Archive for category Bible

The best way to burn your Quran (and your Bible)

What with all this sacred book burning going on, I got to wondering: What burns better? The Bible or the Quran? So with the help of Google I did a little web sleuthing.

And found out nothing. No one seems to know which of these books will burn the fastest, the longest, the hottest or the brightest. For the sake of scientific purposes, I hope these religious whack-jobs will film the burnings, for later comparative purposes. Maybe keep the ashes for electron scanning, see if there is any residue of the supernatural left.

I did find this out: apparently both the Bible and the Quran can provide you with a lifetime of satisfactory rolling papers. There are dozens of stoners on the web who will attest to this. Now, if someone is compelled to burn a sacred book, that’s the right way to go about it. Might take the edge off of all that anger, dude. (But…no matter what grade of weed you use, you just can’t get high smoking the Book of Mormon)

Another thing I learned: it is a sin to read the Bible or the Quran in the bathroom. Just as I figured. (Now I’ll never get to finish Leviticus)

All kidding aside, I do not think that these book burnings, of  either the Quran or the Bible, should be taken lightly. But it is obvious that many religious people, particularly fundamentalists. place way too much importance in the physical presence of their sacred texts. Take the absurd hoopla over Senator Ellison, a Muslim, wanting to be sworn into office with his hand on a Quran instead of a Bible? Why would anyone expect a Muslim to swear an oath on a book that is not the Quran? For that matter, how ridiculous is it for anyone to swear on the Bible – does it have some sort of ju-ju that ensures honesty? If someone lies while doing so with the earth open up and swallow him?

Typically book burnings are not purely symbolic, as these current incidents are meant to be. When the early church ‘fathers’ (or the Reformers or the Nazis) burned books it was to destroy all the reading material dangerous to their causes.  Not what is happening in the Carolinas, Florida or Afghanistan. (Which is also why book burnings can never be more than symbolic, with TV, radio and especially the Internet replacing the printed media as the primary vessel of ideas)

These book burning are big deals because the people who ‘own’ those books, Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists, allow themselves to be offended, as if the offenders were somehow actually burning Jesus or Mohammed. They have become idolaters and the books are their idols. They have allowed religious fervor to replace common sense along with, at times,  common decency.


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Fundamentalists just need more faith

Having once been an adherent myself, this is my understanding of why Christian Fundamentalists are so zealous about Creationism:

If you:

… accept the theory of Evolution as the most reasonable explanation for the variety of life on Earth

….accept the geological evidence that says that the Earth is billions of years old

…accept the astronomical evidence that the Universe is much older than even the Earth

Then you:

…obviously do not read the Bible literally

…do not believe that the Biblical creation account is true

…cannot trust that anything else in the Bible is true

…cannot accept God’s Word as true

…under the influence of Satan

…are unsaved.

So, in fundamentalist eyes, conventional scientific inquiry is not necessarily flawed but profoundly dangerous.  In order to protect the philosophically unassailable conclusions of Creationism, which are based solely upon Biblical texts, any tactic that can discredit the conventional scientific wisdom is acceptable, particularly the ad hominem argument

But the defense of Creationism becomes more difficult as scientific research continues to reveal evidence for the natural history of our planet and the workings of the Universe.  This evidence cannot be ignored so it must be re-interpreted, but always through the lens of the Bible. In this way the geologic and fossil evidence can be explained ‘scientifically’ through the extrapolation of Biblical stories, particularly the story of the Flood.

As it turns out, the Flood is a convenient refutation of just about all the physical evidence that supports evolution and an old Earth, at least for those who believe in Biblical Creation. It is the point at which the Creationists and the Evolutionist continue to  bump heads.  Because, though the Evolutionists can say that the Flood is merely a convenient myth that neatly gives religious answers to questions about the Earth, the Creationists can reply that yes, indeed it does.  The Flood explains everything. But it is no myth

Without the Flood and the story of Noah and his Ark, there would be little if any support for the theory of Creationism.  This is the mechanism that provides an air of ‘scientific’ legitimacy to their position, one that incorporates physical evidence coupled with a theory that is irrefutable, as it cannot be tested.  When this theory is questioned on the basis of obvious evidence to the contrary, the Creationists are left with no choice but to fall back upon a supernatural explanation that is often the result of a non-contextual rendering of a Bible verse. ( i.e. “all things are possible with God”)

It obviously boils down to a question of faith, not science.  If one definition of faith is that it is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence, then Creationism cannot be called science.  Yet another definition of faith is trust, confidence in someone or something, without the necessary evidence to support it.

If ultimately the Creationist position is supported by an article of faith that cannot be tested, then why spend all this energy on modifying school science texts so that they teach Intelligent Design or the ongoing construction of numerous Creation museums (one intent of which is to ridicule modern science and scientists)?  It is a classic example of “preaching to the choir” and comes across as a desperate attempt to present evidence necessary to “prove” the existence of God.  Because there just isn’t enough faith.

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Mountain of Turkey found on Noah’s Ark

(UPNews) August 25, 2010

Sven Splinquist, a Creation Scientist and entrepreneur in Stockholm, contacted Swedish authorities today,  saying that his meticulously detailed  life-size reproduction of Noah’s Arc was vandalized over night.   An estimated 50 tons of thinly sliced deli turkey had been mysteriously layered atop the 450 foot wooden vessel, completely burying its superstructure.

Authorities have no suspects in the case but Splinquist believes it has something to do with his theory  that not all animals were taken aboard by Noah, particularly birds.  Instead  just 2 each of all  “kinds” of animals were saved.  Every species of dog would not need representation,  but just a few, as the other varieties would have developed in the ensuing 4300 years.  But this view has some people upset, including many of Sweden’s 1500 turkey farmers, who have waged a market war with neighboring Norway’s booming chicken industry for years.

“Ja, dere vas no need for all da birds to be on d’ark. Just a few.  So da tink is, dere vas no turkey on ark, just chickies.  Da turkey of today is just a big chickie.” says Splinquist. “Da turkey varmers are mad ’cause dey tink I’m sayin Gud don’t luff de turkeys. But he luff  effertink. Efen pastrami.”//

Splinquist is not too terribly upset about the cold-cut prank. In fact he has a big grin on his face.

“Look! My ark not tip ofer! Dis proof dat de ark vas ferry sea worty. An tomorrow ve haff smorgasbord fer de whole friggin’ town! Gud bless!”

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It’s confirmed: the world will end in a little over one year!

That’s right. Through meticulous historical research, rigorous scientific study and the application of advanced mathematical concepts, the academics over at Harold Camping’s think-tank have determined the precise date the world will end.  And it’s right around the corner.

Since we know the year the Earth was created, and using surprisingly simple and obvious formulas, it can be clearly  seen that earth’s last day will be Wednesday, October 21, 2011, just a little over one year away. Surprisingly this beats the conventional wisdom about the world’s end ( based on the otherwise accurate Mayan calendar) by over two months. But the predictions are very close. Coincidence? I think not.


11,013 BC—Creation. God created the world and man (Adam and Eve).

4990 BC—The flood of Noah’s day. All perished in a worldwide flood. Only Noah, his wife, and his 3 sons and their wives survived in the ark (6023 years from creation).

7 BC—The year Jesus Christ was born (11,006 years from creation).

33 AD—The year Jesus Christ was crucified and the church age began (11,045 years from creation; 5023 calendar years from the flood).

1988 AD—This year ended the church age and began the great tribulation period of 23 years (13,000 years from creation).

1994 AD—On September 7th, the first 2300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end and the latter rain began, commencing God’s plan to save a great multitude of people outside of the churches (13,006 years from creation).

2011 AD—On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation).

This body of evidence is conclusive and undeniable. Of course there will be skeptics and others quite  happy with their heads in the sand.   Some have already spread nasty rumors that these same scholars claimed that Jesus would return on September 6, 1994.  But we all know that the Enemy is well versed in the use of lies and distortion.

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Which Jesus died on the Cross? (or the 7 things he might not have said)

I’ve long looked at the four Gospels as being complimentary to each other. One evangelist filling in the gaps that were, for whatever reason. left by another.  Recently,  I took a closer look at the differences between the four passion narratives and it no longer appears that this is the case.  Mark was the first Gospel to be written and the vast majority of scholars understand that Matthew and Luke both based their gospel largely on Mark’s.  But it is clear that Luke significantly changed Mark’s account.  It’s not like he just added to it, filling in the gaps, but he changed the story in such a way that, if they both didn’t  use Jesus’ name, you might think that he and Mark are talking about two different men.

Mark’s Jesus is quiet and if anything, despairing. He does not respond to those who taunt him, not even those (2?) crucified along side him. Before he dies he forlornly cries out to God, asking why he has been forsaken.

‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’

For the most part, Matthew’s depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion remains true to Mark’s account.

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Luke’s Jesus, on the other hand, is much more talkative and seems to be much more positive about and more in control of his circumstances. Jesus is taunted by only one of the two crucified and he assures the other one a place in paradise. He asks God to forgive his killers and does not cry out in despair as he does in Mark and Matthew. Instead he appears unafraid of death and offers his spirit to God .

‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’

And John’s Gospel does not mention any dialogue between Jesus and  the thieves. His Jesus does not cry in despair or vocally assign his spirit to God (though it is implied) nor does he ask forgiveness of his tormentors. Instead he concentrates on the future well being of his mother and that of an unnamed disciple. Most importantly, his last words seem to underscore the cosmic significance of his death ( or do they?).

‘It is finished.’

I’m not questioning the authenticity of any of these accounts. But what do we mean by authenticity? That the scriptures must be factual representations of actual events? If so, then how do we account for where they differ?  Did Jesus say all of these things (as the famous ” 7 things that Jesus said on the Cross” quiz would suggest)?  If so, then why are all of them not found together in at least one Gospel? If not, then why would one author (or later scribe) remove or add something to another’s  earlier account? I don’t think there is any way we can read these four accounts and not see that this is precisely what happened.  But what were their motives? What, if anything, do these observations mean to us? Is it a good thing or not that these changes in the text, though at times seemingly slight, may decidedly alter the way in which we perceive Christ, perhaps in ways that were never intended?

Does a devotion to biblical literalism, a zealous misunderstanding of Sola Scriptura, require that someone  ignore the obvious? If we can force ourselves to deny the scripturally obvious in order to comply with ‘orthodoxy’ then perhaps we can also force ourselves to deny (or overlook) the essence of scriptural truth.

Perhaps it is too late for us to cut to the chase , too difficult to critically edit the various Jesus movies that are playing  in each of our minds, where in each film Jesus is portrayed differently: the tough Christ, the loving Christ, the Christ who climbs on Rocks.  Angry Jesus, sad Jesus, suffering Jesus, baby Jesus, the Jesus who loves little children. Warrior Christ,  peaceful Christ, Buddha Christ, liberal Christ, Super Christ, American Christ.  Vindicator Jesus, savior Jesus, Jesus the blood sacrifice. Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Hunter or Jim Caveziel?  Jesus as man, as God or as the Son of God.   Which Jesus died for you?

There is an old Evangelical tee-shirt that mimics the Coca Cola logo and reads: “Jesus-The Real Thing”.  How certain can we be that our Jesus is “the real thing”? Or should we be so confident? Perhaps certainty is part of the problem.

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Which scriptura should I sola?

picture courtesy of Emergent

Probably the most famous example of someone tampering with the Christian scriptures is the so-called Johannine Comma:

For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth:the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. (1 John 5: 7-8, NKJV)

The first line was later removed from most modern bible translations so that we typically find just the following:

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (John 5: 7-8, NIV)

According to notes in the NIV Study Bible the questionable line was added to the Latin Vulgate Bible and is not found in any Greek manuscript prior to the sixteenth century. The implication is that some scribe or scribes of the Roman Catholic church added it. Which they did, and for an obvious reason: this was the only line ever found in any Bible that directly points to the idea of a Triune God. The scripture was altered by Church authority to bolster a difficult-to-comprehend doctrine.

The reason this line was found in any Greek manuscripts after the 16th century was because Erasmus added it to later editions of his Greek New Testament, the first ever compiled. At first Erasmus didn’t include the Comma, as it wasn’t in any of the Greek texts he found, either. Under immense pressure from Church authorities he agreed to put the Comma “back in”.  Additionally, Erasmus couldn’t find complete Greek manuscripts for certain other scriptures (particularly Revelations) so in those cases he merely translated the Vulgate’s Latin “back” into Greek, errors and all.

(Remember that the New Testament scriptures were originally written in Greek  and it wasn’t until Pope Damasus ordered Jerome to produce a Rome-sanctioned Latin bible in the fourth century BCE that a single authoritative church-wide book ever existed.  But even Jerome’s earliest Vulgate (common) Bible didn’t have the Comma: it was added later.)

This is the kind of thing that many Protestants came to expect of the Roman Catholic Church, with the Magisterium’s disdain for Sola Scriptura. Except, as you can see with the above scriptural quotes, the King James (as well as the New King James) version of the Bible still include the Comma. And most modern Protestant versions of the Bible (with a few notable exceptions) rely upon Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, which is largely derived from the Vulgate. These collective works are known as  the Textus Receptus (a term bible scholars use to describe any Greek text that is not based on the best, oldest or most verifiable manuscripts but on Erasmus’ work instead.)

But scriptural manipulations by ‘orthodox’ authorities don’t end there. In John 5 there is the story of Jesus encountering the crippled man at the healing springs of Bethsaida. Apparently he has waited 38 years to be lowered into the water and be cured. Why so long? Well, he says, every time an opportunity arises, the water is no longer “stirred”. Which is a little confusing: what is this man talking about? What does he mean by ‘stirred’ waters. At some point someone took it upon himself to solve this mystery for us, even though he made it up in order to do so. You won’t find it in most Protestant bibles but you will find it in the trusty old (and New) King James:

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
(John 5: 4, King James Version)

Even though many still love the King James (and it is easier on the ear – compare its version of Ecclesiastes with the competition’s) many more will concede that it has quite  a few issues.  But it is not the only bible that does.  Which, along with all the other textual changes and scribal errors (and there are many more), poses some serious challenges to anyone who believes that the Bible is the innerant, infallible Word of God, that must be taken literally in order for us to understand God and the universe.

Take the problem we have with 1 Timothy 3:16, which for most of the Church’s history (and in many bibles today) has read like this:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

But in the early 18th century bible scholar J.J. Wettstein, upon examining the Greek manuscript this verse derives from, found that one of the word’s had been changed to read “God” when it originally said something like “who”. This altered verse is one of the few, if not the only, explicit statements of Jesus’ divinity found in the Bible. The verse originally read more like this:

Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:

Who was revealed in flesh,
vindicated by the spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

Which speaks more about the mystery of who Jesus was and not the absolute assertion that he was God. By pointing this out (among other questions about scriptural accuracy) Wettstein was shunned from his religious and academic community. And even though this information has been well known for nearly 300 years many bible publishers refuse to make the necessary changes. What type of faith do we have when we need to fall back upon spurious scripture for our religious security?

It seems to me that, all affirmations of Sola Scriptura aside, Protestants have more devotion to non-biblical “tradition” than they would like to believe.  I mean, sola which scriptura, for Pete(r)’s sake?

(Thanks to Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” as the source for most of the above material.)

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Dueling Scriptures

There was a soft, yet urgent tapping at the door.

“You gotta help me, doc.” His voice was a raspy whisper.  It was still dark out.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I’ve been hit. I think it’s bad.”

I didn’t bother to ask him why he wasn’t at the local emergency room.  I knew why: he wasn’t the first one to come here with questionable wounds. Quickly, I ushered him to my examining room at the back of the house. I told him to take off his coat and lie back on the table while I washed up.

The lower part of his shirt was all bloody and sticking to his skin. I picked up some bandage scissors and gently cut the fabric away. Soon I could see the wound. It was immediately clear what this man had been up to. Just barely protruding from his flesh was the number 4, a colon and then the number 16.

“Scripture dueling, eh?” It was a rhetorical question – the evidence spoke for itself.

“Yeah, doc….high stakes….we were…. fightin’….fightin’ over… the nature… of… God.” Breath ragged and hoarse, he struggled to get the words out.

“For God’s sake man! When will you people learn? How many more must end up like you before this stops?” I said, exasperated. I had seen too much suffering, too much anger, too much bloodshed on both sides. Sides that both claimed exclusive ownership of the truth. Taking a clamp I gingerly tried to work the verse out of his side. It was in deep.

“Ouch! I was doin’-ouch!- okay. Got…off a couple a good ones. Thought I had him nailed when…dammit –ouch!… I shot a Jeremiah 13:14 right in his face. You know….the one that goes “And I will dash them one against another,…. even the fathers and the sons together, ….saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have…. mercy, but destroy …them” ? He suddenly began to cough violently.

“Yes I know it, of course. But context man, what about context?!” I lifted him up so he could drink from a cup of water. I gave him a strong sedative.

“Thanks. Yeah, yeah, you’re right. That’s what he said too. Right after he…blocked my shot with James 5:11. I He  confused me for a second….that’s when he hit me in the gut with 1 John 4:16. That was it. That was all she wrote.”

It wasn’t too long before he fell asleep and I was finally able to remove the scripture verse. It was dug in pretty good and he lost a fair amount of blood. It clanged loudly as I dropped it into the enamel bucket beside the table. Not bad work, I thought. By morning, he’ll be out of the woods. Pouring myself a healthy slug of bourbon over ice I sat down to relax. Just then the phone rang.

“Doc? O’Brien here,  down at the precinct. We’ve got a bad situation  and we need someone who has experience with verse extractions. Don’t bother denying it – everyone knows what you do. But this is real bad and we’re willing to overlook a couple of things. We need your help.”

“What happened? Why can’t the hospital handle this?”

“Doc, it’s a nightmare. It’s Jack van Impe. He’s gotten loose downtown and he’s spraying everything in sight with scripture verses. He’s like a .50 caliber verbal machine gun. He’s got his wife spotting for him and people are down all over the place. It’s mass confusion – a real mess. No one can make sense of all this.”

My God, I thought: Will this madness never end?


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