Friday, May 02, 2008
The presuppositional basis of Christianity became the most important problematic characteristic of Christianity for me. My search started out for the Holy Grail of Bible Interpretation and all of a sudden the logic that I was taught in the Holy-Grail-System made it impossible for the Bible and Christianity at large to be true.
Mathew 8:5 – 13 and its parallel account in Luke 7:1-10 forced me to remove the presupposition that Scripture is inerrant.
This led me to ask the supreme question about the existence of God – why in the world do we pre-suppose this without asking for any kind of proof. Objective, verifiable proof.
But before I tell you that part of the story, let me stay with the presupposition that the bible is inerrant; or rather, the erroneous presupposition about the inerrancy of scripture.
I was reading “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim. Edersheim did a remarkable job of uncovering and explaining the historical context in which the events of the Gospels took place. Edersheim is one of the most respected sources in Christianity related to background information about the time of Jesus.
Philo of Alexandria
I was reading his landmark work and he was making comments about a rabbi, Philo of Alexandria who lived around 20 BC till around 50 AD.
Philo introduced a concept that he called the Logos which is one of the Greek words translated as “word” in the English Bibles.
Philo used the concept of the Logos to broadly refer to the thoughts of God. But he did not stop there. He gave the Logos very specific meaning. For example, I discovered that he uses the concept of the Logos as that through which everything was created by God that has been created.
My mind immediately referenced John 1 : 1 – 3 which reads in the NASB:
“In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.
In fact, Philo describes the Logos not just as the mediator through whom the world was created as Jesus is described in Heb 1 : 1 – 4 and in John 1, but also as being pre-existing and as having an intimate relationship with God the Father (John 1:1-2, 18; Philo: Fug 101). Philo describes the Logos as “life” (John 1:4, cf. 12; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-246; Leg All 3:174-178; Det118; Rer 79, 191) and as “light” (John 1:4; Philo: Op Mund 31; Abr 47; Leg All 3:45), as mannah (John 6:35; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Leg All 3:174-178; Det 118; Rer 79, 191) and as water (John 4:17; Philo: Leg All 2:86; Post 127-129; Somn 2:241-246) – all uses that are ascribed to Jesus as well who, according to John is the Logos who became flesh.
The thing about Philo that struck me was that he was widely regarded as a heretic by the Jews and he apparently had no contact with Jesus or Paul. However, his fingerprints are found all over Johns Gospel and the letter to the Hebrews.
Here we have a heretical Jew greatly influencing some very specific Biblical doctrines. The doctrine of Jesus being the Logos, the mediator in creation and many of the metaphors associated with the Logos (Jesus). These images seemed to me that they did not come from God through INSPIRATION, but from Philo.
Besides Philo, I realised that the Bible writers did not hold to a literal, grammatical, contextual interpretation of the Bible. Many of the quotes from the New Testament that are presumably Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah had absolutely nothing to do with the Messiah when those words were uttered in the Old Testament.
All one has to do is to read through Mathews Gospel and every time you read that something happened so that it can be fulfilled what was spoken in the Old Testament – turn to the Old Testament passage and ask yourself the question if it originally spoke about the Messiah.
The theologians came up with a novel explanation in the concept of a “near” and a “far” fulfilment of Old Testament prophesy. They admit that most of the Old Testament prophecy’s originally spoke about deliverance or salvation that was expected in the time it was written in the Old Testament from a physical threat of usually an enemy of sorts.
The theologians then say that since the Gospel writers clearly link the Old Testament words to Jesus as well (for the most part – wrongly so!!! and by using the Old Testament passage completely out of context), there must have been an implicit secondary meaning to the prophecy. The immediate reference would have been the “near fulfilment” and Jesus who would come centuries later would become the “far fulfilment”. They even push this to include an ultimate fulfilment in the new heaven and new earth.
The fact is that when most people read only the New Testament and they read that prophecies were fulfilled, they think that someone was writing hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth and predicted his life and his death. This is far from the truth.
The fact is that so many predictions were made in the Old Testament about physical salvation from enemy’s and the saviour was described in every possible way that it is the easiest thing in the world to take these passages and then, hundreds of years later to say that they actually predicted a “Great Saviour” of sorts who would not just save us from physical danger when he takes us to heaven, but who would also save us from our sins.
The Old Testament gives any and every possible description of this Saviour. He would be great and triumphant and he would be suffering and rejected by his people and everything in between. Is there any wonder that almost anybody would have been able to declare himself as the Great Saviour and have been able to find some verses in the Old Testament that would link him with the characteristics that the saviour would have according to the Old Testament!
The fact is that the Bible is inconsistent because the New Testament writers used the Old Testament in ways that no Christian would today ever dream about using the Bible. They simply used the Old Testament verses out of context and MADE them fit the bill for whatever point they wanted to prove from the Old Testament.
There is also nothing miraculous about the fact that verses in the Old Testament can be found that seem to links Jesus to saviours that existed in the Old Testament because these came in every shape and size in any event.
Other matters of interest started to bother me that showed great logical inconsistencies in the facts presented in the Bible and in its themes.
1. There is no way that Gen 1 and 2 and the story of creation can be reconciled with the physical evidence we see from science. In fact, I don’t think it is overstating the fact that anybody who believes in creation today, at the beginning of the 21st century, may just as well believe in a flat earth as well where the sun and all the stars rotate around it!
For starters, there are many different Garden-of-Eden myths and the one given in the Bible is not the oldest version. There are scientific problems that are insurmountable in terms of the age of the universe if one accepts a closed chronology of events from Genesis to the time just after Jesus lived. Problems with the actual order of events, difficulty reconciling thermodynamics and basic chemistry to the events as described in Genesis. I mention only a few of the issues here that Christians are not able to deal with conclusively. There are many other problems with a creationist view, but these examples will suffice for now.
2. Deut 24: 16 states very clearly that each man will be put to death for his own sin, but Jesus was presumably put to death for the sins of the whole world.
3. In Gen 1 – 6 there are very exact references to geographical places. In Gen 7 we have the flood that presumably covered the whole earth (also no evidence of this) and would have modified the entire landscape in the wake of its power. But from Gen 8 we find references to the same locations and rivers that was spoken off before the flood.
4. In Gen 6: 4 we read about the Nephilim who were on the earth, a race of giants. Then the flood takes place in Gen 7 which kills every man and beast except those who were in the ark with Noah. In Numbers 13 the Jewish spies report that in the promised land they have seen “the Nephilim”.
5. In Gen 21: 15 – 17 we find Gods directives that ‘If any man has two wives….”. There is not a single instruction to monogamy in the New Testament, but every mainstream Christian Church will teach monogamy as one of the cornerstone beliefs of Christianity.
6. In Gen 22 Abraham is instructed to offer his son Isaac and in Deut 12:31 God clearly states that he hates human sacrifice. God not only instructed Abraham to do something that was against his moral law (against his very nature), but years later God would actually claim to have done this himself when he sacrificed his own son – a human sacrifice!
It was as if scales fell from my eyes. As if I could see clearly for the first time. And seeing clearly does not only mean that I see the inconsistency’s; it also meant that I would see God the way the Old Testament pictured him.
In Deut 20: 16 and 17 God commands Israel: “… you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you.”
This command is followed in Joshua 6 when the Israelites conquered Jericho (an event with NO historical evidence to back the Biblical account) and we read in chapter 6 : 21 ” And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.”
I was watching a television program about the atrocities in Rwanda one evening as I was thinking through these issues.
The losing tribe in the national election was attacking villages that voted for the opposition. What they would do was to enter the village of people who they knew or suspected that they did not vote for them, usually because they were from another tribe and ask the people if they wanted short sleeves or long sleeves.
They had to choose. This would result in either their one hand being hacked off or their arm.
A woman was telling the story about how men came to their village. Her husband ran into the woods. They chased him. Minutes later she heard him scream in agony. He walked out of the woods with both his hands hacked off.
He was screaming…. Tears streamed down his face. “Look”, he shouted! “They cut off my hands, they cut off my hands, they cut off my hands!”
I was deeply repulsed. Tears are welling up in my eyes as I write this. The same as the night I saw the lady telling her story. My heart cried out – “WHY?”
I realised the truth: “They voted for the wrong leader!”
I thought about the events at Jericho.
If I was living there with my precious family I would have had two children as well. Lauren 9 and Tristan 11. Tristan would have excelled in hunting and Lauren would have loved to help her mother make dresses and cooking for the family.
They would have played with the children in the city. I would have been a trader who went away trading some of the produce from the farmers and some of the clothes that my wife and daughter made.
I imagined myself on just such a trip.
After being away for weeks I would have missed my family dearly. With no cell phones and e-mail to stay in touch, my longing would have been compounded. Walking back from a nearby village I would have imagined my daughter running up to me as she always does when she sees me and giving me a hug that she does not want to let go of. “Oh, daddy! I missed you so much!!!” I expected to hear her say.
Tristan would immediately bring me his latest trophy like the horns of a buck that he hunted with his uncle. I would not have been able to wait to see them again and hold my lovely wife.
I imagine the sinking feeling as I climbed over one of the hills surrounding the city and I saw the smoke, the rubble, the city in ruins.
I would run as fast as my legs could carry me.
Over the rubble; over dead bodies of friends and family. My home. In the doorway, Julie’s body. She was hacked to death with a sword. Her face was disfigured; blood everywhere… so much blood. Her beautiful face – gone!
Deep and imagined grief struck me! I felt weak! I wanted to throw up. My mind raced. My entire being screamed – “my children!!”
Laurens body was in the only bedroom in the house. I sword ran her beautiful little body through. her face was not disfigured. In her eyes, I could see the fear!
Tristan was laying outside the window. He must have tried to escape. He was beaten to death with a wooden club that was left next to his body. I could not recognise him. Only his clothes….
I dropped down on my knees next to him and held his mutilated body close to me. With all the grief that was imaginable and unimaginable, I cried out: “WHY?????”
“Because we voted for the wrong God in the God elections” or was it because we transgressed Gods moral law as he claimed in the Hebrew Bible and we sacrificed children as he commanded his own man, Abraham to do and as he would do himself years later when he would kill his own son?
That night I was thinking, trying to put myself in the position of those people. To see the images behind the words and to grasp the reality of events that the Old Testament described. I always believed I served a loving Father. Now, for the first time, I realised that what the Bible described is not a loving father, but a monster!!
And I was glad that the clear evidence proved that he does not exist!
When I look back at my time as a Christian it was as if I was hypnotised. So much so that I am ashamed of my own thinking as a Christian.
How could I not have seen these issues? How could I have been so blind? How could have thought that my approach to the Bible was anything scientific? How could I not have seen that inherent in the bible one can not ever deduce any consistent truth from a system that is described in everyday language? It can simply not be done!
How could I not have seen the massive logical inconsistencies in the Bible?
But, if I was disappointed by not seeing the internal inconsistencies and the brutality of the God of the Bible, and even greater disappointment was awaiting me.
My biggest discovery was yet to come: Considering God in relation to the external world we live in!
(c) eben van tonder