This picture caught my attention on Facebook today. It fascinates me, not so much for what it says but the whole concept of different religions in today’s world.
Before starting, let me first of all make one thing clear. I am not an atheist and do indeed have a strong religious faith. However, my beliefs are not those of the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or any other organised religion.
A much older religion calls to me, one of the Mother Earth and nature, one that recognises both masculine and feminine aspects of our deities. We are taught to harm no-one and never seek to push our religion onto others. We do not seek converts, nor do we claim that our religion is the ‘only’ way. And we don’t believe in the existence of the devil.
Having been brought up as a Christian, attended church and been taught ‘religious education’ at school, it should come as little surprise that that faith and the Church of England formed an area of intense interest for me.
Indeed, my first wife completed a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1999, for which I typed all her essays and so learned a great deal. By the time she graduated, I realised that any Christian beliefs I had held had just been metaphorically shipwrecked.
So, let’s look at the text in that picture.
“The King James version of the New Testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the Church of England.
“There were (and still are) no original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down hundreds of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts, with no two alike.
“The King James translators used none of these, anyway. Instead. they edited previous translations to create a version their king and Parliament would approve.”
All those are true, according to research available online, so we can hardly take issue with the summary that says: “So, (what) 21st Century Christians believe (is) the “Word of God” is a book edited in the 17th Century from 16th Century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th Century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st Century.”
But the truth is much worse than that.
Absolutely none of the gospels were written at the time they purport to talk about. Word of mouth stories were written down a hundred years, or more, later. Many texts were ignored when putting the bible together.
Mistranslations took place and have not been corrected to this day.
For example, Isaiah’s prophecy as originally written states that the Messiah would be conceived by an ‘almah’ (young woman) but in the Greek translation Isaiah refers to a ‘parthenos’ (virgin). From this, it appears that Matthew’s gospel attempts to justify Jesus’s divine parentage by claiming fulfilment of a prophecy that was never actually made.
And, as far as the resurrection is concerned, why was Jesus’s body removed from the cross so soon after the crucifixion? It was uncommon for a crucified healthy adult to die in the time described by the Gospels; the Gospel of Mark reports that Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and died at three in the afternoon, or six hours after the crucifixion. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so soon (Mk 15:44). The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion was between two and four days.
It gives some strength to the argument that Jesus did not die on the cross and that, therefore, there was no resurrection. As Christianity is not my faith, I offer no comment on these beliefs or arguments except to say that everyone should be free to follow any faith of their choice or choose to not follow any at all.
One last point: something else on Facebook today was a negative comment about religious people saying they ‘know’ what happens after death. Another person wanted ‘proof ‘of the existence of an afterlife. To me, that is why it is called faith. There is no proof, no-one knows; there is only belief, only faith.