Thus begins the Biblical Old Testament (In the beginning God created). It is amazing how much scientific research has been done to get the most accurate translations for the books that comprise the Bible. One need only search Biblical topics in a library, in a bookstore, or on the Internet to get a feel for the quantity and variety of scientific and scholarly study during the past 2000 years. All this to discern the most accurate intended meaning a Biblical writer had for every single written word.
Mistakes in the texts, of course, could not help but creep into manuscripts considering the number of times that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek documents have been translated and retranslated, copied and recopied, down through the ages. But I must admit that the overall validity and veracity of the Old Testament has remained remarkably intact.
In 1947 at the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, a Bedouin shepherd uncovered a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were found in caves, some of which are natural to the region, others dug by hand. There were eleven caves in all approximately thirteen miles east of Jerusalem. An interesting fact: The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level.
Scientific scholars who have studied this find have placed it into three main categories of ancient religious literature, one of which contains the oldest known copies of the Old Testament. The Biblical scrolls have been carbon dated to the years: 250-30 B.C. These dates corroborate extremely well with paleographic studies of the actual texts.
After a thorough comparison of the extant Dead Sea scrolls to writings which have been handed down via posterity as The Old Testament, it becomes clear that the writers of the scrolls wrote down what they believed to be true about their Jewish heritage. If the scrolls are not originals, they were copied down as accurately as humanly possible from even more antiquated but lost scriptures.
Both ancient and modern Jews believe what is contained in those scriptures as truth, so much so that they still follow the rules, regulations, and traditions of those books. The Old Testament, then, is Yahweh’s written word for Jews. As such, it is honored and held sacred. It is the written connection between mankind and Yahweh.
But herein lies a problem for me. Although I am not anti-spiritual, I am definitely anti-any religion which believes in dogma, particularly doctrine which was allegedly passed down by a goddess or god to some mere human being. To me, this includes religious dogma offered by a person who claims to have been inspired, enlightened, or in some high-minded or mindless ecstatic state. Dogma as such is unscientific, a priori wishful thinking intended to spell out what relationship exists between God and our world. In my way of thinking, people who claim to have received such personal knowledge from God really must not be in their right minds.
The Old Testament is just such doctrine because its believers claim God spoke through Moses, and any number of other Israelites; sometimes pairs of authors wrote a single book. The books were written and collected over hundreds of years.
A few days ago, I saw on the Internet where a woman had answered the question: “Who wrote the Bible?” In effect, she said that God told Moses what words to write down when he was on Mount Sinai and that a HUGE (caps not mine) number of people witnessed this. I’ve searched for this HUGE number but came away only with this fact.
“The Men of the Great Assembly—in Hebrew, Anshei Knesset HaGedolah—was an unusual group of Jewish personalities who assumed the reigns of Jewish leadership between 410 BCE and 310 BCE” (Rabbi Ken Spiro).
Ministers, rabbis, priests, and people, who claim to have read the Bible, often quote its verses. Time and time again, they preach on the grand and glorious acts of justice, mercy, love, fidelity, patience, long-suffering, and any number of other positive virtues exhibited in the Holy Bible. More likely than not, these folks come prepared to give you the exact chapter and verse for their religious witticism.
But have none of these religious folks read the horror stories in the holy book? Granted it may be the best possible word by word translation of the oldest, most exquisitely written Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew text, but are the “inspired,” truth-filled words of its God in any way acceptable? How could any reader not find them shocking? Could a real God, any God, give such heinous commands to a group of people, let alone his “chosen” ones?
Let me cite just a few examples. Keep in mind these are twelve samples from among many, to murder other people. The Old Testament advises that the following people should be killed.
- Those who reject the verdict of the judge or the priest who represents the LORD God (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
- A sorceress (Exodus 22:17 NAB)
- Gay men who lie together (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)
- Any medium or fortuneteller; by stoning (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)
- Whoever strikes his father or mother (Exodus 21:15 NAB)
- All who curse their father or mother (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)
- Both adulterer and adulteress (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
- A priest's daughter who commits fornication; by burning (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
- Any man or woman who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)
- A man who prophesies shall be thrust through by his parents (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)
- An entire town if one person worships another God (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)
- Women who are not virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)
Like the tip of an iceberg (90% of its ice is underwater), this appalling list mentions only a few of the horrific acts ordered by the God of the Old Testament. It leaves out child killing, rape of virgins, killing of the elderly, taking of slaves, destruction of property.
I’ve read a number of explanations about the culture of Biblical times which alleges an excuse for such defiling deific acts. Some scholars believe such morbid conduct was forced upon the Israelites so they would understand the severity of being God’s select people. Any inclination to abandon his call would certainly bring dire consequences from this wrath-inclined God. Thus, it would be a horrendous, fearsome burden to be hand picked by Yahweh.
Some Christian believers claim that, yes, Yahweh did order killing, but that was according to the old law. They go on to say that Jesus Christ came to fulfill that law and begin a new law of love, acceptance, and affection among mankind. This is shivering consolation.
As I see it, these Israelites were not stupid people. Since it is true they were held in bondage in Egypt as slaves for many years, surely they witnessed the accomplishments of the Egyptians. They also had their own traditions of law, good deeds, and sacrifice.
What is most illogical is that Moses had received the Ten Commandments on Sinai. The Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill,” would have been known by all. Wouldn’t these people have doubted the very words of Yahweh who ordered and okayed the atrocities mentioned above?
In sum, Science has helped make possible a scholarly examination of the most ancient Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts. There is no doubt that the documents exist and that they contain what most Western religions believe is a compilation of the inspired words of God, words recited to people who acted as scribes and simply wrote them down.
If the commands in the Bible are taken in context, then we must conclude that the revered Holy Bible is unholy—it contains the raving and ranting of disturbed human beings who for one reason or another, believed they were speaking in God’s tongue when in fact they spoke more like madmen. Their "inspired" words are responsible for much of the violence down through the ages. It is certainly the cause of hatred and terror among "religious" peoples in today's world. Although I am a God believer, hopefully science and religion will soon doom this disturbing dreadful dogma.