In many Christian liturgies and surely also in Jewish services, after a reading from the Bible the minister, priest or Rabbi states that, what was just read, was ‘the word of the Lord.’ To which the congregation says, ‘Amen!’ Mindlessly, I might add. But then, why shouldn’t the congregation say ‘Amen?’ They were, in their youth, brainwashed into believing that it was so. Few adults ever question what they learned as children, and even fewer adults actively engage in a search for biblical truth. Most are satisfied with maintaining a childlike belief system because it is comforting to them. Odd, isn’t it, that these same adults no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa? Or the Boogieman in the closet. Yet, most are satisfied with the beliefs that they held and were taught at that same time in their life.
Oh, sure, there are Bible Study groups all throughout our nation attended by tens of thousands of adults. Sadly, though, each of these study groups never ask the question, ‘Who wrote the Bible?’ Rather, the begin with the premise that the Bible is the Word of God and then go on from there. They also tend to examine the Bible as if it was written in one sitting and/or dropped from Heaven in Elizabethan English. The authorship is not to be discussed nor questioned because, after all, it is ‘the Word of God.’ Circular thinking or, rather, no thinking at all.
Lucky for us, there are a few brave ministers who have taken the time to examine the authorship of the Bible, not assuming that it was necessarily written by God. Nor inspired by God. Naturally, as expected, most of these ministers have been summarily dismissed from their churches or have a very difficult time presenting their thoughts without severe criticism. The biblical apologists are rabid in their defense of their ‘sacred scripture.’ The word heretic was invented as a means of quelling such investigation. The Catholic Church dropped it’s hydrogen bomb, excommunication, on any such scholar. Whoa to those who…!
Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, is a minister who decided to not only investigate the origins of the Bible but to tell people what he found. Websites have arisen, not surprisingly, to denigrate his findings. Biblical apologists are furious with him for what he has undertaken. As if they are afraid of what he has to say. As if what he has to say will collapse the entire sandcastle that they created. Maybe it will.
So here goes.
Sponge and many other biblical scholars do not believe that God is the author of the Bible. Nor do they believe that God inspired the authors to pen his words. There was something else which ‘inspired’ these men to write the words: politics, propaganda and religious authority are three. Sponge cites a perfect example [one of many] of why the Bible is not the ‘word of God.’ The most egregious witness to this is this:
If the Bible is God’s Word, for example, how would we deal with a passage in which the prophet Samuel instructed Saul, the king of the Jews, in God’s name, to engage in a war of genocide against the Amalekites, in which he was to kill man, woman, child, suckling, ox and ass among the Amalekites (I Sam. 15:1–9)?
Spong asks, “How can this be the Word of God?” Spong continues:
If it is God’s Word, why would we want to worship such a God? What kind of God could inspire the psalmist to write in God’s “holy Word” that the people of Israel would not be happy until they had dashed the heads of the children of their Babylonian enemies against the rocks (Ps. 137:8–9)?
Indeed, why? “Beyond those rather bizarre episodes,” writes Spong, “what is one to do with the biblical definitions of women as subhuman, the biblical acceptance of slavery as a legitimate social institution and the biblical admonitions to execute homosexual persons?”
Spong says that ‘the Bible is a small library of books composed over a period of about one thousand years between roughly 1000 BCE and 135 CE. Many of these biblical books did not have a single author. Some of them were edited and re-edited over as long a period of time as five hundred years before they reached the form in which they found inclusion in the Bible. Can the “Word of God” actually be edited? Why did God not get it right the first time? What human being would have had the hubris to add to or delete from the “Word of God”? Yet that kind of editing happened, we now know, probably in every book in the Bible.’
This ought to be enough to convince the mildly inquisitive person that the famous book held in such high esteem is a work of humans. But wait! There’s more.
However, that will wait until Chapter II.