Monday, May 31, 2010

268: Jesus?

Micah 1-7
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." - Micah 5:2

After today, there are 6 more days, and 6 more books till the New Testament. Why do I feel like they're all going to be exactly the same? Micah fits the Old Testament book mold perfectly.

Chapter 1 is God's judgement against Israel. As usual, the Israelites are supposed to weep and mourn because God is going to make their life so terrible. Chapter 2 is a continuation of this judgement. Chapter 2 ends with a promise that Israel will be rebuilt. How original.

Chapter 3 is yet another chapter in which God rebukes Israel for their many sins. God says that if his people eat each other he will not answer them when they cry out for forgiveness. This is an inconsistency in two ways. One, this is a way that God has punished Israel. He has explicitly caused the Israelites to eat each other (their children) as a punishment for their sins. So he's punishing people for sin by making them sin? Two, God has promised in many cases that if only the Israelites would cry out for forgiveness, he would immediately forgive them. Because God is "abounding in love and slow to anger" (yeah, right). Not only is God punishing the Israelites by making them sin, but he won't forgive them for the sin he forced them to commit.

In chapter 4, God says that he will make a mountain that is "chief among the mountains" and people will come there to learn God's ways. This apparently hasn't happened yet. The only mountain I can think of that would be called "chief among mountains" is everest, and I don't think anyone climbs that for divine instruction.

Chapter 5 is a chapter that is surely used as a "prophecy" of Jesus (indeed, googling "Micah 5 Jesus" gives me several websites claiming just that). It says that, from Bethlehem, will rise a ruler of Israel. The fallacy of all these prophecies, it seems, is that Jesus was never "king" over Israel (as far as I know). Nor was he in any sort of leadership position over any Israelite (except maybe the apostles). There is some debate over this passage. Some websites tell you that this prophecy actually points to king David, while others say it proves that Jesus has always existed. This is just a testament of how unclear biblical prophecy is.

Chapter 6 and 7 echo the first to chapters of Micah. Yes, God again says all the ways Israel has sinned, and all the ways he is going to punish them. Then he promises to restore them to their former glory. It's almost forgivable to repeat this over a number of books, but why does Micah (or God) feel the need to echo this concept twice in one book?

This book was completely devoid of any story. I'm still waiting for the beautiful prose, and wonderful story of the bible that I've been promised (on "every page" no less).

Can the bible be trusted? Some "prove" that it is in interesting ways.
Because the Bible is such an ancient book, the honest investigator will question whether we really have the Bible as it was written. Our faith must never be built on a book that will not stand careful examination.
First of all, I thought faith meant that even if all evidence pointed to the bible being untrustworthy, that you would believe it anyway. That's certainly how some (even most) Christians feel.
When one considers the abundance of copies of the New Testament in the Greek language, and compares it with the scarcity of other ancient books he will be amazed at the vast difference. While copies of other writings number less than fifty, there are over 4,000 manuscripts of the New Testament!
He conveniently doesn't mention how consistent these 4,000 copies are. Even if they are 100% consistent, just because something is said 4,000 times doesn't make it real.
In addition to these manuscripts there is another source for establishing original text. Within three hundred years of the establishment of the church scores of "church fathers" wrote extensively and freely quoted from the Bible. Some of the names are better known than others (Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius) yet all of these writers play a vital making the Bible a trustworthy book. In the writings of just six of these (the three mentioned above plus Clement, Tertullian and Hippolytus) there are 35,989 quotations from the New Testament. Might we point out that there are only 7,957 verses in the entire New Testament, yet these six men quote these verses over 36,000 times!
Again we aren't told how accurate these quotations are. I feel sorry for whoever had to read the works of these authors. Quoting every verse an average of 5 times each must make for a pretty boring read. Think about this: what if 2000 years from now, the only surviving texts say that 9/11 was perpetrated by the U.S. government. This has surely been repeated more than 4,000 times, but does that make it any more valid? All of this non-evidence brings us to this conclusion:
The Bible is trustworthy. Come and study it with us.
Whoa. Lets say that the writer could somehow prove to me that the bible was 100% accurately copied. It's a long way from there to prove that 1. the bible is internally consistent (it's clearly not) and 2. the original accounts are completely factual (I'll go out on a limb and say that this is also clearly not the case). This same fallacy is used in the evolution/creation debate. Creationist think that if they somehow disprove evolution (nobody is anywhere close) then that will prove unequivocally that creationism is true. That's just not the case. If you disprove evolution then you've proven that we don't know anything about how animals came into existence.

The writer is a long way from proving the bible is trustworthy.


  1. Of the thousands of Greek copies of the NT in existence, the vast majority come from 6 or more centuries after it was written, and no fragment of even a single book of the NT has been dated earlier than the 2nd century. Moreover there are many thousands of variants among these books - more variations than there are words in the NT, in fact - and no one ancient manuscripts have been found to agree exactly. The earliest quotations of any of the NT by any of the church fathers come from the 2nd century (with many coming from much later, such as Eusebius, in the 4th century), and its not like they were quoting it uniformly then, considering as how it didn't even exist as a single collection for centuries. Moreover, there are some discrepancies between their quotes and the text that we have from other copies as well.

    And as you said, even if all of the copies somehow agreed, this wouldn't indicate anything about the veracity of the stories. After all, most likely all copies of the book of Mormon agree, yet I doubt most Xtians would accept that as evidence that it is true.

  2. "...there are many thousands of variants among these books - more variations than there are words in the NT, in fact..."

    To quote Kramer, "You just blew my mind."

    For all our hang-ups on knowing absolute concrete truth, we humans sure like to change things a lot, eh? :-)



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