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The Bible as Myth and History
Posted: 17 November 2009 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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dougsmith - 17 November 2009 12:04 PM
Mriana - 17 November 2009 11:22 AM

Actually, Doug, even Leviticus is rewritten for the Hebrew culture and came from the Hammurabi.  The more you dig, you find there really isn’t anything original in the Bible, not even in the N.T.  The only thing different is that it is written to a specific cultural, adding various places and alike that they can relate to, to appeal or what have you to that culture.

There are sentences, paragraphs and concepts here and there, of course. But most of the Bible is original work.

OK I think this is one of those things we will have to agree to disagree.

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Posted: 17 November 2009 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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But the more literal interpretations of the Bible do amount to something in need of tearing down—less a train depot than a house of horrors.

I think we are mostly in agreement. To extend that metaphor, perhaps farther than I should, there is a lot of baggage in that depot. Some needs to be cleaned out, but some of those horrors do need to be faced, like we really did sacrifice our children at one time.  Given what has been done in the name of democracy recently, I am hesitant to say we are ready to just forget about it and move on.

I said I didn’t want to get into which God is better, but it is hard resist. I am very attracted to Buddhism, and possibly would have switched to it if there was a temple anywhere near me, HOWEVER, I do find it a bit too individual oriented.  The Bible is all about community, and all of it’s messiness. I love the image of the wise man on the mountain, but I have found some tremendous wisdom on the streets downtown.

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Posted: 17 November 2009 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Of course there is that wonderful book of Revelations!!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 17 November 2009 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I was hoping no one would mention that. I haven’t read it. It rarely comes around in my church’s liturgy. Um….., love your neighbor!

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Posted: 17 November 2009 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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dougsmith - 17 November 2009 10:32 AM
Lausten - 17 November 2009 10:13 AM

What other mythology has a story like Jesus?  Virgin birth - stolen, resurrection - nothing new, historical inaccuracy - okay. Not important to me.  Gods have come down in human form in many myths, but are they completely human, to the point that they doubt themselves?  Do they accept their fate of a violent death and tell their followers not to fight?  Do they act as healers and teachers or as warriors?  Do they engage and debate their leaders?  The Passion narrative has all of that, making it a pretty rich story, worth passing on.

Every mythological story has some features to it that are unique, and sure, I agree that it should be passed on, although not taken as “gospel”, as they say. The story of Jesus is basically the story of a late Jewish prophet who believed that the apocalypse would come and usher in a new anointed Jewish ruler (the “messiah”, along the lines of King David) for the end of days, and that it would happen in the lifetimes of his followers. As such he was a minor figure, interesting but deluded.

With that came a lot of fake magic tricks, fake exercises in healing that abound in the Gospels, etc. It’s telling that Jesus was least effective in his home town, where presumably people were most familiar with him. The problem is that so much of Jesus’s story depends on the magic tricks, the supernatural elements. And I don’t find that particularly laudable or interesting; it’s sort of the opposite of a human interest story, more like an ex post facto attempt at marketing the movement by his followers.

Just to take one other option around the same time period, I think the mythology of early Buddhism is significantly more compelling and interesting. But maybe that’s just me.


Zoroaster was supposedly born of a virgin.  Since his teachings were spread far and wide by a series of mesopotamian empires, they inevitably influenced the bible.  As did the Hellenic myths of the Olympian Gods, which were another influence.

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Posted: 17 November 2009 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Zoroaster was supposedly born of a virgin.  Since his teachings were spread far and wide by a series of mesopotamian empires, they inevitably influenced the bible.  As did the Hellenic myths of the Olympian Gods, which were another influence.

Yes I have heard of that. And I have briefly reviewed the philosophy of Zoroaster, it does contain many similarities. This is hardly proof of anything. Not that I can prove that it was not an “influence”, but too much gets made out of these similarities in my opinion. As yet, I have not seen any scholarly works that do any textual analysis or show actual historical connections.

This one is pretty good, The Ultimate Heresy, it speaks to the Greek influence.

Obviously, the Bible used existing symbols and archetypes, how could you tell a story without them? Again, if you were addressing someone who was saying the Bible was the direct word of God, and part of the proof of that is its uniqueness and its quality that stands above all others, you would have an argument. But I’m not saying that.

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Posted: 17 November 2009 07:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Lausten - 17 November 2009 06:17 PM

Zoroaster was supposedly born of a virgin.  Since his teachings were spread far and wide by a series of mesopotamian empires, they inevitably influenced the bible.  As did the Hellenic myths of the Olympian Gods, which were another influence.

Yes I have heard of that. And I have briefly reviewed the philosophy of Zoroaster, it does contain many similarities. This is hardly proof of anything. Not that I can prove that it was not an “influence”, but too much gets made out of these similarities in my opinion. As yet, I have not seen any scholarly works that do any textual analysis or show actual historical connections.

This one is pretty good, The Ultimate Heresy, it speaks to the Greek influence.

Obviously, the Bible used existing symbols and archetypes, how could you tell a story without them? Again, if you were addressing someone who was saying the Bible was the direct word of God, and part of the proof of that is its uniqueness and its quality that stands above all others, you would have an argument. But I’m not saying that.

John Romer’s book Testament provides a very detailed analysis of the mesopotamian influences on the old testament.

When you consider that the holy land was part of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires for several centuries, you can conclude that some cultural exchanges occurred.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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John Romer’s book Testament provides a very detailed analysis of the mesopotamian influences on the old testament.

When you consider that the holy land was part of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires for several centuries, you can conclude that some cultural exchanges occurred.

That’s a rather broad brush don’t you think?

The review of “Testament” from “Library Journal” on amazon.com and one in the New York Times pretty much agree with what I have been saying. Sounds like a good read though. The closing of the canon is of particular interest to me. It seems a bit incongrous that so much is said about the Bible being a consistent story, but not too many people know just how it was assembled.

I would love to see an international project of collaboration on a new canon, one that includes many traditions. There is probably someone working on this somewhere.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Lausten - 18 November 2009 09:03 AM

I would love to see an international project of collaboration on a new canon, one that includes many traditions. There is probably someone working on this somewhere.

I see no need for anything beyond A Secular Humanist Declaration. If by “canon” you mean pulling together religions and coming up with a new religion than I cannot disagree more vehemently.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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If by “canon” you mean pulling together religions and coming up with a new religion than I cannot disagree more vehemently.

No vehemence should be necessary. I don’t want to create a new religion.  More like evolve what we have.

Thanks for the link, not a bad start, but it sure spent a lot of time setting itself apart from religion and saying what is wrong with it and it is not that. It didn’t offer much in terms of ethics other than to say there should be some. The list of authors was useful, if there were titles, it would have been closer to what I am suggesting.

I’m not looking to synthesize everything that has come before, that is the job of philosophers and artists, and society as a whole, rather just catalogue it and get it down to a manageable list. Obviously we have libraries, but I would have liked to have had something a little more concise when I started digging around a few years ago. It wouldn’t have to be comprehensive, but it should be representative, say 5 or 6 creation stories, one from monotheism, one from an earth-based religion, one that is cyclical, then move on with some of the lists of laws like the Hammurabi, then to stories of politics mixing with gods and so on.

If this catalogue were common knowledge, there would be a lot less pointless discussion. With the way it is now, people open the Bible and try to figure it out by themselves, because they know no one is giving them the straight dope, and within the first couple pages they discover there are two creation stories. The first time one discovers this, it can be earth shattering, but when I see people discovering it over and over again and thinking they need to get on YouTube and tell the world, I start wondering if there isn’t something else at the heart of this situation.

When we started painting caves and wearing beads, we started excelerating our own evolution. We figured out that passing on knowledge was better than having each generation figure it out for themselves. Now there is so much knowledge, one person couldn’t possibly absorb it all in one lifetime, and we have not figured out how to deal with that. Okay, I’m going into one of my “brief history of everything” speeches, time to go.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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If you want to pass on religious teachings as mythology that’s fine, but do not confuse mythology with knowledge. The Judeo/Christian/Islamic tradition is a very poor moral tradition.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Lausten - 18 November 2009 11:54 AM

When we started painting caves and wearing beads, we started excelerating our own evolution. We figured out that passing on knowledge was better than having each generation figure it out for themselves.

Nope. We didn’t start to paint caves and wear beads in order to become smart. It must have been exactly the other way around: first we became smart, and then we started producing art. If you think I am wrong, then try to answer why other animals don’t try to become, as you say, “better”.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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fotobits - 18 November 2009 12:06 PM

If you want to pass on religious teachings as mythology that’s fine, but do not confuse mythology with knowledge. The Judeo/Christian/Islamic tradition is a very poor moral tradition.

My moral teach good, your moral teach bad, ugh! Me sarcastic, very bad! Sorry, this is not much of a discussion, and I won’t be engaging in it.

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Posted: 18 November 2009 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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George - 18 November 2009 12:31 PM
Lausten - 18 November 2009 11:54 AM

Nope. We didn’t start to paint caves and wear beads in order to become smart. It must have been exactly the other way around: first we became smart, and then we started producing art. If you think I am wrong, then try to answer why other animals don’t try to become, as you say, “better”.

I wasn’t suggesting that cause and effect. It doesn’t even make sense. How could an animal first “try” to become “better” anyway? You have to have a culture before you can start thinking about how to pass it on. I guess I could have made that more clear.

[ Edited: 18 November 2009 02:07 PM by Lausten ]
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Posted: 18 November 2009 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Lausten - 17 November 2009 06:17 PM

Obviously, the Bible used existing symbols and archetypes, how could you tell a story without them? Again, if you were addressing someone who was saying the Bible was the direct word of God, and part of the proof of that is its uniqueness and its quality that stands above all others, you would have an argument. But I’m not saying that.

Then what exactly is the Bible, and what is its value?

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