Was Jesus real? Can we trust the Bible? Is it always true?

On a web forum, one woman defended the reality of Jesus and the divine inspiration of the Biblical text. Below, I’ve included her points and my responses. I would love to flesh-out these points more in later posts.

[Said in response to a non-theist’s point that you can believe a religious leader was a good person with worthwhile points and not have faith in him or believe he was a prophet]
Joseph Smith was a false prophet as is any other person in history whose prophecies have failed

But even Jesus didn’t even fulfill all the prophesies (supposedly) about him. He apparently has to come back a second time to finish them all.

Did some of these folks have good things to say, sure, but none of them performed miracles, none of them fulfilled hundreds of prophecies from hundreds of years before their birth.

On the point of miracles: Besides the stories told in the Bible, there is (to my knowledge) no recorded evidence of any kind to say any of those miracles happened, I’m afraid. There are no independent writings, no scientific/empirical evidence, and it is much more likely (by an immensely large number) that the stories were embellished, made up, or there was observer error than if there had been an actual suspension of the constant laws of nature (which is what a miracle is).

On the point of prophecy: The gospel books were written by unknown authors (they are attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but so far as I’ve found in my bit of research, there is no evidence to be sure of who wrote them) and were all written at least 50 years after Jesus lived. It would not be unthinkable nor impossible that his followers could write his story to fit certain (often vague) passages in the Tanakh to convince others that he was a prophet and the Jewish Messiah.

I guess those things can be easily dismissed as “that was written by man and man is fallible.” Like I said earlier, the Bible would have to have been a HUGE conspiracy put together by an abnormally large amount of very smart people to support that argument.

I don’t think it would have had to be a malicious conspiracy–just the legends, mythology, prayers, and fantastic stories collected by a people over a long amount of time.

The Bible is not only full of historical accuracy that has been proven, it is also full of scientific accuracy about things that weren’t even proven by science until hundreds of years after they were written in the Bible (like the roundness of the earth or the importance of blood or atmospheric circulation). How could these things be without some kind of divine inspiration?

It is a very fascinating book to study!

But I disagree that its historical and scientific accuracy proves it to be divinely inspired. For one thing, many novels and myths contain historically accurate settings (kings, wars, events, locations, etc.) but that does not make them true or divinely inspired.

For example, Horatio Hornblower is a sea captain in the Napoleonic era who fought for England. He was a hero who rose through the ranks of the British Navy. He sailed the seas, fought in battles… but he was made up by C.S. Forester for a series of novels. Even though many of the events or people in these books have a (proven) historical basis, that does not make Hornblower,his crews, nor ships real.

As for science, I am still waiting for the evidence to support plants and trees coming before sunlight (according to the Creation story), humans being over 900 years old, a global flood, a man living inside a whale/fish for three days, a tower being the cause of language diversity, the sun stopping its movements in the sky (Joshua 6), an immovable earth (why Galileo was killed for his heliocentric views), talking donkeys, four legged locusts, half angel/half human creatures, etc. etc.

I think The Bible can hold much insight and many lessons on life and loving. I think it’s a religious text and should be read as a cultural portrait filled wit poetry, metaphor, fact, inaccuracies, insight, wisdom, and story. My belief is that it should not be a history book, nor a scientific text. That, I believe, is not its purpose at all.

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4 thoughts on “Miracles, Prophecies, and Science–Oh My!”

Todd · February 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Look into dangerous memes.. Dan Dennett has some interesting things to say about religious memes. (great TED talk)

Golmer · February 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Every “good” myth has a vague nugget of truth behind it for someone to plug updates into later. The ark story – sure there was a flood in Mesopotamia. It wasn’t a worldwide flood, but it was a good nugget. God getting the tablets from god on the side of a mountain where god spoke? A volcano complete with burning bush. Sodom and gommorah getting destroyed by fire and brimstone? An actual meteor impact observed by the Chinese and others in it’s passing. The star of Bethlehem? A supernova, again eecorded independently by the Chinese and Egyptians.

Thatdoesnt make the bronze age ignorant tripe that comprises the bible proof of any diety’s existence. It does prove the superstitious gullibility of bronze age thinkers though, and the willingness for people to willingly remain ignorant ages later.

Guy · February 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Great responses GG!

I would add, speaking specifically to the claim of science and round Earth, that we can’t know when that single passage in Isaiah was written. We DO know that the texts were translated, retranslated and altered. The earliest transcripts we have are dated much later than the idea of a spherical Earth first came to the Greeks in 6th century B.C.E. And, as far as I can gather, most biblical scholars believe the oldest parts of the Old Testament were not written before 6th century B.C.E.

There also are numerous passages in the bible that suggest a flat Earth, as opposed to the one that mentions a circle. http://www.answering-christianity.com/earth_flat.htm

Even if it was written before the Greeks and really means what it is claimed to mean, so what? Most things discovered by science were unproven ideas beforehand. That’s kind of what philosophy is. No sane person thinks the Greeks were divinely inspired because they thought the Earth was round before it was scientifically established.

That’s also kind of what fiction is. It would take long to find many examples in sci-fi and mythology of things that turned out to be right.

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