Duh, The Bible Was Written by Men and Can't Be Taken Literally

I guess there are certain things that go without saying: the sky is blue, the Pope is Catholic and the Holy Bible is not without contradiction.

Well, I suppose there are many people who would disagree with that assessment, but I’m perfectly confident that I’m right. As I get older and am going on five years as a “confirmed” Christian, I realize that there are certain things that will divide followers of Christ and reflect the differences between people that may never be reconciled.

Forget that believing that every word of the Bible means one must reject the overwhelming evidence that humans evolved from a lower species, that dinosaurs walked the Earth at one point and accept that the world was created in only six days. Instead let’s get to something more or less substantive as it applies to the character of Christian thought and general interpretation of the most influential man who walked the Earth, some two thousand years ago.

Take from the St. Paul’s First Letter to the church in Corinth, Turkey, written some time around the mid 1st Century:

“What I wrote was that you should not associate with a brother Christian who is leading an immoral life, or is a usurer, or idolatrous, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or is dishonest; you should not even eat a meal with people like that. It is not my business to pass judgment on those outside. Of those who are inside, you can surely be the judges. But of those who are outside, God is the judge.” 1 Corinthians 11-13.

From the Gospel of St. Matthew, written perhaps two or three decades after Paul’s letter, recounting Jesus’ ministry among the Jews:

        • When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinner were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this he said to them, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners.”

So which is it? An honest assessment of both passages—one from a Gospel and the other from a letter—reveals a dichotomy or contradiction, if you will. If Jesus commanded people to embrace sinners and work with them for redemption, then how is it that St. Paul openly tells a community of Christians in Antiquity to run from their presence? Therein lies neither the answer nor the solution to the question, but a whole problem altogether, which is the fallibility of human recollection and recall and yes, even the Holy Bible.

There are plenty of people out there who would gasp at the assertion that the Bible could perhaps not be the inerrant Word of God Almighty. I’m willing to accept that in saying so, a whole group of Christendom would condemn me to hell (also forbidden in the Bible). But let’s be logical here. The Holy Bible was put together not by God, but by men. It was a concerted editorial process that did its best and perhaps most honest job to accurately reflect the mission of Christ as passed along from his disciples to latter disciples. A Biblical canon was not agreed upon by the Church until hundreds of years after the carpenter’s son with the sandals from Galilee made his appearance in the countryside preaching a message of repentance, love and forgiveness. Certainly, the fathers of the Church never intended for the Bible to be inerrant. They simply chose from the most relevant testimonies of Christ that were available. They didn’t sit down at tables and ask the Holy Spirit to move a pen in their hands. The Church Fathers may have sifted through dozens, perhaps a hundred Gospels of Jesus Christ before deciding on just four that they felt best reflected what had been passed down throughout the ages.

I’m not a biblical scholar (nor do I want to be) but a great example of the theological puzzle the early Church tried put together can be contained in two passages from the New Testament. The first comes from the Gospel of St. John:

I’m not a biblical scholar (nor do I want to be) but a great example of the theological puzzle the early Church tried put together can be contained in two passages from the New Testament. The first comes from the Gospel of St. John:

        • I tell you solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.

          For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”

          John 6:53-58

The second piece, written decades earlier, comes again from St. Paul’s first letter to Christians in Corinth

Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.”
1 Corinthians 28-30

The Gospel of John, we are taught, was written at some point in the late 1st Century. At the time of his writing, it is speculated that the Church was in the practice of celebrating the Eucharist, which it believed and still does to be the Body and Blood of Christ. In choosing this Gospel, perhaps the Early Church saw this as an important and unifying practice for Christians to follow. The same can be said for Paul’s admonition that Christians have a clear conscience when they gathered for Communion. Whether they were right or wrong about the Body and Blood of Christ truly being present in the physical bread and wine is another story altogether (Only three mainstream denominations teach this: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism). Could it be that among other things, the Church Fathers thought that it was important to include St. Paul’s command on the Eucharist in the canon because it was an important part of their faith community? I think that there’s a good possibility that is the case

Biblical Fundamentalism will always have it’s appeal. It speaks to certitude and legalism, which people like. We are lost souls in need of direction and for some of us, memorizing and quoting from scripture helps as a guide to our lives. But this unbending devotion to words instead of spirit is in itself a form of idol worship. After all, Jesus gave people his life, not a Bible. I myself reject Biblical fundamentalism and am perfectly comfortable with the fact that there are some who will sign my ticket to hell. To me there is no compelling evidence to support the Bible’s most outrageous claims such as the Earth being created in six days, a warrior killing armies of men with the jawbone of an ass or Noah putting two of each species on a wooden boat while the world was flooded. If that doesn’t add up to scrutiny that the Bible is infallible than every other claim is suspect. Could it be that the Bible is man’s best attempt at explaining the mystery of his relationship and interaction with his Creator? I think that’s a good possibility.


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14 Responses

  1. Cool post! I had a similar rant about this a while ago (http://jonfeatherstone.wordpress.com/2007/04/14/the-word-of-god-rant/) and it drew all sorts of interesting responses. For me, the deeper question now is “Why do some Christians clutch so tighthy to their bibles?” As if they’re scared that if they ley go they won’t have anything else to lean on. Wierd.

  2. lol/ wow, I just had many of these similar thoughts,especially man writing the bible not god, and possibly mans best explaination of creation. Do you have any other sites?

  3. You really just need to take a closer look at the first two passage. The Gospel account specifically identifies Jesus as associating with “sinners.” The Corinthians passage specifically speaks of the need to avoid hypocrites who say they are “brothers” or “Christians.” These are two totally different groups of people requiring two totally different responses. Hence no contradiction.

    I was surprised to see multiple logical contradictions in your attempt to discredit the Bible. If you’re interested in seeking the truth, I’d be happy to try and help. If you just want to rant against the Bible with illogical approaches, feel free to ignore this.

  4. Wow, what a way to prove contradictions! All we have to do is take scriptures out of context regardless on whom the letter is actually written to and twist it to say what I want it to say and Wham! Contradiction. Good Job. Now let me ask you this one question. Do you really think that someone who doesn’t study a subject can be a scholar in that subject?

  5. As you are probably accustomed to hearing, I stumbled upon your blog during a Google search. In response to your first written contradiction about associating with a sinner vs. not, the wording of the verses is very different. If you’ll notice in the first passage, the author says, “…you should not associate with a BROTHER CHRISTIAN who is leading an immoral life”. In the next passage, Jesus is seen associating with “tax collectors and sinners”, which when compared to the rest of the Bible, is another way of saying non-Christians. Therefore, the first passage is saying to not associate with Christians who are living immorally, while the second passage is showing Jesus eating with non-believers (presumably to show them His love as opposed to the legalism they had faced from others). First passage – Christians, second passage – non-Christians. There isn’t a contradiction after all. It’s refreshing whenever people blog their thoughts because I think that’s how we all can see different sides of the coin. Keep it up!

  6. I agree with Katie on her stances,

    I also came across this with a Google search .

    Saying that the bible is not credible because it was written by man is an obvious answer coming from someone who never took the time to read through it.

    The Bible is “God Breathed” meaning that God inspired and directed man to write what he wanted.

    Moses, Solomon, Peter, Matthew, Luke, these were all men that God used to record what he wanted the rest of the world to know about the history of what happened.

    Just like the ten commandments, God told Moses what he wanted him to write, the same goes for the Bible. Using man as an author is not a credible excuse to disclaim the Bible.

  7. I don’t know how much study is done by those who claim God’s word is contradictory or study it with a motive to find inconsistencies. Do we study the Civil War in the same manner? No. Why is this done with the bible? Yes, men wrote the bible but they weren’t just anyone. As the scriptures say, they were inspired BY GOD to write it. Regarding the New Testament writings, Jesus told his apostles (before ascending to heaven) to “”Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19-20.

    True Christians accept the Apostles’ writings as inspiration from God for this (and other scriptures) because Jesus commanded them to teach to observe ALL that He commanded. This scripture, alone, gave the Apostles authority to teach Christ and to those who love him. This is why the Apostolic letters are insipired. The bible was indeed written by men but men inspired by God to write what was written.

    I agree with Steve and Katie as well. There are two types of sinners that Paul and Jesus were talking about and with an open heart and further study, this would have been revealed to the reader but those who study the bible with a motive to teach against it will only offer up controversy at face value without indepth research.

    To jonfeatherstone (first poster): We true Christians will ‘clutch’ to our Bibles because we ‘hold’ onto the truth and value it. True Christians will realize that Jesus is in control and that his wisdom overrules our own. If we don’t follow the Bible and do as he and his Apostles command, then we’re more likely to trust our own wisdom; our own decisions on what we think on God, Christ and everything else under the sun. We live in a society that teaches to love yourself and to be in control….even where spiritual matters are concerned and that’s why some ‘Christians’ do away with much of the bible, even though they claim to be followers of Christ, which is what Christianity is all about.

  8. Regarding “Duh”. Whether a person is a Biblical scholar or not, clearly with just a little effort one can see that Paul’s statements were regarding “a brother Christian who is leading an immoral life,” and Jesus who was evangelizing the unsaved. Paul himself spent a lot of time with the unsaved and his discussion was regarding people claiming to be Christian and living in hypochrasy. I don’t mind discussing these things, but it is useless to discuss the super-natural with those who don’t believe in it.

  9. You implore us to be “logical,” but I don’t see this logic:
    1. Bible is written and compiled by men.
    2. Therefore, it should not be taken literally.
    It is literature, why should we not read it as such?
    I really like the way you write, and the awareness you have of some of the key issues pertinent to the question (even if you misunderstand fundamentalism by equating it with ignorance). But I think the Bible should be taken as literature, reading history as history, allegory as allegory, metaphor as metaphor, myth as myth, letter as letter, apocalypse as apocalypse, law as law, parable as parable, proverb as proverb, etc.
    I don’t believe that reading the Bible according to its own genres will lead to a fundamentalist position, but I do think it can be read as a whole when appreciating its own contexts and generic clues.
    “Inerrancy” or “infallibility” are a theological question outside of reading the Bible, and have little to do with actual contradictions of fact, spelling mistakes, perspective differences, theological debates, emphases of praxis and spirituality, or audience (Jew, gentile, etc.). That Torah spells “Egypt” wrong tells us very little about whether the Bible is the basis of faith and life for Christians.

  10. You can believe in dinosaurs and believe in every word of the bible.

    Theres no time period between the 7th day that God rested after he created the earth and when he created Adam and Eve.

  11. You know, I don’t understand you people when you say you are “followers” of Whatever you follow.It states that you can’t get to heaven in the flesh but you believe that jesus did.HELLO..see a problem with that?If someone did that today we would call it a magic trick.The reason why you people believe things in the bible is not because of your love for God but because you fear him.The only reason you fear him is because of the book and teachings you listen to so much.Try to learn about love with love not with fear or hate.

  12. Hey Mike,

    You are mistaken. The only reason that flesh cannot enter heaven is because it is sinful. Unless the sin issue is dealt with, there would be no human flesh in heaven. Jesus dealt with sin, once and for all. His body is perfect and He promises to give those who trust in Him the same kind of body. It’s not a magic trick.
    As for fear, in fact followers of Christ are the only ones who have no reason to fear God. Everyone else should because they will face the bar of justice without any defense. Jesus has become our advocate and for that we are grateful and certainly not afraid.

  13. Mike, youre obviously a desciple of Dawkins. Constantly trying to force the Bible into a pigeon-hole with a physics book and force God into “existance”, “evidence” and other toys that have nothing whatsoever to do with absolute TRUTH.

    You’ll never ever ever ever get it until you let go of “facts” and undertake to realize what truth is.

    Otherwise youre just a robot convinced that it’s alive.
    If for one moment you realize that you havent had an original thought since you were a child? Take one trivial step towards truth and it will have no choice but to run to you. (rebirth)

    “Be in the world AND not of the world” should be a clue. You choose “of the world” and detached from life, and there you will remain on the robotic scrap-heap for all time.

    “That which is living can never die, and that which is dead can never live” to paraphrase a contemporary Rabbi.

  14. Ahhhhhh this is rich. The age old your wrong nope your wrong.

    Funny thing is many have not really delved into the true history of the bible. The concel of nicca. Ever hear of it? If you havent mabe you need to do the research. You will find that they voted out books of the bible. Books that Christ had quoted from. Hids brother qouted from. Dosent it stand to reason if Christ quoted from the book of solomon, that he accepted it, yet where is it? His brother quoted from the book of Enoch (which was found with the dead sea scrolls) Yet where is it? Not in the bible.

    You will find the voted on Christ being a deity or not. He won only by 6 votes. Futher when Paul qouted from the bible he was quoting from the Torah or old testament. The new testament had been put together in the bible we now have yet.

    Not to mention the other older religions who predate christianity that have a deity that has uncanning simularitys as christainity.

    A miraculas conception (some are bizzare to say the least but miraculas never the less) Who had the very same names. One in perticular Mithriras.

    He was born from a rock, had the very same names as christ and statues dipicting him carrying a lamb around his shoulders. Died for 3 days reserected.

    The vatican is built on old ruins. On the walls of these ruins it says “Drink of my blood and eat of my flesh and ye will be save” The ruins are a old temple for the very same person Mithris. This religion was around roughly 500 to 1500 years before christianity.

    Dyonisis greek religion same story almost. He was 1500 and older before christianity.

    It seems christianity has borrowed from older religions.

    Anyhow look it up. You might be amazed and then agian it may streathen your belief. As for me im agnostic for a reason. I believe theres a higher power but not like the bible paints.

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