The Problem with Scripture
2000 years ago, the great Siddhartha Gautama taught a timeless lesson. He voiced, "Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, or by scripture. It is not that these things should be discarded, but ultimately it’s experience and the opinion of the wise that should be your guide." Within this simple phrase, Buddha left me pondering the true identity of our guide and wondering whether the general populace's faith in scripture is ill-founded. The latter seems to be the more answerable question of two, as scripture, specifically the Bible and Quran, have a significant amount of attributes that lead them to have paradoxical text and controversial nature. Throughout history, individuals have hand picked and dismissed different sections of the holy books to create a foundation for contrasting branches of the same religion by claiming that they alone understand God through their interpretation of western scripture. However, in order to understand the reason behind the complexities of scripture, we must first dwell into the history of the books, specifically the Bible.
The Bible was not written by God, but was written by men centuries after the events in the book occurred. According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, the Bible was constructed by a mass of 40 men over 15000 years. The earliest author was said to be Moses, the shepherd, who wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy which would then become the first five books to make up the Old Testament. Since Moses' work, over 40 men from all walks of life have added onto the holy tales including Joshua the fisherman (1404-1390 B.C.), Matthew the tax collector (60 A.D), and Paul the tentmaker (49 - 63 A.D). With such a vast time gap between each individual author and the vast pool of authors, it brings up the question of how many had firsthand accounts of the events they wrote about and how many simply scribed the oral tales that had been passed down for centuries. In addition to the 40 original authors, multiple men have also worked to translate the books into 500 different languages by 500 A.D and then revised the translations in 1885 A.D (Greatsite Marketing). When considering these facts, it seems highly improbable that the original message was not lost in translation or buried under the bias, opinions and prejudice of those who contributed to the written word of God.
Throughout 15 centuries, men with heavy bias and power to influence scripture have inputted their views on matters and recreated a religious document and labeled it as the original. A great majority of the people who contributed to the texts that started the biggest religious movement in the world, gained their stories through oral communication; through stories that rely on unreliable human memory to be passed down through generations (Greatsite Marketing). What separates these stories from the many we regard as myths or fairy tales? As James Feibleman so well put, "A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes." As the authors of these stories were not God, we must stop considering the books as the definite words of our creator.
One of the many attributes that contribute to making scripture paradoxical are the vast array of passages that condone violence despite the 18 verses found in the Bible alone that ban violence. Specifically, Psalm 137 in the Bible states, "Happy is one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." It is hymn expressing the yearnings of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 607 BCE. Retribution, an eye for an eye, was a prominent philosophy for the Jewish people during this time. This passage condones the murder of the infants of your enemies, as long as your enemy murdered your infants prior. In essence, the Bible promotes revenge in this passage and then dismisses it instantaneously in Matthew 5:39. There it is written,...
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