About Me & Website

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Steven DiMatteiWelcome to ContradictionsintheBible.com! I am a biblical scholar and author. And although formally trained in the New Testament and early Christianity (Ph.D.), I have  become increasingly interested in the compositional history of the Hebrew Bible, especially the Pentateuch, for going on a decade now. In January 2013 I started posting 1 contradiction a day, with the aim of working through the entire Bible! I have unfortunately lost that habit, and to date have merely gone through 4 books of the Bible and am presently posting contradictions for the book of Numbers.

Despite its provocative and even misleading title, “Contradictions in the Bible” is a website devoted to bringing biblical scholarship to the public, what experts in the field now know about the Bible’s various textual traditions, the historical and literary contexts that produced these texts, how they came to be assembled together, and even the competing aims and agendas of their diverse authors. Thus, this website’s primary aim is to reclaim the topic of Bible Contradictions for its proper field of study—biblical scholarship. In other words, biblical scholars have known and written about the Bible’s Contradictions for centuries now—what has traditionally been labeled as source-critical scholarship, that is the study of the Bible’s numerous, and often competing, textual traditions! 

Yet ironically, and most unfortunately, Contradictions in the Bible is a topic generally and almost exclusively treated in the public arena by two opposing camps, both of whom are non-experts in the field: Atheists and Christian apologists. While atheists are generally correct in claiming that the Bible does in fact contain numerous contradictions, from minute differences in narrative details to competing theological and ideological agendas, they often present these contradictions in a shallow and belittling manner—an empty list devoid of substance with little to no real knowledge of the texts themselves, their authors, audiences, and the historical and literary circumstances that produced them. The internet is full of such lists. Although often impressionable, these lists do little to foster a conversation about the Bible’s texts, nor do they help remedy the increasingly systemic problem of biblical illiteracy currently sweeping across our country.

On the other side of this public debate are the Christian apologists. In general, they perceive their mission as one of “defending” the Bible. But what this often boils down to is defending a particular belief about the Bible or more generally what the label “the Holy Bible” has come to mean or imply on a personal and/or communal level to these individuals. In other words, they seek to defend the ideas inherent in a label that by its very nature imposes its own interpretive framework and theological understanding onto this collection of ancient texts based on the beliefs and perceptions of a reading community that lived centuries after these texts were written. This is a far cry from actually knowing, understanding, and even defending the actual beliefs and competing messages of the individual authors of the Bible’s once independent texts. In the apologist’s paradigm, the meaning of these texts are now carried by this collection’s title or what is implied in that title, “the Holy Book,” and not by the competing messages, agendas, and belief systems of its various authors. The old adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is no where more true than when it comes to speaking about the Bible. Its cover, “the Holy Bible,” functions to prescribe a centuries-later understanding of these texts, and often at the expense of understanding the texts themselves and on the terms of their once individual authors and the historical and literary contexts to which they originally belonged. Like the Atheist’s position, then, the Christian apologist’s position also does little to further a conversation about the texts of the Bible themselves, their messages, and the competing beliefs and worldviews of their authors. Rather, apologists merely succeed in fueling more biblical illiteracy and misconceptions about these ancient texts by imposing upon them the beliefs and concepts implied in this collection of ancient literature’s title, “the Holy Book.”

Contrary to these two opposing camps of non-experts, biblical scholars have long known that the Bible is a vast collection of differing and at times competing textual traditions, stories, belief systems, and ideologies—for well over a century now! Indeed, in most cases we even know why this is and how it came about. Unfortunately, and for various reasons, this knowledge has been slow to reach the public. This site, then, is dedicated to bringing this scholarship to the public in a forum that should be both thought provoking and educational. Nearly all of the contradictions posted on this website are the byproduct of a lengthy editorial process that brought together Israel’s conflicting textual traditions, differing versions of the same story, and competing theologies, ideologies, and even views about sacrifice, God, salvation, the priesthood, the monarchy, and so on and so on. After all, our number 1 witness to these contradictions is the biblical text itself, despite the ideas of single-divine authorship and a homogeneous narrative brought to and imposed upon this collection of texts by its centuries-later label, “the Holy Book.” In other words, the claim that the Bible contains competing ideologies and belief systems, contradictory versions of the same stories, and even competing versions of “history” is a claim that the biblical texts themselves make! Our goal, then, is not to harmonize these differences and competing voices away so that the Bible substantiates our 21st century views and beliefs, but rather to listen to these competing voices and understand them on their own terms—not the terms and views of later readers.                                                                   –Dr. Steven DiMattei

In light of my forthcoming book, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs, which addresses some of these issues in its Conclusion, I have posted more about this in these recent entries:  

Being Honest to the Bible’s Texts, Their Authors, and Their Beliefs (Part 1)

Being Honest to the Texts of the Bible (Part 2a)

Being Honest to the Texts of the Bible (Part 2b)

58 thoughts on “About Me & Website

  1. I live in Holland and appreciate your site very much. I’m an exJW and remain interested in the bible as a book. The books about the bible that I like are from authors who don’t have an ax to grind and present the material without bias. The greatest mistake some make is the assumption that the bible was written for this day and age, nobody writes a letter or book thinking it is for someone who lives 2000 years later. Your comments give insight in the relevance of the bible at the time it was written and shows the bible to be a book not only about religion but also for ancient politics. I look forward to your coming comments.

    Robert Sinnige.

  2. Robert, thanks for your comment and support.

    You are not alone here. Going over my comment history, it’s clear that my largest readership are de-converts, including ex-JWs. Many of them have expressed the same or similar opinion as yourself, and I take it from their comments that they are now appreciating this website’s attempt to engage with these ancient texts in an unbiased (as much as possible) and historically contextualized manner. On the other hand, I realize the personal investment that a Fundamentalist or what have you might have in these texts, especially as seen through the interpretive framework dictated by the label “the Holy Book.” The meaning and indeed justification of these individual’s lives are truly wrapped up in—not the texts per se I would argue—but a subjective interpretive understanding of what is implied in this collection of literature’s label. And on some psychological level I understand and even sympathize with that. But as you rightly note, these texts were not written for us, and the meaning that modern readers draw out from these texts are a subjective one shaped by that which is implied in their understanding of “the Holy Book.” Part of this website’s project is to give these ancient texts, with their out-dated worldviews and ideologies, back to their authors. The modern Christian reader (some) who feels a powerful subjective attachment—again not to the specific archaic beliefs and worldviews represented in this collection of competing texts, but—to the idea of what this collection is or what they have been told it is as prescribed by a later interpretive tradition. But the fact is that no matter how “real” this religious subjective experience is, it is not dependent on the contents of these ancient texts but on a (mis)perception of these texts. And that understanding can be transferred to speak of the same relationship that a Muslim has toward the “Holy Quran,” etc.

    I too very much appreciate my de-convert readership, many of whom still believe in God in some form or another, but who have also grown aware that the Bible’s texts are not what they were conditioned to think they were. In this respect many of these readers find comfort in unbiased historically sensitive biblical research such as this site attempts to offer.

  3. I’m a former Christian, and I definitely fell into the category of atheists who, as you describe above, remember snippets of contradictory texts without understanding the whole context. I appreciate the insights that you’ve supplied on this site. Especially in the past year I’ve drifted more toward your mindset, that religious texts are more nuanced and sophisticated than their detractors make them out to be.

    I’ve been reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: the First 3000 Years. Very solid book for informing the reader of the political and philosophical forces at work in the formation of the modern Bible(s). However, I’m looking for something that focuses more on the Old Testament’s formation, and its influences from other ancient religions. Any recommendations?

    Thanks as always for your work and insights.

  4. Kestrel, Hi. There are a couple of books that come to mind. Although I have not sat down and read through its entirety, David Carr’s The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (2011) is bound to be excellent, with a fair and balanced treatment. I’m quite familiar with his earlier work on the formation and compositional history of Genesis, Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches (1996). If Michael Coogan has anything related to your topic, that too would be a good source. Unfortunately there are few books that deal with the Hebrew Bible’s formation vis-a-vis other ancient religious influences. Specific scholarly literature exists, such as the work of Weinfeld (Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School) on Deuteronomy and the modeling of its covenant code after Assyrian vassal treaties—very informative. Also Baruch Halpern’s David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, and King, treats some parallels between how biblical scribes crafted the image of David through the influence of Assyrian royal propagandist portraits of Tiglath-Pileser. And lastly, Van der Toorn’s Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (2007) situates the making of the Hebrew Bible and the literary conventions employed by biblical scribes within the context of other Ancient Near Eastern texts.
    — Good reading!

  5. Hello Dr. Mattei:

    I have come out of main stream Bibliolatry for about (2) years now. I wish they had not taught scripture as history when I was a kid! Now days, I tend to write about my journey through religion and its concepts for therapeutic reasons.

    Question; I have been researching the origins of Hell, Hades, Gehenna etc…I think I am on track concerning the “Valley of Hinnom.” Additionally, I wrote a few sentences about the appeasement of Slavery, and “the Christ” fervently stating he would return within the life time of his peers. Do you see any major inconsistencies in my text below?

    Just a cursory glance of the KJV bible along with research data obtained on any “technically credible” research site would reveal the most unpopular truths in theology – “the-Christ,” Jesus, believed the end of the world would come in his life time ( Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). Additionally God (Yahweh) not only condoned slavery, but, he spelled out how it was to be implemented (cf. Leviticus 25:45, Joel 3:8, Colossians 3:22).

    The fear of hell fire is but a myth as well. According to Wayne Blank, of the “Daily Bible Study,” the Hebrew name “Hinnom” when translated into Greek is “Gehenna,” from which the word and concept of hell. ( Blank,nd.) http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/roadsign.htm)

    “Sheol, Hades and Ghenna” are all ancient euphemisms for hell. Hades is nothing more that the Greek god of the underworld, while Ghenna (the Valley of Hinnom), was a historical trash dump outside the city walls of Jerusalem where deformed infants (deemed cursed) were discarded and burned in pagan rituals. Hell, even the word “Amen,” commonly used in prayer has its origin in ancient Egyptian mythology– etymologically the term comes from “Amun or Amon-Ra,” an ancient Egyptian deity!

    Lance

  6. lhassell Ghenna (the Valley of Hinnom), was a historical trash dump outside the city walls of Jerusalem …

    This claim is made often, but do you have any ancient sources which say this? By contrast, the Hebrew Bible claims that the Valley of Hinnom was a place where child sacrifice took place (not just of “deformed infants”), which nicely explains the connection between “hell,” fire, and Gehenna. See e.g. Jeremiah 7:30-32, 2 Chron. 28:3.

    lhassellHell, even the word “Amen,” commonly used in prayer has its origin in ancient Egyptian mythology– etymologically the term comes from “Amun or Amon-Ra,” an ancient Egyptian deity!

    The word “amen” seems to be related to the Hebrew word for agreement , ‘aman. “Amen” means that you agree with something. See . Is there a reason why the Egyptian-deity explanation is to be preferred?

  7. I agree with John Kesler — the common explanation of Hinnom as a place where the bodies of animals and criminals were burned (I’ve never heard of your alternate suggestion of deformed infants) doesn’t seem to have any remotely contemporary documentation. I don’t think there is reliable evidence that trash was burned there, either. But yes, there is evidence for child sacrifice having been performed there at one time. Which children were sacrificed there? Could it be that parents were giving children to be sacrificed who were disabled or not long for this world? From a certain standpoint it would make sense. So I’m not disagreeing with your total statement about Hinnom, lhassell, just pointing out that you have conflated an idea that is lacking evidence (the trash burning), with a thing that there is historical evidence for (child sacrifice).

    I’m afraid you simplified the story of “hell” a bit, though. One of the things Dr. DiMattei likes to point out here is that there is no one “story” in the Bible, but rather a competing selection of writings. True, some of the writings were selected for the canon precisely because they agreed with the other writings. The stranger candidates for the canon became apocrypha or were rejected entirely. But within these canonical books there are still many statements which conflict, and which once made the Church fathers rather uncomfortable and provoked debate.

    The depiction of afterlife in the Bible varies dramatically from place to place. If you listen to the writer of the Garden of Eden story, or of Ecclesiastes, then death is a state of non-being. We go back to the ground and permanently cease to exist. Other books hint that the dead are living underground in Sheol, or at least the aboriginal people of Canaan, the Rephaim, are. By the time of the NT’s writing, Jews were using the Greek word “hades” to relate this concept. Then, too, we see Lazarus being used in Jesus’ parable where a rich man is suffering in torment after he dies. Some see this story as symbolic and others see it as proof of hellfire, but it’s really too brief to learn very much from.

    The “amen” to “Amun” connection is one of those infamous folk etymologies. There’s a lot of those things doggedly hanging about on the Internet, unfortunately. Any philologist can explain to you why the approach of “this word must be connected to that word because it seems like that other word” does not hold water from the standpoint of linguistic evolution and cultural migration. Anyway, maybe Dr. DiMattei will weigh in on some of this too, but welcome to the commenting section, lhassell!

  8. Yes, I’ll weigh in a bit here, but I think John and KW have done a nice job. Indeed half a decade removed from New Testament studies I feel like I no longer have a foot in that game!

    Bypassing the whole Hinnom discussion, I’m more interested when the concept of or belief in heaven/hell emerged and why. Perhaps this is what you were inferring as well. And this happens long before hell is associated with Hinnom or Gehenna.

    When we look at the oldest textual traditions in the Hebrew Bible, texts written from the 9th to 5th centuries BCE, for example, no such idea and no such belief in heaven or hell existed. Scholars have often noted that there is no soteriology, that is a salvation theology present in all of the Torah! So at this stage in the game, the biblical writers display no ideas of a post-mortem reanimated life in heaven or hell. The belief, in other words, was not yet created!

    When we get to the book of Deuteronomy, especially its post-exilic layers, salvation is often defined in this-worldly terms. The blessings and curses at the end of Deuteronomy (28-29) express the idea that a blessed life is living prosperously on the land void of any threat from Israel’s neighboring superpowers, and this comes, theologically speaking, by obeying Yahweh’s commandments. In other words, the reward for following God’s commandments is a this-worldly reward. After living this blessed life, one simply dies or passes to Sheol, to be understood comparably to the Greek Hades of even Elysium fields rather than later ideas of hell. Conversely, heaven in this early theology is the abode of Yahweh, period. Similarly, the curses that accrue as a result of disobeying Yahweh’s commandments are envisioned in this-worldly terms—loss of land and exile, which were most likely the historical condition experienced by the writers of these passages. There is no other-worldly or afterlife of heavenly rewards or hell-fire punishment envisioned here. We might even speculate that such an idea would have been an abomination to these writers and to the god that they envisioned in their texts!

    When we get to the 2nd century, new historical concerns and religious beliefs emerge. Again, this is attested by the literature produced from this century and its historical crisis, particularly the book of Daniel, Maccabees, Enoch, and other intertestamental literature. It is not a coincidence, then, that the only passage from the Hebrew canon that speaks of a post-mortem existence (again besides the shades in Sheol which we are never really given any descriptives about) is Daniel 12:2, written circa 163 BCE, where it is said that those who “sleep in the dust of the earth” shall awake either to everlasting life or eternal shame.

    So along with a handful of other biblical scholars, I would press this point: that the belief in a heavenly award or punishment in hell as some form of afterlife only emerges, is only created, at a specific historical point, and furthermore it would seem in response to a specific historical crisis, which the older OT theology did not have an answer to—namely the suffering of Yahweh’s righteous ones or servants, referred to in this literature as martyrs. The older Deuteronomic theology was empirical in nature—if you were suffering, then obviously you have sinned against Yahweh (the position of Job’s friends); suffering, exile, loss of land, offspring, or prosperity was the proof of this itself! According to this theology, you don’t end up in exile by being good!

    When Daniel was written, and roughly speaking Job too, a new theology needed to be created, or an old one reenvisioned, which specifically set out to vindicate Yahweh’s martyrs or his righteous ones who did indeed uphold and obey Yahweh’s commandments but who nevertheless, because of the historical persecution under Antichos IV, never received their “blessed” life as Deuteronomy foretold. Indeed, according to their present circumstance—being persecuted and executed—this older theology implied that they, or their forefathers, have sinned against Yahweh—a theological reasoning that still exists in Daniel along side this new one.

    But now, according to this new salvation theology Yahweh’s righteous sufferers are to be vindicated and receive their blessings, but not in this world where they are unjustly persecuted, but in an afterlife. Conversely the same holds for the opposite belief in hell, which in some intertestmental literature was merely the absence of a reanimated raised from the dead life in . . . well an earthly afterlife was what is envisioned in the majority of these texts. Similarly, the vindication of those who uphold Yahweh’s commandments in a reanimated afterlife is a belief that was then transferred to the martyrs in the name of Christ of whom the author of the book of Revelation spoke.

    I have a long way to go before I get to the contradictions in the New Testament, but with relevance to what Jesus believed I think we have to draw more on what were the beliefs held by the majority of Palestinian Jews of the 1st century. With specific reference to the belief that the end would come in Jesus’ time, I see these verses as more representative of the beliefs of the authors and communities for whom these verses were written. It was Matthew’s community for example that believed Jesus would return before they died. . . ditto for Paul. Thus this belief was placed into Jesus’ mouth.

    Additionally, such beliefs have further progressed and mutated from what they were in the New Testament. For Paul, and possibly also Matthew, the fact that Jesus had been resurrected (at least according to Paul’s perspective) served as a sign that The (note capital T) Resurrection had begun! Christ’s resurrection was the first, and it was to be followed by the imminent resurrection of all the righteous—thus, why Paul expected to see Christ’s parousia in his own lifetime: The Resurrection had begun! And here we must acknowledge that Paul was drawing from Jewish traditions best preserved in the intertestamental literature. So modern Christians who believe that they will go to heaven when they die (or hell as the case may be) have, like our author of Daniel, created a new theology to respond to . . . well a problem that starts to emerge in the patristic literature of the 2nd and 3rd centuries—namely, the fact that The Resurrection didn’t happen! Paul, however, believed that he was among those of his generation that would not die, that is Jesus’ return and the continuation of The Resurrection sequence was to come in his own lifetime, and those still alive, their bodies would simply be transformed. Adopting Paul’s theological beliefs, we would have to say that accordingly those who have died over the last 2,000 years are still buried in the ground awaiting Jesus’ return and the continuation of The Resurrection! You can see why a new theological belief system needed to be created, even as early as the 2nd century, to diffuse this scenario. In short, what many Christians today believe is actually a version of a Greek idea—the immortality of the soul—and not the Jewish/early Christian belief in the resurrection from the dead at The Resurrection.

  9. What do you make of Saul’s attempt to summon the spirit of Samuel? Does that reflect a belief in some form of life after death, or is it more a warning to stay away from diviners?

  10. Robert M, I think that the text has to be taken at face value, and it indicates that Samuel actually was summoned and predicted Saul’s demise. You may be interested in an article by Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky Overton, located at http://tinyurl.com/friedmanafterlife. As the article points out, both textual and archaeological evidence indicates that Israel believed in an afterlife. The authors point out that Deuteronomy 26:14 prohibits only tithed food from being offered to the dead, which may indicate a toleration of offerings to the dead in popular Israelite religion. As we know from entries at this Web site, the priestly caste claimed that it was the only legitimate conduit to the divine–no dreams, prophets, talking animals, etc. appear in P–and this neatly explains why P and parts of D (written by Levites) prohibit necromancy or other methods that circumvent priests in an attempt to reach Yahweh. The efficacy of such practices is never refuted, and there are no polemics against pagan religion just for the belief in an afterlife.

  11. That is a fascinating passage, isn’t it? Note that Samuel seems to be described as coming up from the earth. This could indicate that he was resting among the dead who are known as the Rephaim in the OT. See the Bible encyclopedia entries for the word here: http://biblehub.com/topical/r/rephaim.htm. You’ll see that there’s lots of verses referring to these dead spirits.

    While they seem to dwell under the earth in Sheol, as shown in the world picture that Dr. DiMattei has placed in the sidebar of his blog, it’s not clear whether these spirits are doing anything, or are even conscious. Perhaps they sleep unless roused by a necromancer (1 Samuel 28:15). It’s also not clear if all dead people go there, or only the most notable ones; see Isaiah 14:9.

    It seems that, later on, the Israelites came to believe that the dead would actually be raised up by YHWH at a future time. Besides Daniel 12:2, Isaiah 26:19 might be referring to a resurrection hope too. And of course we have a few accounts of individual resurrections in the OT, so at least on a case-by-case basis, there was a belief that the dead could be revived. It’s hard to piece it all together into one coherent view of the afterlife; probably this was not only because the audience was expected to know these things already, but because there simply *isn’t* one coherent view across all the OT writings!

  12. Just read through the Friedman/Overton article, and it does cover the points I made in my last comment, and much more. As John Kesler said, the suggested explanation for the lack of information on the afterlife in the OT is that the priests who wrote much of the OT were opposed to the local veneration of ancestors in communities and in homes, so they gloss over any afterlife beliefs that were held at the time of writing, so as not to legitimize them.

  13. Hello KW, Robert M, John Kesler and of course; Dr. D’ Mattei;

    I applaud you all for helping me workout the Quasi-Historical Biblical Narratives versus true Biblical Anthropology:

    I am constantly seeking meaningful discussions with Theist concerning flawed and embellished narratives within the Bible and how the text has evolved over the centuries. (IMO) the best way to engage theist is to learn their language. Whether I encounter “Mythicist, Biblical Literalist, or the Biblically illiterate; I have found I am forced to read the works of “Atheists, Apologists, Anthropologists and biblical Scholars” in parallel, in order to provide more context and consistency.

    Going back and forth between these various types of books can be confusing at times. For example, when discussing the critical, yet heavily flawed event dates within the Bible, I have to first find the purported (fictitious) dates given by apologists, and secondly I have to provide the corrected historical dates provided by anthropologists and biblical scholars.

    Recently I have been reading the works of Dr. Steven Di Mattei. Di Mattei has a distinguished Phd. in Religious Studies and his web content rivals that of Bart Ehrman. Personally, I have never seen such academic work displayed so concisely and succinctly that both hobbyists and academics alike can sink their teeth into in order to obtain a 360 degree view of both content and concept.

    Again, I look forward to learning and sharing on this amazing site.

    Peace and Greater Understanding

    Lance

  14. Hello KW, Robert M, John Kesler and of course; Dr. D’ Mattei;

    “The lady doth protest too much”(cf: 1602 Hamlet).

    I am a novice biblical hobbyist. I have been researching biblical narratives and secular works concerning the Judea-Christian Old Testament, and the origins of Yahweh. Please breifly read my work and let me know how far I’m off base =).

    Throughout the Pentateuch ( Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) the scribes fervently proclaimed their total reverence to “one god,” or a monotheistic religious meme. The Jewish proclamation prayer the “Ha-Shem” declares; “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad – “Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One” – additionally translated as “Listen, Israel Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh.” Objectively, this strict adherence to rote proclamations seemingly belies the “Ha-Shem’s” monotheistic claims, for if it were a “true monotheistic” religion, it would be an oddity, as most religions have evolved from earlier prototypes. As customary, redactions were made over the centuries to veil canonical historicity, and promote new ideologies; cf: Councils of Nicaea, (325, 381), and subsequent councils 431, 535, 553, 680,681, 787, 869, 1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, 1245, 1274, 1311-1313, …1870).( http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_14388a.htm)

    In fairness, nearly all world cultures have gods and deities; however, this paper specifically queries the Abrahamic “God” Yahweh. What did the Hebrew actually they think of their god? Today it is a common error for “believers” to assume the ancient Hebrew were always a monotheistic people. In actuality, first they were polytheistic – they believed in many pagan gods, then they gradually evolved into a “Henotheistic” people – they accepted that there were other gods, yet they would worship one superior god, Yahweh. Contrary to popular believe the Hebrew god Yahweh evolved (as other world deities) from geographically associated religions which preceded; it in a word, “Theogony,” the evolution and or birth of the gods. The KJV mentions these truths throughout the biblical narratives.

    The major gods of the Canaanites were; the Father god, “EL”, the wife god “Asherah,” the daughter “Anat” and most noted “Baal” the son of “EL.”(more on these gods later) In fact, the mythical Yahweh was very familiar with other deities as well.
    Judges 5-7 clearly explains the Israelites intermarried with their neighbors and worshipped their gods. “The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods” (NIV, Judges 3:5-7). In fact, Moses had not departed for a few months before the Israelites’ reverted to worshiping “Baal the golden calf” – “Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”(New Living Translation Exodus 32:4).

    In the first three of the “Ten Commandments,” Yahweh specifically reminded his chosen people to be cognizant of the “henotheistic” pecking order:
    (1) I am the LORD thy God
    (2) Thou shalt have no other gods
    (3) No graven images or likenesses
    Clearly, Yahweh was aware of, and maybe even intimidated by, these pagan gods’ as his proclamations suggests. He sternly reminded the Israelites that he was their special god;
    “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (NIV, Deuteronomy 5). Clearly, the god “Baal” was not a
    god the Israelites invented out of whole cloth, he one of many gods the Israelites worshiped, and he clearly rivaled Yahweh for popularity.
    Dr. Greg Herrick, of the Dallas Theological Seminary, outlines the
    numerous gods of the Judea-Christian faiths easily found in the modern day Bible:(Mesopotamian mythology: Parallel Narratives)
    Herrick states:
    There are approximately 89 references to the god Baal in the Old Testament (OT). Further, the OT makes reference to other Canaanite deities including the goddess Asherah (40 times) as well as the goddess Ashtoreth (10 times). In total, there appears to be about 139 clear references to major Canaanite deities in the OT…Baal worship occurred within Israel (e.g., Num 22:41)5, Israel’s propensity for engaging in Baal worship at certain points in her history (cf. Judges 2:11; 3:7; 8:33; 10:6, 10, Hosea 2:13, etc.), as well as the cultic practices of certain Baal prophets (cf. 1 Kings 18:25-29).”
    (https://bible.org/article/baalism-canaanite-religion-and-its-relation-selected-old-testament-texts)

    Where did Yahweh come from? Noting the biblical narrative, the Israelites were unaware of Yahweh prior to a literary account in Exodus. True to form the mysterious god of the Hebrews explicitly perplexes the biblical patriarch Moses; “God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them (Exodus 6:2-3.) Contrarily, In Habakkuk the biblical narrative explains Yahweh’s geographic place of origin stating, “God came from Teman (the name of a tribe and then of a district of the Edomites (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14300-teman) the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth” (Habakkuk) [ Incidentally, Teman was a city or region in southern Edom, to the east of Israel] …Additionally, “Teman is the name of one of descendants of Esau (cf. Genesis 36:10-11)]… 3:3). Surely, theologian apologists can apply apologetics and contort this text in any which way to suit their theistic views, but the texts speaks for itself.

    lhassell

  15. I recently read the Friedman article myself. Does anyone else think there is a certain circularity in a lot of source critical arguments? What I mean is, Friedman identifies J as extending into Kings, and then he later says that there is terminology that is in J but nowhere else. Well, if you separate different passages of the Bible into “sources” based upon distinctive vocabulary and themes, then of course you will find that the sources you end up with have distinctive vocabulary and themes. I’m not saying I don’t think multiple sources went into many of the books of the Old Testament, but I’m skeptical about how precisely you can use the tool of source criticism given how little text we actually have.

  16. Robert M wrote: I recently read the Friedman article myself. Does anyone else think there is a certain circularity in a lot of source critical arguments?

    Robert, I can do no better than to quote Friedman himself, from The Bible With Sources Revealed, pp. 27-28. The emphasis is original.

    Above all, the strongest evidence establishing the Documentary Hypothesis is that several different lines of evidence converge. There are more than thirty cases of doublets: stories or laws that are repeated in the Torah, sometimes identically, more often with some differences of detail. The existence of so many overlapping texts is noteworthy itself. But their mere existence is not the strongest argument. One could respond, after all, that this is just a matter of style or narrative strategy. Similarly, there are hundreds of apparent contradictions in the text, but one could respond that we can take them one by one and find some explanation for each contradiction. And, similarly, there is the matter of the texts that consistently call the deity God while other texts consistently call God by the name YHWH, to which one could respond that this is simply like calling someone sometimes by his name and sometimes by his title. The powerful argument is not any one of these matters. It is that all these matters converge. When we separate the doublets, this also results in the resolution of nearly all the contradictions. And when we separate the doublets, the name of God divides consistently in all but three out of more than two thousand occurrences. And when we separate the doublets, the terminology of each source remains consistent within that source. (I listed twenty-four examples of such terms, which are consistent through nearly four hundred occurrences, above, in the Terminology section.) And when we separate the sources, this produces continuous narratives that flow with only a rare break. And when we separate the sources, this fits with the linguistic evidence, where the Hebrew of each source fits consistently with what we know of the Hebrew in each period. And so on for each of the six categories that precede this section. The name of God and the doublets were the starting-points of the investigation into the formation of the Bible. But they were not, and are not, major arguments or evidence in themselves. The most compelling argument for the hypothesis is that this hypothesis best accounts for the fact that all this evidence of so many kinds comes together so consistently. To this day, no one known to me who challenged the hypothesis has ever addressed this fact.

    I highly recommend this book. The introduction alone is worth the purchase price.

  17. Hmmm. I coded italics in the above quote where Friedman had it, but it doesn’t show. Oh well.

  18. I have “Who Wrote the Bible” by Friedman. Is there a lot of overlap between the two books? I’d like to find a book with more meat in it than “Who Wrote the Bible” but that is still accessible for the non-scholar who doesn’t know Hebrew.

    And it’s not that I don’t believe the DH itself. I think it makes a lot of sense in explaining things like how Caleb was the only faithful spy in one passage when Caleb and Joshua were both faithful a few sentences earlier. I am troubled by the lack of consensus among the scholars. Was P written before or after the exile? What about J? Then you have people like Van Seters who doesn’t think there was a redactor at all.

  19. I am troubled by the lack of consensus among the scholars.

    I’d venture to say that “consensus among the scholars” is hard to find in most, if not all, disciplines. The important thing, though, is that as Friedman says, the convergence of evidence for the DH has not been refuted, though scholars disagree about exact dates for the Torah’s sources. To answer your question about Friedman’s books, yes, there is necessarily some overlap between WWTB and TBWSR, but the latter is definitely worth having even if you possess the former. I also own Friedman’s *Commentary on the Torah* but it, though certainly containing valuable information, is written from a more “orthodox” perspective, as if the Hebrew Bible’s sources harmonize.

  20. True, a scholar who says “I agree with what they said” isn’t likely to publish very many articles or sell very many books. I just have to question, as a non-expert, why I should believe scholar A when scholar B clearly does not. I find it all a bit confusing.

    I’ll check out Friedman’s other book. Do you have any other recommendations? I’ve seen “Reading the Fractures of Genesis” recommended here but that appears to be out of print.

  21. Amazon appears to have Carr’s book: http://tinyurl.com/carrfractures. You could perhaps find a used copy cheaper at bookfinder.com or another retailer. Friedman’s books are really good if your focus is the DH. I like study Bibles and commentaries for general Bible study. *The New Jerome Biblical Commentary* is one good one.

  22. Robert,

    I can’t recall any specifics with Friedman’s The Book of J since I read it some time ago. But I think he stands alone in pushing J into the book of Kings. I recall that some of his textual data, while certainly interesting, was less than convincing for me. I think most scholars see J extending itself into Numbers, and even here I’ve been adopting some of Carr’s conservative vocabulary and just identifying it as a “non-P” source.

    In the literature you will find varied views on J and E, but less dispute concerning D and P since the two latter were written texts and their vocabulary and ideology are clear markers highlighting their coherency as once independent textual sources. Carr is very conservative and skeptical (too much I feel) about E and J. If I recall he prefers just talking about earlier non-P oral traditions that had their roots in norther Israel or southern Judah. I had for some time flipped back and forth with respect to a pre- or post-exilic date for J (influenced here by Seters’ work), but reading Levine’s commentary on Numbers, to cite one example—a scholar who excels in analyzing these ancient texts with an eye on their Sitz-im-Leben (the historical context that produced the text and to which the text refers) has clearly placed me on the pre-exilic side for some time now. The geography of many of J’s stories reveals that its author had a 9th to 7th century BCE knowledge of the land and its surrounding peoples as they existed during these centuries. In fact, one of my favorite reads on J is Finkelstein & Silberman’s The Bible Unearthed, showing you how J created a history that endorsed the ideology of monarchic Judah, against that of Israel—properly we would call this propaganda, which a good proportion of J’s stories are.

    As far as assessing the disputes scholars have, I think that just comes with time and with reading a good amount of the literature. One starts to perceive either agendas, or just out-dated-positions that certain scholars hold onto for their dear life, or how some scholars really get into the text and others don’t do a good job in this area. When I started reading Van Seters’ stuff a very long time ago, I was intrigued, but then when you get into Carr’s book for example you really see a scholar who is not just making claims, but who gets into the texts and shows you the textual analysis supporting those claims, indeed leading to the claims themselves. Van Seters is all air I feel. He certainly does not posses the analytical acumen that Carr does, nor the balanced approach that Carr does.

    Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (1992) is a nice balanced primer to the topic. And Joel Baden just recently put out a book on Yale Press, The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis. Finally, I agree with John here that Friedman’s little introduction in his The Bible with Sources Revealed is quite exceptional. Granted Friedman too is no Carr, but he does an outstanding job bringing this scholarship to the public. Carr stays the course of an academic writing to academics, although also very accessible.

    Finally, since this happens to be a timely event here, my book tentatively titled Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs, has recently been accepted for publication. Although mainly dealing with Genesis 1 and the beliefs and tenets of this author as revealed in the rest of his once independent scroll—the P source—the first chapter does attempt to put forward the textual data that convincingly demonstrate once and for all the scholarly consensus (among biblical scholars that is) that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 were penned by different authors who had vastly different messages and beliefs, and vocabulary and themes for expressing those beliefs, about the nature and origin of the worlds that they perceived and experienced. When you really get into the Hebrew text and read it as a product of its historical and literary worlds these differences and competing messages and vocab practically scream out at you. Again, the goal being just getting into the text and letting the text speak its say—often times when this is done correctly, an objective reader will see that the text itself is making the claim that its been multi-authored. And that’s really what this endeavor is all about.

  23. Thank you for the references. I actually have “The Bible Unearthed” but for various reasons have not yet made it past the chapter dealing with Israel leading up to the Assyrian conquest. So far I’ve found it a very thought provoking book, and I want to finish it so I can move on to his book about David and Solomon.

    Are there any good books dealing with the books after the Pentateuch: Joshua, Judges, and Samuel? I know those are considered part of the Deuteronomistic History but Joshua in particular seems to me to have a very definite Priestly element, and the stories of Saul and David seem to have at least their share of doublets.

  24. As far as Paul and his view on the timing of “…the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him”, the Apostle had to deal with many of the same arguments and presumptions in the comments above, here on this contradictions blog . They were already there in his time: “…do not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us to the effect that the day of the Lord has already come…”. No he did not believe that it would happen in his lifetime. He knew that there had to be a great apostasy first, a time of great lawlessness (turning away from the Torah specifically and the rest of the Tenach—this, the OT as we call it was the Bible of Paul’s day). Until the “man of lawlessness” is revealed, the “son of destruction” (aka, the anti-Christ) who would display himself as being God and exhault himself above and oppose every “…so called god or object of worship…” Paul had to remind them: “Do you not remember that while I was with you, I was telling you these things?” Readers on this website would do well to heed his real words and not just go with secondary or tertiary “sources” or the typical “here say” (since this is a “biblical site” could we spell that “heresy”?) that passes for “the word of God”.

    So that hasn’t happened yet. But wait! How close are we? I contend we indeed are not living in the so-called “last days”. Paul contended, “you know what restrains him now so that in his time he will be revealed.” That day which will be characterized by complete lawlessness and an overt rejection of biblical truth which will dovetail with all the signs and false wonders being performed by this person given totally over to Satan. So much so, that because of the deception that wicked behavior elicits from mankind’s fallen sin nature, those who have openly defied God and “…did not receive the love of the truth..” will instead will believe a deluding influence induced by the very God they reject, “…so that they will believe ‘the lie’ in order that they will be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” In this context Paul said that the “lawless one” would be revealed but not to those who would instead believe all the deception and wickedness associated with the AC: “…those who perish, because they did not receive the ‘love of the truth’ so as to be saved.”

    But as I said, we are not living in the last days described here. More like the last seconds, minutes, and hours.

    Another missing and very biblical text/s on the talking points I have referenced coming from “Allah y’all” (I live in deep east Texas;~)) comes from my favorite prophet , Isaiah. Take the last chapter, which book fittingly has the same number of chapters as there are books in the Bible. The last three verses read as follows: Isaiah 66:22-24King James Version (KJV)

    22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.

    23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.

    24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”

    Jesus quoted from this passage in Mark 9:47-48 “…to be cast into hell (Gehenna) where ‘THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.” ( emphasis mine). See also Jeremiah 19:6. Yeshua used this passage depicting corpses of those enduring everlasting torment to serve as a vivid reminder and warning to everyone who would choose to follow and act in rebellion to YHVH of the grievous nature and terrible consequences that would eventually entail as he referred to the valley of Hinnom—where a continually burning trash-heap pictured the never ending pain of the lost.

    Isaiah 24-27 have to be read as a complete thought. It goes into much more detail than Paul did in describing the day of the Lord and within it are contrasted the two choices people make. One to know YHVH and His ways through obedience and the other way. Within this are illusions to the resurrection and then in the very last three verses of chapter 26, there is a very detailed description of people waiting in death, “until indignation “passes over'” (like the Angel of Death in the original Passover in Egypt) and then, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy! For your dew is the dew of the dawn’s early lights, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” Isaiah 26:19. Not all the spirits will get the same treatment is again iterated here in this passage and the distinction that Isaiah made in chapter 66 that Yeshua used to illustrate hell, is repeated for the OTHER DEPARTED SPIRITS:

    Isaiah 26:13-14New King James Version (NKJV)

    13
    O Lord our God, masters besides You
    Have had dominion over us;
    But by You only we make mention of Your name.

    14
    They are dead, they will not live;
    They are deceased, they will not rise.
    Therefore You have punished and destroyed them,
    And made all their memory to perish.

    We all ignore or are ignorant of Scripture to our own eternal demise. God Forbid!

  25. “The real facts”? “The truth”?

    These are not facts nor truths; they are Paul’s beliefs. Well, to be truthful they are not even Paul’s beliefs! In truth, the real fact of the matter is that once again you have conflated your beliefs or the beliefs of a later tradition with Paul’s beliefs. You can’t even be honest and truthful to Paul!!

    For Paul did believe that he would be alive to witness Jesus’ coming. In fact, his whole Christology, ethics, baptismal theology, and eschatology bear this out. And it is recognized by all New Testament critics, even the bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright who has published many books on the topic.

    But let’s see what Paul himself states. Paul’s most eschatological letter is his first—to the Thessalonians.

    Here Paul directly informs this 1st century non-Jewish Greek speaking audience that they are “to await God’s son from heaven” (1:10), and he encourages this 1st century audience to be “awake and sober” (5:7) at Jesus’ coming, and likewise to the Corinthians who are to “eagerly await” Jesus’ coming (1 Cor 1:7). These are two specific, real, historical communities. There may be other textual data of this kind in Paul’s other letters.

    Furthermore, at Jesus’ coming the Thessalonians are exhorted to present themselves “blamelessly” and in holiness (3:13; 5:23), same with his Corinthian community (1 Cor 1:8), and Paul even uses this, the Thessalonians’ ethically blameless bodies as an opportunity to boast “before our Lord Jesus at his coming” (2:19). It is clear from these brief passages that Paul did indeed expect not only himself but the Thessalonian & Corinthian communities to stand blamelessly before Jesus at his coming! They, as with Paul, are among “those who are alive” at Jesus’ coming (1 Thess 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:52).

    In fact, this is what Paul teaches to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, and as a result when some of them start dying, this becomes a problem which Paul has to immediately respond to, because he taught them “they would stand before Jesus.” So let’s look at these passages.

    To console those Thessalonians who have already died, or rather those that mourn for them, Paul reassures the community that at Jesus’ coming they will be raised from the dead (4:14)! I must emphasize that according to Paul, as we will see below, those who have died in Christ are only resurrected at Jesus’ coming, contrary to the beliefs of later tradition. Here, Paul claims this to comfort the community concerning those who have died. So now let’s look at Paul’s beliefs on what will happen when, and only when, Jesus’ comes.

    First (1st): those who have died in Christ will be raised (4:16; 1 Cor 15:23, 52)

    Second (2nd): those who are alive will be taken up together with the raised bodies. And those who are alive includes Paul himself: “We who are alive” (4:15, 17). Paul expresses the same “we” in 1 Cor 15:52.

    Other places Paul also expresses this belief, namely that he and his converts will witness Jesus’ coming. In 1 Cor 7:29 he states that the time is so near “that those who are married are to act as though they were not married, etc.” No planning the kid’s college fund, no getting that second mortgage, no wedding bells, no more all-night love-making marathons, nada. Later in the same letter Paul uses passages from Numbers exegetically as admonitions for his Corinthian community identifying them as those “upon whom the end of ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11). Paul’s last letter, to the Romans, expresses an added urgency in this belief: “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom 10:11), and expressed again at 16:20.

    There are many reasons why Paul believed that the time was so near that he himself would witness Jesus’ coming. A large part of this has to do with the tenets of Jewish eschatology which shaped Paul’s Christology. These Jewish beliefs can be found scattered throughout the intertestamental literature and the Dead sea scrolls. But from Paul’s own letters we can glean one of these Jewish ideas, and that has to do with the belief in THE Resurrection. The Resurrection was conceived of as an end-of-days event, and for Paul Jesus’ own resurrection signaled that THE Resurrection had begun. “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first of those who have died” (1 Cor 15:20). This is why, also, Paul affirms that on his coming, those others who are also dead will rise first, then those who are alive will be transformed.

    This brings me to the last bit of textual evidence, and that is Paul’s views on baptism, which vary greatly from modern beliefs and later Christian doctrine. For Paul, baptism was a rite that imitated Jesus’ death!

    Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also will walk in the newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, then certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom 6:3-5).

    In other words, Paul’s understanding of the baptism was as a rite of death! The baptized symbolically and mimetically died and was buried along with Christ. He was no longer alive to the world, to Torah law, to sin, etc. He has died with Christ, so that like the raising of Christ from the dead, he too will be raised at Jesus’ coming. Again, per 1 Thess 4 and 1 Cor 15, those who died in Christ, whether literally or through the rite of baptism, will be raised at Jesus’ coming. This is what Paul believed! And those baptized in Christ who were therefore no longer alive to sin, to the Torah, to the world . . . this “being dead to the world” did not pose a problem in Paul’s theology because Jesus’ coming was understood by Paul as being imminently near. It was to come in Paul’s own life-time! So one could both literally and symbolically through the rite of baptism be dead to the world. So according to Paul’s theology, every one who has died in Christ over the last 2,000 years are still body and soul in the grave awaiting the continuation of THE Resurrection that started, according to Paul, with Jesus’ resurrection.

    Obviously this theology already created enormous problems for the immediate decades after Paul’s death, and early Christian exgegetes fueled with new ideas from the Greek philosophical tradition of the immortality of the soul, reinterpreted this tradition so that the dead did not have to wait in their graves until Jesus’ coming. But these were not Paul’s beliefs!

    So, what you are actually spouting here are the beliefs and opinions of a later interpretive tradition, and once again you have denied, indeed stolen the voices and beliefs of Paul specifically here, set them aside, attempted not to understand them on their terms and from within their historical context, but instead have blindly imposed your beliefs or those of a later tradition onto these texts and its author.

    To momentarily come to your defense, momentarily I stress, it is the exact purpose of an interpretive tradition to act as, and stand in for, the voice of the text it purports to interpret. The interpretive tradition is believed as “true” by its followers, not only because they don’t know better, they, like yourself, know nothing of the texts these traditions purport to re-present, but because the interpretive tradition is that convincing as a voice or mouthpiece for the text it purports to interpret. This was my PhD work. And what really fascinated me about these interpretive traditions—and I started out examining a Neo-platonic interpretive tradition on Aristotle that claimed Aristotle’s philosophy of language was Neo-platonic — is that as part of this phenomenon the interpretive tradition becomes more authoritative than the text it purports to interpret!

    So in our case, and choosing the largest example, the title “the Holy Book” is an interpretive tradition or framework — a title laden with meaning and all sorts of implications, and that, that is what is implied in this title, becomes more authoritative than the individual texts of this collection of ancient Near Eastern literature. Likewise, to have a belief system that is a unified message and narrative, much like you do, that interpretive narrative becomes for you the authoritative voice, backed by appeals to God even, above and despite of the text it purports to re-present. And one can even trace the developments of this interpretive tradition from the 5th century BCE onwards and see how each successive and later interpretive tradition not only trumped the one before it but the text that these interpretive traditions purport to re-resent as well.

    The power of these later interpretive traditions over and above the text it supposedly re-presents is exemplified in every single comment you have left here. To afford you the benefit of doubt, you probably feel as though you are upholding what these texts say, so convincingly has the interpretive tradition convinced you that it re-presents the beliefs and message of the text. But this is not the case. The first interpretive tradition that subverts an older text the text that it purports to re-present is what the 7th century BCE text of Deuteronomy is doing. Bernard Levinson has discussed this hermeneutic technique in his book Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation and it is the best book out there on this topic and shows the reader the texts. His arguments are textual. In his words:

    Retelling ‘history’ then becomes a process of setting forth a new, contemporary and innovative reading of the past for religious and/or political agendas contemporaneous with the author, but indeed this is presented and packaged as not authoring a new story but retelling the authoritative tradition. Thus innovation is clothed with the subversiveness of denying innovation, authorship, and originality.

    In re-presenting the narrative of his sources, the Deuteronomist re-tells it to suit his own agenda and needs, changing the traditional version, but nevertheless presenting the new telling as part of the tradition that has already become authoritative for that community. Thus in putting forth completely new and innovative religious practices and beliefs, the Deuteronomist actually subverts the tradition that he is using as his source by presenting these innovations as the original message of his sources. One literary technique that aids in this is to present this new composition, the book of Deuteronomy, as authored by the earlier source, traditionally accredited to Moses.

    Later innovative traditions present their innovation on prior textual authoritative traditions thereby subverting the previous authoritative tradition while nevertheless claiming the innovation as the ‘real’ authoritative tradition.

    So in the end you have sacrificed text for interpretive tradition, the beliefs of the author of Leviticus, for a later title imposing a unified narrative onto the text which in itself was created by a later readership and legitimated by making appeals to divine authorship in the same manner that the author of Leviticus, an Aaronid priest, legitimated his priestly guild’s beliefs by placing them on the lips of Yahweh. In the end you’ve sacrificed the beliefs of Paul for a later re-packaging of those beliefs in order to deal with problems associated with an eschaton that was a non-event, etc.

    Again it is precisely the function of this blog to uphold and defend when necessary, the individual beliefs of these texts and their authors. Something that you have failed miserably to do and even acknowledge. The later interpretive tradition that reenforces your beliefs are much more important to you than the texts themselves. Modern fundamentalist Christianity is surely the most ironic and hypocritical beast out there. While claiming allegiance to a text, and hypocritically it must be acknowledged, they actually are more devoted to an interpretive tradition dictating what these texts are and how they are to be read, often at the expense of the messages and beliefs portrayed in these very texts. The irony is baffling: the religion of the book is in essence a religion more properly labeled “the anything but the book religion.” It is a religion of the interpretive tradition. the title “the Holy Bible” is now the authoritative voice that carries meaning and not the texts, and this is so convincingly done that you will, I prophesy, be even unable to see this, so great is the interpretive tradition’s sway. I make one last appeal for the texts’ sake: Educate yourself Sabba, rather than professing you know. Do some real reading about the historical contexts of these texts, their audiences, what is ancient literature, who wrote it, to whom, and why, how did this collection we call the holy Bible come to be, etc.

  26. I will address your last paragraph first because the rest of your tirade/diatribe/soliloquy reads like the Obama Legislation that people are still wading through and which, like your stuff, is full of errors, presumptions, agendas…with a very little bit of fact mixed in there to keep the dialogue looking legitimate.

    All right now, let the trumpets blow! Fanfare! Call the your little band of cowbirds (drums are rolling…) I definitely miss spoke when I said Paul did not believe Jesus would return in his lifetime. Obviously he did, at least enough to have shared the mystery of how Jesus’s return would happen in a basic outline, which he shares in 1Corinthians 15, with hints in it like, “at the last trumpet”. More on that later…

    OK, so like I said, in a direct contest in which the BFDS Hypothesis criterion is NOT part of the consideration, you scored the first touchdown. Way to go! You missed the extra point though, so you’re up by 6 (the number for man).

    Paul said in his last manuscript, written just before his death at the hand of Rome, “All Scripture is inspired by God…”. That of course, is one of the reasons for this blog, to prove “just how inspired” the word of God really is. (;~)) Paul of course was talking about the so-called OT when he was talking about what was “inspired”. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

    Take the prophet Habakkuk as just one example. Paul explicitly alluded to the prophet Habakkuk and this assertion when the prophet said that his vision was “yet for the appointed time.” He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel et al and lamented what the Babylonians were doing. Circa the late 7th to early 6th centuries BCE. His prediction of the demise would have to wait about 3/4 of a century to see it come to pass. Daniel knew the same thing about why he was given the revelations he was to preserve. It was in part so that future generations could see and act upon what he wrote down. In fact, it was for the “end of times” as he talked about that subject matter in some detail that he claimed would not be completely known except to future generations (12:4,9). They both knew and made clear that what they were writing was not for their sakes but for future generations. With this in mind, that maybe they were to be that “last generation” all future generations of believers, beginning with Paul and the other Apostles lived their lives with the goal of complete sanctification and with the expectation that “we will be caught up”. Maybe even alive, but certainly that someday there will be a resurrection and that this will be followed by a time of, shall I say, “assessment” of what we did with this life we were given to us by our Creator. And all believers are aware that the Bible is there for inspiration, revelation, teaching, exhortation, for training in righteousness, and reproof and correction…”so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” And to hear, as we will one day stand before our Creator, the following words: “Well done!”

    Now I know you believe that you have a greater authority than that of someone like Paul, or Habakkuk, or even Daniel. But your insistence that only your interpretation of the Holy Bible you hypocritically refuse to obey has, IMHO, both you and your acolytes fulfilling its warnings: 2Timothy 4:3-4. Your deception is that the Bible cannot be understood by just reading it as it is written. Remember, as I have already pointed out to you on more than one occasion, in our more modern times that go back to at least the invention of the printing press, people began reading the Bible for themselves without the help or doctrine of the so called church. I come from that tradition. The one that was in reaction to the darkness of only being able to “know the truth” by following someone’s insistence that only their rules of interpretation were legit. Your perspective followed about a century or so later…along with other classic errors of human philosophy and paganism that were set up as equal to and even better in authority and antiquity to the Word of God.

    But like I said earlier, you’re leading, as it were. I was not thinking straight! At least in the very beginning of Paul’s ministry (no, the book of 1Thessalonians was NOT HIS FIRST BOOK—YOU MISSED THE EXTRA POINT!), he expressed a hope in being alive when Christ returned and lived and exhorted others to do the same. In other words, to live in such a way, if that were possible to even earn it, though salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. Christianity has never been any different.

    Extra credit: so to whom, and the content/premise for writing: what was Paul’s actual first epistle and why?

    You are the one who needs to obey. You have enough education. Your comments and whole philosophy are proof that you are still dead in your sins and trespasses as we all are, until we accept Christ’s sacrifice and receive justification—are born again. We are to appropriate the life of Messiah by faith and then live it out, in sanctification, and then prepare for what follows. Not heaven. That follows 1000 years after the resurrection. This life is preparation for a job that will be determined by our stewardship in the here and now.

  27. Now I know you believe that you have a greater authority than that of someone like Paul

    To the contrary, Sabba, this is exactly what you are doing. And if you’d take the time to actually read and self-consciously reflect upon what I’ve posted, or to read Paul on his terms and as a product of his own historical context, you might understand this. . . nay, in fact, you never will. Why? because you have decided that your beliefs, and your beliefs about Paul, or about this collection of ancient texts, are more important than those of Paul on his own term. Like I said, God-forbid that we allow Paul to independently think and believe what he did and to acknowledge this—beliefs I might remind you that were conditioned by his own historical and literary world, and his own subjective engagement with that world, one of which was, undeniably, a fervent belief in the Jewish eschatology of his day.

    I’m not even going to bother reading your comments above because this is the typical type of soap-opera interpretation that you regularly do. I provide you with paragraphs of Paul’s own thinking about the matter, his words; you retort by putting forth extraneous Christian re-interpretations and appropriations of OT passages that in the end buttress your beliefs or those of later readers, while all the while neglecting Paul. None of what you posted deals with Paul. And furthermore, you continuously reaffirm your beliefs—over those of Paul—which again doesn’t bother me particularly, but you falsely claim that your beliefs are those of Paul, and half of that faulty proclamation rests on ignorance about Paul, his historical context, and letters, and the knowledge we know about these things. NT Scholars across the board acknowledge that Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was his first letter. Indeed, Paul himself informs us of this. But that’s really not the issue. The issue is more that you continue to claim that your beliefs are substantiated by these texts—which the texts themselves highly dispute—and you continuously keep professing this because you don’t possess any knowledge about these texts, who wrote, them, to who, why, and how they came to be a collection of texts.

    Being ignorant of a particular field of knowledge is not an excuse to believe whatever you want.

    This is not a site against belief in general, whether that be belief in God, or whatever. This is a site that shares with the public what scholars in the field now know about these ancient texts, how they were composed, why, to whom, etc. And this 300 year old growing body of knowledge often, and rightly so, speaks against authoritative interpretive traditions that have longed dictated what these texts are, etc. You are stuck in the authoritative traditions. The texts reveal a different story and message. You still insist on reading them through this later authoritative tradition. That is not being honest to the texts, their authors, and their competing beliefs. Again, there are tons of great books out there that will lead you through the textual data, that is what the texts themselves reveal about their own compositional history and the beliefs and messages of their authors.

    Finally, you cite the Prophets as your own play-thing, with no recognition of the historical and literary worlds they wrote in and what they were writing. Again, this is because you are trapped within the dictates of very powerful authoritative interpretive traditions that present themselves as the authoritative voice of these texts, but what they really are doing is subverting the messages of these texts while presenting their own message as the text’s message. I’ve written extensively on this. Reflect on it! Again, scholars study this very phenomenon, that permeates the ancient world, beyond just religious texts. Take a step back, and read a good book. In the end, recognize that this collection of ancient texts is not about you (sorry, but that’s being true to these authors), not about what later traditions claims they are about; they are not even about God! They are about their own authors’ perceptions and beliefs of their world! But, I know, you have been persuaded by a later authoritative tradition that tells you just the opposite. I’m asking you to listen to the texts on their own terms, apart from these later interpretive constructs. And you are unable to. And, as a sympathetic gesture, I understand that.

  28. Hello Sabba AbuShy:

    I am a fledgling biblical hobbyist, however, I have a few questions concerning your comments for review:
    You stated, “”All Scripture is inspired by God…”. That of course, is one of the reasons for this blog, to prove “just how inspired” the word of God really is. (;~)).”

    I may be out of line here but I understood this website was designed to reveal clarity (for the layman and academics’ alike) concerning the scriptures. It is very hard for me to understand how someone such as yourself can extrapolate any biblical “truths” from these biblical narratives. I mean you are obviously educated in Theology and the Historicity, or lack thereof concerning the biblical text.

    You added, “”For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” What is this hope you speak of so adamantly? Are we to believe this ancient text holds the key to turn humanity on its head?

    Your writing in defense of Bibliolatry seems to come from somewhere other than academic thought. Your assumptions remind me of “father George Coyne” – ex-astronomer for the Vatican. Coynes points out the fiction within the text to be just that; quasi-historical tales infused with superstition and fables. Read as Father George Coyne, PhD. Coyne, contends much of the biblical narrative as written are myths; however, he still laments he still believes in a “personal-god” ( maybe for political reasons).

    In an interview Father George Coyne (2008), PhD Vatican – Astronomer – Coyne states, “…The Scriptures are not teaching science. It’s very hard for me to accept, not just a literal interpretation of Scripture, but a fundamentalist approach to religious belief. It’s kind of a plague. It presents itself as science and it’s not” (Religulous, 2008).

    You write: “…You are the one who needs to obey. You have enough education. Your comments and whole philosophy are proof that you are still dead in your sins…”

    Question (1): I ask you, how exactly do you define a SIN? Is SIN universal, or just for the faithful? You remarked about the second coming, however; Jesus himself was obviously
    wrong ( and according to the scripture a false prophet specifically because his prophecy failed, see below:

    The scriptures below identify Jesus as making a false prophecy which is repeated several times:

    (Mark 9:1) And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

    (Matthew 16:28) “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

    (Luke 9:27) “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

    Question (2): You have three entries exclaiming the same claims over and over, the entirety of the verses reveals that “the-Christ” was wrong would you agree?

    Again, how can you be so intelligent but not understand this is merely a book about the Hebrews and their quasi-historical tales??

    lhassell

  29. The “Low hanging Fruit” of Biblical Text:

    Hello Sabba AbuShy:

    I am a fledgling biblical hobbyist, however, I have a few questions concerning your comments for review: Do you believe the following narrative was inspire by a “god” or do you believe it to be just a narrative about good vs. evil??? I just do not understand were we find any divine knowledge in Genesis:

    When emphasizing the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity, without fail one will find many Christians are in fact non-Christians, or they attempt to redefine what Christianity means to them. Again, this is not Christianity but rather someone selectively trying to alter doctrine to make it more palatable. For example, below is a brief pragmatic synopsis of Christianity.

    Long ago a supernatural being, recognized as a male decided to invent humankind. This deity was eternal. He had neither beginning nor end. He was omnipotent and nothing was or ever will be without his knowledge. He had no boundaries of time nor space. He invented everything even his nemesis “Satan” and introduced evil into the world (I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7, KJV).

    Regardless he made man and women in his own image. It was his desire to have relationship humanity. As he knew in advance, man would disobey his commands. This lead to man’s down fall and life of sin. So repulsive was this foreknown sin, that “god” cursed all mankind for eternity. He was so repulsed he drowned all of mankind less one family – “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth…And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air (Genesis 5:32-10:1 King James Version)”

    “[G]god” killed every human being. He drowned every elderly, mother, mentally-challenged, man, child & infant) less Noah’s family. Hundredths of years after Noah’s, daughters and sons had single-handedly repopulated the earth. “[G]god” -Yahweh, lamented and decided to offer mankind an olive branch. He decided to impregnate a betrothed virgin in order to birth his son Yeshua, who was actually a derivative of “god” himself.

    This perfect plan was devised to rescue humans from their genetically inherited sinful nature. Yahweh would offer his son Yeshua as a blood sacrifice to himself, who again, is “god” or a persona of himself. Miraculously this blood offering would serve as a surrogate and atonement for sinful man. In the wake of this understanding, man can either choose to declare Yeshua is the son of “god” or spend eternity is a lake of fire, objectively consuming two-thirds of humankind once more. “[G]god’s” love is shown in this manner because he is an “omnipotent and loving father”.

    For many followers of the Abrahamic faiths e.g., Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, this story is the ultimate truth; this was “god’s” divine plan. It had to be, because “god” is the Alpha and the Omega. He always has been, and existed before time. He is perfect in all his mysterious and fatally flawed ways.

    In can be proven technically many of the narratives within the bible where written thousands of years before the Abrahamic faiths evolved. Imagine a supernatural deity selectively chose one culture of people to tell his story and keep his laws. Universally religions around the world share some of the same concepts and formats – many of the same ole “archetypes and memes”. When exploring these pagan religions, it appears as if the names had changed, but the characters remained the same; Satan, savior & sinner – Good cop, bad cop! Sadly many Christians fail to explore the origin of these tales. This failure to test “test the word” runs contrary to the call to apologetics declared within the bible itself (15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth 2 Timothy 2:15).

    Again, I apologize for writing on such a juvenile level, however, I do not see the point of carrying on discussions until we accurately define your god. Below is how god is described in the bible:

    Commentary
    Here is an overview of Genesis, you decide if it seems far-fetched. The “all-knowing” God (Yahweh) knew in advance, man would disobey his commands. This led to Mankind’s down fall and life of sin. Genesis 2: 15-17 reads, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die ”(Genesis 2: 15-17).

    He condemned man and all his offspring to live and die in hardship. Yahweh was so repulsed by this foreknown sin, that “he” cursed all humankind for eternity (the fall of man in the mythical Garden of Eden). He must have been extremely mad and extremely irrational because centuries’ later, “he” drowned all of humanity less one family. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth…And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air” (Genesis 5:32-10:1 KJV). God killed every human being. He drowned the elderly, the mothers, the mentally challenged, the child and infant, less Noah’s family. Thus, God massacred his children in totality.

    Lastly: do you believe the Abrahamic god “Yahweh, El

    lhassell

  30. You sound like the early church that thought the OT was almost completely an allegory. I’m not Catholic, don’t pray to mary or the pope of put much import in those who do this and other forms of idolatry. Like pray to saints. Where do you fit in this description? As you admit, you are new to…what? Talking about Jesus from the perspective of an atheist? I doubt that, more like this is your basic MO and coming to this site gives you a sense of being an atheist and being religious and even around “bible scholars” and therefore “right” with, well, whatever your belief in a higher “what/whoever” means. Join the crowd! Basically, except for me, everyone here is an apostate at best. Most were just vaccinated from ever getting the real “disease” in the first place and this place is a composite of such.

    A simple def for SIN is “lawlessness”. We are all born with a sin nature and without the sacrificial propitiation of Christ that we must choose by faith and obedience (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is Elohim that works within you to will and to do His good pleasure”) then we will remain that way, separated from God—in this life and the one to come.

  31. Hello Sabba AbuShy:

    I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I for one feel that engaging in various views on theology is fascinating. Concerning your thoughts about me:

    You stated, “Where do you fit in this description? As you admit, you are new to…what? Talking about Jesus from the perspective of an atheist? I doubt that, more like this is your basic MO and coming to this site gives you a sense of being an atheist and being religious and even around “bible scholars” and therefore “right” with, well, whatever your belief in a higher “what/whoever” means…”

    Well, you are half correct I am not a professional academic, nor historian; however, you are wrong concerning the ‘Higher Power” bit. I don’t think I have to believe in any deity because I have never been provided substantial proof. To me I could suggest if you believe in the Abrahamic God you do not believe in the countless other deities revered around the world. How can this be? If you worship the one true god, how did you rule out the other gods?

    Anthropologically speaking, “superstition and religion” have been inseparably entwined since early man. The Supernatural is defined as “manifestations or events considered to be of supernatural origin, such as ghosts” (Supernatural, 2014). In many instances the revelation that the Abrahamic-Religions are in fact quasi-historical narratives infused with superstition may be unsettling, however, the fact remains; no one has ever physically seen any of these gods. If someone could produce a god under scientific conditions they would win a Noble Prize.

    Summarily, if your god is real he is severely lacking in morals and intellect. Having read about the historicity of Bible and other religious books, they are come across as “Wholly Human” in origin. It seems the non-scientific approach you take concerning your biblical god is emotion based rather than rational.

    Concerning the Judea-Christian faith, objectively speaking many theologians are entrenched in bibliolatry (fundamentalism and mysticism), while biblical historians, archeologists and academics (technicians, non-fundamentalists) utilize the scientific method to query ancient text. The rank in file apologist-theologian utilizes textual exegesis to constantly evolve or recant the static text within scripture in an attempt to keep the Hebrew text “sacred.” The academics non-fundamentalists, armed with textual criticism praxis, seek to technically dissect the ancient text and reveal the biblical evolution, less the mythology and sacred cows sort of-speak. This is why the historicity of the bible is widely considered quasi-historical at most.

    Bart Erhman, is one of the world’s most vocal experts in the field of biblical textual criticism. He is a New Testament scholar at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the author of Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. His book eloquently exposes the myth of Biblical inerrancy for the common man. He reveals basic truths that were “recognized” by theologians for centuries, appreciatively Ehrman is not interested in maintaining the status quo, he is more interested in revealing the truth. I think Ehrman, rightfully exposes the very core biases theologians have shrouded in double-talk throughout the ages.

    Again, the ancient stories of the bible are dubious, non-citable and mystical to say the least.

    Question: Do you think your Abrahamic God (who admittedly drowns infants, children and the elderly; the god that savors the smell of burning flesh) is the creator of the universe?

    lhassell

  32. At one point you mentioned former bibliolatry and then I think you used the bibliolatry ID twice in a row, kind of rapid fire. I thought, “somehow this reminds me of some kind of trolling device; the reason some online groups or other organizations want to know if you are real or a computer program or something.” Hence the “Type in the following symbols and letters to match what you see: WYSi3&WY^g. You type it in and hit enter and most of the time you have to do it a time or two. But finally you get in and you move on to the next stage of the process.

    In a way, I still feel that way. So if you’re not just a troll, type in the following: W&w$$Jdo?

    If you even plan to go on, I need to see that.

    But even if I do, I’m not looking for anything totally out of context with whatever Dr. Steve is talking about. He might think otherwise as far as that concerns me on this site, but the topic and the discussion on whatever the latest point Dr. Steve makes usually makes the best format. I’m not into the merits or lack of same of paganism which is where you’re at it seems.

  33. Hello Sabba AbuShy; W&w$$Jdo?

    I can assure you I am not a troll. I apologize profusely if you feel offended; however, I was asking very basic questions about your religious beliefs, academic or otherwise. Although I will attempt to stay on target concerning Dr. D’imettei and other bloggers,’ train of thought, I have questions just like anyone concerning religious debate.

    When you write about “Ghenna”-“…Mark 9:47-48 “…to be cast into hell (Gehenna) where ‘THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.” – Again, I have questions. This seems fair for a site such as this.

    I am merely trying to understand; are you unaware of Mesopotamian Religions and Mythology that predates Judea-Christian belief systems? I am certain Judea-Christian beliefs are infused with many of the Mesopotamian Religions’ narratives.
    Again, I question your research as I would anyone making biblical claims. As you speak of “Gehenna” are you aware of its pagan origin? See below:

    The fear of hell fire is but a myth as well. According to Wayne Blank, of the “Daily Bible Study,” the Hebrew name “Hinnom” when translated into Greek is “Gehenna,” from which the word and concept of hell. “Sheol, Hades and Ghenna” are all ancient euphemisms for hell. Hades is nothing more that the Greek god of the underworld, while Ghenna (the Valley of Hinnom), was a historical trash dump outside the city walls of Jerusalem where deformed infants (deemed cursed) were discarded and burned in pagan rituals.

    Thank you for any kind of response to this question.

  34. If you look back to my first input, the one that elicited Dr. Steve’s outburst, I went to the last chapter in Isaiah where this is dealt with. Jesus quotes this passage giving it credence in my eyes. Scripture is the best commentator of the Bible. The other so-called authoritative sources have nothing

  35. I wonder do you believe in God or Yeshua? Do you think it is still possible to believe after in some ways seeking to under mind the whole Bible? Then do you consider that the person they are talking about is true? So not Inerrant but inspired? Also is the God mention in the Bible a reality to you? So you say it’s all contradiction so God isn’t true? There is more complexity is that excuse not believe in Yeshua the Messiah? However you are not the only Bible scholar and the others ones would they agree with you? What if your system of defining theology is wrong? How do you know the Documentary hypothesis is right? I wonder is there other systems of defining these books like this? So you are not open minded to Christian beliefs that you find them authoritative? This doesn’t mean they are not right about things. Then you seem to hold this Documentary hypothesis as authoritive teaching to determining the interpretation of scriptures. You don’t have to answer me, you do go by another teaching of a man named Julius Wellhausen. So it is good to be opened minded…

  36. Robert, It looks like you have some misconceptions here. For starters, I am not undermining the Bible. Our goal here is to pay attention to the texts as their authors intended, their messages, and their beliefs. It is all about the texts. However, if by “Bible” you mean what that word implies then to some extent the answer is that the texts themselves undermine what is implied in this centuries-later reader-imposed interpretive framework. Or more correctly, the label “Holy Bible” brings with it a plethora of unstated assumptions that undermine the messages, ideologies—at times competing messages and ideologies—and even compositional natures of the texts themselves. Our goal here is to push back to an earlier period before this label was applied to this collection of texts and from there understand the texts each on their own terms and as a product of their own unique historical and literary worlds. But if you are “reading” these texts through this later interpretive framework, and bringing to these texts all that is assumed in the label “the Holy Bible,” then I’m afraid it is you who are undermining the texts themselves, valuing what is implied and imposed in the title “the Holy Bible” above the once independent messages of these ancient texts.

    Second, our study here is the texts, not God, not theology. There has unfortunately been a common misunderstanding of this project. I do not write about God or theology unless I am talking about a specific biblical writer’s conception of God or his theological beliefs. So again, it is the reader who brings predefined notions of God to these texts and thus thinks that this is somehow an attack on God. Quite the contrary, I am defending the texts, and yes one could say defending them from later reader-imposed interpretive and theological constructs and assumptions. So I’m not imposing any “system of theology.”

    With respect to the works of other scholars and the Documentary hypothesis, again although I’m interested in these things, they are secondary. What is most important are the texts themselves; so again not what the reader brings to the texts as predetermined assumptions defined by the label “the Holy Bible,” but what the texts themselves reveal about their own compositional nature and history, and the beliefs and messages of their individual authors—so again not the beliefs and message of that which is implied in the centuries-label reader-imposed label “the Holy Bible.” So this has nothing to do with my beliefs. It is a site devoted to the beliefs of the authors who penned these texts—understanding their beliefs and faithfully reproducing them. So what I hold as authoritative, as you put it, are the texts. And I hold the texts more authoritative than the later interpretive tradition that goes by the name “the holy Bible” and all that is implied in that label. But as interpretative traditions go, it looks like you hold more authoritative all that is implied in the title “the Holy Bible” and not the texts themselves. For if we were to talk about the texts themselves and say specifically the beliefs and message of Matthew’s Jesus, it could be shown textually that you, nor any modern Christian for that matter, does not believe in the message and beliefs of Matthew’s Jesus (see my Matthew’s Jesus and the criterion of righteousness). Again, I’m not making a subjective claim here. It is what the texts themselves reveal when faithfully understanding the beliefs of this author (and/or his Jesus). But unfortunately the message of Matthew’s Jesus, as for that matter the message of Leviticus’ Yahweh, gets drowned out and neglected due to the fact that the message inherent in the label “the Holy Bible” has become more authoritative to modern Christians than the once independent and competing messages of these texts and their authors.

    You might be interested in this rather wordy post too: What is the Bible?

  37. Why are any of you debating the Bible. God himself said not to argue or His word. I feel that their are many people that have written
    comments on The Bible have had a bad experience either with the church or family or even witness a fellow believer or a TV preacher
    that you may have felt is all they want is money, Maybe you are right or maybe you are wrong, The point is why do debate your opinions on this Area You can’t disprove or Prove the Word of God, I just believe in His Word because it gives me hope for the future, plus I have personal relationship with the Messiah, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua, Maybe you should stop being a hater and find something you can believe in. I wasn’t going to waste my time on this area but I feel for any Person who has no hope in the Bible or trust in a Higher power. You can’t make anyone believe what you believe , just like I can’t either. Do something productive with yourself and your education, Try seeking God and ask him to reveal his self to you. You just might be surprised.

  38. Theresa,

    We “debate” about the Bible precisely because—as a whole host of other biblical scholars have voiced—although one of the most influential and “read” books, it is the least understood by modern readers. For example, your subjective claim and belief that the Bible is the “word of God” is a claim brought to this collection of ancient texts by a later readership. Studying the biblical texts themselves—on their terms, not those of later readers—refutes this and many other powerful interpretive beliefs and frameworks imposed upon these texts by later readers. So for myself, and many of the participants on this blog, it’s about the texts, their authors, and their beliefs—not those of later readers.

    This brings me to my second point. This blog does not deal with “what I believe” nor am I trying to make people believe what I believe. Rather, it is all about the beliefs of the various authors who wrote these 60 some texts over a period of a thousand years. And indeed worldviews, belief systems, values, etc changed during this long period and traditional stories were retold with considerable variation. The biblical texts bear witness to these changing theologies and worldviews. So we study them, not our beliefs about them. And most of the time this education, being honest to the beliefs of say the author of Leviticus, informs us that other writers of texts now in the Bible, like say the author of Deuteronomy or Luke, Hebrews, etc. had different, even contradictory, beliefs and worldviews. Later readers of course imposed their own meaning and belief system onto this collection of texts—such as the belief you expressed—and created as it were new meanings that are antagonist toward the original meanings of many of these texts as their original authors intended. So in the end, we are trying to raise awareness of the beliefs of these varying authors, rather than drowning out their voices and messages by imposing blanket beliefs created by readers living centuries after these texts were written.

    Finally, we are allowing the text of the Bible itself to reveal its compositional nature—again rather than blindly imposing a blanket belief about this collection of literature that was created centuries after many of these texts were written. I realize that these may be sensitive issues, and rightly so. But I also firmly believe—so here is one of my beliefs—that if we as a species are going to increase in our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in and notably how we create meaningful narrative for our lives, and certainly I’m thinking about religion here, then that has to start with being honest to these ancient texts, their authors, and their beliefs. Now that’s a whole lot of learning to do, and this website makes a small indentation in bringing knowledge about the texts of the Bible (not what has been said, claimed, or believed about them) to the public realm.

  39. Thanks Dr. DiMattei

    For taking on such a project. I do understand those individuals that debate their spiritual position/dispositions. This is much more than just literary work. Those individual debaters must know that yes there exists a “creator being” but by the influence of paganism, creeds, Marcion, hellenism, zoroastrianism etc., have invariably exploited the nature of the god of ancient days or perhaps invariably created one.

    However, there are poignant truths to feed our souls amongst the writings of the prophets. But for this site step back a bit and listen. I don’t see this site taking anything away from the your faith. Ultimately it is up to you to seek and find the truth. It is written to do this with all your heart, soul, and mind. This means once you are rooted and grounded go and rightly “divide” the word. Go beyond christendom to make sure you don’t further chew on “corrupted meat” as you walk your walk among the traditions of man. Condemnation, guilt are all apart of a big fat lie…

    Someone has to obey the calling to sift through the haystack to find the needle, or is it the G-d particle. Dr DiMattei appears to have a very sound mind. I truly appreciate you obsession.

  40. I think your a good scholar and we can learn so much from you , but you need to allow yourself to be humble and be teachable too.
    I think we have to be careful after all we all come to the text with presuppositions and we have to guard ourselves from eisegesis. Yes let’s try to discover what the original author was trying to convey to his audience and learn the historical background of the language etc and at the same time when we do that for instance we read that Many many many passages that this is The Wird of the Lord. That it is God breathed – All Scripture! If we don’t have that as our starting point then we will do the Bible an injustice . My view of Scripture is that of Christs and yes there are many hundreds of contradictions but under closer scrutiny and study of the original languages among interpreting scripture with scripture we find that indeed there is harmonisation and though not in some cases a clear answer, there is not a clear undisputed contradiction with which we have to relinquish.
    Great article and I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts .
    In Christ
    Kevin davies

  41. IRT your reply concerning slavery in the Bible April 10, 2015. You state unconditionally the Bible condones slavery, how/why do come to this conclusion?
    Your site talks so much about contextual accuracy maybe you should define slavery for those that make the assumption of it as forced servitude. There many forms of slavery so clarification counts.

  42. Steven,

    I wanted to say that I am pleased that a website like this exists. I am not knowledgeable in biblical languages nor am I a biblical scholar so I am fortunate if I can pick the brains of wiser heads for information. I have two questions regarding a discrepancy in the Hebrew Bible. This discrepancy is with regards to the Ten Commandments. There are two contrary versions of them: one is in Exodus 20: 1-17 and Exodus 34: 15-26. In Exodus, 34, verse 27, the text says “27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel”. So my first question is with regards to the pluperfect here. Is “I have made” the best way to understand the Hebrew?

    The second question is with regards to Deuteronomy 5:22. After the Ten Commandments are repeated, the text says in verse 22: “22 These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.”

    Is the phrase “and he added nothing more” a literal statement and not hyperbole?

    What I see here, in verse 22, is a qualifying phrase meant to discredit the Ritual Decalogue. I am convinced that Deuteronomy’s author knew of both the Ethical Decalouge and the Ritual Decalogue but favored the Ethical one and saw the Ritual set as a rival tradition. By saying that YHWH “added no more” is meant to discredit this rival tradition which claimed that the Ritual Decalogue was part of the Mosaic covenant.

    I appreciate any insights! Thanks!

    Matt

  43. Matt, Welcome.

    These are astute textual observations. Pertaining to the contradictory 10 Commandment traditions, I’ve dealt with these in specific posts.

    #134. Which Ten Commandments: Ex 20:1-17 OR Ex 34:14-26?
    #135. Did Yahweh write down the same Ten Commandments OR did he not? (Ex 34:1 vs Ex 20:1-17, 34:14-26)

    The Hebrew perfect כָּרַתִּי (karati), here in verse 34:27, can and is often translated by the English pluperfect, representing a completed action in the past. The sense of the sentence seems to be that Yahweh made, has made, a covenant based on these “10 dictates (debarim).” They represent, according to our author, the covenantal obligation of the Israelites after Yahweh has already promised his covenantal part if Israel upholds their end of the covenant—“to drive out the Amorite and Canaanite from the land” (Ex 34:11). At least this is how I read it.

    More interesting, or problematic (?), is that as you note not only does Exodus preserve variant Ten Commandment traditions, but it also appears that the editor responsible for preserving both these traditions did so by presenting the latter giving of the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:1-28, attributed to the Yahwist tradition) as a re-giving of the previous Ten Commandments in Ex 20, attributed to the Elohist tradition. Yahweh exclaims (perhaps a verse that this editor penned): “I’ll write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you shattered.” However, a close look at the Ten Commandments in Ex 34:14-26, by which means Yahweh has just made a covenant (כָּרַתִּי) with Israel, one immediate sees that these are NOT the same as the Ten Commandments of the first tablets, or those now preserved in Exodus 20!

    Your second point actually hints at a contradiction I have not yet posted and it deals with how the author of Deuteronomy reinterprets the whole giving of the laws tradition at Sinai/Horeb through the authoritative mouthpiece of Moses. Your take on what’s going on, or potentially took place, is interesting. Basically you see the Deuteronmist’s phrase “and he added nothing more” (Deut 5:22) as a way of disqualifying or discrediting the Ten Commandment Tradition of the Yahwist in Exodus 34 (the Ritualistic version). You’re on the right track here but I think there is something even more radical and subversive happening here in D’s reinterpretation, indeed retelling, of the giving of the laws tradition. Let me throw out my thesis first and then the texts from which it was derived. The Deuteronomist has Moses, in his retelling of the giving of the laws, claim that Yahweh at Horeb ONLY gave the Ten Commandments, and that furthermore Yahweh gave Moses laws separately which Moses is/will presently disclose on the plains of Moab (Deut 12-27)—the Deuteronomist’s 7th century BCE law code!

    So, in the original account, Exodus 20-24, Yahweh is presented giving the people both the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17) AND the Law codes (Ex 21:1-23:33). And furthermore, in exodus 24 we are told that the people both heard and accepted in the form of a ritualized covenant ceremony both the Ten Commandments AND the Law Code of Ex 21-23. “We’ll do everything that Yahweh has spoken” (Ex 24:7).

    Now look at what the author of Deuteronomy has Moses say when he renarrates this event!

    “At that time . . . Yahweh spoke to you. . . and he told you his covenant that he commanded you to do, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.” (Deut 4:10). “These words [the Ten Commandments] Yahweh spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from inside the fire, the cloud, and the darkness with a great voice. And he said no more! And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deut 5:22).

    “And Yahweh said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. . . Go say to them: ‘Return to your tents.’ But as for you, you remain here with me so that I may set before you all the commandments and the statues and the judgments that you shall teach them to do in the land that I am giving them to posses'” (Deut 5:28-31).

    “And Yahweh gave me the two tablets of stones, written by the finger of God, and on them were all the words that Yahweh had spoken with you at the mountain from inside the fire in the days of the assembly” (Deut 9:9-10).

    In sum, what Moses claims in his renarration of the Horeb revelation is: 1) that Yahweh only gave the people the Ten Commandments; 2) that Yahweh instructed the people to return to their tents (never happens in the Exodus account); and 3) that “at that time” Yahweh gave Moses alone the laws and commandments that Moses would relay to the people, not at Horeb, but “today” on the plains of Moab. Moreover, the laws and commandments given this day on the plains of Moab by Moses (Deut 12-26), which he claims Yahweh gave him and him alone at Horeb, are in many instances completely different from those actually delivered at Horeb (Ex 21-23), which Moses here says were never delivered nor acknowledged by the people!

    Much of what I am imploring my visitors to do and acknowledge (some being more honest to these textual variations than others), is to see these variations—not interpret them away, and then to ask the next question in our pursuit of understanding: Why did the author of Deuteronomy modify, alter, and even contradict the tradition that he himself inherited? Granted this is a more speculative query, but we may surmise that he disagreed with the law code of Exodus 21-23 and attempted to replace it, subverting it and re-presenting it as his law code in his composition—Deut 12-27. This may have been done to legitimate this author’s own law codes to his particular historical audience which scholars assign to the 7th century religious reforms under Josiah!

    This is a masterful piece of literary ingenuity and certainly not unique to this corpus of literature. Check out Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (1997). He walks you through the Hebrew of some of the laws of Deuteronomy and specifically shows you how this author used specific Hebrew phrases and lexicon of Exodus 21-23 to make it sound as if his new legislation was the older tradition’s legislation that he was ultimately subverting. In fact, this is what much of ancient literature did—by allegedly representing or retelling earlier authoritative traditions what later scribes or scribal schools who often disagreed with these earlier traditions did was to present their own religious or political innovations as the very tradition they were representing and in this way subvert the older tradition by presenting their new re-telling as the older tradition itself! This is what the Bible is on a whole. There are many many examples of this subversive literary or reinterpretive practice. Think about how the whole Christian tradition represented and retold the OT traditions claiming that its “real” message was Jesus and his covenant thereby subverting the very traditions that it claimed to be a re-presentation of! This is precisely one of the main factors why Christians cannot read nor engage with these variant OT traditions on their own terms and as products of their own unique historical and literary contexts—because they have been conditioned to “read” them through different terms and contexts, what has become the more authoritative re-telling and subversion of these older traditions by this later reinterpretive tradition and what it now claims this older tradition’s message is, much like the re-interpretation of the Horeb tradition by the Deuteronomist, who then authenticates his altered re-presentation as the authoritative word by presenting Moses as merely “re-narrating” it! This later Christian tradition authenticates its re-packaged subversion by altering the authors of these older traditions, brazenly claiming it is God and thereby deny any reader responsibility toward the real authors, contexts, messages, and beliefs of these texts! It’s really a shame that there is such a lack of biblical education in the public and conversely such a push back by the public to learn anything about these ancient texts and the literary conventions scribes used in composing them on the terms of these scribes and their cultural contexts.

  44. Steven,

    Thanks for your reply. I read through it and I think I agree with just about everything you wrote. The funny thing is that I grew up reading the NIV and it was, interestingly enough, the NIV which convinced me that the Bible was not the perfect work of inerrant harmony that Evangelicals say that it is. I was surprised to learn that there are two different sets of Commandments in Exodus. When doing my own research on the subject, to see if it was an actual discrepancy or not, I tried imagining how an Evangelical, like, say, Norman Geisler might try to reconcile the passages. I imagined that someone like Geisler would claim that Yahweh inscribed the Ethical Decalogue on one side of the tablets, flipped them over, and inscribed the Ritual Decalogue on the reverse side. I came to realize that such a solution failed. In Exodus 34, Yahweh tells Moses to write down the words because in accordance with them, Yahweh has made a covenant. This would mean that the Ritual Decalogue was given to the people, by Moses, on the Day of the Assembly. However, in Deuteronomy 5, we see that this isn’t true; “Moses” is saying the Ethical Decalogue was the only one given and Yahweh didn’t give any more commandments, making it impossible that in accordance with “(the Ritual Decalogue, Yahweh” made a covenant with you..”.

    I am considering writing up an article on this subject. I’d love to have your permission to use your work. I look forward to reading so many of your other articles and commenting on them!

  45. Matt, by all means use and disseminate my material as you like, preserving me as author of course.

  46. Matt,
    Since you’re interested in the 10 Commandments, in addition to contradictions 134-135, which Steven recommended, You may want to see these also:

    #147: http://contradictionsinthebible.com/moses-writes-the-laws-or-yahweh/

    #156 http://contradictionsinthebible.com/what-is-written-on-the-stonetablets/

    #169 http://contradictionsinthebible.com/yahweh-makes-a-covenant-based-on-which-ten-commandments

    The tradition that the first set of 10 Commandments tablets was broken provided an opportunity to insert J’s Exodus-34 version, the so-called Ritual Decalogue, which may actually preserve a more primitive version of the Sabbath commandment than what’s found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5: “For six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest.”

  47. Really liking the new site design, Dr. DiMattei! To me, it’s a comprehensive improvement over the previous designs.

  48. So please just tell us. Do you believe that Jesus is The Son of God, Savior of all those who believe?
    And then does God make mistakes? He regretted making Man. God almost wiped all mankind out.
    Does God really know everything that is going to happen even before it happens?
    If He does… then why make man if He KNEW most of mankind was going to do very evil things? Wouldn’t God have just been better off without having created man in the first place?

  49. God has power to make something happen in the future, then he know that something will be happen in the future. All living being actually are biological device that convert energy from earth into “something” that God need, it’s called “Spirit/Force”. When a man die, his spirit will became one with god. Yes, your consciousness will become one with god (united). There’re no you, me, mother, father, there’s only GOD. Then God will become bigger and bigger.

  50. Dear Dr, DiMattei:

    I’ve browsed some of the posts here, and would like to offer my perspective on the underlying issues. To wit: fundamentally, one cannot understand the Bible without recognizing the existence of the soul. The Bible begins with the “Spirit of God” hovering over the waters, and for the rest of the book, there is only “God” in one terminology or another. I read that as a form of incarnation (merging of body and spirit) over a billion years ago. The core dilemmas in interpretation of scripture are then “Why?” and “What is Humanity’s role in the manifestation of that purpose?”

    From this perspective, the first Creation story in Genesis is actually what is revealed by paleontology. It summarizes the occupation of available ecosystems by life. Thus we have “light” on the first day because vision hadn’t yet evolved, and then later we have the “sun and the moon.”

    As regards the second point – Humanity’s role – the bulk of the Bible is about the investment of divine energy in preparing us for that role. Looked at over the long term, the text has great psychological and sociological coherence. Many of the contradictions in the record are, as you point out, reflections of the divergent cultural and political concerns of authors in various contexts. But the direction of the the flow is remarkably consistent, and reflects a steady and consistent rising from our brutish Darwinian past into a future of moral discernment epitomized by Jesus of Nazareth.

    The problem with interpretation in cultural context is that it eclipses the reality of the life led by tribal peoples, a reality in which all voices are heard – animals, plants, even rocks and stones. This makes no sense from a materialist perspective, which is why the exegesis of the last 300 years is fundamentally impoverished. It assumes that that only people matter. In my mind, intelligence makes things possible that were impossible before, but energetically and ecologically, we need a lot of help to get the job done. The dependency upon the biosphere was recognized in the land-based spiritual socialism encoded in the Law, is something that our Native American siblings decry that we have lost, and must be recovered if we are to survive the mess that we’ve made during the Industrial Age.

    My ruminations on the Bible are offered in “The Soul Comes First: Spiritual Literalism and Christian Theology.” The US Review summary is here.

    Respectfully,

    Dr. Brian Balke

  51. Brian,

    Thanks for your contribution. I’m going to push back here a bit by first claiming that such starting points as “the soul” or as you write—“To wit: fundamentally, one cannot understand the Bible without recognizing the existence of the soul”—actually exacerbates the fundamental problem of understanding these ancient texts by placing reader-oriented subjective beliefs or perspectives, or the reader itself, as the starting point to understanding these ancient documents. I’d retort by claiming that the texts MUST be our starting point. By that, what I am encouraging is an objective study of these texts—our object of study being a collection of ancient texts—not the subjective quest of determining meaning to our modern soul.

    See my series of posts Being Honest to the Texts, Their Authors, and Their Beliefs, excerpted from the Intro of my recent Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate.

    By contrast, “the soul” as the starting point automatically puts these ancient texts at the service, subjectively and in a biased fashion, of their modern readers and their whims. Now, that said, I am interested in subjective relationships between text and subject (i.e., its readers), but our first responsibility to ourselves and these ancient texts is to acknowledge and understand them on their terms—not the terms of their modern readers.

    Furthermore, understanding these ancient texts as products of their own cultural context is the only path forward that recognizes these ancient texts and the cultural and historical contexts that produced them in objective, and honest terms. Contrary to what you’ve expressed, culturally sensitive readings highlight “the reality of life” of the peoples and cultures that produced these texts. That is exactely my point: these texts are an expression of their reality or how they perceived it, their beliefs, their messages, their ideas on God, the cult, the priesthood, etc. As emphasized in the subtitle of my recent book, this is being honest to their beliefs, perceptions of reality, worldviews, and ideologies by forcing us modern readers with our own set of agendas to instead acknowledge theirs—the authors and cultures of these texts. After all, these ancient texts are an expression of ancient peoples and culture’s spirit or soul. Our task is not to glibly assert belief in the expressions of their beliefs carved as they were from their cultural perspectives and limited knowledge of the world in objective terms, but to acknowledge their competing beliefs, worldviews, and theologies and understand them, as products of their own cultural context.

    In short, the problem I have with the hermeneutic that you advance is that it places the reader at the center of the interpretive process rather than the texts on their own terms. Your statement “the bulk of the Bible is about the investment of divine energy in preparing us for that role” exactly highlights the violence and neglect done towards these texts by placing modern reader meanings and importance above the text, its author, and his beliefs. What textual evidence supports this kind reading? Certainly you may draw from Paul or other NT writers who were indeed engaging in re-interpretive practices of OT scripture that did place them, the readers and communities, at the center of these texts. But again our goal as impartial modern readers is to understand, for example Genesis 1, on the terms of its author and culture not on the terms of say the gospel of John or Paul, etc. Certainly these may be secondary pursuits, but again such re-interpretive practices reveal more about say John’s beliefs about Genesis than the culturally-shaped beliefs and worldview of the author of Genesis!

    I often have my students do an objective textual analysis and close reading of say Leviticus by given them simple reading comprehension questions whose goal is to understand the text, its author, and his beliefs on his terms, not those of later readers. For example: What are the beliefs of this text’s author as evidenced by the text? What was his worldview? What is the main point and message of his composition? What rhetorical or literary devices did he employ in authenticating that message? How did this author conceptualize and understand his god, Yahweh? How did he view the cult, Israel, the priesthood, women, the land, the past, the future, etc.? And more culturally-contextualized: What cultural and/or literary influences shaped this author’s worldview and message? To whom was he writing? Why did he write his text? Etc. Students then move on to say Deuteronomy and ask the same questions of the text. In other words, it is all about the text and their authors—not us! Certainly later readers have appropriated, often misappropriated, these texts to suit their own agendas, theologies, beliefs, and “souls.” But that’s a secondary set of inquires. Our first step is to acknowledge the texts themselves and their authors’ competing beliefs, messages, and worldviews, and then understanding these in the cultural contexts that produced them.

  52. Dr. DiMattei,

    I’ve been delving into your blog now after being referred to it via Reddit. So far, I’m loving the accessibility of your writing, not to mention the analysis that appears to be rooted in genuine scholarship. I’ve recently been cultivating an interest in the history of the Bible, not to mention matters of interpretation/theology/historical literary scholarship. Basically, I’ve realized that, despite being raised in church, my education regarding the Bible was sorely lacking. I hope to remedy that paucity of knowledge, and your blog thus far has proved invaluable.

    A few unrelated questions for you:

    1. As an undergraduate college student, I unfortunately don’t have a lot of disposable income. I’d very much love to read your book regarding Genesis, but I face a couple issues. Firstly, as I mentioned, I don’t have a lot of money right now. I need to pay exorbitant rent. And unfortunately I can’t find any copies of your book in my current city of residence, whether on or off-campus. Secondly, my parents retain access into my checking account as of now, and purchasing a book like yours would be a difficult thing to explain to them, as a closeted atheist. I rely on campus library books to fulfill my religious reading interests for that reason. Are there any alternative ways that I could read your book? I’ve requested that my school add the book to its collection, but they don’t guarantee purchase requests. Do you know of any online databases I could access, or a pdf version of your book? If there is no feasible way for me to read your book at a reduced or deferred cost, I completely understand.

    2. This question is a bit more personal. I recently (within the last 18 months) deconverted from Christianity after a protracted period of research and questioning. A major factor, though certainly not the most dominant one, was the unreliability of the Biblical texts, and the uncertainty enshrouding their compositions and original intents. Namely, I came to realize that the Bible wasn’t quite the “perfect, infallible, authoritative” tome I had been led to believe in. So, my question is as follows: Are atheists too quick to dismiss Christian, and other religious claims, due to the apparent inconsistencies and inaccuracies of their holy books? As I said, my loss of belief in the Bible as a “perfect” book certainly contributed to my loss of faith, but it was a powerful motivator in feeding doubts. When I observed that the Bible seemed to not fit the interpretive frameworks I possessed from childhood, I (perhaps too) quickly began to apply the same level of scrutiny to other aspects of my belief system, and quickly lost a belief in the Bible as a legitimate and trustworthy source of historical “truth” (a weighted word, I know). Was that an overreaction? Metaphorically speaking, my belief in the Bible was like a finely balanced log house, and removing one of the logs led to its rapid collapse. If I had been taught more accurate and defensible views regarding the Bible, not predicated on faith or extant interpretive frameworks, would I have been less likely to feel my faith as threatened by attacks on the accuracy of the Bible?

    It’s an interesting question to me, and one I’ve been pondering for quite some time. I wonder if I’ve been entirely fair to the texts, in completely losing faith in them and looking for inconsistencies, when perhaps I could’ve adhered to a more nuanced and moderate view had I not had such a such interpretive framework inculcated within me from childhood. As an atheist, what am I missing in trying to “disprove” the Bible as it pertains to its popular interpretation? Am I overstepping in my desire to skeptically view my former beliefs?

    3. Lastly, I’m looking for books to read. Your book, as I mentioned, is included, but I’m interested in any books regarding the history of the Bible/Christianity/literary works of antiquity/theology. Do you have a handful of books you could recommend for a layperson new to the topics at hand? I’ve read some Ehrman in the last few months, and I suppose I’d be looking at popular/academic books along those same lines. I’d be interested in more fundamentalist views of the texts as well as more liberal. Ehrman seems to be fairly moderate, at least in his tone.

    I truly appreciate any response you may render for me. I’m still catching up on your blog when I have time, but at this rate it’ll take months!

  53. D,

    Thanks for the lengthy comment, and I apologize for the belated reply. I very much appreciated your openness and candor. To respond to your points:

    1) While I certainly understand the financial constraints associated with putting oneself through college, the cheapest alternative I can offer at the moment is the Kindle version. I am however currently in talks with distributors to libraries, public and universities. Hopefully something comes of that.

    2) In short, I don’t personally feel you are overstepping in your desire to be skeptical, and as you’ve amply detailed the skepticism that you seem to be facing comes more from a skewed or biased interpretive framework that most fundamentalist are unfortunately and misleadingly taught. And in fact I would argue the opposite: that it is Christian fundamentalists who are skeptical about gleaning any knowledge about these ancient texts. They put their faith in traditional beliefs about the Bible—not in the texts themselves!

    I think that a large problem with modern fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity is that they rely on a traditional set of belief-claims about the Bible. And these long-standing belief-claims, which were largely formed devoid of any knowledge about this corpus of ancient texts, are used to define their faith, or faith in general. And this is quite bizarre when we think about it: 2,000 year old beliefs about a corpus of ancient texts defines faith!? This is not how Paul, or Matthew, of James, etc. defined faith. It’s sort of a perversion I would say—a lazy perversion for those who are merely comfortable accepting what others say about these ancient texts than finding out themselves.

    At any rate, it’s only naturally then when scholarship and critical study of this corpus of ancient texts reveal that the Bible is not, nor does it support, what these later belief-claims assert that rupture emerges. I have known and work with many biblical scholars who readily know that the Bible is a collection of diverse and often competing beliefs about a variety of topis, and attests competing ideologies, worldviews, and even theological beliefs. But the difference between this group of Christians and fundamentalism is that their faith isn’t defined by a false idea of inerrancy or claims of the Bible being God’s word. I used to have a few Christians on the site who commented regularly and expressed their appreciation for my work. They too sought to define their faith in other ways than through faulty and unsupportable ideas about the text.

    The specific phenomenon we are really witnessing now, and which I have written about, is the fact that the title “the Holy Bible” and all that is implied in that title has become the authoritative voice that unfortunately defines what this collection of ancient literature is rather than the content of these ancient texts. When studied, they reveal conflating authoritative voices, contradictory portraits of Yahweh, competing legislation, views of the priesthood, counter-histories, etc. But this knowledge about the texts and their authors are never acknowledged by many modern readers due to the authoritative sway that the title “Holy Bible” has on these readers in defining these texts, and again defining them incorrectly and misleadingly!

    “Are atheists too quick to dismiss Christian, and other religious claims, due to the apparent inconsistencies and inaccuracies of their holy books?”

    I think there are two issues here. First there are real and often severe discrepancies between the views and opinions of the 60 some scribes who composed these texts over an ever-changing religious and geopolitical world of some 1,000 years. What I am particularly doing here is dismissing—to use your words—claims about this collection of ancient texts. I do not engage in the deconstruction of belief-claims about God in general or other such religious claims. So this project here is vastly different than the fundamental aims of many atheists. Can showing how traditional belief-claims about the Bible are not supported by the biblical texts themselves lead to the questioning of other religious claims? Yes I think so. But I leave my Christians readers to grapple with that on their own terms. To cite a couple excerpts from my book concerning these issues….

    Let me back up a moment and clarify what I am saying and conversely not saying. First, this is not a book that argues against belief in God. It is not a book that argues against faith in general. In fact, it doesn’t even argue against believing that the world was created by God or a god, however one wishes to conceptualize this. Rather, it is a book that argues against holding certain traditional beliefs about the texts of the Bible in a day and age when our knowledge about these ancient texts, about ancient literature in general, and about the historical and literary contexts within which these texts were composed reveals that such traditional beliefs are no longer tenable. Why? Because the biblical texts themselves tell us this. Unfortunately, however, the authoritative nature of this centuries-later interpretive framework, “the Holy Bible,” and all that this title implies still dictate what this collection of literature is for many readers despite the fact that the texts themselves when read on their terms—not the terms and beliefs imposed by this interpretive framework—reveal that these traditional beliefs are not supported by the texts themselves. (Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 121)

    Fourth, the textual evidence of chapters 1 and 2 combined reveals that what the author of this text was doing was crafting an image of God that coincided with and supported his own culturally shaped priestly perceptions and experience of the world. It is no coincidence that in this corpus of literature, and only in this priestly source, Yahweh is presented as advocating through eternal covenants, eternal laws, and other decrees the unique views and beliefs of the Aaronid priestly guild responsible for writing this text. The Yahweh of his composition, in other words, is a literary creation which he shaped in support of his own views and beliefs. Again, I realize the provocative nature of these conclusions, but the fact is that they are drawn from observing the textual data. If we were to compare the portrait of Yahweh and his eternal laws and covenants in the Priestly source with other texts of the Bible, with for example the book of Deuteronomy or Jeremiah, or even the writings of Paul, these conclusions would become even more evident. I’d also like to remind my readers that I am making no claims about God per se. I am not discussing God in any metaphysical, ontological, or theological sense. What we are doing here is simply noting the observable textual data and the literary techniques used by ancient authors and the conclusions this evidence leads us to draw about the text. In other words, we are talking about the text and the beliefs represented in that text, and that includes how our author understood and portrayed his god. Thus the text itself and all things in it are an expression of his beliefs, his worldview, his concept of God, and his culturally defined perceptions about the world. Our task as mature responsible readers of the twenty-first century is to acknowledge this, and to understand the hows and whys behind all of this. Being honest to the texts is our first and most immediate task, albeit perhaps the most difficult. (Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, 119)

    I appreciate your quotation of “disprove” the Bible. Here on this site too, many readers who pop by wrongly think that my goal is to disprove. In fact, I have argued just the opposite: it is to defend the biblical texts! See Why Secularists Ought to Defend the Biblical Texts

    3) There are a number of good books out there, but unfortunately besides a small handful there are not many trade books on the Bible written by experts in the field. Ehrman has certainly capitalized the market in this area. Here are some further suggestions, both trade and academic (diverse, from moderate scholars to conservative theologians).

    Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, 1987.
    Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel, 1990.
    Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible, 1992.
    Campbell & O’Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch, 1993.
    Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches, 1996.
    Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation, 1997.
    Watts, Reading Law: The Rhetorical Shaping of the Pentateuch, 1999.
    Campbell & O’Brien, Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History: Origins, Upgrades, Present Text, 2000.
    Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It?, 2001.
    Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed, 2001.
    Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed: A New View into the Five Books of Moses, 2003.
    Schniedewind, How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel, 2004.
    Van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, 2007.
    Smith, The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1, 2010.
    Carr, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction, 2011.
    Baden, The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis, 2012.

    As far as books coming from the fundamentalist camp, I don’t really know much there. You might try Peter Enns.

    Cheers,

  54. I read/heard that there are two versions of conquest of Jericho (or Canaan overall?)…in Joshua and another book (Judges?). I can’t find this myself – can you point out what someone might be referring to?

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