Posted by: mystic444 | September 30, 2009

Bible Errors

Religious tyranny attempts to chain men by setting up an Authority which must be accepted without question, or lose one’s eternal soul. In Christianity, particularly the fundamentalist variety (which considers itself the only TRUE Christianity), that Authority is the Bible, which is presented to us as “the Word of God” (and the only such Word) written without error, and completely infallible. But because there are so many varying and contradictory interpretations of the Bible, sometimes a particular man is exalted to the status of being an infallible Bible interpreter. In the Roman Catholic Church, of course, that ‘infallible authority’ is the Pope, who is said to be without error when speaking officially (‘ex cathedra’). [Not all modern Catholics accept this, though. ‘Liberal’ and ‘moderately liberal’ Catholics will join with Protestants in pointing out that one only has to spend a few minutes reading Papal pronouncements to realize the error of that notion.] Protestant churches do not recognize any absolutely infallible interpreter, though ‘lay’ members of churches frequently (for all practical purposes) think of their pastors, Bishops, Archbishops, etc. as virtually infallible.

Since the infallibility of interpreters can be disproved just by comparing their statements with each other – and the Bible is itself the basic Authority of which all others are subsets – I will ‘put my soul at risk’ by exposing the fallibility of the Bible and its authors. I cannot be exhaustive in this blog, of course. For more thorough presentations, one may refer to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible or Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason (just a couple among many possible references). These authors are of course no more infallible in their analyses of the Bible, than are the Bible authors and interpreters themselves. As the aim of this blog is to try to set people free of bondage to other people’s opinions, I certainly am not suggesting that you accept any other person as an infallible authority.

First, then, the Gospel of Matthew quotes, as a prediction of the birth of Jesus, the well known and beloved statement in Isa. 7:14 (RSV) – “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel…” (a) Let it be noted that the translation “young woman” is correct; the Hebrew word is general, and does not specify whether or not the woman is married, and whether or not she is still a ‘virgin’. The N.T. writers used the Greek Septuagint translation, which used a word which is more properly translated ‘virgin’, but even it is capable (I am told) of simply meaning ‘young woman’. Why the Septuagint translators used the word ‘virgin’ is unknown, but it was not the meaning of the word in the Hebrew. (b) The expression “shall conceive” may also be translated “IS with child” – there is apparently an ambiguity in the Hebrew here. (c) The main point, though, is that this prophecy about the child Immanuel who was to be born is explicitly in the context of Ahaz’ fear concerning the united attack of Syria and Israel, and which Isaiah had said Ahaz should not fear. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask God for a sign concerning this prophecy (that the attack would come to naught), but Ahaz, in pretended humility, refused to ask for a sign. Isaiah said God was going to give him a sign anyway, and the child Immanuel was to be that sign. Verse 16: “For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. (17) The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah – the king of Assyria”. The ‘sign’ is unequivocally related to the situation Ahaz and Isaiah were facing, and there is absolutely not even a hint that Isaiah was giving a sign that wouldn’t materialize for several hundred years. In fact if the Immanuel child had not been born shortly following the prophecy, the ‘sign’ would not have been a ‘sign’ to Ahaz at all! The child is undoubtedly one of Isaiah’s own children, whom he said (in the next chapter, verse 18) the Lord had given to him as signs and portents to Israel. In fact, Immanuel is actually addressed in 8:8 when Isaiah prophesied that the River (Euphrates) would overflow its banks and flood Judah -meaning the king of Assyria and his army- because Ahaz had “refused the waters of Shiloh that flow gently” and feared Rezin and Pekah, the son of Remaliah. Assyria’s army “will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel”. Matthew (or whoever wrote that Gospel) was simply mistaken, and over zealous in his attempts to make Jesus the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy.

Second, there is the verse already alluded to (8:18) in which Isaiah said – “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.” Isaiah says clearly that he is talking about himself and his children. His children were given symbolic names as signs for Israel: in 7:3 there is “Shearjashub” which means “a remnant shall return”; in 7:14 and 8:8 there is “Immanuel” which means “God is with us”; and in 8:3 there is Mahershalalhashbaz which means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens” or “haste, haste to the spoil”. Yet the writer of Hebrews says this is Jesus speaking, talking about God’s children who are his brothers (Heb 2:13)! Anyone who will do like the ‘noble Bereans’ in Acts 17, and ‘search the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true” would see immediately that they are NOT true! Again, the writer of Hebrews is plainly mistaken, over zealous in his attempt to find in Jesus the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy.

Third, and this will be the last one I refer to in today’s post, there is Matt. 2:15 where Matthew says that the baby Jesus being taken into Egypt fulfilled Hosea 11:1 – “out of Egypt I called my son”. Yet when I actually read what Hosea said, he was not predicting a future event, but was referring to Israel’s past: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.” Obviously, within its context, that statement refers to the nation of Israel, whom Exodus 4:22 refers to as the Lord’s firstborn son. Surely it is not Jesus who is referred to in Hosea 11:2 – “they kept sacrificing to the Baals”! Where is there even the slightest hint that Hosea is predicting a future baby named Jesus who would be taken by his parents for a brief stay in Egypt? It’s simply not there, and whoever wrote Matthew just totally abused Hosea to try to find prophetic predictions about Jesus. When a writer today abuses verses like that, he is properly castigated for ‘ripping a verse out of its context’; and that accusation is no less true because a Bible writer did it.

But what about ‘double fulfillments’? Couldn’t these ‘Old Testament’ prophecies have had a ‘partial fulfillment’ in Old Testament times, but their ‘complete fulfillment’ in Jesus? It is my contention that ‘double fulfillments’ are just ‘special pleading’. It is an invented idea to try to salvage a notion about prophetic fulfillment that has failed under scrutiny. One might contend that there are two types of fulfillment: one ‘literal’ and the other ‘spiritual’ (involving metaphorical and allegorical meanings for the text). For instance, in the prophecy concerning Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14, one might say the ‘spiritual’ fulfillment involves God being ‘born’ within each of us so that we can overcome the evil forces within ourselves represented by Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel – or some similar method of ‘spiritualizing’ the prophecy. There may be some truth to that kind of interpretation (“first the natural, then the spiritual”). But that is not what the fundamentalists’ “double fulfillments” are about. If they do recognize a literal ‘partial fulfillment’ in the ‘Old Testament’, the main fulfillment they see in Jesus is just another literal and natural fulfillment which in fact has nothing at all to do with the original prophecy. That is a manifestly bad way of treating the words of the prophets, and would be laughable (in my estimation) if the fundamentalists weren’t so serious about it. And as pointed out, the statement by Hosea wasn’t even a prediction, but a reference to a past event. Neither was Isaiah’s statement about himself and his children a prediction. So far as I can determine, the fundamentalists’ “double fulfillments” are not natural and spiritual, but natural and unnatural!

So what I have shown so far is that these Biblical writers were just men who were as capable of bad interpretations of their ‘scriptures’ as any interpreter in Church history. There is absolutely no reason to bow in unquestioning acceptance of their statements, and one’s eternal soul can’t be in danger for not believing something which is manifestly in error. Let’s break those chains, and shake them off, so that we can live as free men!

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Responses

  1. Double fulfillments, no. (Sounds like semantics but one is not the other) Type, AntiType yes. Types/shadows are always physical, and antitypes/fulfillments are always spiritual. The OT temple was a Type of the New Testament Temple, which is the Church. What Matthew saw in the verses you have quoted is Type/AntiType. Joseph is a Type of Christ, just as Joshua is also. So is Moses and Israel. So is the Passover Lamb. David is a Type as is Solomon. Could go on and on but you get it. The OT is the Shadow/Type and the NT is the Reality/fulfilment (that casts the shadow so to speak). This is all over the OT and NT and if you don’t see it, so be it. I’m not going to convince you otherwise. It matters not to me whether you believe it or not (though I’d prefer you believe) but for me to simply as possible share the information that I have.

    BTW, having read more of the Quran and seeing that wives can be “beaten” given the situation of ‘fear/suspicion” of disloyalty or ill-conduct is enough to sour my taste for Islam. Not to mention the permission to marry “believing slave girls.” And the permission of Polygamy. All stated clear as a bell in Surah 4.

    Though I am strictly antiZionist, reading the Quran is also making me AntiIslamic based upon its erroneous teachings. However, this doesn’t mean I want to blow anyone up or see anyone die. The way the Quran is coming across to me is its a rehashing of the Old and New Testaments (with a little Apocryphal books mixed in), with changes made for the distinct purpose of disproving (or in the least, speculation about the reliability of both Old and New Testaments) both Jews and Christians.

    • May peace be with you, Brian. I appreciate your willingness to read the articles I referenced and to comment on this one. I also appreciate the polite tone of your reply.

      When you say that “Types/shadows are always physical, and antitypes/fulfillments are always spiritual”, this is what I referred to in one of the two referenced articles as literal fulfillment and spiritual fulfillment. And it is certain that the apostle Paul (and the writer of Hebrews if it wasn’t Paul) sometimes used this method of finding ‘spiritual’ meaning in the ‘literal’ language of the Hebrew Scriptures.

      Whether or not that type of spiritualization is legitimate (and I confess that I find it more an excuse for reading into a text one’s own ideas than a legitimate method of ‘interpretation’) it does not apply to the passages I have cited as misuse of Scripture by the New Testament writers.

      In the first place, the passages I cited are not examples of an attempt by the New Testament writers to give a ‘spiritual meaning’ to an Old Testament physical event. For instance, the citation of Hosea’s statement “out of Egypt have I called my son” of course refers to a literal, earthly exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The brief sojourn of Jesus in Egypt, and later return to Palestine, was also a very literal, earthly event – not a ‘spiritual antitype’. And the prophecy of Isaiah about the young woman who would bear a son who would be named “God is with us” was a clear reference to the birth of one of his symbolically named sons – a very physical, earthly event; the supposed ‘fulfillment’ in the birth of Jesus (even though Mary was literally a virgin, whereas Isaiah’s wife was not) was also a very physical, earthly event – not a ‘spiritual antitype’. (And it is surely a misuse to take a reference to a ‘young woman’ who was not a ‘virgin’, and claim that it really meant a very literal ‘virgin’. That’s just ‘eisogesis’, pure and simple – reading one’s own ideas into a passage, rather than deriving one’s ideas from the passage).

      In Hebrews I suppose it would be possible to maintain that the ‘children’ being referred to are the ‘spiritual antitype’ of Isaiah’s reference to his own children. But even in that case there is a plain misuse by Paul (or whoever) of Isaiah. When Isaiah referred to “the children whom God has given me”, he was referring to his children. But Hebrews has Jesus Christ saying those words about his ‘brothers and sisters’, not his own children. In Hebrews they are actually the children of God, given into Jesus’ care as his siblings. Such an ‘interpretation’ bears no resemblance to the meaning of Isaiah’s statement. For a true ‘type/antitype’ relationship, there should be some real and obvious similarity between the ‘earthly shadow’ and the ‘spiritual reality’.

      In the second place, the Gospel writers were claiming that the events in the life of Jesus were actual fulfillments of Old Testament prediction – not the ‘antitype’ of an Old Testament ‘type’. And such was clearly not the case. Hosea’s prophecy was simply and solely a reminder to the Israelites of an event in their history, in order to castigate them for their ungodly rebellion against God. It had nothing at all to do with citing a former event as a ‘type’ of a yet future sojourn of the Messiah in literal Egypt. That was purely what we call ‘ripping a verse out its context’ in order to insert one’s own ideas into the verse. And while I don’t mean to offend, in my estimation it is pure desperation and ‘special pleading’ to try to use that ‘type/antitype’ argument to defend the New Testament writers from the charge of misuse of Scripture.

      As to what you say about the Qur’an, you of course have to form your own opinions based on your own reading and study. I started reading the Qur’an to see if certain allegations about it (supposed commands to kill all ‘infidels’) were actually true. I quickly found that those allegations were untrue; the only fighting and killing allowed by the Qur’an was in self defense or retaliation when the Muslim people were attacked or serious oppression existed. At the same time, I began to fall in love with the ethical, moral, and spiritual beauty of the Qur’an.

      Therefore, I had to wonder if the ‘beat your wife’ verse (and there is only one such verse in the Qur’an) really meant what it seemed to mean. It would be quite contrary to so much else in the Qur’an. What I found by reading Muslim explanations of the verse was quite different from the connotations put upon it by wretched men who seek an excuse for their own violent natures (and by ‘Islamophobes’ who are simply seeking for something to use to ridicule the Qur’an). I have given in another article what I have discovered about this verse (and other ‘evil verses’), so I won’t take up space in this comment on the subject. If you wish, you can refer to my article Who’s Afraid of Shariah? to see what I discovered about how Muslims in general understand that verse.

      If you’re going to repudiate the Qur’an because of what it has to say about slavery (and marrying slaves) and polygamy, you’ll certainly have to repudiate the Bible also for the very same reasons. Slavery was allowed in the Bible and never clearly repudiated. Paul and Peter told slaves to obey their masters; Paul told slaves not to attempt to flee, and persuaded Onesimus to return to his ‘master’ Philemon.

      In the Qur’an, on the other hand, Muslims are exhorted over and over to spend some of their money to free slaves; one of the uses of the ‘charity tax’ Muslims pay is to free slaves. Setting a slave free is a great virtue. Slavery was already in existence as a cultural practice; the teachings of the Qur’an did not attempt to completely overturn it all at once, but they chipped away at the practice so that eventually it would cease to exist. Meanwhile, in addition to exhorting to free slaves, strict regulations were placed on its practice forbidding harsh treatment of slaves. In effect, if Islamic teachings are followed, slaves become virtually adopted members of one’s family and are to be treated as such.

      Polygamy was certainly expressly permitted in the Old Testament – including the marrying of slave women or having them as concubines – and it is not clearly repudiated in the New Testament. Paul indeed said that the leaders in the churches must be married to only one wife, but he never said that this was also to be the case with others; nor did he say why this qualification was given for the leadership. It is an assumption that he felt polygamy was an evil and that the leadership should serve as examples in repudiating it.

      Perhaps this prohibition of polygamy to church leaders was because Paul considered marriage a ‘distraction’ to pursuing the things of God. Having even one wife could be ‘distracting’ to a believer – at least in consideration of the hardships and persecutions the church was facing at that time – although it was permissible even for the leaders in the church in order to avoid fornication. More than one would simply be too much ‘distraction’ for a leader, though – again, at least in consideration of the trials of that particular time period. It’s quite possible that Paul considered that polygamy was acceptable for those not in leadership in the church.

      But if Paul was in fact condemning polygamy, then he was either condemning many (if not all) of the great prophets of God in the Old Testament as adulterers – Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon for instance – or he was implying that he believed the stories of the prophets being married to more than one wife were among the ‘falsehoods of the Scriptures’! I believe neither of those alternatives. I believe that, before God, polygamy is a legitimate institution – though certainly not a requirement. (In fact, while in the Qur’an a man is permitted to have up to 4 wives, he is told that he must seek to treat all wives equally. If he fears he will not be able to do so, then he must marry only one wife.) Where polygamy is forbidden by law a person must obey the law (he’s not breaking a commandment of God by being married to only one wife) – or else immigrate to another country where polygamy is legal.

      I can’t complain about your final paragraph. If your reading of the Qur’an makes you anti-Islamic, that is between your conscience and God. I affirm with the Qur’an that there is no compulsion in religion; so certainly I agree with you that one does not blow up or otherwise kill those who disagree with his/her ideas. And the Qur’an specifically acknowledges that one of the aspects of the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be with him and his family) was to serve as ‘final arbiter’ concerning what is contained in the previously given Scriptures. He was to confirm what is true in them, and reject what is false. So surely Muslims are not going to become upset when you see what the Qur’an actually says about itself.

      Muhammad was also sent to abrogate some of the former things and replace them with something equal or better. For instance, the law about stoning adulterers (definitely a part of the Old Testament law) was abrogated and replaced with the instruction to flog the adulterer and adulteress – certainly a more lenient punishment than stoning to death!

      That some of the stories from the ‘apocryphal’ books are used simply means that Gabriel confirmed that ‘the church’ was wrong in rejecting those stories. They did not become officially rejected by ‘the church’ until nearly 300 years had elapsed. Prior to that a portion of ‘the church’ considered them legitimate Scripture. Gabriel confirmed that those who accepted them were correct and the ‘official church’ decision was wrong. This should only be a problem for those who imagine that ‘church councils’ were ‘Divinely inspired’ in their decisions. I have never been in that group. It was a very much ‘uninspired’ church council which decided what was ‘canonical’ and what was not, and it is only tyranny which seeks to impose that council’s decision on people.

      God be with you in your spiritual journey. 🙂


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