I started a new course at AIHT during the week – Biblical Studies. After finishing reading Jesus: My Autobiography (by Tina Louis Spalding) last week, a channelled book in which Jesus told the true story of his life and mission, I thought I was finally ready to tackle a task I had been putting off.
My father had been a Congregational minister before I was born (he had to give it away in order to feed his growing family), so I was raised as a Christian and had the basic understanding of The Bible which anyone, whose childhood involved weekly Sunday School and Church attendance, would have.
We learned all of the Children’s Bible stories of Daniel in the lions’ den, of Shadrach Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, of David slaying Goliath with his slingshot, and we learned that “God is Love”. We learned that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he was the greatest example of God’s love on Earth.
We knew that there was a lot of killing in The Bible, but these were not the focus of our childhood lessons. Yet we learned enough to know that the Old Testament was not a place that we wished to spend much time. We knew that there were a lot of bad things which happened there, and that was enough to keep our focus on Jesus in the New Testament. There was a lot to be fearful of in the Old Testament, not the least of which was the God of Wrath who lived there.
Even as children, we knew that that God was not the God of Love whom we had been told about in Sunday School. That God of the Old Testament kicked Adam & Eve out of the Garden of Eden; he drowned thousands or millions of people and animals in the great flood; he destroyed entire towns in Sodom and Gomorrah, and turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for no greater sin than curiosity; he encouraged wars and aided in the killing of many of Israel’s enemies.
In Jesus: My Autobiography, Jesus warns against watching fearful programs on TV. Yet, if we turn, instead, to the Old Testament, there is much more violence and murder than we would ever find in a one hour TV program. If we really study the Old Testament, we find all of the stories that they didn’t teach us in Sunday School.
A number of rapes are recounted; the one which is hardest to erase from my mind is the gang rape and death of a Levite priest’s concubine, who had been handed over to a crowd of men to save the Levite from a similar fate. There are an uncountable number of men, women, and children slaughtered by both friends and foe of God’s chosen people, Israel, including by those who have found favour with God, such as Solomon.
Some say that all of this violence is just a sign of the times, and that it recounts the history of God’s people, along with the laws they are asked to live by, of which there are many. However, as I have learned from my studies, as a history book, The Bible is sadly lacking. Accurate historical records found elsewhere show that some passages of the Bible put people in the same timeframe, when they lived in different decades. Some passages in one section of the Bible conflict with stories in other parts of the Bible.
According to the book I am studying, Don’t Know Much About The Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book But Never Learned (by Kenneth C. Davis), scholars believe that the Old Testament was composed and edited into the Hebrew version by at least five people working at different times between 900 and 400 BCE, hundreds of years after the years in which the stories are set.
Translation into Greek followed in around 250 BCE, but this translation ended up with extra books than became fixed in the final Jewish scripture in around 1000 CE. The Catholics translated the Hebrew text into Latin in 405 CE and various translations into English and German followed when the Protestants came on the scene. Some Bible versions have been translated from the original Hebrew, some from the Greek, some from the Latin, and some looked at all three. Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Churches all use different versions, containing different books.
It is hard to imagine that anyone can consider the Old Testament the infallible word of God, when the word it contains is different in the thousands of different versions which now exist.
Even within one version we find conflicting stories. One example is the story of creation.
Not many people realise that the Bible actually contains two conflicting creation stories. In the first, in Genesis 1, God creates the heavens and the earth, the animals, and then male and female humans were created together and blessed equally by God. God tells the humans that they can eat any of the plants, seeds or fruits (a vegan diet if ever I heard it), with no mention of forbidden fruit.
In the second creation story, in Genesis 2, God made man from dust, then animals, and then woman from the rib of the man. In the second creation story, man is allowed to name all of the animals and the woman, giving him power over them, and it is forbidden them to eat of a particular tree.
Scholars attribute these two stories to two different writers.
If you thought that the conflicting stories end at the Old Testament, think again. Even the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – contain conflicting stories. Also, some accounts, such as Pilate washing his hands of involvement in Jesus death and putting the responsibility onto the Jews, is considered by some to be a way to placate the Romans who were still a threat to the early Christians.
And what about the books which became known as the Gnostic Gospels, which were found near Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945? The Gospel According to Thomas mentions that Jesus used to kiss Mary Magdalene on her mouth. Does this confirm the rumour, later corroborated in Jesus: My Autobiography, that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife?
Even the name we have come to know as our saviour – Jesus – was not his real name. The name, Jesus, came from a Latin translation of a Greek translation of a Hebrew name. Davis suggests Jesus real name was probably Joshua ben Joseph (son of Joseph), or Yehoshua ben Yosef. Other sources have his name as Yeshua. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Is_Christ_Jewish_/is_christ_jewish_.html
Undoubtedly there is some of God’s truth in The Bible, but what is it?
My conclusion, after reflecting on all this, is that, in order to find truth in The Bible, we need our internal guidance systems. We need to look at any passages in The Bible (or any other sacred or non-sacred text, for that matter) with the skills which God gave us at birth.
We were born with an internal guidance system – our feelings – which allow us to know the truth contained in any passages we read, or in anything we hear.
Usually we haven’t had much practice at following our internal guidance systems. Our parents, schools, and societies tell us to disregard our feelings and follow the rules, no matter what. Instead of being taught how to interpret and follow the messages we receive from our feelings, we are usually taught to suppress them. So, in order to follow our feelings, we first need a bit of practice, especially after years of misinterpreting and suppressing them.
Once we learn to follow our feelings, we would come to understand that, either God has changed a lot since the Old Testament, or the God depicted there was just a reflection of the people who lived then. If we believe that God is an unchanging force of love, then it is easy to reject those stories of a wrathful God and recognise the truth of the gems of love when we find them.
Perhaps it is time to reject the God of the Old Testament entirely and embrace Tomorrow’s God. Neale Donald Walsch wrote about this God in a book of the same name, but we can find that God within ourselves, particularly during meditation.
Tomorrow’s God is the God who told Neale Donald Walsch (in Conversations With God) the truth of the Ten Commandments, which, rather, were given as God’s Ten Commitments:
You shall know that you have taken the path to God, and you shall know that you have found God, for there will be these signs, these indications, these changes in you:
- You shall love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. And there shall be no other God set before Me. No longer will you worship human love, or success, money, or power, nor any symbol thereof. You will set aside these things as a child sets aside toys. Not because they are unworthy, but because you have outgrown them.
- And, you shall know you have taken the path to God because: You shall not use the name of God in vain. Nor will you call on Me for frivolous things. You will understand the power of words, and of thoughts, and you would not think of invoking the name of God in an ungodly manner. You shall not use my name in vain because you cannot. For my name – the Great “I Am” – is never used in vain (that is, without result), nor can it ever be. And when you have found God, you shall know this.
And, I shall give you these other signs as well:
- You shall remember to keep a day for Me, and you shall call it holy. This, so that you do not long stay in your illusion, but cause yourself to remember who and what you are. And then shall you soon call every day the Sabbath, and every moment holy.
- You will honor your mother and your father – and you will know you are the Son of God when you honor your Father/Mother God in all that you say or do or think. And even as you so honor the Mother/Father God, and your father and mother on Earth (for they have given you life), so, too, will you honor everyone.
- You know you have found God when you observe that you will not murder (that is, wilfully kill, without cause). For while you will understand that you cannot end another’s life in any event (all life is eternal), you will not choose to terminate any particular incarnation, nor change any life energy from one to another, without the most sacred justification. Your new reverence for life will cause you to honor all life forms – including plants, trees, and animals – and to impact them only when it is for the highest good.
And these other signs will I send you also, that you may know you are on the right path:
- You will not defile the purity of love with dishonesty or deceit, for that would be adulterous. I promise you, when you have found God, you shall not commit this adultery.
- You will not take a thing that is not your own, nor cheat, nor connive, nor harm another to have any thing, for this would be to steal. I promise you, when you have found God, you shall not steal.
Nor shall you…
- Say a thing that is not true, and thus bear false witness.
Nor shall you…
- Covet your neighbor’s spouse, for why would you want your neighbour’s spouse when you know all others are your spouse?
- Covet your neighbour’s goods, for why would you want your neighbor’s goods when you know that all goods can be yours, and all your goods belong to the world?
You will know that you have found the path to God when you see these signs. For I promise that no one who truly seeks God shall any longer do these things. It would be impossible to continue such behaviours.
These are your freedoms, not your restrictions. These are my commitments, not my commandments. For God does not order about what God has created – God merely tells God’s children: this is how you will know that you are coming home.
Moses asked in earnest – “How may I know? Give me a sign.” Moses asked the same question that you ask now. The same question all people everywhere have asked since time began. My answer is likewise eternal. But it has never been, and never will be, a commandment. For who shall I command? And who shall I punish should my commandments not be kept?
There is only Me.
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net