How to throw away the Bible?

There is nothing wrong with religion by tradition, but religion by absolute faith can be problematic.

Since the New Testament was first canonized sometime in the late fourth century, Christians have been debating with one another on what is divinely inspired and what is not. However, all Christian denominations (including those who are nondenominational) affirm that their version is correct, and when God speaks he does so infallibly. Additionally, most Christians assert that when any biblical inconsistencies are noticed it is because Jesus spoke in parables, and when the Bible is allegorical it is obvious.

Christianity and its ever-growing, varying denominations have long employed the luxury of silencing (or perhaps worse) anyone who opposed biblical doctrine. However, as communication and information become increasingly accessible and free speech has spread, the claims of the Bible have largely emerged as divinely inconsistent.

If there were to be a biblical epicenter of such a debate, the book of Revelation would most likely be the best place to start. Revelation, which was written by some “John” while in exile on the Island of Patmos, has been questioned by multiple Christians such as Martin Luther and countless members of the Eastern Orthodox denomination. Canonization of this book has facilitated the means of disproving biblical absolutism.

John goes into extensive detail in describing the apocalypse, fall of Satan, New Jerusalem and the return of Jesus to save “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). Specific description (such as the New Jerusalem being a perfect square roughly two thirds the land area of the lower 48 States) has led to the realization by religious authorities to discredit such a text. Perhaps the largest liability of Revelation is its clear enjoyment of human persecution for sinful acts as exclaimed by Jesus himself, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters Ö” (Revelation 22:14). It is also defined that punishment for those previously listed, “their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8).

The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are equally shifty, and if there is any conclusion that can be drawn out of this scripture it is that none of them can agree on anything of importance. In Matthew 13:55, the author even gives a telling slip of the genealogy of Jesus, “Isn’t this the Carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” This is largely contradictory to the Catholic belief of the Immaculate Conception stating that not only did Mary give birth as a virgin, but remained one her entire life.

More recently, scholars cannot agree if the Bible even makes a claim of an immaculate conception to begin with. The Hebrew word used to describe Mary, “almah,” simply means young girl. Hence, one of the central tenets of Christian faith could have been fabricated on nothing more than a translation error. Scripture would suggest a similar thesis. When Mary checks up on Jesus to see how his preaching is coming along she seems confused by his actions. She asked, “What can he be doing talking to rabbis in the temple?” and “What is he saying when he says he is on his father’s business.” It seems that she does not remember the visit from the Arch Angel Gabriel or the swarm of angels who told her she was the mother of God. Certainly, we might expect a better maternal memory.

The shortcomings of the Bible are not exclusive to the New Testament. The story of Noah and the creation story are largely incompatible. Genesis makes the claim that God created all the animals that move on the earth and then subsequently made man in his image (Genesis 1:24-29). This does not allow for evolutionary process, as the creation period lasted only six days. One must then assume that the roughly ten million species we see on earth today sought safety on Noah’s ark. God gave Noah seven days to fill the ark with two of every animal both of the land and sky (Genesis 6:9-27). If these two stories are correct Noah (whose sons apparently were born after he was 500 years old) and his family loaded 30 animals a second for seven days straight.

Although it may be banal to suggest the Bible was created by man, mainstream thought still clings on to religion as if it were God’s guide to morality and politics, and as Karl Rove pointed out, these people vote. There is nothing wrong with religion by tradition, but religion by absolute faith can be problematic. It gives rationality to things that would otherwise be irrational and places the problems of this world to be subservient to the afterlife.

In a closed-press event last week, presidential hopeful Barack Obama interestingly commented on the sociological products of poor government in small towns: “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Clearly, such rhetoric is political ammunition for his opponents and Obama later stated, “I didn’t say it as well as I should have.” So is the complication of religious criticism, as there is no gentle way to tell someone their beliefs are based on false premises, or in Obama’s case, to call someone a xenophobe. Obama also mentioned that his comments were being blown out of proportion because he was stating something “everyone already knows.” Christianity is accepted in the public sphere as long as those beliefs are not taken too seriously. Perhaps the thing that is getting in the way of Christianity most is the Bible itself.

Those at St. James’ Street welcomes comments at [email protected]