Have started reading the bible again from the beginning

(113 Posts)
NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 13:41:38

am mightily confused about some things to do with the God in whom I believe.

anyone want to try to help with some of my questions?

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 13:49:53

OK so in anticipation of someone offering.

The God in the old testament is the same God as the the God in the New testament - right??

SO, did he change his mind about stuff by the time he sent Jesus? he is so prescriptive in Exodus with Moses about all the should and musts and mustn'ts.

Also, in the Good News bible version that I am reading, God takes credit for making the Egyptians stubborn so that he can punish them. That doesn't seem like the firm but fair God we see in the New Testament.

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 13:52:55

Oh dear. Are you trying to reconcile logic and rational mind with... religion?

No doubt someone will come along and say "Don't worry, be happy" "It's all about faith and heart, not criticism and head" pretty soon. Hang in there until then. smile

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 13:54:45

Have you come to "Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" bit? How do you think that got changed to "Turn the other cheek"?

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:07:28

Cote, I am a Christian, I believe Jesus was the son of God.

I am now just trying to reconcile the two very different area's of the Bible.
and yes the eye for an eye and turn the other cheek are things that I am struggling with.

surely there is something to satiate my curiosity?

LylaLils Wed 02-Jan-13 14:21:23

It's all bollocks

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 14:25:53

Er....the OP didn't ask for your comments about her beliefs did she?blushhmm

Or do you only log onto this section to make a snarky comment and feel superior?

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:25:55

thanks for that helpful insight LylaLils

LylaLils Wed 02-Jan-13 14:27:17

Haha...sorry I couldn't resist. blush

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 14:28:27

Don't engage with them....for some reason they have a bee in their bonnet buzzing too loudly. I always wonder about people that HAVE to comment like this.

LylaLils Wed 02-Jan-13 14:31:26

A moment of madness on my part there...sorry. I'm an idiot.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:31:47

Thanks for your support, have been around for far too long to get upset by the opinion of others. smile everyone is entitled.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:32:36

LylaLils, not upset or offended, at all. Happy New Year to you

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 14:37:13

I am not the right person to answer your questions because I do t know enough about the Bible. However, I always keep in mind that the Bible was written by Man with all his issues and faults. Therefore man created Genesis and that the world was constructed in seven days even though scientifically we know this is impossible. Much more interesting is that evolution over millennia mirrors some of the Genesis story with oceans and creatures coming out of the ocean and man being last etc.

Therefore where I see discrepancies I see man smile.

And I see Jesus as the sacrifice for sin, hence man could stop sacrificing lambs etc (bizarre) to God.

FWIW I think the Ten Commandments are generally pertinent today mostly. Though shalt not kill etc....

tabulahrasa Wed 02-Jan-13 14:37:24

I'm an atheist or an agnostic I suppose really but I've studied the bible...

I see the two testaments as responding to different social problems, the OT is dealing with how to set up a society and the NT is what to do with that society once it's established and evolved - I don't see that that is incompatible with God.

LylaLils Wed 02-Jan-13 14:38:50

Turning the other cheek, good for you, I'm going to crawl back under my stone now. Genuinely sorry for my childish knee jerk retaliation. I clearly have issues with religion. Happy new year and hope you find the answers you're looking for.

hiddenhome Wed 02-Jan-13 14:40:45

I'm a Christian, but I hate most of the OT. I think it was written by self serving men who were more concerned about tribalism and rewriting history than anything else. I believe that God is in there somewhere, but have difficulty deAling with all the violence, wars, hatred and vengeance.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:45:45

not really turning the other cheek, just remembered a phrase my friend told me just before christmas.... you don't have to attend every argument you are invited to... I liked it alot. smile

Tabulahrasa.. interesting.. so God's ideas / ideals have evolved?

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Wed 02-Jan-13 14:46:40

I'm sorry, I'm probably not going to be very helpful either...

I find the God of the Old Testament... well, he's not really someone you'd want to worship, is he? There's things in there completely incompatible with any sense of morality - your example of the Egyptians for one; the numerous war crimes (Deuteronomy 20: 10-17 and the like), all the slavery

The 'official' answer about the Moses schedule of sacrifices and the like , is that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and no more is required to atone for sin.
Although that fails to remove all the stuff about staying in your tent when you have your period and banishing people with skin diseases and such.

It is partly covered in Peter's vision in Acts 10 ("Do not call anything impure that God has made clean"), I suppose.
Although a cynic might say that was a very fortuitous vision which made the fledging religion of Chrisitianity a lot more attractive to potential converts...!

tabulahrasa Wed 02-Jan-13 14:51:58

Not so much changed as - doing what needs to be done at the time.

I don't think that's incompatible with belief? He does make a new covenant after all, so it is acknowledged that it is different.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 14:52:31

Interesting Boulevard.... I am going to carry on reading it all again anyway, but perhaps my understanding will develop as I read it all.

WitchOfEndor Wed 02-Jan-13 15:00:10

I can't help you, I've read the Bible recently and the messages in the Old and New Testaments seem to be totally unrelated. It's strange that more people don't spot it.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 15:02:37

The way I look at it now, having come from a very fundamentalist viewpoint, is that the bible is a book that contains wisdom about what and who God is, but it's filtered through a lot of man's weaknesses. So the old testament is filtered through the viewpoint of a very fallible nation who made God in their own image a lot of the time - thus God making the Egyptians stubborn just so He can punish them. The new testament is just as flawed for different reasons. But there's a lot in there that is beautiful and helpful, you just have to use the brain and mind that God gave you to refilter out the nonsense.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Wed 02-Jan-13 15:09:31

Yes, but, your basic God qualities are; outside time, unchanging, perfect, all-knowing, all-poweful etc.

It's a bit odd to try and conceive of God suddenly smacking his forehead and going Doh! I've been getting this all wrong.

I tell you what, OP, I'm sure DH will be able to recommend a book - undoubtedly written by some wooly liberal CofE vicar grin - on this theological issue, but will have to ask him later as I am dying on the sofa with some virus the kids gave me, and can't go upstairs to the books.

And what KayHarker says: for the whole bible to hang together in any way, you have to come at it from a very non-literal position

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 15:47:41

"for the whole bible to hang together in any way, you have to come at it from a very non-literal position"

Basically, what you are saying is that the Bible doesn't make sense so you need to suspend your disbelief smile

Varya Wed 02-Jan-13 15:53:57

I have been re-reading the NT and Psalms in the Gideon Bible. Dont pay much attention to the OT nowadays. Probably will start on it when I have finished Psalms and read the OT in the NIV.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:06:27

No Cote, I think I'm saying just the opposite. To read the bible you need to engage fully with the text - and deal with the imperfections of the authors.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 16:07:23

Well how refreshing!

Yes good idea to start with GNB for a first dash through. Make notes of the tie-ups and mismatches, then go back and start to sort some of them out.

An NIV or similar with good cross-references can help, and I've recently discovered that some of the cheaply available Kindle versions have got efficient concordance-like lookup facilities.

My scientific school upbringing got me to at least agnosticism with 100% belief in evolution (as was the spirit of the age 'if you hear it on the BBC, it must be right'), then nearly(?) atheism but overseas gap-year experiences brought me to conversion.

Mainly been in independent Evangelical churches but various factors (lack of love in Fundamentalist circles for one) migrated us back into a C of E and pretty 'high church' environment at that.

DS3 is a Grammar School Head of RE and Philosophy, so a useful backup resource, though he does now have an inherited tendency to ask questions to help questioners find their own answers, rather than telling them.

Loads of 'terribly sound' books on our shelves - increasing numbers now available via Kindle though, so easy to acquire.

And to crown it all, I'm at present a '6-day Creationist' (if labels mean anything), for want of a better explanation of Life, the Universe and Everything. Willing to listen to others, though, if they've got a better one.

I loved Joanna Lumley's recent 'take' on the search for Noah's Ark. Why is everybody still interested in it, 5000+ years on?

So provided we can all stay polite and rational, I'm up for it. If I attain average life expectancy, I should be around for another 20 years or so.

Starting thought: if God is supposed to know more than us, then probably wiser to sit 'under' the Bible seeking and praying for understanding, than 'over' it, imposing preconceptions we imbibed from who knows where.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:07:27

Not sure I'm making sense, a bit poorly today.

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 16:15:28

"To read the bible you need to engage fully with the text - and deal with the imperfections of the authors"

Does "fully engage" mean something other than regular English comprehension?

And are you saying that where Bible doesn't make sense, that is the fault of the authors?

It is a lot easier if you view the Bible (both testaments) as having been written by people in their attempt to explain what they thought God was saying to them, how God was acting, how they believed they were supposed to respond. And that changed over time, and is different in different books of both testaments, because they were written by different individuals or groups, at different times, in different circumstances, with different views of the world.

So, I would say it's not so much that God changed, but that our understanding of God changed (is still changing). And perhaps the way God deals with us changes as our (collective) understanding changes. So, when your child is a toddler you put them on reins, as they get older you teach them road safety - your aim is the same, and your priority (to keep them safe) but the ways you try to achieve that reflect their ability to understand the issue.

A lot of the strict rules in the OT were necessary to the way their society worked at the time, later those could be relaxed because they were in a more settled situation. Likewise wars and threats of wars with small neighbouring countries had given way to occupation by the Roman Empire, and that needed to be dealt with in a different way (eg render unto Caesar what is Caesar's)

If you are serious about reading the bible and understanding it, then I'd say you ough to switch to a more accurate translation - Good News is aimed at being easy to read and understand, but it over-simplifies things. I'd recommend the RSV or NRSV if you want accuracy - that way at least you can tell if what you are struggling with was in the original language or not.

Also, find a book or set of books which explain a bit about the way things were, and the situatios in which we believe certain books were written. I had a pair of really good ones, one for the OT and one for the NT and I can't remember the names. If they come back to me I'll post a link!

timidviper Wed 02-Jan-13 16:22:27

I haven't got around to a full reading of it yet but, in preparation, I have a Study Bible which has learning notes in the margins, and a concordance, index and reading plans at the back. It looks very useful, now I just need to organise myself!

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 16:24:17

You are awfully interested for a non believer Cote.

Am guessing you had faith at some point given your knowledge.

KayHarker Wed 02-Jan-13 16:31:35

Does "fully engage" mean something other than regular English comprehension?

not if regular english comprehension means dealing with poetry like poetry and so on.

And are you saying that where Bible doesn't make sense, that is the fault of the authors?

Yes, I suppose I am.

CoteDAzur Wed 02-Jan-13 16:43:39

Jake - Yes, I am interested. Why shouldn't I be? It is a mass delusion that affects billions of people, and it's fascinating.

You are guessing wrong, by the way. I have never had faith, not ever. Some of my earliest memories are asking people why they think there is a God (in nursery).

If there is anything else you would like to know about me, feel free to ask smile

Old Testament and New Testament - these were the introductory books I had.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:25:17

Cote It is a mass delusion .. or .. It seems to me to be a mass delusion .... scientific and objective data on the occurrence of mass delusions, please ....

Scots mum lovely picture - very apt!

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 17:29:43

Wow, thanks all. I popped for a nap and come back to some super answers. Will read and digest.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:44:48

OK let's start on those stubborn Egyptians (I've just downloaded a GNB Kindle version price £6.99 so I can do this whole thing on my laptop from the sofa).

Exodus 7:3-4 I suppose? 'I will make the Egyptians Stubborn' God says to Moses.

Did the Egyptians think God was making them stubborn? No, they just were stubborn. God brought various plagues upon them to get their attention, and they did pay attention for a while then turned back. It was pretty plain that God wanted them to let the Israelites go.

Eventually, when the Egyptians decided to chase into the temporarily receded Red Sea, there were consequences. So there were warnings, then there was an unpleasant result. Sounds pretty fair but firm to me.

Am I on the right track?

I would view that bit as - the Israelites believed that their God would do that, as they viewed Him as totally their God, and therefore He didn't have to be fair to any other people. His responsibility was to the people of Israel, and they believed that He was going to make a point to the Egyptians by proving he was more powerful than their Pharaoh/God.

It doesn't suit our view of God, but you have to get into their mind-set and think about how they viewed God and therefore how they interpreted things that happened. I don't think we have a literal description of exactly what God said to Moses, we have what people much later assumed God must have said.

Woolly liberal CofE clergy checking in grin

The Bible isn't a book but a library, a collection of books, law, poems, proverbs and letters that were orgionally stories told orally but were at some stage written down and then edited and reedited. Much scholarly ink is taken up with working out who wrote what and when and that is before they get to why. All of the different books of the Bible should to be read in their historical and cultural context. Also they have to be translated as the OT is written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek. Translation involves language which is carries cultural baggage so to unpick any bit of scripture generally involves work.

So how do Christians make sense of a God who seems so different in the OT to the NT? This is something that has baffled Christians since the very early days.

One answer might be that as people changed in their understanding of what God was like then how they wrote about that understanding changed. The starting point back in the Bronze Age in understanding of Gods in the ANE (Ancient Near East) was of sacrifice to make the Gods do stuff for you - like rain on your crops or defeat your enemy. An understanding of a single God that chose a people and had a relationship with them is radical. How that is interpreted by people is bound to take some working out. That is a starting place for a lot of the OT which seems alien and difficult for us today.

Hope that helps.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 17:59:17

Just trying out my new-found Mumsnet gizmo for creating links .... if I was going to recommend a single book which I have found the most help over the years in getting my mind round the whole Bible it's this: Bible Survey by William Hendriksen

This is the Amazon link to pre-owned copies

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 18:08:56

Ok guessed wrong about you Cote, thought you'd perhaps had bad experiences from a faith point of view.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:13:32

Jake scientifically we know this is impossible

I'm looking forward to seeing your scientific proof and references for this ..... particularly in the light of what, e.g. the current body of opinion is on all that happened in the first few microseconds after the 'big bang' .

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 18:27:14

Started thinking about it after our very academic priest said much the same. Yes I can't prove Genesis wrong, I can though look at the theories of evolution and say it's unlikely the world was created in seven days....very unlikely. Can you prove otherwise then?

What IS interesting is that the creation follows roughly evolution with the seas, the living creatures in the sea, then on land and finally evolution of man. It's interesting that the book of Genesis was written in a similar way by people who did not have access to written theories of evolution.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:29:56

My understanding of an eye for an eye was that in Moses' days there was a tendency for retaliation and retribution to be disproportionate and a bit 'over the top'.

So the command for an 'eye for an eye' meant 'only an eye - no more' was an early step to a more civilised code of justice. Can't give you any backup references offhand for this though.

Things gradually progressed down the years until the ultimate plan materialised - a completely innocent person taking cruel unjustified punishment without even raising a murmur of complaint: "forgive them, because they don't even know what they are doing"

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 18:38:50

thank you all!!.
I think my misconception is that is can be read as a single book rather than a collection.
Genesis so far has flowed readily into exodus.
it is easy to forget that they are a collection of works.

This was one of the books on my OT reading list at college www.amazon.co.uk/How-Read-Testament-Etienne-Charpentier/dp/0334020573

and www.amazon.co.uk/Introducing-Old-Testament-John-Drane/dp/0745955037/ref=pd_sim_b_2 this one is probably available from the library

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 18:49:56

No of course I can't prove it - I wasn't there and it's not a repeatable experiment.

But before we go much further you might enjoy dipping into a recent book Science and Religion - a very short introduction

He tackles such questions as what do we really know, and how do we know what we 'know'.

Also why the current evolution / creation debate arose and why some of the protagonists are a bit rabid. Interesting point that 'science' depends on trust, and that 'science' is so broad now that it's probably impossible for any one person to have a total grasp of all the info.

You should be able to get through it by the end of this evening as it's on Kindle. I've got to go off and slog through a volume on North Korea lent to me for the Christmas period by DS3. He needs it back so he can bring himself up to date for his 6-formers.

See you tomorrow?

How do you do that neat thing with links then?

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 19:42:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JakeBullet Wed 02-Jan-13 20:04:15

Off topic here Avuncular but is the book you are reading called "Nothing to Envy". Fabulous book about the loves of people in North Korea....terribly sad.

zulubump Wed 02-Jan-13 20:04:19

To add to the list of books being recommended, for Christmas I got The Bible Jesus Read, a Philip Yancey book. Not read it yet, but I like yancey's books. It is about the OT, which is the Bible Jesus would have been raised with.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 20:16:10

this is turning into a more fascinating thread than I had thought it would be.

There are so many things that I find fascinating about the bible.

MrsMcCave Wed 02-Jan-13 21:19:08

Is this a new year resolution, op? If so can I congratulate you on getting to Exodus already? Otherwise, just marking my place...I started a new chronological bible study in December and have got as far as Job, which is also raising a lot of questions smile

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Wed 02-Jan-13 21:25:29

no not new year, started just before christmas smile
going to have to keep coming back to this thread as I am finding so many new questions.

Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 21:27:43


Well that must be ok then!

Why are all the Amazon Kindle books we want priced at £6.99? They must be rubbing their hands in glee tonight.


Avuncular Wed 02-Jan-13 21:34:18

Job came to life for us with a vengeance last year when DW got a full-body allergic skin reaction following a pre-emptive course of antibiotics.

Totally itchy all over but not allowed to scratch. Why, O why? Fortunately her DH was not targeted on that occasion. Still trying to work out what we learned from that little episode.

tabulahrasa Wed 02-Jan-13 21:42:52

Oh it's not even a collection of books, each book is a collection in itself - with some of them you can see just reading yourself that they're different pieces put together...with others it's not so obvious in translation, but very few bits show evidence of a single author or source.

The OT is essentially a history in literature condensed into a tiny book.

timidviper Thu 03-Jan-13 00:20:21

I think there are some reading plans that suggest the order in which to read things so as to get a more logical order than reading it from Genesis to Malachi IYSWIM

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 00:47:37


Can't vouch for this, but looks reasonable and was easy to find (click on link below)

Chapters with dates and events

sashh Thu 03-Jan-13 04:25:02

Don't forget you are reading translations of translations that have also been edited a great deal.

Texts were removed and altered. Things were lost in translation and nothing was written down until about 70 years AD.

The gospels were written over a period of centuries, some in Greek, some in other languages.

Taking the Bible literaly is quite a recent concept, for most of Chritianity it has been a guide rather than an historic document.

So you get huge glearing differences between gospels. If you look at the lineage of Joseph it is defferent in two gospels (sorry can't remember which ones, probably Mark and Luke), the number of people fed by 2 loves and 5 fishes changes by about 2000 between gospels.

Does that matter?

I'm not a believer so to me the former was just someone showing Jesus birth fulfilled a prophecy and the second was a lot of people got fed and the numbers don't need to be acurate.

But if you are taking this as the literal word of God that might be a problem.

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 11:12:03

Hi Sashh

What you say might matter if it were a technical manual telling me how to repair my car, or even - say - the Highway Code.

But it's not; it's understood to be a collection of writing by ordinary mortals trying to set out as honestly as possible (I hope) what we understand God has told us about himself, an indication of how he would like us to live, and why

Two helpful analogies I've heard:

1) Ask six blind people to explore an elephant from difference angles

2) Try to reconstruct a traffic collision from the point of view of and descriptions by 4 different bystanders

In both cases the output will be 'true', though there may be problems fitting it all together.
(Ever asked DCs for an account of 'what happened?' during an altercation?)

BTW I assume your comments about translations are intended to apply to the NT, not the OT

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jan-13 21:08:38

Avuncular - re "DW got a full-body allergic skin reaction following a pre-emptive course of antibiotics... Still trying to work out what we learned from that little episode."

She learned never again to take that particular antibiotic, I hope.

This happened to me and it took a full week of antihistamine overdose culminating in a 48-hour hospital stay hooked to IV antihistamines to get rid of it. Allergies to ABs are the worst.

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jan-13 21:20:45

"Yes I can't prove Genesis wrong, I can though look at the theories of evolution and say it's unlikely the world was created in seven days....very unlikely."

Iirc, the story is that God created the world in 7 days, and people were created on day 6.

Yet we have dinosaur fossils over a hundred million years older than first humanoid fossils.

I see two options:
(1) Genesis story is completely false.
(2) God is messing with us smile He created the world in a few days, but with 240 mn year old fossils in the ground.

Does anyone have another explanation?

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 22:12:29

Hi Cote

1. The OT book of Job features someone who had a similar affliction (only worse) - it helps some of us to cope with and face up to nasty things happening to us

2. Re 'hundreds of thousands of years' etc you need to look a lot more closely at the assumptions made in reaching the generally accepted 'scientific' conclusions reached. They are reasonable assumtions, but that's what they are - assumptions.

I'm not saying 'Biblical Creationists' have it all correct by a long chalk, but they raise a lot of reasonable and unanswered issues. The book I flagged up earlier even looks at some of the political issues (esp in USA) which have given rise to the 'war' on this. The media love a fight - of course. It sells newspapers, and airtime.

I got my first 'wake up' call on all this when as an engineer with a bit of hydraulics knowledge, I calculated (fairly simple maths) that the amount of the water in the oceans today is quite enough to cover the mountains to a significant depth (enough for Joanna Lumley's Ark to float), provided the mountains were a bit lower than they now are. And we do know that some mountain ranges are still rising, from current measurements.

So for me, the jury is still out on this one.

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jan-13 22:18:10

Yes, I'm familiar with Job.

I haven't said anything about 100,000s of years. I have said that there are fossils of dinosaurs that roamed the Earth 100s of millions of years ago.

I don't see what that has to do with assumptions. Carbon dating is fairly precise when you are looking in the million-year range.

So what do you say? Is the 7-day creation story bogus, or is God messing with our heads? smile

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jan-13 22:19:42

Re flood - Water doesn't have to cover all the mountains, all over the Earth. If only the mountains in the observers' immediate vicinity was covered, visible peaks beyond the horizon wouldn't have mattered to whoever wrote that story.

JakeBullet Thu 03-Jan-13 22:21:53

I am guessing it's the thoughts of those who spoke it all those years ago. I have never taken Genesis literally. ..and there is discussion somewhere about it being written in several stages by different people. I go with creation via evolution myself.

My DS says that "God created dinosaurs" when he talks about creation....this has mainly come from school. We have looked at fossils and used to live in an area where ammonites were plentiful so he is under no illusions about evolution. He has books about fossils and loves imparting how they were formed over thousands of years. He is in a Catholic school so gets some religious input there but the priest is more than happy to talk dinosaurs thankfully.

I think from what I've read that the book of Genesis had its foundations during the time of Exodus. People trying to make sense of their world.

Tbh I don't think about it in any more detail than that....I'd be really hacked off though if DS was taught about creation without any reference to evolution...you can't ignore evolution though the real Creationists seem to want to.

I actually saw on a forum that "God planted the fossils to test us" and the Earth was only 6000 years old. Weird....but perhaps no more weird than me having a faith without any scientific proof .

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 22:30:30

Does anyone have another explanation?

Well you might try this - not a final answer by any means but my DS1 and DS2 actually know one of the authors Andrew Snelling (I think). Also it's cheap on Kindle so a useful start.

Re carbon dating on a million year timescale - I think you are mistaken.
I'm off to Wikipedia now to check that out .... but maybe not tonight.

JakeBullet Thu 03-Jan-13 22:37:15

Amazon have done well out of me for Kindle stuff due to this thread grin .

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 23:01:07

BTW I hate Ken Ham's approach - even worse in the flesh than in print.

But the style and personality doesn't necessarily negate the message. I believe Isaac Newton wasn't all that easy to get on with either!

Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 23:06:43

Wikipedia 62,000 years max for Carbon Dating - Oops!

Mind you one mustn't believe everything one reads on Wiki - I've started editing it!

headinhands Thu 03-Jan-13 23:22:01

Think the particular dating method is called radiometric. I think we sometimes say carbon dating as an umbrella term when referring to the range of dating techniques.


Avuncular Thu 03-Jan-13 23:23:35

Ah thanks ....

CoteDAzur Thu 03-Jan-13 23:26:22

My mistake. The correct term is radioactive dating. Carbon dating is also a type of radiometric dating, but this one looks at substances with longer half-lives than C.

Anyway, as I have said, I don't see what these dating techniques have with "assumptions" you say I should be wary of. Dinosaurs existed hundreds of millions of years before us. It is just not possible for the Earth to be 6000 years old. It is also not possible for the Earth to have been created in 7 days, with people (as Homo Sapiens) ushered in on Day 6.

What people here are saying is "Oh but none of it is to be taken literally" and "Yes but those were mistakes of the authors", because they can't bear to admit that it is plain... simple... wrong.

KayHarker Thu 03-Jan-13 23:53:14

I have no problem saying the bible is wrong and erroneous. But I'm not really a Christian anymore anyway.

Does anyone have another explanation?

The book of Genesis contains a series of myths and legends. Many of the creation myths of the ancient world were violent but in the one in the Bible God speaks the world into existance. In the Genesis creation story God creates the great sea monsters (chapter 1 v 21) and these sea monsters were some of the gods in the neighbouring region's religions a point is being made about the God of Genesis being the one true God.

The book of Genesis also has the story of Adam and Eve which is an attempt to make sense of why there is suffering in the world. Then you have the story of the flood which occurs in many legends in the region and suggests that there was a localised large flood event in that part of the world. Another story in Genesis is of the tower of Babel which is, in part, a way of explaining why there are lots of different languages in the world.

Genesis isn't history and it isn't science. It is foundational myth and legend.

CoteDAzur Fri 04-Jan-13 09:02:29

Was it not obvious that I was referring specifically to the "7-day creation" story of Genesis?

CoteDAzur Fri 04-Jan-13 09:03:23

"the story of Adam and Eve which is an attempt to make sense of why there is suffering in the world"

Really? I thought it was an attempt to make sense of how humans came to populate the Earth.

So why is there suffering in the world?

JakeBullet Fri 04-Jan-13 09:53:41

The 7 day creation is a myth IMHO.....and was people thousands of years ago trying to make sense of their world.

Is it wrong? In seven days absolutely wrong (again just my opinion based in evolution). Did it happen in the order described.....possibly....not read Genesis in a long while so am not any expert on it.

Human suffering.....humans make stupid decisions along with good ones......sometimes the stupid decisions mean they suffer.

FWIW I have never believed in a magic man in the sky. For me God is the all encompassing spiritual essence. Do I think a man could have been born out of that? Yes I do and I believe that man was Jesus.

I am so NOT the right person to ask a out Genesis though. I will try and find a link to some of the more intelligent folk out there who do know about this stuff.

Avuncular Fri 04-Jan-13 10:56:00

Hey can we please have some more IMOs or MUITs ('My Understanding Is That' here)?

Sounds as though you were all there as first - hand witnesses to the whole thing. Remember - the 'children' are listening in ....... even if they don't join.

Then we might actually make some useful progress.

Otherwise we'll just go round in circles. A quick midnight survey suggested that this has all been covered recently in other threads .... sometimes by the same people?

Coming back to one of Cote's earlier questions - 'asking people why they believe in God'. I'm up for that if you'll all be kind about it ......

KayHarker Fri 04-Jan-13 11:10:49

I still believe there is some kind of spiritual essence beyond what we understand, and I suppose that is God. There is still so much we don't humanly understand, and I think the bible is part and parcel of that human need to try and find out what is beyond us.

HolofernesesHead Fri 04-Jan-13 11:11:55

NeverKnowingly, I hope you enjoy your Bible reading! The one thing I'd say (as a veteran of more than one long Bible MN thread!) is, bear in mind that it wasn't written in the same order that it now has it in the Bibles we read - weidly, Genesis 1 may well have been among the latest bits of the Old Testament to have been written. So there's a lot of development of thought, belief etc. Also bear in mind that it was written by lots of different people - impossible to say exactly how many. So as well as development of ideas through time, there is also genuine difference of thought between writers / editors, or difference of interpretation of events (e.g. one writer might think that Pharaoh hardened his heart, another might think that Pharoah's heart was hardened because God hardened it) / different emphasis on what s important in a particular situation.

If you get these basic co-ordinates in mind - long development of ideas through time, not in the same order we see on the page, and difference of emphasis, interpretation and opinion between writers, them it becomes much more interesting, much more plausible (IMHO) and much more fun. There are some great introductory books on the historical background to the Bible - I'd definitely recommnd you to read one of them as well as reading the Bible itself.

Or you could just enjoy the stories, the poetry, the prophecies, the wisdom....it's a treasure trove. Enjoy! smile

And don't forget that there are two creation stories in Genesis. One in chapter one and another in chapter two. It seems likely that whoever put the book of Genesis together had two versions to hand and decided to keep both. Unpicking who wrote or edited what and when and where is endlessly entertaining if you are into that sort of thing!

If I've upset anyone on this thread by not using MUIT then I apologise. The abbreviation I'm most used to using is YMMV Your Mileage May Vary which is designed to convey that although I express certain opinions then I understand that your experience is different and I respect that.

It would be good to have a civilised debate

Avuncular Fri 04-Jan-13 17:52:19

With you on that, Kay

Cote I don't believe in a 6-day creation, but I equally don't think that the Creation stories in Genesis are "wrong", any more than one would define the story of the boy who cried wolf as "wrong" even though a time machine could prove conclusively that it didn't happen. I don't think it was ever intended to be the kind of account about which right/wrong/true/false are meaningful concepts.

It was a story, told around the campfire, which illustrated important things which they believed about the world, their place in it, and their relationship to their God. I believe they would be happy to hear about the Big Bang, evolution, dinosaurs, and any manner of other things which we know about and they didn't, but none of that would necessarily change the "story" that they told - that a single God deliberately created the world, in order to have a relationship with self-aware people.

The idea that the earliest campfire stories in the Bible were intended to be taken as literal descriptions is a modern interpretation, they just weren't intended to be taken that way.

niminypiminy Fri 04-Jan-13 21:15:52

Genesis - and then following on from that Exodus - are the foundational myths of the nation of Israel as they came to see themselves over many centuries. Some of the material in Genesis is very old indeed, and some is much more recent, relatively speaking. The text as we know it now was compiled, edited and re-written over several centuries as the concept of a sacred scripture and its place in the religious life of Israel took shape. The stories were reshaped as the religion of Israel changed and developed.

It makes no kind of sense to see them as an account of 'what happened'. They are clearly not to be taken literally or understood as narrating actual natural or historical events. The textual history of the Bible alone would make that impossible.

Still, I believe they are true in another sense. They are a true record of the way that the people of Israel saw their relationship to God, and their place in the cosmos, and of the answers they formulated to fundamental questions such as 'why are we here?', 'how should we live?', 'why is there suffering?', 'what is right and what is wrong?'. But those answers are given through illustrative stories - parables or myths, if you like - that have to be interpreted to yield their meaning. From the earliest times of the compilation of scripture, the study and interpretation of scripture has been its essential corollary. It should be remembered that Judaism has an extant tradition of biblical scholarship dating back to the Old Testament period.

Stories tell us truths of a different kind from history or science. If you want to know 'why is life so sad', or 'what is the yearning for something I can't name inside me', or 'why do I do wrong when I don't mean to', or 'how can I have hope', then history or science will be of little help to you. Stories, on the other hand, speak directly to these kind of questions. And the stories in the Old Testament, for my money, have some particularly true - and challenging, and comforting, and testing, and uncomfortable - truths to tell us.

weegiemum Fri 04-Jan-13 21:20:54

I recently got my theology degree (dh and I did it together after we were (him) doctor and (me) teacher).

Nothing like 3 years at an evangelical bible college to turn you into a raving liberal!!

Ask away!!

CoteDAzur Fri 04-Jan-13 22:57:40

" I equally don't think that the Creation stories in Genesis are "wrong", any more than one would define the story of the boy who cried wolf as "wrong" "

Are you saying the Bible (or Genesis in particular) is fiction?

CoteDAzur Fri 04-Jan-13 22:59:43

"Human suffering.....humans make stupid decisions along with good ones......sometimes the stupid decisions mean they suffer."

Are you saying that it was a stupid decision for Adam & Eve to seek knowledge?

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Fri 04-Jan-13 23:06:33

Hi all thanks for the discussion. Had lengthy discussion with very evangelical Christian and she was eager for me to trust and not to try to understand too much... That has made me really quite frustrated

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Fri 04-Jan-13 23:09:42

Also..... Surely it is important if you are going to be/identify with Christianity you should understand its roots

JakeBullet Fri 04-Jan-13 23:20:27

Definitely worth understanding the roots .....and an acceptance that there will be conflicts.

I have not done anywhere near enough Bible study to answer stuff knowledgeably. And Tbh I find the Old Testament very hard going.

Evangelical stuff is as bad as the hard right Creationist stuff.

ForkInTheForeheid Fri 04-Jan-13 23:22:14

What I don't get is how people can accept the fallibility of the bible and its place within a historical context, yet still use it as a "holy" book, the ot at least. At least if you consider the bible the literal word of God you're coming from a relatively consistent position. I consider myself an agnostic atheist, I.e. I can't possibly know for sure that there is no god but I don't believe in the existence of one. My values are probably closely matched to the message of tolerance, love and care for our fellow humans, I just don't see the need for a deity to hook that in to. I have no problem with Christianity and spirituality but I do have a problem with hte dogma that goes along with adherence to a text that is self contradictory and lacking in acceptance of the diversity of humanity. In a nutshell, presuming god exists, what would be seen as more important in his/her judgment of you - the way you treat your fellow humans or your knowledge and understanding of historical theology? If the latter then not a god worth believing in IMO.
Op, your discovery of the inherent contradictions within the bible should do nothing to affect your faith, it is man-made historical document. Your personal faith is down to your own mind and nothing else, again IMO.

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 00:00:21

OP I love the story of 'Doubting Thomas' (John 20:25).

Poor chap, he wasn't there when the other disciples saw Jesus alive again after being crucified.

Thomas was so down to earth, practical. Perhaps he had been away on some important errand when Jesus met the others?

Anyway, Thomas insisted on hard evidence for himself. Christ honoured and respected that.

Some had then (and have today) the gift of 'faith' without seeing first-hand. But Jesus recognised Thomas' individuality and appeared graciously to help Thomas with the information he needed. I agree with you totally that we should explore the basis of our faith as far as we are able. And not flinch at the issues it throws up.

I think I know the type of 'evangelical lady' you are talking about.

Yes the central message of Christianity is so simple that a young child can understand it.
[One of our DCs grew into it from an early age, but others had to come to a definite examination of what it was all about, and what the implications were for them and their future lives.]

But when we grow up, we have a duty, I believe, to explore as far as our intellect, and time, allow. This thread is helping me with that. Thank you.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Sat 05-Jan-13 00:13:35

Will post more tomorrow when i am not on my phone

sashh Sat 05-Jan-13 05:40:09

BTW I assume your comments about translations are intended to apply to the NT, not the OT

Sorry, when I said nothing was written down until 70AD, obviously I was thinking NT but the OT has, also been translated and retranslated.

Some versions of the OT have unicrons listed as being on the Ark, some don't. I think that is due to an issue of translation.

If you ask someone to list all the animals they can think of they are going to start with the familiar ones and for some time unicorns were believed to exist.

There is also the true meaning of a word. If we take the English word 'bread' it can easily be translated into other languages as 'bread' but if I say I made a ham sandwich with bread you will, likley, think of white sliced bread, a french person would quite possibly think of a bagette.

Even within the same language a 'house' in the UK is normally two or three stories. To my Astralian relatives a house is 99% of the time a single story building.

There are a number of ways to translate things, I thinkk we are all familiar with literal translations but there are also cultural translations, these rely on the translator's knowledge of both the culture of the origional writer and that of the intended audience.

Cultural translations often include extras for the reader, so in the bread example above, translating into French a cultural translation for a modern audience might include that an 'English sandwich, made as usual with slices of a large loaf of bread', because most French people are aware that we in Britain eat sliced bread.

For an audience 100 years ago the translation may well have not had that caveat as French people were not used to, or had never seen that kind of bread so it would raise more questions than answers.

Did that make sense.

Obviously this is all comming from a linguistic point of view, not a spiritual one.

HolofernesesHead Sat 05-Jan-13 08:37:01

Sashh, interesting post. Have you read 'Christianity Rediscovered' by Vincent Donovan? He was a missionary in Africa and talks about the process of translating the Bible into a tribal African language.

Re unicorns; where did you learn this? In the two versions of the flood story we have in Gen. 6 -9, the animals aren't listed, just the types of animals; do where are unicorns specified? And do you know which textual variant it is that has it? I guess it's not a very well attested translation, or it'd be better attested. Do you have any more info on it? (There is, of course, the famous unicorn / Noah's Ark joke) smile

Greenheart you mentioned God choosing a people being quite a radical idea for the time-and it made me wonder...if God created ALL peoples then why did he choose the Israelites? Was everyone else on the planet too sinful? It seems rather mean...

(I'm a woolly Christian but this has never really occurred to me before blush)

I mean, I understand why for the Israelites they'd want to believe they were chosen, but what is the Christian consensus about why they were chosen? Are we meant to believe the Jews were better/more important to God than everyone else on earth? Because if so then why the switch to Jesus dying for us all?

<head explodes>

I am coming at this from a super liberal 'God loves everyone, all religions are essentially the same as your faith has a huge amount to do with where you're born and what culture you're raised in, everyone's equal' point of view.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Sat 05-Jan-13 10:55:04

Ok so I have been awake most of the night with a poorly child and it has given me chance to think.......

The Analogy according to NEVER

In the beginning there was a cave on a hill... A safe place that the people knew they could go to in times of crisis (every community had something similar)
Raiders who came to the village had no weapons in the beginning and hiding was sufficient.
After weapons were developed a wall was built round the entrance to the cave. To protect those inside from the outsiders

Over time the wall became a room.... This then became a tower... With other rooms incase the villagers needed to stay longer.. Then it developed as the villagers decided the only place they could exist was in the castle that had developed round the cave. With all its trappings.

This was the new community those inside the walls and those outside .

Here endeth the analogy according to NEVER. For the OT. We then get to the NT where we are encouraged to remember the original purpose. The cave under all the buildings the sanctuary the safe place for heart mind and body.....

Pick apart to your hearts content... These are mere rumblings of an overtired mummy :-)))

niminypiminy Sat 05-Jan-13 11:25:37

Antoinette, the Israelites were part of a wider middle-eastern religious culture in which tribal and then national groupings had their own cultic deities which promoted their own particular interests. One of the major themes of the OT is the development of the Israelite's realisation that their God, Jaweh, is not simply one tribal cultic deity among many, but the one god, the God of Everything, the creator of the universe. The OT tells in part the story of the people of Israel coming to accept the one God - becoming monotheists, the first popular monotheistic religion in history.

Because their realisation emerged from an earlier conception of tribal and cultic deities, they saw the one God as 'theirs' - or rather they saw themselves as his chosen people. One of the ways of understanding all this is to say that God is trying to reveal himself to everyone, everywhere, but for various reasons, the people of Israel were able to hear the message in a more direct form than other religions. So they came to see that God didn't want sacrifice, but praise; and that he didn't want atonement for sins, but holy living.

Then came the Jesus event - and Jesus is clear that his message is for everyone, not simply for the Jews. One of the things that is going on in the NT is that in the early church there was a struggle between Christians who wanted to keep the message of the gospel for the Jews, and those who saw that it was essential to carry it to the Gentiles.

Does that make sense?

Yes! Thank you. I was beginning to worry about a God that only cared about one group of people being different to the God that cares for everyone, but the way you put it makes sense. I should probably re-read the OT...

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 21:00:02


Wikipedia on the OT usual comments about Wiki apply - but I think the key issue is 'were any essential ideas lost or important distortions introduced during the process?'

It's not an impossible task for the lay person to get hold of a Hebrew dictionary (Strong's Exhaustive (ing?) Concordance indexes, amongst other things all OT words) and to go back to a bit of Hebrew text to verify the translation process.

(Just as once I went through the 'Begats' to see where Bishop Ussher got 4004 BC, and what gaps there were. Not many.)

Apparently the Jews went to incredible lengths in their proof-reading and copying (long before printing!) to ensure that the 'Scriptures' were meticulously preserved.

More .... (can't see the posts while composing)

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 21:08:14

70AD, so if Jesus was crucified at age 33, that means that the first writings were 37 years after the resurrection.

So just ask: would I trust my parents' or grandparents', friends' or even siblings' recollections of very important events in their lives? Again, we have to ask whether any key information was missed or distorted.

tabulahrasa Sat 05-Jan-13 21:32:53

70 AD is a bit off though, it's pretty much accepted that the vast majority of the NT was finished by 70 AD...with some parts written as early as 48 AD.

You're still relying on memory, but not a lifetime away in most cases - of course that's if you assume that the NT is supposed to be an historical account of facts. Personally I don't think it is, I think it's people trying to make sense of Jesus and what it all means. That's never going to be straightforward.

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 21:41:57

Holo .... Christianity Rediscovered yes I feel it's a 'must read'.
Have read it twice, it's so thought-provoking.

I'd forgotten about the 'translation aspects'.

Regarding these I had been more engaged by the story of John and Gloria Wilson (who we hosted some years ago to do an open presentation in our local community) who over a 10 year period produced the first indigenous translation of the Bible in West Papua / Irian Jaya (the western / Indonesian half of Papua). Indonesian is the 'official' language, so for the Yali this was the equivalent of the first English translation for UK when hitherto the Bible had only been in Latin. I don't think there is a book, but there is a DVD, and there may be stuff on the Internet.

I'll go looking.

For me the book illustrated a totally radical 'shake up' to and challenged me ponder, as Donovan did for those Africans, what it would mean for UK 21st century society to ditch all the 'baggage of the past 2000 years' and go absolutely back to the basics of applying the central Gospel to our individual lives and let this work itself out in Society.

Fanciful I know .... but refreshing

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 22:05:56

Wiki on NT dating

Totally off - thread but I once met J.K. Galbraith at a post-chapel student breakfast in J.A.T. Robinson's sitting room. MUIT Robinson totally 'Liberal' but of course that doesn't it any way negate the quality of the scholarship, which must always be judged on its own merits.

Everyone has an 'agenda' of course, and it's important to consider the 'agenda' of everyone conducting research, be they OT translators, scholars, archaeologists, or scientists. Did the agenda (or the study 'paymasters') affect the study approach, or the resulting message?

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 22:17:43

Yali Bible and other translation work in Indonesia

Also found 1 DVD on Google - still looking for my favourite

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 22:40:56

Yali tribe video from Wilsons / Crawfords
(Have your airsick bag ready: flying in Indonesia is quite 'exciting'!)

BTW the Wilsons' local presentation was subtitled 'My grandfather was a cannibal'. The meeting flyer stated, as an incentive to attend, Finger buffet provided. This was quite true, but the inadvertent 'punning' tied to the title found its way in to 'New Scientist' and thence to BBC R4 Newsquiz. LoL

Back to thread now .....

Avuncular Sat 05-Jan-13 22:51:54

Christianity Rediscovered - on Kindle

(Wrong image comes up but the content is OK. Have 'bumped' Amazon about it.

JakeBullet Sun 06-Jan-13 09:45:31

Thanks for those links Avuncularsmile .

Another thing which has occurred to me regarding the six days of creation and the Sabbath is that nowhere in Genesis does it relate the days were consecutive. ....just that there were six days where certain events occurred. Then there was the Sabbath. ...panda who is to say God's work is done? This Sabbath could simply be a rest period until a next event

Ooh it has all got me thinking again and that is good smile .

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