example, Matthew bears witness of John and Peter.  Peter bears witness of Paul and Mark.  Paul bears witness of Mark and Peter and John.  And so on.

Steve: Were these men actual eyewitnesses to events depicted in the stories attributed to them?

Mike: Matthew would have been.  Mark could have been for some and probably relied on Peter and others for the rest.  Luke compiled eyewitness accounts for all except the last third of the book of Acts for which he himself was an eyewitness.  John was an eyewitness.

Steve:  Why are there internal inconsistencies regarding certain events?

Mike:  The charge of inconsistencies is often made but examination usually reveals them to be only nonexistent, superficial, or immaterial. 

Steve:  Where are the depictions of Jesus’ childhood?

Mike:  His conception, birth, and infancy are described in Matthew and Luke.  Luke also writes of an event that occurred when Jesus was twelve years old.

Steve:  How many New Testament documents were accepted and canonized from unknown authors?

Mike: The only New Testament document that does not have an author’s name associated with it is Hebrews.  However, it has always been associated with Paul even if only to dispute his authorship.  The most common alternatives to Paul as author are associates of Paul.

Steve: What reason was given by the men on the Council of Nicea for not including some of the other contemporary stories of the day involving some of the same characters as books or letters within the New Testament?

Mike: The biblical canon was not an issue at the Council of Nicea.

Steve: Why isn’t there anything written by Jesus himself, why the short story narrative compilation that reads as an edited work?

Mike: While it’s possible Jesus wrote something (He certainly wrote in the sand once, and He certainly knew how to read), there’s nothing in the New Testament to make us think that He wrote something or that would encourage us to look for something He wrote.  He seemed content to let others bear witness of Him.  As for the second part of your question, I don’t understand it.

Steve:  Why do some Bibles include some books, but other versions leave them out?

Mike:  Bibles worldwide are noteworthy for their similarity.  The core – which constitutes the vast majority of the books – appear in all Bibles.  There are a few additional books which some Christian denomination include that others do not.

Steve:  How come the Christian Old Testament doesn’t count the number of books as the Jews in the Tanakh?

Mike:  The Jewish Tanakh and the Protestant Old Testament have the exact same books, though the order is slightly different (owing to the different keepers of the documents).  The Catholic Old Testament includes some additional books called the Apocrypha (I know you know a lot of this stuff, Steve; I’m just filling in some blanks for readers who might not be as knowledgeable as you.

Steve:  Why don’t the Jews, via the “Men of Great Assembly” originators of the Tanakh, believe in the evolution of claims made of their foundational lore as canonized by the Council of Nicea (yet more men of great assembly)?

Mike:  Steve, I don’t know what you mean by “the evolution of claims made of…”  Also, the Council of Nicea did not deal with canonical issues.

Steve: You would think that such an important event in such close proximity would have universally convinced all humankind immediately.

Mike:  I’m not sure in this context which “important event” you’re speaking of.  In any event, however, God’s looking for faith – not coercion.

Steve: By the way, [you say the New Testament is similar to the Old Testament, but]Islam channels the Old Testament lore and characters as well, so, given your subjective assertions [about your faith in the Bible], shouldn’t you also conclude that the Qur’an is also the word of God.

Mike:  No.  The New Testament appeals to the Old Testament as its authority.  With rare exception, whenever the New Testament is talking about Scripture, it’s talking exclusively about the Old Testament.  The New Testament gives the Old Testament new meaning.  And the Old Testament prophesies of that to which the New Testament testifies.  The Quran may appropriate certain information from the Old and New Testaments but it is not about to defer to them.  (The same can be said of the Book of Mormon.)  

Steve, if I’ve failed to answer any of your questions, or answered inappropriately because I misunderstood the question, please let me know.

26 Replies to “Dialogue with Steve (re: the Bible)”

  1. *I’ve added asterisks to identify additional clarifications as they arise in the course of our assorted tangential discussions that get split off, hope you don’t mind*

    *I must also add that it is making it hard to follow these threads when you keep splintering them off into separate blog entries at your whim*

    I think I see what the problem is, Mike.

    We seem to be talking past each other regarding the usage of the word “falsified”.

    My view is that since it is factual that these documents:

    (1) weren’t written by Jesus

    (2) were written by assorted authors (some very tenuously identified, others not at all)

    (3) depict many fables, co-opted myths, some worthwhile parables (that other cultural heroes were already espousing), etc.

    (4) contain a definite editing process *of dogma, doctrine and internal decrees beginning* some 300 years after the purported events by the political authority of the Council of Nicea *and assorted “church fathers”, other bureaucratic Councils formed in assorted regions (Western and Eastern orthodoxy), right up until the Council of Trent in 1546 (for Roman Catholics).

    (5) excluded some contemporary documents that were not considered by this authority of men of assorted political aspirations and newly formed councils to be credible or authoritative to support the larger narrative they were crafting.

    (6) are reflective of merely a new religious meme, evolved from (and not accepted by) the earlier Jewish authority of men and assorted councils of sage leaders.

    Means that the purported supporting documents depicting such claims are as much a fraud as the authoritative claims found in the Qur’an and in the Book of Mormon who utilize precisely the same appeal to the trustworthiness of their ancestral fathers.

    That the respective religious adherents of each meme do not accept the notion that their own personal texts have about as much evidence supporting the veracity of claims within the narratives as others (namely, none at all) is plainly observed.

    I’ve had similar discussions with my Muslim friend and a Mormon neighbor and, while you probably don’t believe Muhammed received direct divine revelations from the Angel Gabriel or that Joseph Smith encountered the Angel Moroni or any of the contextual history, fable and directives found in the Qur’an and Book of Mormon…they offer up the same elements and appeal to authoritative text of eye witnesses to support their faith over others.

    That each adherent can also somehow support their own assertion, in absolute terms, that the “other” religious memes (complete with similar elements of fable, error, contradictions and moral bankruptcy) are simply frauds or hoaxes while their own passes all of the necessary strict tests for authenticity and veracity, is equally plain to observe.

    It is always a very interesting debate and discussion, and a topic that I thoroughly enjoy experiencing with new people of assorted religious faiths.

    During such explorations I often wonder, why do humans seem to require that such a deity needs to always speak through the hearsay works and writings of other men on the honor system and expect fealty?

    Seems like an awfully flawed methodology for a deity to use to communicate with folk.

    P.S. You should really read some of the Apocrypha and research the assorted versions of the Bibles that include or exclude a number of books dependent upon their denominational theology.

    1. Here are specific responses to the specific points you lay out:

      My view is that since it is factual that these documents:

      (1) weren’t written by Jesus

      I agree that this is factual. However, I don’t agree that it weakens the case, as you imply. Rather, it strengthens the case for me because it demonstrates that Jesus is not bearing witness of Himself. Instead, others are bearing witness of Him. By contrast, Muhammed and Joseph Smith through their respective written works are bearing witness of themselves.

      (2) were written by assorted authors (some very tenuously identified, others not at all)

      What you write here may be technically correct but it implies something negative when actually the case is quite positive. Most of the authors are known and self-attested in the text. The rest while not attested in the text itself have been associated from antiquity with their respective documents. There are a few whose authorship is disputed, but the potential authors are always considered legitimate else the document would not have made the canon. As for their assortedness, that, too, strengthens the case. The more witnesses to a fact, the better.

      (3) depict many fables, co-opted myths, some worthwhile parables (that other cultural heroes were already espousing), etc.

      You’re merely making a subjective judgment.

      (4) contain a definite editing process *of dogma, doctrine and internal decrees beginning* some 300 years after the purported events by the political authority of the Council of Nicea *and assorted “church fathers”, other bureaucratic Councils formed in assorted regions (Western and Eastern orthodoxy), right up until the Council of Trent in 1546 (for Roman Catholics).

      Church councils have only selected or rejected documents. They have never been allowed to edit the documents. Even after all the councils and all the selection/de-selection, Bibles are remarkably similar. When you consider that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations and that all of them have the same core majority of books, the similarity is stunning.

      (5) excluded some contemporary documents that were not considered by this authority of men of assorted political aspirations and newly formed councils to be credible or authoritative to support the larger narrative they were crafting.

      If you have some authentic apostolic documents that you think belong with the twenty-seven, by all means speak up for them.

      (6) are reflective of merely a new religious meme, evolved from (and not accepted by) the earlier Jewish authority of men and assorted councils of sage leaders.

      Sounds like you’ve given your proxy on Jesus to the Jewish leadership of His time. I didn’t know you were so trusting!

      Means that the purported supporting documents depicting such claims are as much a fraud as the authoritative claims found in the Qur’an and in the Book of Mormon who utilize precisely the same appeal to the trustworthiness of their ancestral fathers.

      As I’ve repeatedly demonstrated, witness to the Quran and the Book of Mormon is dramatically weak when compared to the Bible. It’s not the adamance with which followers proclaim their leader’s worthiness that counts – it’s the quality and quantity of witnesses who can step up and I saw this, I heard that.

      1. “I agree that this is factual. However, I don’t agree that it weakens the case, as you imply. Rather, it strengthens the case for me because it demonstrates that Jesus is not bearing witness of Himself. Instead, others are bearing witness of Him. By contrast, Muhammed and Joseph Smith through their respective writte works are bearing witness of themselves.”

        This I find rather odd, Mike.

        You actually assert that there is a higher level of veracity if someone else makes the statement for another and not the original source.

        So, to be clear…of the two methods of testing veracity, you subjectively prefer the filter of another, rather than the direct source?

        Further, in your case, you even prefer the story told by another and selected by even more folks centuries after the alleged event.

        This hearsay methodology is the least trustworthy, in my view, but I understand that you disagree.

        “What you write here may be technically correct but it implies something negative when actually the case is quite positive. Most of the authors are known and self-attested in the text.”

        *Self attested in the text* is the problem as I see it, Mike, and is once again the equivalent of saying the story of the Bible is “true” because the Bible attests that it is true.

        I agree with Rob that this is how you are approaching the issue (albeit from different angles), which is merely circuitous.

        “The rest while not attested in the text itself have been associated from antiquity with their respective documents.”

        But, as I’ve stated before (and Rob has, as well), some documents were included and some were left out during the evolving editorial process by men of dubious intent (which, you’ve certainly recognized by a reading of some of your other posts).

        The fact of the editorial process is the key which you often seem willing to overlook.

        “There are a few whose authorship is disputed, but the potential authors are always considered legitimate else the document would not have made the canon. As for their assortedness, that, too, strengthens the case. The more witnesses to a fact, the better.”

        Again, you have to overlook the intent of those assorted men whose editorializing crafted the “canon” to begin with.

        Arguing from antiquity, number of adherents or validity of stories containing so many elements of fable would secure Hinduism as the most correct of the religions replete with eye witnesses attested within the thousands upon thousands of internally chosen texts themselves.

        It would not, however, make Hinduism a correct depiction of what we now know about life, the universe and everything (up to this point in our explorations)…I’m sure you would agree.

        “You’re making a subjective judgment.”

        Do you agree that the Bible contains fable, co-opted myths and some worthwhile parables?

        I took it from your earlier post regarding the list of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” I provided that you perceived them to be as such, only that you’re able to reconcile them with reality somehow by the use of what you subjectively call “context”.

        “Church councils have only selected or rejected documents.”

        Yes, this is where we may have had some minor misunderstanding.

        The Bible is a compilation of assorted stories, eventually accepted over some other contemporary writings by assorted other authors including the same characters, just as an editor would do to craft a particular theme.

        All of this done over centuries of editions and cast offs by those asserting authority to deem them as such.

        That said, we only have access to the “finished product” that these assorted authors (some known, some unknown) finally wrote down many years after purported events and eventually compiled and “authorized” by others.

        “They have never been allowed to edit the documents. Even after all the councils and all the selection/de-selection, Bibles are remarkably similar. When you consider that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations and that all of them have the same core majority of books, the similarity is stunning.”

        Now see, here is where we disagree as well.

        I find the fact that some of these purportedly accurate depictions required a “selection/de-selection” process **at all** indicates that they are the designs and cravings of humans being edited out of the “canonized” edition that is finally chose to depict the theme.

        It is most notable to me that these supposed authoritative texts have been, in fact, subjectively accepted or rejected.

        This means that there is reason to question not only the veracity of those tales that were included, but the accuracy and even the intentions of those asserting authority during the editorial processes.

        This doesn’t even the address the some 30,000 or so denominations that do not fully agree on very significant interpretive issues and why some accept some books as authoritative, while others do not.

        In short, the fact that there was an obvious editorial process, a de-selection of books, and so many denominations indicates a religious meme subject to evolutionary changes is what we are discussing and not an actual depiction of factual events.

        “If you have some authentic apostolic documents that you think belong with the twenty-seven, by all means speak up for them.”

        That presumes that any of the documents are “apostolic” and I, again, point you to the Apocryphal writings for further insight into these other documents.

        This also brings up an interesting tangent, Mike.

        Since you proclaim the early church fathers as the authority regarding apostolic documents, do you also accept the continued church authority of the Pope?

        Why/why not?

        “Sounds like you’ve given your proxy on Jesus to the Jewish leadership of His time. I didn’t know you were so trusting!”

        While very cute, this completely dodges the issue of the addressing the veracity of claims.

        I do understand why you would choose levity over addressing the rather stark problem that the evolution of the Judaic meme has for the Christian mythology (just as it does for the Islamic and Mormon fables).

        “As I’ve repeatedly demonstrated, witness to the Quran and the Book of Mormon is dramatically weak when compared to the Bible. It’s not the adamance with which followers proclaim their leader’s worthiness that counts – it’s the quality and quantity of witnesses who can step up and I saw this, I heard that.”

        Well, you’ve repeatedly “asserted” such (which is vastly different than “demonstrated”)…but, now who is being subjective!

        ;0)

        I think Rob has already very successfully addressed the issue of “witnesses” and wouldn’t want to venture into the realm of redundancy.

        1. You actually assert that there is a higher level of veracity if someone else makes the statement for another and not the original source.

          Yes, of course! And I’m sure you think the same way I do, even though, for some reason, you’re not applying that way of reasoning to this situation.

          Consider two scenarios. In scenario one, Sam Smithers comes to you and me and says, “I’m a great guy. I help little old ladies cross the street. I’m generous with the poor. I’m always looking for ways to help people.” In scenario two, Walt Weston comes to us and says, “Let me tell you about a guy named Sam Smithers. I’ve seen this guy help little old ladies cross the street. I’ve seen poor people walk up to him and he always pulls out his wallet. He even donates every Saturday morning to help cook in a soup kitchen.” In which scenario do you and I have more confidence that Sam Smithers is a good guy?

          1. “Yes, of course! And I’m sure you think the same way I do, even though, for some reason, you’re not applying that way of reasoning to this situation.”

            It should be apparent by now that I do not think the same way you do, Mike!

            ;0)

            “Consider two scenarios.

            In scenario one, Sam Smithers comes to you and me and says, “I’m a great guy. I help little old ladies cross the street. I’m generous with the poor. I’m always looking for ways to help people.”

            You mean something like Smithers humbly saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”?”

            ;0)

            “In scenario two, Walt Weston comes to us and says, “Let me tell you about a guy named Sam Smithers. I’ve seen this guy help little old ladies cross the street. I’ve seen poor people walk up to him and he always pulls out his wallet. He even donates every Saturday morning to help cook in a soup kitchen.”

            In which scenario do you and I have more confidence that Sam Smithers is a good guy?”

            Neither, as I said before, we would only know based upon our own direct experience of it.

            But to continue the analogies to their logical conclusion:

            Using both scenarios, it is alleged that Jesus said certain things regarding his connection to divinity and great power (according to Weston), so I am still more dubious about the notion of finding hearsay statements as more credible than statements directly from the source.

            Further, in the case of Christianity, we don’t even know much about the credibility of Weston other than the assertion that Jake Schmidt (whom we also don’t know) says that he has a document possibly written by Weston who talks about how great Smithers was to the poor.

            Thing is, we also have the descendants of those in the same town that Jake says Weston was talking about, all saying that the story about Smithers isn’t accurate at all and that the good guy that the wise men talking about hasn’t arrived yet.

            All with even more purported supporting documents.

            All of that said, I really can’t see how “hearsay” is more reliant or even more convincing than “source”, Mike…especially from a god.

            I don’t think you would ordinarily use such a model in real life with real people.

            Then again, that brings us right back to an earlier post of mine where I find it interesting that a deity would choose the obviously flawed methodology of relying on such editorialized hearsay evidence that has been open to human tampering, error and the dubious intent/motives of those asserting their own power to discern authoritative meaning from a tale they compiled to begin with.

            This, in addition to the obvious fables and tales of the supernatural, place Christianity on par with all other religious claims as asserted by their respective authority figures.

            I’m sure that if a deity does actually exist and she values reason and rational thought, she would understand why the sacred texts and blogs of men need not be trusted on faith alone.

            1. You mean something like Smithers humbly saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”?”

              Yes, this is quite the point! Once I’ve heard Sam that, I expect Walt to tell me Sam’s cuckoo…unless…

              Neither, as I said before, we would only know based upon our own direct experience of it.

              Are you telling me that you reject all information coming to you about a person unless it’s coming directly from the person?

              Using both scenarios, it is alleged that Jesus said certain things regarding his connection to divinity and great power (according to Weston), so I am still more dubious about the notion of finding hearsay statements as more credible than statements directly from the source.

              We have the statements of Smithers and Weston, as well as others, confirmed by multiple neigbors from their ‘hood.

              Thing is, we also have the descendants of those in the same town that Jake says Weston was talking about, all saying that the story about Smithers isn’t accurate at all and that the good guy that the wise men talking about hasn’t arrived yet.

              Yes, that’s quite right. This means we have a choice to make. One of the things we’ll have to consider regarding each group is what did each have to gain or lose by telling the truth? Another question we’ll have to ask it did one group have more access to information than the other?

              All of that said, I really can’t see how “hearsay” is more reliant or even more convincing than “source”, Mike…especially from a god.

              If all Walt has to report is that he heard Jake say that Smithers said “Blah, blah, blah,” then all we have is hearsay. But Walt is saying that he himself heard Smithers say these things. And there’s quite a number of neighbors who are backing him up.

              I don’t think you would ordinarily use such a model in real life with real people.

              On the contrary, this is exactly the model I use every day…and I have to believe you use it, too. For some reason, you are using a different reasoning process when it comes to Jesus and the Bible than what you use in everyday life.

        2. *Self attested in the text* is the problem as I see it, Mike, and is once again the equivalent of saying the story of the Bible is “true” because the Bible attests that it is true.

          Actually, it’s not equivalent. The Bible is not a book; it’s a collection of documents. Therefore, I don’t say the Bible is a witness of itself, I say things like Peter bears witness to Paul, John bears witness to Peter, Jesus bears witness to Isaiah, Malachi bears witness to John the Baptist, and on and on. If the Bible were one book written by one person who said he was telling the truth, then, yes, it would be circular to say that the Bible is true because it says it’s true…but the Bible is not one book written by one person.

        3. The fact of the editorial process is the key which you often seem willing to overlook.

          Churches all over the Mediterranean world recognized certain books as having been associated with the Bible. Even if they had wanted to edit them – which they didn’t – they would not have been able to do so because the documents had been copied so frequently and distributed so widely.

          How could we count on the church to cling the right books? Church leaders wouldn’t all be saints, true. However, the righteous ones would have wanted to select on the apostolic books because that was the right thing to do. The power-hungry ones would have wanted to select the apostolic books because doing so would bring them favor with the people (where there was already a consensus about which books were apostolic) and reinforce their authority (as in “We have selected the apostles’ writings because we are their successors). Therefore, the two kinds of leaders would have different motives but want the same thing: apostolic documents to add to the Tanakh.

        4. Arguing from antiquity, number of adherents or validity of stories containing so many elements of fable would secure Hinduism as the most correct of the religions replete with eye witnesses attested within the thousands upon thousands of internally chosen texts themselves.

          I acknowledge that Hinduism is quite old, but I am unaware of any parallel to the Jewish Messiah prophecies and fulfillment (that is, scores, if not hundreds, of prophecies made over multiple generations and centuries all describing the life of a single individual who ultimately validated those prophecies with a dramatic life, death, and resurrection). Does this accurately describe Hinduism?

        5. Do you agree that the Bible contains fable, co-opted myths and some worthwhile parables? I took it from your earlier post regarding the list of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” I provided that you perceived them to be as such, only that you’re able to reconcile them with reality somehow by the use of what you subjectively call “context.”

          We last spoke on that subject here. I thought we weren’t going to bring that topic up again until one of us had something new to offer to the other. Nevetheless, I have conceded to you that if I were see some of these accounts completely isolated for their contexts I might think they were fable. That is a far cry from saying that I think the Bible contains fables.

        6. This doesn’t even the address the some 30,000 or so denominations that do not fully agree on very significant interpretive issues and why some accept some books as authoritative, while others do not.

          Yes, they readily disagree on all sorts of things. This makes the similarity of Bibles today all the more noteworthy. The only possible explanation is that the documents selected were deemed authentic and no one wants to change that.

        7. In short, the fact that there was an obvious editorial process, a de-selection of books, and so many denominations indicates a religious meme subject to evolutionary changes is what we are discussing and not an actual depiction of factual events.

          I’m fascinated by your repeated references to the “editorial process” but find it difficult to understand exactly what you think was taking place. I think you’ve said that they weren’t changing the contents of any of the individual Bible books (with which I agree) and that they only ratified which books would be included and which would not (with which I also agree). What I don’t understand is why you think any of this is relevant if you don’t think any of the books written were authentic (that is, apostolic).

        8. Since you proclaim the early church fathers as the authority regarding apostolic documents, do you also accept the continued church authority of the Pope? Why/why not?

          I thought I’d been clear that I don’t proclaim the early church fathers as the authority regarding apostolic documents. They were merely acknowledging the widespread consensus of churches all around the Mediterranean about which documents were apostolic (Ephesus had it letter, Corinth had its letters, Galatia’s cities had its letters, and so on; plus there were copies of these letters circulated to all the other churches). Every little hamlet that had hosted an apostle was declaring “George Washinton slept here!” Any church leader wanting to stay in power knew which way the wind was blowing.

          As for apostolic succession, that was the Lord in His kingdom.

        9. I do understand why you would choose levity over addressing the rather stark problem that the evolution of the Judaic meme has for the Christian mythology (just as it does for the Islamic and Mormon fables).

          Could you unravel this for me? I’m not getting your point. My original response was to your seeming contention that we should not believe Jesus was the Messiah because the Jewish leadership of His time did not believe it. I was surprised, and still am, that you would seem to trust their judgment. Have I misunderstood you on this point?

    2. That each adherent can also somehow support their own assertion, in absolute terms, that the “other” religious memes (complete with similar elements of fable, error, contradictions and moral bankruptcy) are simply frauds or hoaxes while their own passes all of the necessary strict tests for authenticity and veracity, is equally plain to observe.

      Please tell me why you fail to acknowledge that one person testifying to himself in one century (Muhammed in the 7th and Joseph Smith in the 19th) is markedly different than many people across many centuries testifying to one person? (Note that I am not asking you in this statement why you don’t believe Jesus instead of them; rather, I’m merely asking why you can’t acknowledge that the nature of the testimony is dramatically different.)

    3. P.S. You should really read some of the Apocrypha and research the assorted versions of the Bibles that include or exclude a number of books dependent upon their denominational theology.

      What is it you think I will gain in either case from doing this more than I already have?

      1. The investigation and questioning of the authenticity and veracity of claims as related to the editorial processes (selection/de-selection of contemporary stories) that produced a finished product.

        1. This is another statement you’re going to have to unpack for me, Steve. I can’t follow what you’re after. I’m familiar with the Apocrypha and its issues as well as the slight additions of the Eastern Orthodox church. What is that these two phenomena have taught you that you’re wanting me to learn?

  2. *I must also add that it is making it hard to follow these threads when you keep splintering them off into separate blog entries at your whim*

    I assure you that I have not acted on whim in trying to manage the conversation(s). On the contrary, I’ve erred on the side of restraint and only broken off conversations whcn I saw an obvious seam. As a result, I’m afraid that a vistor still sees large amorphous posts, which could discourage all but the most patient and determined readers from diving in.

    I feel my responsibility is first to you, Rob, and others with whom I’m having the dialogue. In a close second place, however, are the readers. I keep trying to think of ways to have the content so organized that visitors now or later will be able to locate digestible parcels of content that are relevant to each of their varied interests. Having said all this, I am sure you, Rob, and others could probably do a better job of blog site and content management than I am, or at the very least would do it differently.

    I appreciate the feedback on the point and will be even more sensitive about the issue going forward.

  3. “On the contrary, I’ve erred on the side of restraint and only broken off conversations whcn I saw an obvious seam.”

    Why break off conversations at all, though?

    That said, I do appreciate the consideration.

  4. “Actually, it’s not equivalent. The Bible is not a book; it’s a collection of documents. Therefore, I don’t say the Bible is a witness of itself, I say things like Peter bears witness to Paul, John bears witness to Peter, Jesus bears witness to Isaiah, Malachi bears witness to John the Baptist, and on and on. If the Bible were one book written by one person who said he was telling the truth, then, yes, it would be circular to say that the Bible is true because it says it’s true. But the Bible is not one book written by one person.”

    Mike, the book of stories was collected with specific intent, they even co-opted the works of the Tanakh to further assert an authoritative foundation.

    You’ve also recognized the fact that some books were selected/de-selected to meet the theme of those asserting authoritative interpretation into one compiled “Book” called “The Bible”, while other contemporary writings were cut from it.

    While we seem to be going over it again, the notion that books/documents are collected while others are not seems to be direct evidence that the compilation was crafted by these editors to meet their needs…which you’ve also accepted is subject to the questionable desires of men of power.

    Note that I am asserting a common evolutionary religious meme being born, fueled and transitioning just as many have done…and not some vast conspiracy over hundreds of years.

    Now, to say that this book or **even** an intentional compilation of chosen books **into** one book (the Bible) “self-attests”, therefore it is true, is what I am referring to you as being circuitous and is, once again, the equivalent of you saying the story of the Bible is “true” because the Bible attests that it is true.

    In my view, we can test the veracity of *some* of the claims regarding the natural world that the stories of the Bible assert (not the supernatural claims that, in any religion, cannot ever by tested or falsified due to how they are presented) by noting that serpents do not talk, women are not derived from rib bones, men cannot live in the belly of a large fish for three days, two of every animal species on earth cannot exist on a boat for forty days and nights, women cannot be turned into pillars of salt, men cannot be raised from the dead (and by dead, I mean dead, not “near death”), a burning bush cannot speak, trees cannot speak, donkeys cannot speak, etc. unless we resort to an argument from magic.

    Which, as we’ve discussed before, is what this particular compilation contains in great measure.

    Further, modern geology refutes flood geology, just as biblical notions of the fixed earth (where the sun rotates around it) were finally rejected by heliocentrism and Galileo Galilei who was accused of heresy by the purportedly sage “church fathers” of his day (that you would so easily assign blanket trust).

  5. Mike, the book of stories was collected with specific intent, they even co-opted the works of the Tanakh to further assert an authoritative foundation.

    Church leaders had nothing to do with selecting the Tanakh. The New Testament writers were completely dependent on the Tanakh (i.e. the Old Testament), quoting it as authority over and over and over. In fact, the New Testament would be unable to exist as a standalone collection of documents for it is as dependent on the Tanakh for its life as the Bill of Rights is dependent on the Constitution.

    You’ve also recognized the fact that some books were selected/de-selected to meet the theme of those asserting authoritative interpretation into one compiled “Book” called “The Bible”, while other contemporary writings were cut from it.

    The only criterion for inclusion was “Did it come from the apostles?” That’s the reason we have no apostolic documents that aren’t in the New Testament.

    While we seem to be going over it again, the notion that books/documents are collected while others are not seems to be direct evidence that the compilation was crafted by these editors to meet their needs…which you’ve also accepted is subject to the questionable desires of men of power.

    Church leaders and councils were mere librarians. And three-fourth’s of the library was already established before they came on the scene. All they were given the opportunity to do was to select from books that the patrons already considered authentic (that is, coming from the apostles). As I’ve said before, if a church leader was righteous, he only wanted to allow apostolic books into the library because they were the eyewitnesses to Christ. If a church leader was unrighteous, he only wanted to allow apostolic books into the library because it increased his prestige to be associated with them. The net effect was that only apostolic books got in. If there were any apostolic books that should have gotten in but didn’t, then we can always read them when they arise because church leaders won’t be able to stop us.

    For some reason, you seem obsessed with role of librarians. There’s really very little impact they can have. It’s the authors of books who change the world.

    1. For some reason, you seem obsessed with role of librarians. There’s really very little impact they can have. It’s the authors of books who change the world.

      To be more accurate, I think you should change the word “librarians” to “publishers”. They are the ones who decide whether or not to publish Harry Potter or not. And hopefully you realize that they *do* have a huge impact on what gets read. Maybe the internet is changing that, but at least in the past, their role as filters was vitally important.

      1. Actually, “publishers” would be less accurate. You are quite right that Harry Potter would not be a phenomenon without publishers, for publishers are the means by which readers receive Harry Potter books. However, church leaders and councils were not the means by which churches around the Mediterranean came into possession of the New Testament documents. Those documents were written by the apostles and copied in all the cities to which they were sent. Thus church leaders knew that the churches had all these documents, but had nothing to do with getting the documents to the churches. If there is a more apt analogy for church leaders and councils than librarians it would be the New York Times Best-Seller List. That is, church leaders and councils (like the New York Times) could only ratify writings that were already distributed, read, and popular.

        Check your history and see that no church leaders or councils ever introduced new documents to the churches.

  6. “Mike, the book of stories was collected with specific intent, they even co-opted the works of the Tanakh to further assert an authoritative foundation.”

    This is:
    1. A conspiracy theory
    2. An unsupported assertion

    Making a claim that is not supported by any facts and then expecting others to accept that claim as true simply because you say it’s true is a kind of intellectual bullying.

    “the notion that books/documents are collected while others are not seems to be direct evidence that the compilation was crafted by these editors to meet their needs…”

    Ahh… no, from the fact that some books were selected while others were not it does not follow that the reason for that preferential selection is a desire to express authority and power. That you can imagine no other reason “speaks volumes”.

    “I am asserting a common evolutionary religious meme being born”

    Memes are complete nonsense with no philosophical justification. Ideas (memes) do not have a separate ontology (being born) from the minds of those who hold those ideas. The belief that ideas have an independent ontology from the people who hold them is a form of Idealism.

    “In my view, we can test the veracity of *some* of the claims regarding the natural world that the stories of the Bible assert [list of literal interpretations of events in the Bible] unless we resort to an argument from magic”

    Ah.. I see, you’re a fundamentalist. You believe that the only valid way to approach a text is that we must interpret it literally. That if the Bible is not literally true it must be false. This is a very childish and immature attitude that asserts an authoritarian conception of truth as Either/Or. You should read some Kierkegaard, if for no other reason than to challenge your authoritarianism.

  7. Where are the depictions of Jesus’ childhood?

    Well, there is one of the points that actually shows that people that actually followed Jesus around wrote the stories. They met him as an adult and knew very little of his infancy. Luke is the only one that goes further back and it has been shown that as a doctor and scholar, he interviewed Mary and others for his facts.

    Also consider the fact that most of the NT was written within a century of the happenings, while all kinds of “Reliable” historical documents relating to Alexander the Great, and the Roman Emperors were written at least 3 centuries later!

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