Human nature being what it is, people’s memories are often selective. Case in point is whether man is the center of Creation. Some may think that this question is passé, but I believe it’s far from the case.
Perfection in paradise
When Christianity first became a major religion, one of its major tenets was that man was the center of Creation, born perfect into Paradise. Of course, in the very beginning man did not yet have the wisdom of the Tree of Knowledge (according to the Bible). Presumably then, he was created perfect without such wisdom!
Great minds disagree with the Church
The concept of man as the center of the universe was faithfully observed for well over a thousand years. Accordingly, the sun was said to have revolved around the earth. However, along came a man named Galileo to upset the apple cart. The Church had to discredit Galileo because people had to believe that the sun rotated around the Earth, which it certainly would have if man was indeed the center of Creation.
As the years went by, great men like Copernicus, Freud and Einstein added fuel to the fire. Were the masses suppose to believe that they too were wrong about man and his place in Creation? Finally in 1992, some 359 years later, the Vatican officially admitted that they were wrong about Galileo.
So where exactly does that leave us? Well for starters, man obviously is not the center of Creation. Otherwise, why would God wait around for billions of years (i.e. the age of the universe) before deciding to create man as the object of his Creation!
The Vatican no longer believes that man is the center of Creation
The Earth itself is just a speck in a vast ocean of stars and planets that make up a universe that is infinitely large. Obviously, there is other intelligent life in the universe. For example, Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize as the co-discover of the structure of DNA, shocked the scientific world by announcing that homo sapiens sapiens is an alien race (i.e. came from the stars) and the Vatican recently announced that extraterrestrials are real. The Vatican’s announcement, by the way, amounts to a tacit admission that man is not the center of Creation!
Since man is not the center of Creation, the perfection of the Garden of Eden is then called into question. Without Eden, there could not have been any Fall of Man and, without the Fall there could have been no selling of salvation by the Church. The only conclusion that one can draw is that it’s not man who needs to be saved. Au contraire, it is Christianity that is in need of saving. I suspect that’s why the Pope recently stated that God has already saved everyone, even the atheists. As outlandish as his announcement was to many, I believe that it’s very close to the truth as the Church’s credibility, dare I say it’s very existence, may now be at stake.
Some people might think that most Christian writings deserve to be in a holy book somewhere. However the Church, in its infinite wisdom (remember, the Pope is infallible), felt that Christians would be better off not knowing about certain scriptures. So they destroyed those writings that they didn’t like (i.e. did not agree with its own dogma) and burned at the stake anyone who objected. How Christ-like!
That’s what happens when religion is based on dogma. The process goes something like this. First, you decide on the dogma. In the case of Christianity, that would be the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD (some three hundred years after Jesus). That’s tantamount to writing the U.S. Constitution 300 years after the Revolution; in which case, there would still be no Constitution in place today.
Once you have a dogma, the rest is relatively easy. You get rid of the competition; to wit, make sure that the holy books include only what you want. As I said in my recent post “Banned From The Bible”, there is no Book of Enoch, Dead Sea Scrolls or Gospel of Judas, among many others, in the Bible. The process of deciding which books were “divinely inspired” took yet another 72 years after the Council of Nicaea. Yes, it took 72 years to figure out exactly what constituted divine inspiration.
Actually, a number of gospels are not included in the Bible either, like those of Philip, Peter and Thomas. Like I said, you get rid of opposing views. With respect to the Gospel of Philip, it would be embarrassing, to say the least, if people found out that Mary Magdalene was the “companion” of Jesus with all that that implies. So the Gospel of Philip was…
banned from the Bible.
The Gospel of Thomas supposedly contains the secret sayings of Jesus. However according to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus believed that God lives in every human being rather than in just himself only. That might have changed history so the Gospel of Thomas was…
banned from the Bible.
The original Bible included the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon. The Wisdom of Solomon was considered to be the Word of God for over 1,000 years. However with the Reformation, the Protestants decided that the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, among others, was no longer divinely inspired. So for Protestants, and Protestants only, those books were…
banned from the Bible.
Most bibles are based on any one of three scriptural sources, namely the Masoretic Text, the Vulgate or the Septuagint. All of these texts have shortcomings. For example, the Masoretic Text dates only to the 9th century and the Vulgate (a Latin Bible) to the late 4th century. On the other hand, The Dead Sea Scrolls which predate Christianity are contemporary writings which showed what the life of Jesus must have been like. The Scrolls also demonstrate something totally unexpected, if not altogether shocking. Religious scriptures of the day had textual diversity. Scribes apparently would choose from different sources and then insert their own personal preferences. So which version of the Bible is the true Word of God? Is it all of them or, as some believe, none of them?
If God wanted to write a bible, most Christians would probably say that He has the power to do just that. So why didn’t He? If God had written the Bible himself we could have dispensed with 2,000 years of debate over the matter. What we’re left with is what I call the inspired Word of God. Even if the Bible, any Bible, is truly a work inspired by God, there’s still one problem. Inspiration from God does not necessarily equate with the Word of God. There’s a big difference. As I sit at my computer and write these words, I too am inspired by God – inspired to write what I think is the truth; the truth based on God having “whispered in my ear”. To make matters worse, we don’t even know who wrote most of the Bible so how could we possibly know that God inspired men to write stories about Him; even if He did, is it the true Word of God or rather man’s word about God?
So how are we supposed to know who whispered in the ear of the scribe that wrote the Book of Enoch. Written approximately 200 years before Jesus, this work was quoted in the New Testament Book of Jude and by many of the early church fathers. Enoch manuscripts were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls so we know that these writings were used and respected by the early Christians. An apocryphal work, the Epistle of Barnabas, goes so far as to call Enoch the inspired Word of God. Now, where I have I heard that term before? The thing that makes Enoch stand out from all of the other religious scriptures is its identification of the exact source of evil in the world. The Book of Enoch specifically identifies the Fallen Angels as the source of evil and corruption in the world (rather than Original Sin via Adam and Eve). Enoch goes on to say that in the End of Days only the wicked will be judged by God. It’s easy to see why the Book of Enoch was…
banned from the Bible.
The Bible is considered by some to be the greatest story ever told. Movies have been made retelling the biblical stories and major world religions are based on the Bible. The only problem is that they never told the whole story.
In the beginning
For starters, Genesis was not the beginning; rather it’s simply a creation story that was borrowed from Babylonian/Sumerian mythology (namely, the “Epic of Gilgamesh”). Many historians agree that Genesis, verses 1 and 2, are actually two separate stories from two different writers. The first writer wrote, “Then God said, I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29), while the second writer wrote, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). In addition there were other inconsistencies between the two stories such as whether animals or humans were created first and whether man and woman were created simultaneously or Eve was subsequently created from Adam’s rib. Obviously, both stories cannot be correct.
As for the Noah flood story, it has significant parallels with the very same “Epic of Gilgamesh.” In any event, the Bible flood story cannot be original since there is no archaeological evidence of a global flood that corresponds to the dating given in the Bible. Finally, with respect to the Ten Commandments, they were mostly written about in the much older Egyptian “Book of the Dead.”
Origins of the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is essentially the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The first five books of the Old Testament are generally referred to as the Pentateuch, while others might refer to them as the Torah (the Mosaic Law). It has been said that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, however most historians would take exception to that idea. Heck, for that matter you can’t even find Moses in the historical record so there is no proof that he even existed let alone wrote any religious scriptures.
Modern biblical scholarship generally states that during the 3,000 year period, stretching from Adam and Eve to the time of the Israelite exile in Babylon, the Israelites/Hebrews were polytheistic. In other words, they worshipped other gods besides Jehovah. This can be seen from the story in 2 Kings 22 about King Josiah (circa 610 BCE) and how he found the Torah scroll which had been previously lost for hundreds of years. As the story goes, King Josiah intended to reintroduce the Book of the Law to the Israelites, but unfortunately he died soon thereafter and the Israelites continued their practice of worshipping many gods; this only eleven years before the beginning of the Babylonian exile.
So what changed? Simply this: Beginning in the 6th century BCE, the Persians became rulers over most of the ancient world (the Achaemenid Empire it was called). Now the Persians worshipped Ahura Mazda as part of their religion which was called Zoroastrianism. One little known fact about Zoroastrianism is that it was the very first religion based on the concept of monotheism. Ahura Mazda was omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Creation was accomplished in six days and began with a single couple. God (Ahura Mazda) gave his commandments to the Persian prophet Zoroaster on the top of a holy mountain (like the Moses story on Mt. Sinai). All of this, of course, is eerily similar to the Pentateuch.
The Persian king held the fate of the Israelites in his hands. Surprisingly, he allowed them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple and what’s more he even paid for it! When the Hebrew priests returned from exile, they brought back with them the Old Testament which they had first written in Babylon, an Old Testament that changed the oral tradition of many gods to the Zoroastrian’s monotheistic concept of one god. In addition, they brought back what is referred to as the Babylonian Talmud; such was the beginning of Judaism as we know it today.
The genesis of a people and a religion
The Israelites themselves didn’t exist per se until the time of Jacob, a grandson of Abraham. It was Jacob who was later renamed Israel, thus the source of the name Israelites. As for Abraham, he originally came from the city of Ur, one of the twelve original city-states of Sumer, and therefore was a Sumerian. When Abraham journeyed to Canaan, it was the Sumerian mythology that he brought with him – the very Persian/Babylonian mythology that wound up as the underpinnings of the Old Testament. History and culture had come full circle. The mythology that had first come to Canaan with Abraham morphed into the Israelites new religion in a religious renaissance of sorts. In effect, the Hebrew priests took older writings (mostly from Sumerian origin) and created a history for the Hebrew people. As for Jehovah, he was transformed from merely one in a pantheon of gods into a monotheistic “one and only god.”
That might have been the end of the story except for two things. First, Abraham was more than just the patriarch of the Israelites. He was also the patriarch of the Muslims and the Persians, was a Brahmin to the Hindus and an important figure in Christianity. That important history is omitted from the Bible – a history that would provide the linkage and context regarding the commonality of the world’s major religions. Secondly, Christianity had relied on the Pentateuch as their basis in understanding Creation and God. In so doing, they unknowingly accepted Sumerian mythology and all that that implied. Further, their understanding of Jesus was limited to the Old Testament prophecy that the future king of Israel would be descended from the priestly caste of Aaron, through King David. This was true in a sense but, Jesus was, in reality, part of the higher order of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It was this mystical/spiritual Jesus, and his teachings, that are not reflected in the scriptures; a story that has yet to be told. Until it is, the Bible will forever be the greatest story never told.
Jerusalem is Jerusalem, right, and a rose by any other name is still a rose. The point is that Qumran seems to have been referred to as Jerusalem in the Dead Sea Scrolls. That seemingly minor understanding casts parts of the New Testament in a totally different light.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves overlooking the ruins at Qumran. Qumran was established by a small sect of Jews who believed in a throw-back brand of Judaism based on strict adherence to the Torah (Jewish Law). They were sometimes referred to as Essenes but it is more accurate to call them Nazarenes, as in Jesus of Nazareth. They also believed in the overthrow of their overlords, the Romans. In that respect, they were sometimes called zealots. One of their scrolls has been called the New Jerusalem Scroll because it lays out the building of a city which would be a holy city just like Jerusalem, except on a much smaller scale. After all, as Jews, Jerusalem was their holy city, except that they were virtual exiles in their own land.
Anomalies in the Bible
One of the strange anomalies in the Bible is that the original Greek writing of the New Testament uses both a singular and a plural form of the word Jerusalem. For example, in Acts, Paul was said to have gone from Jerusalem to Jerusalem (with one Jerusalem being a plural term in Greek and the other being a singular term). This is certainly strange unless the use of a plural term signifies a different location. In the Book of Revelation, it says that Jesus was crucified in a city that was “figuratively called Sodom and Egypt.” Historians will tell you that Jerusalem was never referred to as such, but Qumran is altogether a different matter. For one thing it is near Sodom and for another it was sometimes referred to as Egypt (see below).
Jerusalem in Qumran
Exactly why should it matter if Qumran was referred to as Jerusalem? Well, for starters, it would change one’s perspective on the stories of the New Testament. Jesus would have been crucified by his own people, the Nazarenes, as opposed to being crucified by the religious leaders of the day (who would have resided in the real Jerusalem). The cave that Jesus’ body would have been put it in would have been in Qumran, which is perhaps why archaeologists have never been able to locate the crucifixion site (they’ve been looking in the wrong place, near Jerusalem). The manger, of Bethlehem, would have been also in Qumran, as the names of other biblical sites were given to spots in and around Qumran. The same for the Road to Damascus where Paul had his vision. That would make Paul a Nazarene and might cast Paul’s post-resurrection vision of Jesus in an altogether different light.
Qumran and Christianity
Many historians have taken the position that the small group of Jews who lived at Qumran eventually morphed in Christianity. Their church, which was referred to as the Jerusalem Church, was headed by James, the brother of Jesus. In addition, Paul who would be largely responsible for spreading the Word of God throughout the Roman Empire, was an emissary/apostle for the Jerusalem Church (see Paul’s letters). It was Paul, along with Peter, who established the branch of the Jerusalem Church in Antioch and it was in Antioch, with respect to its followers, that the term Christian would first be applied.
If nothing else, one has to ask themselves why such important writings (the Dead Sea Scrolls) of the people in Qumran were repressed and/or forgotten about. Why would the early Christian church downplay its Jewish origins? After all, Jesus was Jewish. All of his disciples were Jewish. The Old Testament is basically the Hebrew Bible and the first five books of the Old Testament make up the Torah (Jewish Law). The answer lies in the Christian concept of salvation through Jesus. Jesus, as the Jewish messiah which many Jews were expecting in his day, could only have been human, a man. A divine messiah would have been unthinkable to them. The messiah prophesied in the Old Testament was supposed to have inaugurated in a kingdom of peace and the messiah, himself, would have to have been a priest, prophet and king, not a god. However to pagans living in the Roman Empire, the idea of a divine messiah would fit nicely with the mythology of previous pagan gods (like Mithras, for example). Albert Schweitzer, a world-famous Christian theologian and author of the seminal work “The Quest of the Historical Jesus”, believed in a Jesus who was the ultimate revealer of the Kingdom of God. However, Schweitzer also believed that the Church conferred divinity on Jesus because of the nonfulfillment of his imminent return. As a result, the changing of Jesus from a Jewish messiah into a universal savior of all men became the defining moment when a radical form of Judaism was transformed into Christianity.
It’s so very curious. The Bible is perhaps the greatest book ever written and yet so very little is truly known about it. For a book which is considered by many to be the Word of God, one has to ask this question. Why?
In this country (the U.S.A.), Protestantism is the face of Christianity. The thing is, I don’t think that anyone knows just what that means, per se. Let’s see. We’ve got Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, among many other denominations. We’ve even got Southern Baptists because they can’t agree with the Baptists. Then at one end of the spectrum, we’ve got the Quakers, the Amish, Mennonites, the Seventh Day Adventists and the Pentecostals, just to name a few. It seems that none of them can agree as to exactly what the Word of God is. What to make of it?
Well, for starters the Bible isn’t really a book at all, but rather a compilation of various writings by various writers that covers a period of over one thousand years. There isn’t just one Bible, there’s over 30 different versions and they are not necessarily based on the same source material either. Further, some of the books of the Bible were written in Greek, some were in Aramaic and some were in Hebrew.
Not only isn’t there just one version of the Bible, there isn’t even one dogma which is the one and only dogma of Christianity. Most Christians in this country don’t even realize what a fractured religion Christianity is. None of my many Christian friends are even part of the largest Christian churches in the world; that would be the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Other large groups include the Anglicans (the Church of England) and the Oriental Orthodox Church. Anybody ever heard of them? There are different Protestant churches for a reason and that reason is that they all want the right to define the Word of God – their way.
The bibles of the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox are way bigger than the Protestant bibles. Some of the additional books are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticas, Baruch, Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees, 2 Esdras and 4 Maccabees. They consider these books to be the Word of God, but in the Protestant world they are…
banned from the Bible.
Then there’s the bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which contains what, in my opinion, is one of the most important Hebrew writings ever – the Book of Enoch. The Book of Enoch was especially popular among early Christian writers and the church fathers. If you’ve never read it, you’re in for a real eyeful. But then again, we wouldn’t want people to know too much about the gods who fathered us, now would we. So the Book of Enoch was…
banned from the Bible.
If they were alive today, Jesus and Paul would probably have to admit that the Bible was not the Word of God because the mystery concerning the Kingdom of Heaven was never disclosed to the masses. Paul, for one, said that, “Now to him that is of power to establish you to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” and Jesus said, “To you, the disciples, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, the masses, it has not been given.” There you have it in their own words. But why tell people about the secrets of Heaven; simply cut them off from the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life so that this sacred knowledge would be…
banned from the Bible.
Then there was the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, we never knew that these writings existed until they were discovered in the 1940s. But obviously early Christians knew. After all, these documents were written, and or preserved, by the Jerusalem Church which would eventually morph into Christianity. According to many historians, the Dead Sea Scrolls offer the world a glimpse into the very origins of Christianity. But we wouldn’t want Christians to know that their religion isn’t unique – that it’s just an offshoot of Judaism. So the Dead Sea Scrolls were effectively …
banned from the Bible.
Then there’s the Nag Hammadi Library which was also discovered in the 1940s. There’s over 50 codices in the Nag Hammadi Library which are principally the works of Gnostics who were an important Christian group during the early years of Christianity. Their beliefs, however, conflicted on certain key points of what would later be decided as church dogma. So, the Gnostic writings were destroyed and, yes, they were…
banned from the Bible.
Then there’s the Secret Gospel of Mark, which is an expanded version of the canonical gospel of Mark. Today, historians have snippets of the secret gospel because of a recently discovered letter written by Church Father Clement of Alexandria. The secret gospel shows that there may have been secret teachings of Jesus. We wouldn’t want the masses to know about a mystical Jesus would we? So the Secret Gospel of Mark was…
banned from the Bible.
One of my personal favorites is the Gospel of Judas. Although this gospel was long known to have existed from a date in early Christianity, all copies had been thought to have been destroyed. The modern world first laid eyes on the gospel after its discovery in the 1970s. The gospel paints Judas in an entirely different light and during the Last Supper Jesus mocks his disciples for praying to a false god and then proceeds to tell Judas about the secrets of the universe because, according to Jesus, he is the only disciple capable of understanding him. However, we wouldn’t want anyone to know that the god of the Old Testament wasn’t God, the First Cause, would we? So, the Gospel of Judas was…
banned from the Bible.
Some Christians would say that the Bible is the word of God simply because the Bible says so. However, that sounds too much like circular reasoning to me. One problem is that there are other holy books, like the Q’uran, that also claim that they are the one and only Word of God. I’m just guessing that it would be pretty easy to convince Christians that the Q’uran is not the Word of God. The opposite, of course, is also true. I’m sure that I could convince Muslims that the Christian Bible is not the Word of God. I, for one however, could never understand how the Bible could be the Word of God anyway since, with the exception of Paul’s letters, historians can’t decide exactly who wrote the different books. Case in point, the gospels were not written by the disciples whose names are associated with them; neither were they even eyewitness testimony. So the question is this: if you don’t know who wrote the Bible how would you ever know who, or what, inspired theses books to be written?
The saga continues. Recently, The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was discovered. I guess it’s probably obvious to everyone why that gospel was…
banned from the Bible.
“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means.”
– George Bernard Shaw