Today I intend to leave the world of Ghosties and Conspiracy for the story of the most famous book in history and the source of many mysteries of it’s own.
This is not about belief or lack of it. I leave it to my readers to make up their own minds on that. Just to set the scene, religion and religious books have always been a means of control. Superstition and Gods have had their priests, by whatever name, Those Priests have been a power unto themselves or have allied themselves to those who had power. For our purposes it is the bible we are concerned with. It is The Word Of God, Right?
Well no, not really. The old testament is a creation myth and a history of God and his chosen people. Many elements are common to other religions. There are countless flood myths (As in Noah’s Ark.). However it is almost impossible to disprove anything so far back in history.
The New Testament is a different matter. If the story of Jesus and his ministry is true, and if the events after his death are accurate then we have first person testaments from his disciples. The New Testament is excellent first hand evidence.
Except that the whole thing is supposedly the word of Jesus filtered through the understanding of simple men. There would be misunderstandings and stories told which would be given spin in order to reflect the views and prejudices of those men. If there is a gospel of Jesus it would simplify things. That is if we assume the writers were actually the people they claim to be. The Gospel of Judas, though not a biblical gospel, is thought to have been written much later than Judas’ lifetime.
Then we have the Book of Revelation by St John the Divine. This is a description of the last days before Armageddon. To me it seems to be totally out of place with the rest of the NT which preaches love and forgiveness while it is about God’s revenge on sinners. The imagery seems like a drug induced nightmare rather than a vision from God. One can only assume it was included to put the fear of God into believers. Judging by the horror stories and films made about it, it succeeds.
As any Dan Brown reader will tell you, probably foaming at the mouth with enthusiasm, Pope Damasus I assembled the first list of books of the Bible at the Council of Rome in 382 CE. He commissioned Saint Jerome to produce a reliable and consistent text by translating the original Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin. There were many Gospels (including the famous ones about Jesus’ family, and the gospel of Judas which is being posited as proof that the Resurrection never happened) that were never included. The end result was a list of approved books IN LATIN. But it did not include much of the ‘Evidence’ especially if it didn’t agree with accepted doctrine.
This state of affairs continued for many years but the power of Monarchs and Popes depended on the Bible being used as a weapon. The Latin bible ensured that the word of God was filtered through the pronouncements of Popes and Priests. Other things which never appeared in the Bible were the result of changes to canon law. Confession, Purgatory and so on ensured income and the fear of hell kept the lower classes bent to the will of Church and Monarch and Priests preached duty to God, Monarch and your Lords. But none of this was in the bible, it was the work of men.
Then, in the Medieval era came the protestants. They argued that the Word of God (Diluted though it might already be.) Should be available to all. William Tyndale first translated the New Testament into English but even he put certain words in reflecting his own prejudice against the establishment. Before his famous reformation, Henry VIII had Tyndale executed because his translation was dangerous to the Status Quo. If anyone could read the NT they would find that no one had advocated the class system except the Clergy and Nobles.
With Henry VIII’s break with Rome he swapped one tyrant for another and in a cynical about face he had someone else translate the bible into English and took credit himself. Yet even then most of the translation relied on Tyndale which persevered even in the King James version and thus into modern interpretations. Despite the break, Henry still believed in the power the Popes wielded but wanted it for himself. Therefore he would execute radical protestants one year and Papists the next, as his mood took him.
The New English Bible itself caused problems. It led to ridiculous (To our eyes!) divisions such as the one which argued for and against the presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Wine and Bread. People were executed for being on the wrong side of this one.
And still the Bible was not available to many from the lower classes. Most were illiterate and still relied on someone else to read to them. Usually it was a priest so very little changed after all the upheaval.
After King James version the bible has remained substantially the same and still does. So is the Bible the word of God? I don’t think so but I am an atheist. Even if you are a Christian it is obvious that the Bible has been written, interpreted and used as a tool by men. The extant version is one which ignores unwanted histories. The knowledge of this via the new God internet has meant more and more people can see it.
I would like to believe that Jesus existed but his story has long been corrupted by the actions of men. As for God I don’t think he would speak to us via a book when he could speak to us in our heart and soul. Those in power have used this book to keep control of the masses over the years. If there is a God, and I like to think that there is a benevolent soul to the universe, you won’t find him in the Bible.
One more thing. In any war, all sides will claim God is on their side and will, no doubt, find evidence for this claim in this Holy Book. If there is a God he must be weeping in despair at the uses men, in their pride, claim for his ‘Sacred Word’