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Author Topic:   Determining a book's truth.
attssyf
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 161 (365212)
11-21-2006 6:31 PM


Hi,

I'm interested in examining reasons for believing that the Bible is the literal truth. I'd be interested in any comments people have around this subject, but I have particular questions and assumptions I'd like to describe here.

My assumptions for the discussion are;

(1) There are many writings about the subjects covered in the old and new testaments. We have copies of around twenty gospels, several apolcalypses, other epistles to early christian churches, other books of anceint hebrew history, pseudopygrapha, apocrypha, other books of new-testament-era history, etc.

(2) The bible is an anthology of 66 books selected from the many writings mentioned above.

(3) Some Christians ('literalists') claim the bible is true; this is a shorthand for the 66 claims, one for each book, of the form "This book is literally true".

(4) Literalists do not claim the same truth for the other writings, such as the Book of Enoch, the Gospel of Thomas, or the writings of Josephus. That is, for each other writing, you can only say "This book _may_ be true, in parts."

Given these assumptions (and I'm hoping there's nothing controvertial so far) I am wondering how literalists reason about these claims.

So, to start the ball rolling; I'd like to present a hypothetical situation, which is no doubt similar to that experienced by early Christians.

Esaias, a literate greek living around 150AD, has heard a little about a holy man called Jesus, and decides to learn more about him. He talks to other people in his city. One, Ioannis, tells him that he has heard the good news, has been visited by the holy spirit, and in fact has the written story. His tale starts "In the beginning was the word." Another man, Jude, makes the same claims: visited by the holy spirit, accepted the good news, has a written story. His book starts "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded." Both men lend him a copy of their texts.

If this man is to read correct scripture, he must conclude two things;

(a) The first book (the gospel of John) is utterly true.
(b) The second book (the gospel of Thomas) could be true, in parts, but is not utterly true. It may be misguided or a total fabrication.

How can Esaias come to these conclusions?

(For the record, I am an atheist, and I am interested in understanding Christianity on it's own terms.)


And you shall know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.
-- John 8:32
Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Equinox, posted 11-21-2006 6:58 PM attssyf has responded
 Message 3 by jar, posted 11-21-2006 7:07 PM attssyf has responded
 Message 26 by tcroth01, posted 06-01-2007 3:19 AM attssyf has not yet responded

  
Equinox
Member (Idle past 3336 days)
Posts: 329
From: Michigan
Joined: 08-18-2006


Message 2 of 161 (365227)
11-21-2006 6:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by attssyf
11-21-2006 6:31 PM


Also being a non-Christian, I'll leave it to others to answer (for now at least). However, having been a Christian for many years, I can correct you on one point:

quote:

(2) The bible is an anthology of 66 books selected from the many writings mentioned above.

For protestants, yes. However, for the majority of the world's Christians, the bible is composed of 73 books. Catholic doctrine is that the protestant doctrine is incorrect and not saving partly because the protestants removed the 7 books (and the sections of other biblical books) that originally supported the parts of Catholic doctrine that the protestants didn't like.

Even outside of that, there are other changes to the canon in a few other christian denominations. Of course, your question is the same whether the "Bible" has 66 or 73+ books.

Have a fun turkey day-


-Equinox

_ _ _ ___ _ _ _
You know, it's probably already answered at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/...
(Equinox is a Naturalistic Pagan - www.naturalpagan.org)


This message is a reply to:
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jar
Member
Posts: 31064
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 3 of 161 (365233)
11-21-2006 7:07 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by attssyf
11-21-2006 6:31 PM


Esaias, a literate greek living around 150AD, ...

Okay. First that is long before there was any Christian Canon.

as to your major question,

I'm interested in examining reasons for believing that the Bible is the literal truth.

it is pretty hard to find anyone that believes the Bible is literally true. It is easy to find many who claim to believe the Bible is literally true but when you begin discussing it with them you quickly find out what they really mean is that "it is truly interpreted by them".


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by attssyf, posted 11-21-2006 8:38 PM jar has responded

  
attssyf
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 161 (365244)
11-21-2006 8:06 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by Equinox
11-21-2006 6:58 PM


quote:
However, for the majority of the world's Christians, the bible is composed of 73 books.

Absolutely true.


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attssyf
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 161 (365250)
11-21-2006 8:38 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by jar
11-21-2006 7:07 PM


Okay. First that is long before there was any Christian Canon.

I chose that as a date where the books themselves were distributed, but no canonical anthology had been settled upon. You could get a copy of many different gospels, but there was no single-volume 'bible' available.

Our imaginary Christian is reading one orthodox gospel, and one gnostic gospel, but he has no way of knowing that. He has the individual texts, and he has to assign a status to each one. The question is how should Elaias discern the true book from the false one?

it is pretty hard to find anyone that believes the Bible is literally true. It is easy to find many who claim to believe the Bible is literally true [snip]

That's all I really need. Someone who is willing to say;

* The gospel of John is literally true
* The gospel of Thomas is not literally true
* The bible is the result of gathering together all the literally true books into one volume.

and to offer some theology* explaining how to discern good books from bad. Although I am a skeptic, I've posed the 150AD Christian situation in order to suggest an honest search for the Christian truth.

*not sure that's exactly the right word


And you shall know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.
-- John 8:32
This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by jar, posted 11-21-2006 7:07 PM jar has responded

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 Message 7 by ReverendDG, posted 11-21-2006 9:52 PM attssyf has not yet responded

  
jar
Member
Posts: 31064
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 6 of 161 (365251)
11-21-2006 8:45 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by attssyf
11-21-2006 8:38 PM


Well, good luck in your quest.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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ReverendDG
Member (Idle past 2304 days)
Posts: 1119
From: Topeka,kansas
Joined: 06-06-2005


Message 7 of 161 (365262)
11-21-2006 9:52 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by attssyf
11-21-2006 8:38 PM


That's all I really need. Someone who is willing to say;

* The gospel of John is literally true
* The gospel of Thomas is not literally true
* The bible is the result of gathering together all the literally true books into one volume.


most christians don't even believe everything is literally true,unless it bulsters a belief they already have been told is true, just ask a fundie if they believe trees choose kings, they will say no, even though it says they do.
and to offer some theology* explaining how to discern good books from bad. Although I am a skeptic, I've posed the 150AD Christian situation in order to suggest an honest search for the Christian truth.

there isn't a way, many theologians from the early part of christianity argued for books that ended up non-canon, or were heretical by someone else.
hell it took church leaders hmm 1500 years to pick our current canon, and revelations was questioned for centuries

enoch is in a bible but not in others, machebees is in the vulgate, and the cathaloc OT, but the jews don't count it

the jews even have degrees of inspired work, from genesis to ruth, ruth being the least inspired i believe

the question is not really going to be answerable, no one agrees


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Juraikken
Member (Idle past 4382 days)
Posts: 82
From: Winnetka, CA
Joined: 11-13-2006


Message 8 of 161 (365294)
11-22-2006 3:20 AM


if i am not to believe a little bit of it, then i might as well not believe any of it. the bible is completely true
Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Thugpreacha, posted 11-22-2006 3:42 AM Juraikken has responded
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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 12572
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 9 of 161 (365296)
11-22-2006 3:42 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Juraikken
11-22-2006 3:20 AM


Welcome to EvC
You and I simply must talk! We need to understand that belief and empirical knowledge are two seperate realities.

perhaps, however...whatever is intrinsically valid in human behavior
that is perceived as a form of knowledge may...in fact equate to belief.


This message is a reply to:
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iceage 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4109 days)
Posts: 1024
From: Pacific Northwest
Joined: 09-08-2003


Message 10 of 161 (365297)
11-22-2006 3:44 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Juraikken
11-22-2006 3:20 AM


the bible is completely true

What do you mean by true? Is every word chosen by God?


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attssyf
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 161 (365298)
11-22-2006 3:53 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Juraikken
11-22-2006 3:20 AM


Hi, Juraikken. Thanks for posting.

Would you say you agreed with the three statements I made above? If so, can you tell me how you believe the books of the bible were chosen, from all the possibilities in earlier centuries?

if i am not to believe a little bit of it, then i might as well not believe any of it. the bible is completely true.

How so? The bible is a collection of many books, and each one is judged separately. It is possible to believe the Gospel of Mark but to disbelieve the Revelation of John, for example. They are different books, with different authors, about different subjects, written in different centuries*. It would be no different from me putting a non-fiction book and a fiction book on the same bookshelf.

* I believe that 'different centuries' is true, but I'm not 100% on this.


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Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 1791 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 12 of 161 (365314)
11-22-2006 6:10 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by attssyf
11-22-2006 3:53 AM


Which gospels to keep?
Excellent question, attssyf. You are right to note that inerrantists make the remarkable claim of inerrancy on behalf of not just one ancient text, but at least 66 texts.

I will be interested in hearing how the literalists imagine the process. If you live in an age before any text has been approved, and you never met Yeshua of Nazareth yourself, how would you decide? Plenty of people were in this position once. They did not all come to the same conclusions.

My experience is that today's inerrantists will insist 'for a fact' that the Bhagavad Gita is not a divinely inspired text, though they likely have never read it, and will insist that Nahum is, though they likely haven't read that one, either.

Good idea for a thread. Welcome to EvC!

___


Archer

All species are transitional.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16097
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 13 of 161 (365320)
11-22-2006 6:39 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Juraikken
11-22-2006 3:20 AM


if i am not to believe a little bit of it, then i might as well not believe any of it.

You don't explain your reasoning.

the bible is completely true

Proof?


This message is a reply to:
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attssyf
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 161 (365321)
11-22-2006 7:17 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Dr Adequate
11-22-2006 6:39 AM


Proof?

Not really necessary for this discussion, as such, I don't think, and although a worthwhile question, I suspect it'll move the discussion away from the main point. My question presumes that some books are scriptural, and some books are not scriptural. The question asks how a Christian might go about determining this, in his/her own terms.

The question is interesting in a larger sense because the answer, I think, relates also to two similar questions;

* When a new book appears, is it possible for this new book to become scripture? The Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hamadi library, Gospel of Judas, etc are all recent arrivals and have been judged non-scriptural by most. Could a new book (for example, one conclusively proved to be written by Jesus himself) be declared scriptural, and on what authority? What does this imply about the bible as it exists now?

* Given the large number of religious texts available to any modern reader, how is scripture to be distinguished from non-scripture? Esais had to choose between two gospels; we have to choose between gospels, torah, sutras, and more. The process of determination is the one which formed the bible; do we have access to this process now?


And you shall know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.
-- John 8:32
This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Dr Adequate, posted 11-22-2006 6:39 AM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
mike the wiz
Member
Posts: 4659
From: u.k
Joined: 05-24-2003


Message 15 of 161 (365332)
11-22-2006 8:15 AM


Information For the Thread
There are a couple of unsound arguments that must be avoided, concerning the bible;

Argument 1; Because some parts of the bible are found to be true, then the bible as a whole, is true.
(An example would be to hunt out a scientific fact that the bible hits upon before it's time.)

Argument 2; If we cannot believe all of the bible, then we cannot believe any of it.

I assume it's self-evident as to why these arguments are fallacious, but I will expound if necessary.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that the bible is false nor true in any part nor the whole.


  
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