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Bible fiction or non fiction?

(72 Posts)
GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 19:48:36

So, as an atheist I consider the bible to be fiction - a collection of stories,

However according to library cataloguing rules it's non fiction, and i'm not sure if this is accurate or bizarre.

What do religious folk think? Which side of the fence are you on? Genuinely baffled.

Gingerandcocoa Sat 19-Jan-13 22:41:47

GotmyCoat, that's interesting what you said. I have a question, which is quite off topic as I think most of us agree the Bible is non fiction, I can't see why the Quran couldn't also be in the non fiction section - though I'm sure you can tell I agree or believe with its content).

I'd be interested in knowing who you think Jesus was? I mean, if you believe he existed, do you also believe the miracles which have been recorded in the Scriptures? Considering the amount of eye witness, number of manuscripts, the fact that not even Jesus' opponents at the time denied the events? Do you think he was some crazy guy, or just a liar?

Nicknamegrief Sat 19-Jan-13 22:41:58

Where do Myths and such like go?

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 22:52:38

In my very uneducated opinion, (and I really wasn't out for a bun fight, honest! ) I've always considered it to be a bit of a chinese whispers thing. I'm sure Jesus believed, (I like to think people like to tell the truth) but I think more of the scripts were written after his death, and I think over time the stories got more elaborated and amazing.

Though I realise this is an offensive view (I really don't share my views very often, but this seems like a nice space to do it) I like the idea of the virgin Mary making it up, to cover up her infidelity, so I can see that if Jesus was told all his life by his mother that he was the son of god, he would truly believe it.

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 22:54:50

Myths are fiction.

Gingerandcocoa Sat 19-Jan-13 22:55:28

That would actually be a good movie, I have to admit smile

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 22:57:49

I think I saw it on a BBC documentary once... Daddy was a roman soldier. I luffs the BBC.

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 23:00:59

scratch that, might have been Ch. 4

pookamoo Sat 19-Jan-13 23:02:08

gotmy That documentary was Monty Python's "The Life of Brian wink

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 23:04:53

Ah yes, that was my religious education!

Teahouse Sat 19-Jan-13 23:05:35

Some people believe the Bible is the word of God, most people think it is inspired by God. It certainly isn't accurate as the first of the 2 creation stories is not the oldest, and it is known there are not only many authors of both testaments but that the Council of Nicea voted Revelation in narrowly over another gospel.
The Song of Solomon is pre-Israelite in origin and the creation narrative of the earth is a reinterpretation of the myth of Tiamat...from Ur. There is much that is Sumeraian.
The Book of Job appears to have the introduction and conclusion added, and there are inconsistencies between the gospels.
However, it depends on your definition of fact or fiction really, and regardless of where anyone person places it, religious people may well view it differently, and even this will be contextual. US Bible-belters will I understand it differently from liberal CofE folk.

GotMyGoat Sat 19-Jan-13 23:11:06

Teahouse, I think you might know a little bit more than me about it, apart from the voting bit, I've heard of that.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sun 20-Jan-13 02:19:36

Out of interest, in UK libraries, are the Quran (spelling, anyone?) the Torah and the holy books for Sikhs/Hindus/Zoroastrians (sorry but don't actually know what they are called) etc filed under fiction or non-fiction? And what about general woobollocks stuff like crystal healing and past-life therapy? Or is it only Christian mythology that gets a special shelf to itself?

I'd be inclined to think that there should be a category called woobollocks 'faith' to include the mythologies and the manuals for all the superstitions.

sashh Sun 20-Jan-13 07:58:52

Regarding the flood, there is scientific evidence that backs it up

There is a finite amount of water on the Earth, the entire earth cannot flood. I also do not believe there were unicorns.

The genealogy of Jesus varies between gospels.

The massacre of the innocents only occurs in Matthew and is not recorded anywhere else in the Bible or any other document / writing / historical account.

The old and new testaments do not tally.

How can you read it as history?

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 20-Jan-13 08:02:49

The Bible is clearly fiction. Even if so be of the stories contain some truth. That would be like saying Harry Potter is non-fiction because Kings Cross Station really exists.

The Bible is full of outrageous claims that simply aren't true. Jesus (if he did exist) certainty did not die and come back to life. People can't do that (and if they could, then the whole resurrection thing would lose its meaning).

It is still claimed that miracles are performed now. Take Mother Theresa for example. A disgusting excuse for a human being, inflicting pain and poverty on innocent individuals and using crude medical techniques causing people to die much sooner than they should. Yet because some people believe she performed a "miracle" or two, she's seen in the eyes of the Catholic Church as an exceptional human being and had been subsequently beatified.

Is it such a stretch of the imagination that this is what happened with Jesus too? Not saying it did, but how do we know. Again, even if the Bible is a true account of everything (which it plainly is not), history is written by the winners, and they are not necessarily the most accurate sorry tellers.

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 08:14:10


The genealogies appear in Matthew and Luke only. From David onwards, Matthew's genealogy goes through the father, whereas Luke's goes through the mother.

The purpose of these genealogies is to establish the kingship of Jesus.

MadHairDay Sun 20-Jan-13 15:14:10

I'm with Holo. The bible cannot be quantified as fiction or non fiction. It's made up of several different genres. History, poetry, prophecy, story. It's an amazing collection of writings reflecting the culture they were part of. I believe it's the inspired word of God but do not believe in each word as literal.

'I believe the that the Bible's accuracy has been lessened over time due to the number of translations it has undergone, which has given it numerous interpretations. ' - this is a bit of a common myth. There are an unprecedented amount of early manuscript parts which are very close to what we have today. I think it's something like 24,000, both in original Greek and in the first translations, whcih remain true to the Greek. The differences between them over the years are a matter of minor grammatical and spelling error. They have not been added to or embellished. I find it pretty exciting that what we read now in the gospel accounts are so very close to what the first century writers were communicating.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 20-Jan-13 16:52:15

"The differences between them over the years are a matter of minor grammatical and spelling error."

Well that's just not true. A simple example (by no means the most diverse or confusing) is the following from the KJV:

"It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."

The correct translation of the Arabic word "gamla" is "rope" not "camel". But the number of surmans given trying to explain what the camel has to do with anything has resulted in some weird and wonderful interpretations which are completely unnecessary.

Even this tiny error causes massive misunderstanding and the hundreds of different translations are riddled with thousands, perhaps millions of these little and some bigger differences which ultimately distort the entire meaning of various texts.

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 19:27:24

How is the entire meaning distorted?

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 20-Jan-13 19:49:03

Many small errors build up to huge changes in interpretation. The Chinese Whispers effect. Just in the example above you are trying to fit camels through needles. But another example, the word virgin being changed from meaning young lady in the Arabic texts to meaning one who has not had sex in the English translations. This tiny detail has a huge impact on what it means to be Mary and just how immaculate her pregnancy was.

HolofernesesHead Sun 20-Jan-13 19:59:09

Just off to watch 'Call the Midwife' smile but before telly heaven starts, let me pick upon Pedro's example:

Eye of the needle. This saying is in all three synpotic gospels, and I've just checked out the Luke version, in which the only disputed word is, oddly, not needle but camel, in the Greek. It's only disputed because in the major MSs the word is spelled with a long e and in minor MSs it is an i, so a genuinely minor point. Definitely a camel! It's found in over 30 ancient texts, each of which I could tell you about if Call the Midwife weren't about to start smile , and it has a strong similarity with a rabbinic saying about 'an elephant going through the eye of a needle', also well testified in ancient textual sources. Rabbinic hyperbole at its best, IMO.

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 20:01:35

I don't think there is a Chinese Whispers effect. As I said earlier, the NIV translation was based on scholars going back to the earliest manuscripts.

As for camels and eyes of needles, it is not such an easy ride as to read the words. You need to study the words, look at the context, and consider everything in the power of the holy spirit. This verse is about pompous riches - which are clearly not compatible with a life transformed by the power of Christ.

MadHairDay Sun 20-Jan-13 20:05:21

Chinese whispers is a game whereby phrases are whispered once. Oral tradition is not a game where entire histories, genealogies and prophecies were memorised word for word, checked and checked again, challenged by others and checked again, and finally written down. Not a comparison.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 20-Jan-13 20:20:14

It's not just the translations, it's the interpretation. The Chinese Whispers come first from the translation of text, then from the interpretation by Bible scholars, preachers, vicars and then to the 'flock' who will be interpreting the surmans they hear. If it is not plain enough already, just look at the number of different strands of Christianty. Hundreds if not thousands of different groups interpret the Bible in different ways. This comes from both the specific text they use and the manner in which they understand it. Many of these differences result in social discord and even wars.

There is no question at all that meanings are distorted because of this fact. It simply cannot be argued otherwise.

headinhands Sun 20-Jan-13 21:25:25

Going on that logic mad why aren't you also a Muslim seeing how you're fully confident in the passing on of oral history?

HolofernesesHead Sun 20-Jan-13 21:34:12

Pedro, wrt 'young woman' / 'virgin' - The Hebrew (not Arabic) word in Issiah is alma, which, yes, means 'young woman.' Issiah was translated into Greek sometime around 3rd / 2nd c. BCE, along with other Hebrew scriptures. Greek word used in this translation of Isaiah was 'parthenos' which means both young woman and virgin. Matthew quotes the Greek Isaiah text, not the Hebrew text, and so yes, this quotation from Isaiah is a big part of the origin of belief on virgin birth. But it's not a conspiracy theory, it's a plausible development of language between two very different cultures (Hebrew and Greek). Where did you get the idea that Arabic is important in the Bible from? Are you thinking of the Quran? Or was it a Chinese whisper? wink

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