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The Broader Significance(s) of Contradictions

I have been discussing the matter of contradictions in the Bible and the question of why they matter.  My overarching point is that they matter NOT simply so we can say “Aha!  There are contradictions!”  They matter for other things.

The one point I’ve made so far is that they matter for anyone who is committed to the authority of Scripture.  I need to say that I think the point I was trying to make in that post has possibly been misunderstood.  When I asked how the Bible could be authoritative if there are contradictions, I did not mean it to be a rhetorical question, with the obvious answer being: It can’t be authoritative!  Some readers clearly took the question that way, but in fact I had a different intention.

My intention was …

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Balancing the Scholarly and the Popular
The Strangest Moment of My Teaching Career

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Comments

  1. jogon  July 2, 2018

    Hi Bart, out of interest, what views that are more radical than yours does Dale hold?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      Among other things, he thinks that Jesus wanted to start a violent revolution to overthrow the Romans.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  July 3, 2018

        That is precisely the view of Hyam Maccoby (Revolution in Judaea / Jesus and the Jewish Resistance).

        But I should qualify that. Maccoby writes that Jesus was a mystic (according to Maccoby). He sought to bring about a spiritual transformation of the entire world. He attempted to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah and Joel 3, “The Day of the Lord.”

        Jesus attempted to do this via a miracle — like Moses’ miracles — where the miracle is set off by something a human does, and then God does the rest of the miracle. For example, Moses bangs on the rock; THEN the miracle of water occurs. Moses dips the rod into the Nile; THEN God does the rest and turn it red.

        In Jesus’ case he sought a physical confrontation with the Temple authorities. That was why he brought TWO swords (Luke 22) to the Garden. NOT “many” swords, but not “no swords,” either. Two swords, as Jesus himself said (Luke 22) would be enough — IF God would then do the REST of the miracle.

        According to Maccoby, Jesus DID seek to commit violence in the Garden. But only TOKEN violence. Jesus was no King David. He sought only token, initial violence, Just Enough to invoke God to do the rest of the heavy lifting.

        According to Maccoby, Jesus did indeed seek to throw out the Romans. But only as a first step to uniting the entire world, including Rome, under the banner of God’s Messiah.

      • Steefen  July 4, 2018

        Jesus of Gamala with his mariners did want to start a violent revolution to overthrow the Romans. He swindled horses from Vespasian but latter lost the battle of Galilee on the Sea of Galilee against Vespasian. Yes, there was a Jesus in Galilee who wanted to start/continue a violent revolution to overthrow the Romans. Either the historical events of the Biblical Jesus actually happened 40 years later or the legacy of the biblical Jesus manifested 40 years later at the Battle of Galilee.

        Did Dale put his sentiment that Jesus wanted to start a violent revolution to overthrow the Romans in a book?

        With Dale thinking that and with Jesus seeing the defeat of Jerusalem in its violent revolt against Rome, how does Dale, post-Gandhi, post-Martin Luther King, Jr., post-Mandela see Jesus’ desire for violent Jewish Revolt against Rome as holy and as “God will take care of you” given the outcome?

        Jesus’ theocracy did not have a place for Rome to be over it, unless, like Paul, slaves submit to masters and respect those God has put over you to govern you.

        • Bart
          Bart  July 5, 2018

          No, I don’t think it’s in any of his books. He wrote on article on it.

  2. anthonygale  July 2, 2018

    Was the belief in an innerant sacred text common in religions before Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      No, prior to Christianity the only religion that focused on written texts was Judaism. Nothing like it in the Greek or Roman worlds, e.g.

      • anthonygale  July 3, 2018

        Did Jews in Jesus’ time or earlier have groups equivalent to Christian fundamentalists? I ask because I am wondering if the idea of an inerrant sacred text appears to be a Jewish or Christian invention. And in any case, what is it about Judaism or Christianity that would make them unique in that regard? Christianity seems to be uniquely concerned about believing the right thing, so that is a possible explanation. I’m sure there are others though.

        • Bart
          Bart  July 5, 2018

          There certainly were Jews who believed the Scriptures were literally true in their every word.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  July 5, 2018

          It’s important to distinguish what kind of documents we’re talking about and what we mean by “literally true”. For instance, Jews believed that the writings of the Hebrew prophets were “literally” the words of God (spoken through the prophets) which is definitely NOT something unique to Judaism. The Greeks, in the same vain, believed the recorded oracles of the Pythia at Delphi were “literally” the words of the god Apollo, so that should give you an idea of what the ancient world considered a “literally true” document.

          What made the Jews stand out in the ancient world (and eventually the Christians as well) was that they believe their prophetic scriptures — and *only* their prophetic scriptures! — were the words of God. For the Jews, all other “scripture” was, therefore, false or fraudulent or, even worse, the product of evil forces, such as demons or Satan himself.

          Pagans, on the other hand, didn’t think that way about the prophets and prophecies of other cultures. Greeks would seek prophecies from Egyptian oracles. Persians would seek prophecies from Greek oracles (such as Delphi). And so on and so forth. The pagan world’s cosmopolitan ecumenicalism didn’t just stop at seeing other people’s gods as being the same gods by other names. They also saw all scripture as essentially the same words from the same gods as well. If an Egyptian document said the goddess Isis says such-and-such, the Greeks would interpet that as Aphrodite (for example) having said such-and-such.

          The Jews, on the other hand, did not see it that way. For Jews, only Jewish scripture was the true word of the true God. All other writings were false and deceptive. And that’s what made the Jews stick out. If an Egyptian oracle said something, the Jews couldn’t care less about it.

      • bradseggie  July 6, 2018

        As to other religions focusing on written texts, what about the Vedas in Hinduism?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 6, 2018

          I’m speaking only of the Western tradition, out of which both Christianity came.

  3. talmoore
    talmoore  July 2, 2018

    The two most populated nations on earth (China and India) only have Abrahamic minorities (Christians, Jews, Muslims), and they’re slowly taking over the world. So, as far as I can tell, the Bible is eventually going to outlive it’s usefulness and go the way of the Illiad anyhow, contradictions or not.

  4. James  July 2, 2018

    I’ll second Dr. Ehrman’s recommendation that those interested in Biblical authority read Dale Martin’s “Biblical Truths: The Meaning of Scripture in the 21st Century.” I describe myself as a “live and let live atheist,” and I truly respect Dr. Martin’s deeply thoughtful and honest exploration of the texts. Pete Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” also addresses the concern, but in a manner perhaps more accessible to someone just beginning to read in the area.

  5. epicurus
    epicurus  July 2, 2018

    Someday I will read Martin’s book, but I wonder if he offers any insights that are not already in the works of a Marcus Borg, or John Shelby Spong. As someone who left Christianity when I lost the belief in the Bible’s ability to tell me reliable info about who Jesus was, or if God really interacted with our world, I never found Borg or Spong helpful. I kept thinking while reading they just didn’t have the courage to leave a religion they discovered to be false. Perhaps they couldn’t face the scariness of a new life without a church they’d known since childhood. It was tough for me, but I felt I had to leave if I wanted to maintain my integrity if I wanted to keep calling myself a seeker for truth. Yeah, I know, what is truth.

  6. balivi  July 2, 2018

    “Truth can be hard, but it is better to know the truth than to live a lie.”
    Then note what I said about Paul. Paul never said: “Jesus ho Christos”. Paul did not consider Jesus as Christ. This is part of the truth. The truth is simple.

    • balivi  July 3, 2018

      Dear Professor!
      Let me explain, please. I read yours book about Judas. The truth is in it.
      In 1Cor11:23 Paul said: God handed Jesus to death, on that night, when he took the bread, true?
      The question is: IF God handed Jesus to death on that night, then what way, then how did he (Jesus) die on the cross? IF the previous night God gave him death already? Please consider!

      Of course this is not the uppercase truth. This is the truth of Paul only.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      Not sure about that. He calls him Jesus Christ all the time.

      • balivi  July 3, 2018

        With great respect: It’s true, that Paul calls him Jesus Christ all the time. Yes, Paul made a personal name from the title, but Paul never said: “Jesus ho Christos”. So with great respect, Paul did not consider Jesus as Christ. Because if according to Paul God handed Jesus to death on that night, when he took the bread, then Jesus could not die on the cross. Paul never says: cross of Jesus. He always talks about the cross of Christ. It is absolutely clear.
        Last comment: In Philippians 3:10 Paul wants to be the likeness of Jesus’ death. What way, how does Paul want to be like, (becoming like him) the death of Jesus? He want to die on the cross? I do not think so. Paul wanted to be dead, (as Jesus by God, in 1Cor11:23), to qualify for the resurrection of the dead. So: dead Jesus equal with the Christ, at the Paul. Therefore no one speaking Jesus be cursed (1Cor12:3).

        With big respect!

        • Bart
          Bart  July 5, 2018

          My view is that he wouldn’t call him Christ if he didn’t think he was Christ.

          • balivi  July 5, 2018

            My view is he:
            1. to name the resurrected Christ: Jesus Christ, or Lord Jesus Christ. (In union of Jesus and Christ)
            2. Paul calls Jesus the Son of God in every case. (The Son of God, Son in the likeness of sinful flesh in Rom8:3 and Fil2:7)
            3. dead Jesus (the Son of God by God handed to death) equal with the Christ.

            For example:
            “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,”
            (preexistence as an Angel?),
            “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (as Jesus, Son of God in the likeness of sinful flesh)
            “And being found in human form (as Christ, the Son of God by God handed to death)
            “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (cross of Christ).”

            Three names used in three ways. My view.

          • balivi  July 6, 2018

            Dear Professor! I know, I have only two comment, but this is very important because of the truth. It’s enough if you read it.
            What was Paul’s gospel exactly? The Gospel of the Son of God true? Paul did not proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
            Christ has no gospel at the Paul. Therefore the Rome1:16 is fals. Its unmasks the Rome 17. Gospel of the Son of God, this for in it the righteousness of God is revealed FROM FAITH FOR FAITH. Not only simple faith: just FROM FAITH FOR FAITH.
            What kind from faith, what kind for faith? From Christ- faith, for the Son of God faith. Without Christ- faith, isn’t faith of Son of God, according to Paul! Therefore he proclaimed the Christ. He did not proclaim Jesus as Christ (the Son of God as Crist). No, and no. He only proclaimed the Christ. Christ as dead and damned, to send to lesteners for the faith of Son of God. For this reason the Jews beat him many times. They did not beat him, because he proclaimed Jesus as Christ. Then they would have asked him where Jesus was and who he is?
            But they would’nt beaten it!

            Please consider!

          • balivi  July 9, 2018

            It is worth asking if Jesus is not the Christ according to Paul, then who is the Christ according to Paul??
            Not a certain person, that’s for sure. Christ is a universal redeemer. Anyone can see him, who were baptized into the Christ 🙂 Then will only need a mirror for that person. Indeed! Let’s read it:
            “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2Cor10:12)
            or:
            “You are judging by appearances! If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.” (2Cor10:7)
            So this mean, when Paul looked into the mirror, he did not see himself in the mirror, but Christ, because of his faith in Christ. Himself “by mirror” only darkly, or vaguely or obscurely.

            “For we see now through a dim window obscurely.” (1Cor23:12)

          • balivi  July 12, 2018

            Dear Bart!
            All of this comes from your translation! I read in your book. I not know the Greek language. I believed your translation, because I think you were the expert. You say that 1 Cor 11:23, not speak about Judas. If this is so, I’m sorry, but I’m right, I’m think well.
            For your translation, for me understandable Paul. Thanks.

  7. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  July 2, 2018

    I’ve come to see any authority the Bible has is that which people give for in and of itself it has no authority. However, I do agree that it is a paramount book in that it helped shape the course of Western Civilization and needs to be viewed and understood in its proper historical context.

    In our lifetime do you view society as being less religious than say 50 years ago or more and if so is the Bible less authoritative in our culture than it once was?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      Yes, and yes. But for those for whom it *is* authoritative it is *really* authoritative.

  8. Franz Liszt  July 2, 2018

    I appreciate you making this post, Bart. I can’t stand when I hear people make quick refutations of the most wooden and literalistic readings of the Bible and then act as though they’ve toppled the 2000 year tradition. If they could only sit across from someone like Moltmann, Barth, or Tillich! Even the more traditionalist ancient and Reformation theologians like Augustine, Calvin, and Luther had views of scripture which are far more nuanced than American fundamentalism. Whether Christianity is true or not, it doesn’t stand or fall on verbal inspiration of scripture. I hope you continue to make this point in the future. Once again, thanks!

  9. Sabina  July 2, 2018

    And this is why I buy your books, and why I thank you for writing them.

  10. nichael  July 2, 2018

    These are huge questions, of course. But, in view of the recent rules, I’ll try to make a couple comments as briefly as possible.

    1] I think it’s possible to suggest that a/the primary problem here is the underlying assumption that these are historical or scientific works. They are not, and any attempt to engage them on a literalist basis is doomed to failure. But to be clear, this works both ways: in such a view it is as inappropriate to read, say, Gen 1-2 as a factual account of the creation of the universe as it is to insist that factual contradictions, in and of themselves, render the entire texts invalid, or otherwise devoid of meaning. To do either, this line of reasoning would suggest, is to badly misunderstand what the texts are about.

    Or to state this another way, perhaps it comes down to the definition of “authoritative”. Any religion is –as are the texts that might underly them– ultimately human-made constructs. We can still ask whether it is possible for there to be a meaningful religion which is guided by such texts.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  July 3, 2018

      Consider the creation story of Genesis and compare it to other Creation myths of the time. You’ve got Greco-Roman myths of Titans holding up the world. You have Norse myths of the Yggisdral Tree, the world-encompassing Serpent, and the world being formed from icy mist.

      From the Iroquois Indians, you have the myth of Skywoman who descended to earth while pregnant, to a water world with no land, settling on the back of a turtle, with a muskrat diving to find mud to put on the turtle’s back, and from this all the land was formed.

      Then look at the Genesis version. In a ROUGH, GENERAL way, it anticipates modern Evolutionary theory. It has a progression of life, from lowly forms through higher forms, and finally Man.

      I hold that the Genesis Creation story is thousands of years ahead of its time. I know of no other Creation myth remotely like Genesis in character.

      • nichael  July 5, 2018

        You might be interested in reading about some of the other creation stories from the Ancient Near East (e.g. Mesopotamian, Canannite, etc.). They are quite strikingly similar to Hebrew Creation myth(s).

        In fact, I think it’s safe to say many scholars hold that these myths are more or less all variants of the same underlying mythology (or, at the very least, the various myths had a strong mutual influence on each other.)

  11. Gary  July 2, 2018

    “[a nameless Muslim scholar of the Koran] is a thorough skeptic when it comes to the historicity and accuracy of the Koran. But he is also a deeply committed Muslim who thinks that the Koran can and should guide our thinking about God. I’ve tried to get him to write some posts on the blog to explain it all, but his view is that you can’t put something this complicated into a couple of thousand-word posts, and he thinks that if you really want to see how it can be done, you need to read his book.”

    One could substitute in the brackets above a liberal Hindu scholar, a liberal Mormon scholar, etc., and the result is the same. If one wants to find relevance in a superstition, one can always do so.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      Well maybe so. But I’d suggest you read his work before shunting it off as superstition. (By the way, one of his other books is called “The Invention of Superstition”!! It deals with the ancient world, of course)

  12. nichael  July 2, 2018

    Totally off the current topic, but I’ll be brief.

    What is the sense of the word “evangelist” when used within the text of the NT?

    For example in Acts 21.8: “…the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven..”
    (”evangelist” appears in most modern translations, e.g. NRSV, KJV, as well as the Greek).

    Should we read “evangelist” in the “modern” sense? I.e. is the author of Acts suggesting he believes that Philip wrote a Gospel? (Or, in this case, does it simply underscore that Philip, as one of “the Seven”, is carrying “the good news” out into the world? Or….)

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      An evangelist is anyone who proclaims the good news (= euangelion) When used of someone like Philip, it would mean something like “missionary”

  13. gavriel  July 2, 2018

    Dale Martin/Biblical Truths kindle version acquired. Good book!

  14. godspell  July 2, 2018

    Absolutely. Except you can’t offer people truth. You can only offer them facts, and some of them contradict each other as well.

    You’ve pissed off theists and atheists alike, because you want them to drop their preconceptions–one side thinks the Bible is Received Truth, and wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they had to acknowledge how poorly they understand some aspects of it.

    The other thinks it’s superstitious nonsense that has retarded the development of our species, and should be tossed in the trash and forgotten. You know Dawkins and others have said that religion was a wrong turn, a faulty ‘meme’ that never had to happen at all, and you know, it’s hard for me to see how somebody who studies evolution for a living could conceive something that stupid, but never mind that now.

    I’m afraid a large percentage of humanity doesn’t want to think. It wants to KNOW. But nobody knows. Knowledge is unstable ground, constantly shifting beneath us. Hard-won, and easily lost. And we do need to believe things we can’t prove in order to function as sapient beings. The really crucial thing is to understand that knowing and believing both have their place, and we shouldn’t confuse the two. Nobody owns The Truth. But the fundamentalist mindset–which can afflict people with no religious beliefs at all–insists that isn’t true.

    You’ve made me question things I’ve believed, reexamine my ideas, ask new questions, and I’m grateful for that. But I’m weird. 🙂

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    • Sabina  July 13, 2018

      Why do readers (and moviegoers) enjoy fiction ? Reading the bible as one would read Aesop’s Fables, or Bullfinch’s Mythology or a classic Steinbeck novel can still teach you valuable lessons about human nature, behavior good and bad, and its consequences. My empty-nester parents moved to Wheaton, IL, and my Dad joined the Theosophical Society, which was headquartered there. In a nutshell (if you skip over the more woo woo, esoteric aspects), its approach welcomes and respects wisdom and insight from ALL sources, stresses our commonality rather than our divisive, cultic specialness. And you don’t have to undergo any rituals or swear or forswear allegiance to any particular deity or authority, sacred or otherwise.

  15. Hormiga  July 2, 2018

    > Truth can be hard, but it is better to know the truth than to live a lie.

    As a provisional atheistic agnostic, materialistic reductionist and secular humanist(*), I adhere to the “better to know the truth than to live a lie” position. But life is hard and often horrible, and it’s undeniable that religious conviction can bring comfort in difficult circumstances, illusory though it might be. Of course, it can also bring needless distress in other circumstances, so there’s a choice to be made.

    (*) Roughly. Those labels will do for the moment.

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  16. Judith  July 2, 2018

    Your last sentence reminds me of what a great theologian once told me about your work, that it was a step on the way to truth.

  17. Pattylt  July 2, 2018

    More than the book itself, I am interested in how it has been historically used to justify everything from the rule of kings, the justification of slavery to separating immigrant children from their parents.

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  18. kentvw  July 2, 2018

    “Surely understanding what the Bible really is cannot be a BAD thing. It can only be good. Truth can be hard, but it is better to know the truth than to live a lie.”

    For me anyway, to realize that people then, just much like me today, who were just trying “to figure it all out” then. Just like me. They meant no harm. It’s just human to want ANSWERS damit! Even if they are wrong!
    I no longer see the Bible as, *A pack of lies!* I just see humans being human. It can send shivers down my spine. It can be a wonderful and beautiful realization. It bonds me to the writers of the Bible. I see me in them. It is incredibly freeing and. it brings a sense of equanimity to all who passed before me and all that will pass in the future. I get to be here for such a short time between dirt naps! Amazing! It is just incredibly incredible to me. I get to, I am honored to, be able to enjoy this trip and do my best to throw all I am able back in it.

    Makes me laugh as well.. Mostly at myself. Remember rule 62………. “Never take yourself too God Damned seriously.
    Signed,
    The Nihilistic Ecclesiastican

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  19. prestonp  July 2, 2018

    “It is almost certainly because they both want to be able to claim that his birth was in Bethlehem, even though both of them know for a fact he did not come from Bethlehem, but from Nazareth.” Bart

    You almost attribute evil motives to these writers even though you cannot and don’t know the facts, motives that make them liars. Why would they lie according to Bart? “based on the Old Testament prophet Micah 5:2 — that’s where the messiah had to come from.” So, they concocted different and false accounts unbeknownst to the other, in order to satisfy Michah 5.2. Why didn’t they just omit mention of His birthplace? Were they under the impression that they had to refer to His place of birth to validate His identity to others? Who? Weren’t they also guilty of padding their stories with O.T. prophecies that had not been previously recognized as related to the Messiah? Then why bother with Micah?
    Oh, don’t forget, they created this bull because they were hoping to be flogged, at a minimum. Indeed, as the disciples were whipped because they wanted to promulgate a lie they themselves created, so the writers of these “gospels” were hoping they too would have their bodies torn to shreds. Makes sense. After all, there was a pot of gold waiting for each of them as soon as they were done being tortured. (What they fail to mention is the deal they struck with Jesus. He was going to give them positions of power after the resurrection.)

    “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned…” 39 stripes was lethal for many men. Paul was promised Secretary of the Treasury

    Pete and the boys were going to be killed but Gamaliel talked them out of it. 40 After summoning the emissaries and flogging them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Yeshua, and let them go. 41 The emissaries left the Sanhedrin overjoyed at having been considered worthy of suffering disgrace on account of him.

    Have you been flogged? Nothing to it. Floggings were administered with a whip made of calfskin on the bare upper body of the offender – one third of the lashes being given on the breast and the other two thirds on the back.

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    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      I never have, never will, and never would call them liars. Not sure where you’re getting that from.

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      • prestonp  July 3, 2018

        “1`It is almost certainly because they both want to be able to claim that his birth was in Bethlehem, even though both of them know for a fact he did not come from Bethlehem, but from Nazareth.” Bart

        “I never have, never will, and never would call them liars. Not sure where you’re getting that from.”

        If they create stories to make it appear that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, when they know He didn’t, that’s called lying. Why wouldn’t you call them liars?

        BTW, I did not make 3 comments on this forum in the last 24 hours but I was allotted just 2 comment opportunities.

        These guys fabricated much of the N.T. They forged titles, they made up the story about His burial and Nicodemus. They made up a ton of stuff. They concocted the woman caught in adultery.

        • Bart
          Bart  July 5, 2018

          As you might imagine, there is a considerable literature on the concept of what a “lie” is. You might be interested in Paul Griffith’s book on Augustine’s understanding of the lie. Short story: a lie is a statement that the speaker states to be true while believing it to be false. I don’t think the Gospel writers knew/thought that what they said was false.

    • prestonp  July 3, 2018

      “I want to know what happened. And if our primary source if filled with contradictions, that’s a problem. (I’ll illustrate the problem in a later post.)” B

      “What book could be more important to understand? But if it is full of contradictions, how are we supposed to understand it?” B.

      You already know that it’s filled with contradictions! You take a big step when you insist on contradictions that don’t exist, too. I am not implying there are 0 contradictions, but you see some that aren’t real.

      What you fail to recognize, is how your resentment that grew out of a root of bitterness influences your interpretations of scripture. You have ventured into terribly biased, distorted thinking in the bulk of your analysis.

      You’ve endured devastating pain. I don’t understand how you didn’t break. It was absolutely horrible and it dragged on and on. Obviously, I don’t know what happened, but I do discern its impact. This led to the depths of error to which you’ve succumbed.

      Jesus was not mistaken when He promised that some of those standing there would not die before He returned. BTW, why would the writers include such a statement if they had to modify the rest of the N.T. for such an error? He also said, “whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” You don’t think He meant that literally? “Out of His inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.” That can’t be taken literally.

      Do you know what would happen if you prayed to Him now? If you told Him you wanted to start fresh with Him, do you think He’d reject you? Or, that He doesn’t exist so there’s no point in praying? I knew nothing about God when I sought Him with all my heart, with all the strength I had. I did not believe He existed, but I prayed anyway. I was out of options. I prayed and prayed over and over with the most earnest fervor, knowing He wasn’t listening. But I kept it up. Old timers call it, “praying through.” Didn’t know that. Didn’t know anything. Raised by Harvard and Radcliffe summa cum laude intellectuals who despised religion and church, the most evil influences in the world.

      Just so folks know, I address responses to my comments mostly in the forum you don’t moderate.

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      • Bart
        Bart  July 5, 2018

        I’m not so sure you can psychoanalyze me without knowing me!

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        • prestonp  July 5, 2018

          Throughout the Scriptures we are told that we are to try the spirits to see if they be of God.
          “As Paul is listing the various manifestations and gifts of the Spirit for us, in 1 Corinthians 12:10. He tells us, “To another discerning of spirits.” There is a spirit world that is just as real as the material world in which we live.

          Oh, I’m sure I can’t psychoanalyze you. Wouldn’t begin to try. Have no training, don’t know you and have no desire to. What I see isn’t a function of any sort of psychological/psychiatric expertise. The N.T. informs us that God gifts His own as He chooses. One “gift” is called “discernment”. It gives a Christian the ability to “see” into the spirit world. Our battles are not of flesh and blood. When you found a greater connection to the universe that you described as very powerful, I bet you realized it contains more than just stars, that it is alive with intelligence.

          I wasn’t looking for anything. No effort on my part at all, but in an instant I realized why you view scripture as you do and it all revolves around terrible, terrible, crushing, crippling pain that you experienced once upon a time, and it persisted and persisted, on and on. I don’t mean to be presumptuous, all I know is that it could have killed you, emotionally, psychologically. That it didn’t is a clear statement about your resiliency, toughness, almost superhuman strength. (You know what I’m talking about Bart). I am truly amazed that you survived in one piece. Whatever it was, and you know what it was, would have practically killed me and almost everyone I know. That’s the truth. At the same time, that pain did shove a root of bitterness down deep inside you and it manifests itself in a tainted view of scripture and of God.

          This is as plain as day to me and frankly, I have no doubt that you know all about that pain. What you haven’t come to understand is how it changed your heart and attitudes towards your model of self-giving Love. I really don’t know how to communicate this info to you. It’s none of my business. Yet, you are a man absolutely determined to find and to examine truth.

          • Bart
            Bart  July 6, 2018

            Well, when you try to explain someone’s views based on their alleged mental states, that’s pretty close to armchair psychoanalysis! My view is that it is better, instead, to deal with arguments than emotional predilections and disturbances.

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      • SidDhartha1953  July 8, 2018

        prestonp: Let me suggest that, whatever you think you understand, is not God, or you do not understand it as you think you do. Constructs of our own devising to which we then ascribe divinity are what I understand to be idols. Peace.

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    • Sabina  July 13, 2018

      How many young, healthy Muslim men, with potential decades ahead of them willingly blow themselves apart for the glorious promise of 24-hour coitus? Quicker, and less painful than flogging, but I’m convinced they’ve all been cruelly duped.

  20. Telling
    Telling  July 3, 2018

    Hi Bart, how do we explain this?

    Albert Einstein
    “When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.”

    Henry David Thoreau
    “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”

    Herman Hesse
    “The marvel of the Bhagavad-Gita is its truly beautiful revelation of life’s wisdom which enables philosophy to blossom into religion.”

    Dr. Albert Schweitzer
    “The Bhagavad-Gita has a profound influence on the spirit of mankind by its devotion to God which is manifested by actions.”

    Carl Jung
    “The idea that man is like unto an inverted tree seems to have been current in by gone ages. The link with Vedic conceptions is provided by Plato in his Timaeus in which it states…” behold we are not an earthly but a heavenly plant.” This correlation can be discerned by what Krishna expresses in chapter 15 of Bhagavad-Gita.”

    Aldous Huxley
    “The Bhagavad-Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed; hence its enduring value is subject not only to India but to all of humanity.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    “I owed a magnificent day to the Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.”

    Rudolph Steiner
    “In order to approach a creation as sublime as the Bhagavad-Gita with full understanding it is necessary to attune our soul to it.”

    This Hindu book is not in OUR history — the above voices are OUR towering intellectuals. What’s the deal?

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    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2018

      How do I explain why one of the great books of human civilization has been widely appreciated? Not sure what you’re asking.

      • Telling
        Telling  July 3, 2018

        Sorry, Bart,

        The Bhagavad-Gita is most interesting when compared to the Christian Bible because Western scholars tend to say the Gita is a book of fiction. The creator of the world — God himself — probably was not Arjuna’s charioteer and probably did not give a lesson in self-awareness to Arjuna at the center of a great battle that was about to take place. But scholars don’t ask what in this book is believable and what is not. They know: the teachings are legitimate and the facts of the narrative don’t much matter, if at all.

        But for Christians it is important to know what really happened and what didn’t. More than one Christian have told me that “if there is no Crucifixion there is no Christianity”, for example. It is the uniquely Christian idea that we find salvation through, and only through, the “acts” Jesus did, that make the facts of the historical Bible so important. This however does not come from the Master, it is a narrative created by the Christian church.

        As for Jesus, his words do match Krishna, Buddha, and others — we are one body, thus love others, even your enemies, just as Arjuna is to feel no animosity toward those he is going to war against. But I think Jesus’ greater message of wisdom-knowledge is entirely lost.

        I see an underlying flaw in Christianity that is not being corrected. Wisdom-knowledge remains an heretical teaching, replaced by a generally false narrative. Just wondering if you have any thoughts or want to shed any illumination, or maybe disagree?

    • talmoore
      talmoore  July 3, 2018

      As someone who has read and studied the Bhagavad Gita (along with the Mahabharata, Upanishads and other vedanta) all I can say is, I must fail to understand the appeal. Sure, it’s an excellent, though broad outline of ancient Hindu philosophy (Krishna’s adumbration of the fundamental elements of nature is reminiscent of Plato) circa whenever-it-was-composed (5th century BCE? Scholars seem to think the Mahabharata was literally built around the Bhagavad Gita).

      But “stupendous”? “Sublime”? I don’t know about that. I recommend reading Sam Harris’ book Waking Up, in which he moves past the ancient mumbo jumbo of eastern philosophy/religion and explores the useful bits, such as the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

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      • Telling
        Telling  July 5, 2018

        My main point is the Bhagavad-Gita is most probably fiction yet our scholars agree it is one of the world’s greatest works. Christianity, however, centers on a Crucifixion story that makes no logical sense, only saved by the “spin” the church puts on it.

        The big deal with the Gita is its powerful lesson on non-attachment, demonstrating that even under the worst of situations (necessarily fighting in a great battle) a practicing of self-awareness is obtainable and enlightenment within reach.

        Christianity, even Buddhism, cannot deal with the issue of violence as pertaining to the average man. “Violence is always wrong” is impractical for most of us, particularly when we are protecting family and community. The Gita demonstrates an alternate, very workable and practical, pathway. I think this is the real beauty of this book.

        In the meantime, the other cultures must struggle with the question of violence, the source, I think, of Emerson’s statement: “… the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us.

      • Telling
        Telling  July 5, 2018

        talmooe,

        I felt Sam Harris, in his book “The End of Faith” was, should I say deceitful, or perhaps just lazy, in his development of ideas.

        First, he fails to define “religion” and its historical relationship to government. Particularly, that tribal leaders depended upon a spiritual connection with their ancestors for survival. Resulting governments typically were religious states. Harris takes a broad brush claiming all the wars were caused by religion. But in most, or at least many, cases wars were probably most about survival and acquiring land.

        Now, when true “atheist” states come about and make war, (USSR, PRC, etc.) Harris dismisses them saying they don’t count because they don’t harbor the same values as he does. But the West’s “secular” values came out of Christian and other religions. It is patently dishonest that he dismisses the atheist states as not applicable. But not doing show would collapse his whole argument and he would have no book.

        Then when all is said an done, Harris announces that the Bible (the West’s only book recognizing there is life beyond death) is no good, yet he presumes there may indeed be such a thing as life after death. At this point I got the feeling he was just trying to build his word count to make the book publishable. I have since heard him on YouTube debates and do find he seems sincere, however.

    • godspell  July 4, 2018

      You could easily find equivalent quotes from eastern intellectuals, such as Gandhi, about the the Old and New Testaments. Gandhi was particularly taken with the Sermon on the Mount.

      Intellectuals spend their lives looking for ideas. They often find them in books. A true intellectual isn’t going to confine him or herself to just books written in one part of the world, in one language (intellectuals often learn more than one language, though something tells me few if any of those men you quoted knew Sanskrit (probably a fair few read Greek.)

      Although the Bhagavid Gita (just one small part of the Mahabarata) is one of the most influential and magnificent books ever written, I think you’d have to say that the Old and New Testaments as a whole have been read by a lot more people, all over the world.

      However, it would be fair to say that part of the reason for that influence is that Europe became Christianized, and Europe, over the course of millennia, colonized a good part of the world, including America. You can see western influence literally everywhere you go, and you can find Christians (and small but influential communities of Jews) almost everywhere you go, and of course there would be no Islam without Muhammad having been influenced by Jewish and Christian scriptures.

      Even when you’re reading somebody like (let’s say) Bertrand Russell or Nietszche, saying that Christianity is no longer relevant–they’re reacting to Christianity. Essentially, nobody is ignoring it. Nobody can afford to.

      So to me, Bart’s statement is incontestable. And not meant in any way to denigrate the power or significance of other works. If I said “The Beatles are the most influential pop band of the second half of the 20th century” that wouldn’t be me saying that the Beach Boys sucked.

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      • Telling
        Telling  July 5, 2018

        godspell,

        In the West, yes of course. and Bart has done a lot in showing the many problems with Christianity. The inconsistencies cast doubt on the credibility of the New Testament, but this does not and cannot happen with the Gita, excepting for those who don’t understand it. It is because the Gita is about real knowledge, wisdom-knowledge, whereas Christianity’s focus is “belief”.

        When you find that something you believed is not really true, as Bart and many others found, you tend to lose your faith. But wisdom-knowledge is unshakable, like building your house on a “rock”, as said by Jesus. But the Church has located a sand dune and is calling it a rock.

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    • Robert
      Robert  July 5, 2018

      Hi, Telling.

      The Einstein quote is not authentic, by the way.

      • Telling
        Telling  July 6, 2018

        Robert,

        Looks like he did say it. Note these responses, typical of nearly all net sources, the last paragraph Einstein indicating the phrase was misrepresented, not that he didn’t say it:

        Answer: Yup. Numerous reputable sources attribute that exact quote to Einstein

        Answer: Yes… but that was said in praise of the depth and beauty of the Bhagavad Gita, rather than as a commentary on God. Einstein was an atheist. The following quote more accurately reflects his views on God:

        “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world (universe) so far as our science can reveal it.” ~ Albert Einstein

        https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=A2KLfSaijD9bV48ArABXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–?qid=20060929114855AAxseoE&p=einstein%20bhagavad%20gita%20fraud

        • Robert
          Robert  July 8, 2018

          “… the last paragraph Einstein indicating the phrase was misrepresented, not that he didn’t say it”

          Hi, Telling.

          You seem to be assuming that words you quoted here, which are from a letter of Einstein of March 24, 1954 to an Italian immigrant in the United States, were in fact referring to the alleged quote of Einstein about the Bhagavad-Gita.

          What is your basis for that assumption? Have you read the correspondence in question? Parts of this correspondence are described and quoted in [i]Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives[/i], (pp 42-43), edited by his secretary Helen Dukas and colleague Banesh Hoffmann in 1979, but they do not associate this quote with anything Einstein said about the Bhagavad-Vita. Have you had fuller access to this correspondence or is this merely an assumption on your part?

          As for the “numerous reputable sources [that] attribute that exact quote [about the Bhagavad-Vita] to Einstein,” can you name any of these reputable sources? A reputable source should be able to cite a specific text of Einstein or, if it is alleged to be a verbal quotation, it should be able to provide the circumstances of the verbal quote. When and to
          whom did Einstein say this? Who attests to the validity of this quote?

          I’m not trying to be hyper-skeptical, but as you probably know by now many people have said they have tried unsuccessfully to authenticate this particular quote.

          https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=2fswAAAAQBAJ&rdid=book-2fswAAAAQBAJ&rdot=1&source=gbs_vpt_read&pcampaignid=books_booksearch_viewport

          • Telling
            Telling  July 9, 2018

            Hi Robert,

            There are very numerous web sites, and some magazines and books quoting the questioned Einstein phrase. But you are correct I am unable to find a source for it. This seems to be true with other quotes too, many appear to be unsourced.

            Some say Einstein read the Gita almost every day, others question whether he read it at all. I was unable to quickly locate a source for any of his supposed Gita quotes.

            With this available evidence I’m inclined to think you are right.

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