New Testament: updates required?

This amused me:

It is increasingly clear that the biblical authors had no knowledge of science and infused some of the fairy tales at the time into the biblical writings. For some reason the deity on whose behalf the texts were being written (God) did not intervene to have the false statements corrected, and can be construed to have either been uninformed himself or simply having no reason to ensure that true facts and figures were written in his book.

The point of Eden, I always thought, was that God wanted his chosen people to be immature, innocent and stupid for all time. And yet, he also put that fruit in there, allowed for a snake to suggest Eve take a piece and share it with Adam, and then booted them out of this paradise he made for them because they have “knowledge” now. Yet apparently the joke was on Adam and Eve because the “knowledge” they walked away with and taught others was completely and totally flawed. If this God did exist, he must have busted a gut over that one. The Jape of an Eternity. Maybe we would have wised up faster had people not written most of this inaccurate crap down and insisted other people memorize it.

Following the above quote is an extensive list of evidence that bible writers had no grasp of science and the world as we understand it today, be it by geography, biology, or astronomy. I’ll quote some commentaries:

Some Microbes can be killed by antibiotics. Some illnesses require surgery or various therapies. I am waiting to see a hospital where the medical staff use exorcism to cure any of the above illnesses. Why did God not say so in his book and allowed the illiterate scribes to write such nonsense in the Bible?

There were inklings earlier (the Hindu text Atharvaveda refers to living things that cause disease, for example. More here), but it took until the mid 1800s before there was enough proof that microbes existed. Invisible bugs, demons.. like it was going to matter what they thought was behind disease back in bible days. There was little they could do about them anyway.

this can be confirmed by any person, Christian, or not simply going to the medical lab and asking for a DNA test which is currently available in every country in the world, mostly used for determining who impregnated whose daughter etc etc. So yes indeed it would make sense to update the Bible to include this established fact. Otherwise our descendants in the next 50 – 100 years time will laugh at us and wonder why we were so stupid to believe this drivel when all we could have done was a common DNA test.

The author is referring to the fact that We Are All African although there are competing theories as to how our ancestors got us to where we are today. Mitochondrial Eve is a cool concept, though.

The author of this piece makes an erroneous assumption, however. He or she is assuming the bible would be only only book left around by which future civilizations could judge our levels of intelligence. It reminds me of a short story I read once and I wish I could remember the author. It was set in the future where a film strip was discovered and the people who found it had to figure out how to view the thing, hoping it would tell them great secrets about who had made it. The film turns out to be Porky Pig or some silliness like that. Interesting, but hardly illuminating.

MT 7:7-8, LK 11:9-10 Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Everyone who asks, receives. Comment: OK. I want an end to illiteracy in Ghana. I also want an end to all religion in Ghana to be replaced by institutes offering Bachelors degrees, Masters and PhDs. Can I get that?

If only. If that actually worked, can you even guess how ridiculous this world would be? How it would look? Best left to imagination and nightmares. It’s one thing if the request is a noble one, but what about everything else people wind up wanting? We should thank our lucky stars that we have to work for what’s really important. And then get off our asses and do the work…

MT 13:41 Jesus will send his angels to purge his kingdom of evildoers and sin. Comment: How did evildoers get into his kingdom in the first place?

Because we were supposedly given the choice to do evil. Our ability to see light requires an ability to see the dark and the shadows for comparison. Otherwise how do we know it’s light? How do we judge strength if we can’t compare weaknesses? How can we judge what’s right if we haven’t noticed all the ways we could possibly go wrong? We don’t always know what’s right until it’s too late to change our minds, either. Sometimes it really does come down to the best of bad choices. I think it’s better to have choices, even if we don’t always make the good ones. We are also capable of learning from our mistakes. It’s a lesson more likely to be taken to heart as well.

MK 11:12-14, 20-21 Jesus curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season. Comment: Rather than cause the fig tree to wither and to bear fruit never again, he could have performed a miracle and made it bear fruit even out of season.

Good point, and one I might have to remember. Why didn’t he do that? What’s the lesson we’re supposed to glean from this story, that it’s okay to pitch a hissy when you can’t have what you want? Don’t blame the tree for the season, buddy.

There are a lot more examples. Some are examples of bad writing that a proof reader should have caught at some point, others are random snips of verse that nobody seems to pay attention to (did you know there are three heavens?) and other inaccuracies compared to what we know today.

So, does it need an update? No, no more than Huckleberry Finn needed an update. It is what it is and people should approach both the Old and New Testament with some awareness of their places in time and judge them accordingly. It was a time where people were unaware of the size of the world, unaware of all the species on the land and in the seas, and unable to anticipate how long their ignorant musings would last. They had no idea how serious people would take what they wrote and they had no idea what the future held at all. I think it’s admirable that people still want to find meaning in there and use the better parts as a way to guide their good behaviour, but that doesn’t automatically make the whole of it true — especially since we can pick out so many places where it isn’t. And it doesn’t mean the bible is the only way to find meaning, be it morally or ethically. It’s only one of the ways.

In the end, what we do with it is what matters. How do we use what’s in there? Are we making the best choices possible when we use that book as a guide? Should it be relied on in cases when it’s clearly behind the times, or should logic dictate setting it aside whenever science can provide the better answer? Do all the rules of ancient civilizations still apply to our own or have we succeed in coming up with a current, more up-to-date, list of laws to abide by? Old ideas and misconceptions about reality should be set aside to make room for what’s more likely, right? So why fight it?

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