Thursday, March 2, 2017

32 - Camels and Needles

Honesty of the Bible

Let's picture the writers of the Bible as being witnesses in a court case.

As already stated, the writers of the Bible were reputable people who would do their best to witness to the truth as they knew it or as they remembered it. 

Look at this example.  All four gospel writers told a brief story of the life of Christ, but Mark, a younger person and probably the writer of the first written gospel does not mention the resurrection of Christ at all.   His omission, however, does not invalidate the fact that Christ did rise from the dead.  His omission of that detail only tells us that he, not a disciple of Christ, did not wish to perjure himself on the witness stand by stating something as a fact when he was not sure that it was a fact.

Matthew and John were Christ's disciples, they knew the facts from first-hand experience and they had no qualms about stating as a fact that Christ did rise from the dead.   Luke, the other gospel writer was a well-studied doctor.   He even wrote to his friend that he had carefully studied all the details about the life of Christ and he attested to the fact that Christ, indeed, is raised from the dead.

Moses, in the presence of Jehovah,
got the 10 commandments 
As I said, this is only one example of how we can view the writers of the Bible.  The more witnesses there are that agree on an issue the more likely it is that their testimony is true. 

However, a problem does arise when one witness declares one thing and another witness declares the exact opposite. 

For example, in the Book of Exodus we read, They saw the God of Israel. Exodus 24:10.  About 15-16 centuries later Saint John wrote, No one has seen God at any time. John 1:18

It is not right to gloss over discrepancies like this and pretend that they are not in the Bible, as the church has done for centuries.  Because the church has carried on like that, I made it a point to study many of the church's doctrines in detail and find out how they do not agree with the Bible, or in fact, how the Bible does not even agree with itself. 

We, Protestants, have been so conditioned to believe that everything in the Bible is true exactly as we read it in the Bible, that if we do find something, somewhere else in the Bible, that does not agree with the same fact, we are thrown into a tailspin.  

Many churches believe that the holy spirit will guide any Christian to the truth if that Christian honestly seeks for the truth in the Bible.  This is a great theory, but in practice it does not work!  Whenever an honest seeker finds a different truth than the church believes, of course, the church cannot allow that such a finding was the holy spirit's doing; if they did it would mean that the church had been wrong all along, and a lot of preachers would be sans wages

Let us not insist that everything in the Bible must be taken as a literal fact. If writers and speakers of various nations and languages are allowed to use hyperboles why wouldn't we allow ancient Jews to use them too?

A case in point would be the hyperboles that Christ used in His speeches. We also notice some very ambiguous teachings in the lessons taught by Christ. For example, If your right hand offends you, cut it off. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains into the sea. The Life and Times of Jesus, The Readers Digest

Why have we tried to make ourselves believe that Christ was speaking literally? It is much more logical to believe that He was using hyperboles. It is really the only way that His statements of this nature can make any sense.

What can we say about a camel passing through the eye of a needle? The Life and Times of Jesus, The Readers Digest. Theologians have wrangled about how this could possibly happen.  They have twisted the meaning of Christ’s words, just so that those words by Christ, can mean exactly what He said.   Billy Graham, speaking about this illustration, said that by using chemicals, one could liquefy a camel’s body and so it could pass through the eye of a needle.   Could this possibly be what Christ meant?! 

Another theory advanced is that there is a gate in the wall of Jerusalem, named, the "Needle’s Eye", and if a camel gets down on its knees, it can crawl through the "Needles Eye". The problem with this idea is that, according to Christ, it would be possible for a person to gain salvation by trying very hard.  

It would not be easy, but possible!  For theological reasons alone, it is simply impossible to accept the explanation of a camel on its knees crawling through the "needle's eye".

In the meantime, it is possible to imagine Christ somewhat amused, or perhaps, very upset at the theologians who engage in that kind of teaching. If not amused or upset perhaps Christ is thinking; surely, they cannot have taken seriously those things that are so blatantly hyperboles.

As I wrote in an earlier post When once we set the Bible free from our tenacious grasp we will find that it all makes a lot more sense.
In the past, I have written that the Bible is not absolutely without error but that it is still a reputable book.  My beef is not with the Bible; what bothers me more than the fallibility of the Bible is what the preachers have told us we need to believe about it.

I have read through the Bhagavad Gita of the Hindu religion, through the Koran of the Muslims, through the Book of Mormon, through the Egyptian and Tibetan "Book of the Dead" and in many other religious texts, yet, in my opinion none of them can even hold a candle to the spiritual insight, guidance and moral teachings taught by the Christian Bible; I hold the Bible in high regard.
 Have theologians tied up the Bible?
My basic stance is that if the Bible says it I will try to take it literally; but sometimes it is not possible. It must at least make sense to a thinking person.  Therefore, since the Bible says that Christ was born of a virgin, and since it nowhere denies that statement I believe it to be true.  Likewise, the Bible says that Christ rose from the grave, and the Bible nowhere denies it, I believe it to be true. 

However, the Bible tells us that God is omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) but it also tells us that He is influenced by time and location; for argument's sake, I take the opposing view to what the church has taught us.  Perhaps, a different point of view will help us see the possibility that the church's theologians have been too narrow in their theology and have kept us from seeing the truth.