(# …The things that you li’ble to read in the Bible, it ain’t necessarily so. #)
I take a less-than-literal approach to the “Holy” Bible. I think it’s grossly overrated. The Bible is just a book; albeit it is a biographical (allegedly) anthology, a reference book, a story book, a history book, an oracle and prospectus, a book of mythology, a book of poetry, proverbs, song lyrics, epigrams, letters, essays and yes, even erotica. Hey, this very book of mine, from which my blog articles originate, could be described in exactly the same way!
The stories in the Bible (especially the Old Testament) are no more valid than the myths of the Greeks, Romans, Norse or Germans. For example, if I am to believe the story of Lot’s Wife being turned into a pillar of salt, why shouldn’t I believe that the Gorgon Medusa could turn people to stone? Or if you buy the story that Jesus could turn water into wine, then why not believe that Dionysus could do the same thing?
I don’t take the Bible seriously in terms of letting it govern my entire life, no questions asked. If you want to make a convincing point to me, please don’t begin with, “Well, the Bible says…” for I will not be impressed. It’s not that I consider anything in the Bible to be worthless advice—I frequently quote the book myself. The Bible “says” a lot of things. I may believe or agree with a particular passage on its own merit, but not because it is in the Bible. I might find the same sentiment in a Jacqueline Susann novel. Actually, it’s not the Bible that’s “saying” anything anyway, but the particular translator and interpreter of the passage that they are quoting.
Because the Bible has many authors and you will never get that many people all to agree on everything, it is loaded with contradictions. As the name implies, it is full of holes. For every passage that tells us to do one thing, most likely there is another one somewhere else in the book that instructs us to do the exact opposite. Examples: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” but “Turn the other cheek.” “Love thy neighbor,” but “Stone the sinner.” Well, suppose that alleged sinner is also your neighbor? How would you proceed then? It’s like with conflicting proverbs. One says, “Two heads are better than one,” but another suggests that “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” So, which are you going to go with? “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But then, “Out of sight, out of mind.” You see, people tend to select the passage that most suits their purpose for their particular argument.
In the Book of Genesis, “God” hated the world that It had created because of the people’s sinful ways and decided to destroy it. But in the New Testament, “God so loved the world that He” sacrificed his Son to take on all our sins and give us everlasting life. Now people were doing and are still doing the same things that they have ever done, so why the subsequent leniency? Had God gotten more laid back and forgiving in Its later years? That’s more contradiction. So, to take one thing in the Bible to heart without considering all the rest of it is not practical or sensible. It’s better not to take any of it to heart. We all should be able to determine right from wrong without consulting the Bible to guide us.
The fact of the matter is, most of what is in the Bible cannot be taken literally. Nobody really knows for sure what it all actually means, because it is all written in code, metaphors and symbolism and subject to many different interpretations, which I shall illustrate in the following paragraphs. By the way, if we all followed the eye-for-an-eye-tooth-for-a-tooth philosophy, everybody would be blind and/or toothless!
Now for myself, I happen to believe in Darwinism, or the Theory of Evolution. Science has given us living, tangible proof of our biological evolution. What real proof do we have of the Biblical account of the Creation? Nobody was there to witness it, so it‘s only somebody‘s theory of how it all came about. It should not be any more valid than anybody else’s version. The commonly-regarded “Big Bang Theory,” for example, contends that the expansion of the Universe was caused by a gigantic explosion. But that would mean that there had to have been something already there to explode. What was it that actually exploded? So that can’t be the origin of Creation. To expand anything there has to be something to expand. Then the concept of Creation itself is merely a theory. Just as the Universe is regarded in infinite terms, might Creation, too, have no actual beginning nor end?
Now, for the Creationists who want to buy the Adam and Eve story, why does virtually everyone accept the notion that the male of the species was the first on earth alone until Woman was created out of him (and from one of his ribs, no less!)? It makes more sense to me the other way around. Since, as far as we know, it has always been Woman that procreates and perpetuates life by bearing children, might not it have been that way even from the very beginning? Maybe Eve was here first and Adam was the afterthought. Why not? Well, just think about it. Why would the First Man just happen all by himself that one and only time (well, not exactly by himself, I guess; he did have help from his Creator, another “man”) and from then on, things change completely around and everyone else after that is born from Woman? Don’t you think that theory reeks a bit of male chauvinism? Man was here first, therefore, “the King” and ruler of his dominion and all the other creatures on earth, but let’s make the woman do all the heavy lifting and the pain thing.
Then what about the animal kingdom? According to this same Biblical account, the animals were created before Adam, but there is no mention of the male of each species of creature being on earth alone until one day the females miraculously show up and they start procreating. Come on! It’s sort of like the old riddle of the chicken and the egg and which came first. (The answer is, of course, the rooster!) My suggestion that it’s always been “ladies first” or at least simultaneous co-existence seems much more logical to me. In fact, Genesis 1:27 states “male and female created He them.”
This other way creates a moral problem, though, that changes everything. If Adam came out of Eve, that would make them mother and son instead of husband and wife (who “married” them, by the way?), the births of Cain and Abel would be the result of incest, plus they would be bastards! Now, we can’t have that, can we? But it was God Itself who ordered them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, so God must have been condoning eventual and unavoidable incest. Don’t forget that the way it is now is Sexist Man’s account of the Creation. You know that he’s not going to play second-fiddle to a mere woman!
If a feminist had written the original Bible, they probably would have told the story from the perspective that I have just suggested. But that is not the only published version either. One Hebrew legend contends that Eve was not even the first, but Adam’s third “wife”! His first main squeeze was named Lilith, and this version of the story says that they both were created from dust and at the same time. But Lilith didn’t enjoy having sex with Adam because he wouldn’t let her be on top. (Already the dominatrix.) So she left him. Then God created another woman for Adam out of the dust while Adam watched, and he was so repulsed by it all that he could never get into her, and he flatly rejected her. (Shades of Bride of Frankenstein, huh?) So it was back to the old drawing board. This time God put the squeamish Adam to sleep while “He” fashioned Eve from one of his ribs. This he could live with, as Eve was “flesh of [his] flesh” and she was a real Woman, taken out of Man, you see.
But before any of these alleged women, when Adam was still all by himself, God got the notion, “It is not good that Man should be alone. I will make a help meet [sic] for him.“ But God could have just as easily created another man to be Adam’s companion and life partner, if that was all he was meant to be. By making it a fertile woman suggests that God’s primary purpose all along was eventual procreation.
By the way, do you know where the name Adam comes from? Adham is the Hebrew word for man, which is from adhamah, meaning earth or clay, hence, of mortal clay. Eve is derived from the Hebrew hayyah, another word for life. I contend that Adam and Eve, therefore, are merely a representation of humankind—metaphorical personifications, not actual persons that ever lived. Many of the characters in the Bible have names that seem too coincidentally-prophetic for them to be real. I shall cite other examples as we go along.
For the sake of argument and discussion, let’s explore the story further. God told Eve, “…Thy desire shall be to thy (common law) husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Now that’s a sexist male attitude, isn’t it? Wait, there’s more! You will notice that it was Eve who was beguiled by the Serpent to disobey the Lord and partake of the Forbidden Fruit. The lesson in that is that women have no will power and they cannot be trusted. That’s why they need a stronger-willed, trustworthy man to be in charge over them, you see. God’s order to them in itself was merely a test of trust. “He” told them that if they ate from the taboo tree or even touched it, they would surely die. But the Serpent assured Eve, “Oh, poppycock! You won’t die, Miss Thing. Instead, your eyes will be opened and you will know good and evil.”
So Eve decided to listen to the Serpent rather than to that old killjoy God. And after they had eaten the Forbidden Fruit (the Bible never mentions an apple, by the way), it suddenly dawned on them that they were naked, and they got all ashamed and hid themselves. Ashamed of what, I ask you? Hid themselves from whom? Each other? The other nekkid animals? God’s already seen you, no need to hide from “Him”! How silly is that? But, wait a minute! Get this. Due to the fact that clothing had not yet been invented, nudity as a concept didn’t even exist yet. Naked means to be without clothes. But how can you be without something that doesn’t yet exist? So how could they possibly know what nakedness is? Don’t you see that this is somebody’s way of instilling the human concept of modesty into all of us and to justify the reason for us to cover our bare bodies? And what is this “die” thing? Did God explain to them what death is when He threatened them with it? While they were checking out each other’s naked bodies, did they also notice that neither of them had a navel? (“What’s a navel?”)
That so-called Serpent, by the way and by some accounts, was an advocate of Satan in male human form (so Adam was not the only man in the Garden at that time), until God, as a punishment for his beguilement, condemned him forever to slither along the ground on his belly. So that’s how we got the lowly snake. It’s like those Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling—“How the Camel Got His Hump,” “How the Leopard Got His Spots”–in fact, the book of Genesis itself is merely a series of “Just So” stories–or the Greek and Roman myths that explain how certain things came to be.
Arachne was a skilled weaver who was turned into a spider, and the self-absorbed Narcissus was turned into a beautiful flower, for example. The Greeks’ version of Eve and the Downfall of Man is in the guise of Pandora (meaning “all gifts”) as the first mortal woman, who opened a box, that had been entrusted to her by the head god, Zeus, that contained every manner of evil, which she released onto the world. The only thing left in the box was Hope. I wonder, though, why Hope was in a box filled with Evil and vices?
But getting back to the matters at hand, my take on the story is that I think the Serpent is treated unfairly and even now still receives a bad rep. What did he do that was so terrible? He only told Eve the truth about the Tree of Knowledge. What he said would happen is exactly what happened. She didn’t have to take his suggestion. It was God who told the boldfaced lie, telling them that they would die if they partook of the Tree. They didn’t, did they? At least, not right then.
The Serpent actually did them and all of us a favor. Whereas everything happens for a reason, if Adam and Eve had not done what they did, they would have been doomed forever to exist in their innocent, ignorant bliss, never experiencing real life as we know it and never experiencing hard work and personal accomplishments, sex or the enjoyment and fulfillment of raising a family. So I think we should thank the Serpent, or Snake-in-the-Grass, for inspiring humankind to endure and thrive.
Now, here is another oversight about this whole scenario. I said earlier that some accounts of the story have the Serpent in human form. But there are others who believe it was in its common reptilian form. If that is the case, then what you have here is a talking snake, people! Did they ever think about that, that this alleged Serpent actually spoke to Eve? And was quite eloquent and intelligent, besides! But then, they had “God” speaking directly to them as well. Some people will believe anything. And that has nothing to do with faith either. That’s just stupidly gullible illogicality.
I have found that different editions of the Bible say different things, too. My own personal copy is “the authorized King James Version” and claims to be “translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.” Oh, really? Well, Genesis 3:16 of this particular edition reads (as punishment for disobeying the Lord), “Unto the woman [God] said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…;” Why should procreation be sorrowful? But the Catholic Bible renders this same verse as, “Unto the woman he said, ‘I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing…’” and the Episcopal Bible has, “…I will greatly increase the pain of childbirth…”
Those three passages don’t all mean exactly the same thing. It sounds as if everyone is paraphrasing. And those are not the only translations either. Who knows what the original Hebrew actually said? But even that is subject to speculative scrutiny. How can the pain of childbirth be increased, and what does she have to compare it to? “Ooh, this hurts much worse than the last one did!” or otherwise intensified when Eve has never experienced it in the first place? Unless she really did bear Adam. (Aha!)
What about this “Just So” story? You know that bulge of laryngeal cartilage in front of the throat, called the “Adam’s apple,” which is commonly prominent in men but rarely so in women? Again from the male’s account, you understand, deceitful Eve swallowed her piece of the “apple” without a trace, whereas good old misled Adam was too open and honest to hide his guilt, therefore his piece got stuck in his throat. Please! Here is another. “Well,” said Adam, “She started to bleed again. This happens every month or so.” “So, where is she?” asked God. “Well, she went down to the river to wash up,” replied Adam. “Damn,” said God, “Now I’ll never get that smell out of the fish!”
In Chapter 4 of Genesis, after Adam and Eve had their first two sons and Cain had killed his brother Abel, as a punishment Cain was deported to dwell in “the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Who deported him, by the way? The INS? You’ll notice, too, that they were already into arbitrary, imposed punishments for their misdeeds as well as minor indiscretions, another human practice. But by his own parents? He didn’t get a jury trial, did he? Did Cain pose a dangerous threat to society? What society?! If it was God who sent Cain away, why would he even comply? They ignored God’s wishes before, so why listen to Him now? And too, who determined that murder was a punishable crime when it had never been committed before? Maybe Cain’s leaving was his own decision, out of shame or remorse, perhaps. He might have been an adult by that time, and it is customary for children to leave home at some point anyway. He was apparently rebellious, so why stay where you are not happy?
The fact is, there was no actual place called Nod. It’s merely a metaphor. Nod is the Hebrew word for “wandering,” which suggests that Cain condemned himself to roam the land for the rest of his days. So anywhere that he settled or traveled to, he would be in the “land of Nod,” you see. Cain goes on to say, “I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me.” Uh, whom did he expect to meet? And then, too, how many times could he be slain? Cain even “builded a city,” all by himself apparently, since he was all alone. And too, where did he get the materials with which to build this alleged city?
But get this. Eventually Cain “knew his wife and she conceived.” What?! But wait! The chapter goes on to say that Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, who in turn had a son named Enos. Now, who are Cain’s wife and Enos’ mother, please? If Eve was the only woman on earth at that time, where did those other women come from?! If they were Lilith and that other reject, the book never says so anywhere. That little incongruity alone is enough to make me question all the rest of it.
The rest of Chapter 4 and the next are all about who begat whom, nine generations after Adam, all the way down to Noah, who was Methuselah’s grandson, by the way, and mentions several women’s names as the wives and daughters of Cain and Seth and their subsequent lots. Although the book mentions Seth as their only other son after Abel’s death, certain Biblical scholars have theorized that Adam and Eve had several more children, some of them most likely girls. This would explain the existence of the other women that Adam’s sons were “married” to. But that would make them their very own sisters, or even their daughters, which would again involve incest!
If we are to accept this only one original Man and Woman theory, then we must accept that there had to have been some incest between mother and son and siblings for subsequent procreation to occur. Do they think that if they don’t admit it right out, nobody will ever notice the oversight? How and why do people ignore the logic and obviousness of the situation and instead just accept and perpetuate such fantasy storytelling as truth? I had the good fortune of visiting Israel in 2008 and performing with the Collegiate Chorale and Israel Philharmonic. While shopping at a tourist gift shop in Nazareth, I spied this preposterous poster for sale: the Adam and Eve Family Tree! It traced the couple’s lineage all the way down to Jesus Christ! I regret now that I didn’t buy it, just to have as a souvenir novelty item and conversation piece.
They talk about weeks and months and years as if they were following a written calendar. They related natural phenomena in non-scientific terms that they could understand. Like, since they didn’t know about meteors and comets and such, they would describe the appearance of one as “a flaming chariot across the sky,” for example. Maybe the wheel that Ezekiel saw “way up in de middle of de air” was really a flying saucer (or perhaps, a runaway Frisbee?). I hope you don’t deem extraterrestrial visitation to be only a modern occurrence.
I don’t know why people take the Bible so literally. The Old Testament, especially, is just a bunch of fables like the classical myths. As I suggested before, the stories and characters were written to explain and justify why things are the way they are, and so much of it is speculation, symbolism and metaphor. Take the Genesis account of the Creation itself, for instance. It is not related in scientific terms because the authors were totally ignorant of scientific matters. Certain words used aren’t even valid. How can they say that the earth was created in just six days when they didn’t even know what a day is (the time it takes the earth to rotate once on its axis), let alone a year (the time it takes the earth to make a complete revolution around the sun)?
The word day was used to represent an indefinite period of time. It could have meant a few years, several centuries or many millennia, for all we know. The third and fifth verses read, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light…And God called the light Day and the darkness Night.” (Now “day” means something else.) That was the First “Day.” So God is already naming things and using English words, to boot! That means that the English language must have existed during the time of the Creation.
Then later on during the Fourth Day, it reads, “And God made two great lights; the greater light (presumably the sun) to rule the day and the lesser light (the moon?) to rule the night.” So, a couple of questions. If the sun was just now created during this Fourth Day, what light was that mentioned back there in the third verse—some temporary work light until God could get the sun up and running? Then, too, without the sun, what was determining those first three “days”? We now know that the moon does not have its own light but gets it from the sun, so what are these “two great lights”? That author obviously knew nothing about modern astronomy.
“And on the Seventh Day, God rested from ‘His’ great work.” So, who was minding the store while God was taking Its siesta? And then how long was that particular “day”? The Universe couldn’t have just shut down indefinitely while God was taking a work break. And why would the Almighty God require rest anyway? It’s God! It doesn’t need to rest. Don’t you see that as somebody’s way to explain what a week is and to justify the Sabbath? And since Creation is an ever-ongoing project, why hasn’t God ever had to take a rest again since that one and only time?
So let’s talk about these so-called “years” that the Bible is always referring to with regard to people’s ages. They didn’t know what a year is, so how can that term be valid? Again, why do people take everything so literally? For example, it is said that the oldest man, Methuselah, lived 969 years. I don’t believe that for a moment. Many of those Biblical characters lived many hundreds of years. How could that be? Now they could have kept track of the passage of time by noticing the cycles of the moon. So what they referred to as a year might be really just a month. 969 months, then, is equivalent to 80 of our years plus nine months. That makes a lot more sense, as 80 would have been considered very old, since the average lifespan in those days was probably 40 to 50 years. In general, people tend to live much longer nowadays then they did long ago. We have medications and remedies for most everything and medical assistance to keep us alive, where in Biblical times and after, people died from the most minor of ailments. So a person who lived to be 80 and beyond was considered pretty remarkable.
Also, the Hebrews who were said to have wandered the desert for forty years, as a punishment for disrespecting the Lord after He had led them out of bondage in Egypt. We now know that it could have been only three years and four months, which is still a long time but not near as much as forty. That’s three generations. What would they have been doing all of that time? Three and some years makes a lot more probable sense, doesn’t it? That is, if it ever happened at all.
I have some questions about the Noah’s Ark story, too, and there are discrepancies. It is generally regarded that Noah (whose name means “peace” in Hebrew) brought two of every creature onto the Ark, so says Chapter 6 of Genesis. But in the very next chapter, we get a different account. The clean beasts are to be taken in by seven, and only those who are not clean shall go in by two. One verse says that it rained for forty days and nights, but another one says that it was 150 days. One verse says Noah sent out a dove after the rain stopped, and another says that it was a raven. So you see, they can’t keep their stories consistent even from one passage to another! What is a clean beast as opposed to an unclean one anyway, and who decided which was which?
How were the animals summoned onto the boat? Did Noah and his boys just say, “Come on down, y’all!” and they all willingly came a-running from wherever they were? But how about all the insects and crawling things and all the different kinds of birds there are? How did they get them all aboard? How could any vessel, no matter how large it is, hold that many animals at one time? I suppose that the sea creatures all had to fend for themselves, huh? There is no mention of the dinosaurs being there. What about all of them? Did they only come along later in history? But from where? In fact, we don’t really know for sure what animals were in existence at that time. All animals, too, are the result of evolution, just like we are, and they all didn’t happen at once.
What did they all eat the whole time? Every creature depends on some other creature for its food supply. There must have been those on board that are natural prey for each other. So did the cheetahs, for example, refrain from attacking the gazelles all that time? But what about all the herbivores aboard? Since there was no vegetation, due to the flood, wouldn’t they all have to eat meat? Or did Noah gather up enough grass and veggies to last the duration? One giraffe alone consumes 140 pounds of foliage daily. How did they get along, all cooped up together for so long? What about animals that require a certain environment or climate for their survival? For example, were there polar bears and penguins right along with the armadillos, elephants and kangaroos?
What was the plumbing and waste disposal situation like? Can you imagine the constant stench up in there? By the time they got off the boat, there would have been a lot more on board than they started with, since many creatures mate frequently and have short gestation periods. Opossums, for one, breed every 13 days! And since their landing site, Mount Ararat, is supposed to be in Turkey somewhere, how did all the animals get from there to the other continents, like North and South America, Africa and Australia? Or was the world just one big land mass at the time, before the oceans were formed to create the separate continents? Inquiring minds want to know. I question everything.
Did you ever consider how long it would have to rain in order to flood the entire earth and drown all its inhabitants? I think it would take a lot longer than six weeks (or 5 months). How do you flood a desert, for example? The water that falls there would all be absorbed by the sand. Come on, people, use your brains! Whose account is this story, anyway? Did Noah or someone in his family keep a journal? Let us consider this story in a modern-day setting. In the 1998 TV-movie Noah, Tony Danza portrays a building contractor who is commissioned by an angelic emissary to build an Ark in the middle of the Arizona desert. Once he has accepted the request and takes up the task, of course everybody in town, including his family and friends, all ridicule him, shun him, call him crazy and even try to thwart his efforts. A desert flood? How preposterous! But when it starts to rain and it looks as if it is not going to let up anytime soon, here they all come a-running, wanting to get onto the boat. He doesn’t seem so crazy now, does he? People tend never to want to believe anything until after the fact.
The story was tackled once again in the more recent Evan Almighty (2006) with similar responses. The reason that God gave Noah, in the Bible version, why “He” decided to destroy the world, was because people had gotten to be so wicked and sinful, He wanted to erase the slate and start all over again. Then it happened again with Sodom and Gomorrah, but that didn’t solve the problem either. So I guess God has learned His lesson, that humankind is basically a sinful lot and cannot be made completely righteous. He also came to the conclusion that we have come up with numerous ways to destroy ourselves without any interference from Him!
But why was Noah singled out for divine salvation? He and his family could not have been the only ones in the entire world who were so good and sinless that they didn’t deserve to perish like everybody else. We are still bombarded with genocidal disasters all the time–floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, storms, fatal epidemics, etc.–but no one gets warned ahead of time so that they can get the hell out of Dodge and save themselves. What made Noah’s family so special? I think that he was created as an example, merely for the purpose of telling the story.
Our next “Just So” Bible story attempts to explain why we earthlings all speak many different languages. The surviving generations after the Flood were of one language and speech. They all somehow settled in one place, a plain called Shinar and became governed by a mighty hunter named Nimrod (meaning “rebel“), who just happened to be Noah’s great-grandson. Nimrod talked the people into building a tower whose top would reach up to Heaven. “And the Lord came down (!) to see the city and the tower…” (What, He couldn’t see it from where He was?) and took it as a personal affront to Him, I guess, because He decided that they were free to do anything they wanted to on anybody’s word. So instead of destroying them all again, He scattered the people all over the earth and confounded their tongues so that they could not understand one another‘s speech. But how did they understand even their own, having never spoken it before?
What irritates me about these Biblical accounts is that they constantly make these preposterous statements and then don’t bother to expound upon them. They just go on to something else. Why even mention such monumental situations and then not explain anything? This isn’t a condensed Reader’s Digest, or if I will pardon the expression, “Cliffs Notes.” I want details. This is a big deal. I have many questions. First of all, what was the one common language that they all initially spoke? And then what were the languages that they took on to speaking? Some scholars have put the number of different languages at 72.
The Bible makes everything sound so instantaneous. I would think that it takes a long time to invent a new language. They have to be organized in some way. There is vocabulary to consider, plus rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, pronunciation and syntax have to be established, and then these guidelines have to be learned and then passed on to the persons who deign to speak it. But why go to all that trouble? By some accounts there are more than 6,900 spoken languages in the world. That was a whole lot of unnecessary work for a lot of people. “Confounded their tongues?” How stupid is that? Plus, how did God “scatter the people all over the earth”? Did He say, “Hey, y’all! Now git!” and they just willingly up and dispersed to who-knows-where on His word? Are you buying any of this nonsense?
Another thing that bothers me about all those Biblical accounts is how vindictive they make out God to be. God supposedly put humankind on the earth to live our lives as we see fit. But He seems to take issue with everything we do. He told us to go forth and multiply, but then when we went about having rampant sex with each other, He deemed us sinful and immoral, therefore subject to punitive destruction. Why give us all these privileges and then turn right around and take them away from us? “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” The Lord is an Indian giver.
How about the Biblical account of the Exodus? Who said that the Jews were the “Chosen People”? It must have been the Jews themselves. They spoke as if God were their own personal possession. They even referred to It as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses.” (the name Abraham means the “father of a multitude,“ by the way.) According to them, there was considerable favoritism going on. Why would God, whom we all consider to be an equal opportunity Overseer, take sides with his Children? The Hebrews were oppressed, in bondage, and they were all such good people, they had to be helped out of their unfortunate situation, while the Egyptians, on the other hand, were all evil, powerful, and had to be punished for their tyranny and misdeeds. So Moses’ God delivered “His People” safely to the Promised Land and destroyed anybody who interfered with that goal.
Now since I was not there to witness it and have only the movies to depict how it was, I don’t understand the slavery part of the Hebrews’ situation. According to films like The Ten Commandments (1956), the so-called slaves seemed to have free rein to do as they pleased. They had their own private homes to go to after work every day, for instance, and they apparently owned personal property, judging from all the stuff they took with them when they left. And why did they all have to leave the country anyway? They could have just stayed where they were and just refused to work for the Pharaoh any more, for no pay. When they all left, the Egyptians had to fend for themselves, so they could have done that anyway, even if the Hebrews had decided to remain there with them.
Some Biblical scholars have determined the possibility that the ten Plagues visited upon the land could actually have taken place. There is a plausible, logical explanation for everything that happened. This is the T given by “National Geographic,” which I found to be rather interesting. The scientists say that it was natural disasters which caused all the trouble, but the Bible purists insist that they were caused by “the Hand of God.” I believe that both theories could be valid. It is just the relating of the story in which the details differ.
You see, around 3,000 years ago in Egypt, during the reign of Ramses II, there occurred some major climate conditions that created a chain of events in that part of the world. As a result of drought and high temperatures, at some point the Nile dried up quite a bit and produced toxic red algae that turned the water red, or “to blood.” This, in turn, forced a large number of frogs to come on land to escape the poison lake. When they died out, that left the land vulnerable to a vast number of flying insects, which the frogs had previously kept their proliferation under control.
It’s known that many insects carry communicable diseases, so their bites and stings subsequently brought illness to the people and livestock, including boils and other skin conditions. About the same time, a nearby volcano had exploded, spewing billions of tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. The side effects of that is what caused the raining, fiery hailstones and also the presence of the plague of locusts. The volcanic ash also could have blocked out the sunlight, causing the plague of darkness over the land.
What about the final plague, the killing of all the firstborn? How was that accomplished? Well, it seems that a poison fungus got into the grain supplies. So the bread and other food products made from this grain turned out to be the real culprit. You see, in Egyptian households, it was customary for the firstborn to partake of the family meal before everyone else. So they were the first to be fatally poisoned.
Now according to the Hebrews’ version of the story, the Plagues visited on the country seemed to affect only the Egyptians. Even the “Angel of Death,” in the form of a mist in the movies, killed all the firstborn in the land, but was instructed by God to “pass over” the Hebrews’ homes and target only the Egyptians. How could that be? That sounds just like our modern AIDS virus—you know, the early one that was so smart and discriminating that it targeted only homosexual men and drug addicts? But since the Pharaoh was the one in charge, holding the Hebrews captive, why didn’t God just deal with him directly instead of subjecting the entire land to Its pestilence. Why punish everybody for one person’s transgressions? It wasn’t the common Egyptian citizen who was keeping people enslaved.
Then the fleeing Hebrews made it through the Red Sea okay (somebody has come up with a practical explanation of that as well), but when the Egyptian soldiers followed in pursuit, God killed them for their effort. Now what’s up with that? Even the innocent horses all were drowned, who were not at all responsible for the Hebrews’ prior situation. Why would God take sides like that? Aren’t the Egyptians God’s People, too, just like the Hebrews are? I think that there is some biased storytelling there, don’t you? That’s why I would contend that what happened (if it really did happen) was a result of natural occurrences and not somebody’s personal vendetta.
This whole scenario is just too fantastic to be taken seriously anyway. If somebody told this story today as something that happened just recently, who would believe it? “Really? You mean to tell me that the sea just parted and created a wall of water on two sides, and the ground was completely dry and hard so that you could walk through? And there was a pillar of fire on shoreside that just sprang up out of nowhere that the military troops could not get around, and it hovered there indefinitely? Wow, that‘s amazing! That must have been a whole lot of fire!“ But just because it’s in the Bible, with no eyewitness proof, we’re supposed to think it’s all true.
And what did those Hebrew refugees eat the whole time that they were wandering around in the desert all those years? Did they not starve because of all the sand which is there? (Sandwiches. Get it?) Well, they had a little thing called manna which helped them out. But what exactly was this “manna from heaven”? What did it look like? What form did it come in? Was it kosher? My dictionary doesn’t even give any kind of description, but it says that it is a Hebrew word meaning “what is it?“ This is what the Bible says about it, however. The 11th chapter of Numbers reads, “The manna was like coriander seed and the color of bdelium (a tree gum resin similar to myrrh). When the dew fell upon the camp at night, the manna fell upon it. And the people went about and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in a mortar, baked it in pans and made cakes of it, and the taste of it was of fresh oil.”
So they are saying that these people had cooking utensils and ovens out there in the desert, and this miraculous foodstuff just rained down from the sky as often as they needed it, huh? But how did they know that this strange substance was edible? I mean, I wouldn’t voluntarily consume some UFO (unidentified falling object) that fell from the sky. Well, I suppose I would if I were hungry enough. And where is the stuff now when we need it? There are still all these places in the world where people are starving to death from lack of food. Why doesn’t God provide Its manna for those food-deprived nations? Where was it during the famine in Ireland, for example? You know, on second thought, maybe those Old Testament Israelites were the Chosen People! So then were they also the people chosen for mass elimination by the Nazis during the Third Reich? Nu?
So, after all that Moses had done for God and His people, getting them out of bondage and safely delivering them all to their new home, he was not allowed to enter Canaan with them. The Bible (Deuteronomy 32:51) does not say exactly what Moses did that was so unforgivable. It just says that he “trespassed” against God, whatever that means. Maybe it was because he killed all those people when he threw the Commandment tablets down at them! He was guilty of murder earlier on as well. In fact, but this was just in The Ten Commandments movie, when God is “writing” the tablets, and when He gets to “Thou shalt not kill,” He “points” right at Moses. Now considering all the people that God had just killed and all those whose deaths He is responsible for on a regular, daily basis, how dare He point His ol’ fiery finger at anybody else! It’s “Do as I say, not as I do.“ So, God is a hypocrite, too, it appears! I mean, isn’t death itself God’s doing? “He’s gone to meet his Maker.“ Don’t you mean, He’s gone to meet his Killer?!
Anyway, Moses was ordered to stay behind, and when he eventually died, in Moab, the Scriptures say, God Himself (right!) buried him somewhere in the valley, where exactly nobody knows. Then Moses’ faithful protégé, Joshua, was assigned to deliver his horde–well, really, to invade Canaan and take it over, to kill all the people (including children and animals) already living there and establish the land as their own. This was on God’s order, by the way.
The History Channel on cable TV produced a well-received event called “The Bible” in 2013. The Bible is commonly referred to as “the Good Book.“ Well, I’m sorry, but according to that series, I could find hardly anything good about it. If the producers’ intent was to get people to embrace the Bible and learn affirming, positive messages from it, then they failed miserably, at least for me. Every episode from beginning to end features primarily warring and killing. Noah’s flood kills a lot of people, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, a bunch of Egyptians perish during the Exodus, the Hebrews, in turn, kill all the people in Jericho as they are taking it over for themselves, they later are in an ongoing war with the Philistines, Samson kills a bunch of them, Kings Saul and David kills a bunch of them, then the Babylonians come along and start killing the Jews again.
This isn’t just voice-over narration either. The senseless murder of millions of people is graphically depicted scene after scene. I’m watching this thing (mostly out of curiosity) thinking, does the killing ever stop? Is that all we humans are about? But the interesting as well as disturbing fact about it all is that most of the killing was ordered by God Himself! The characters, by their own admission, are acting on the Word of God. So, this so-called benevolent, merciful God, whom we are supposed to honor and obey, according to the Bible, is also a dispassionate condoner of war and genocide.
There is a passage in Psalm 137 (author unspecified) that seems to be condoning and glorifying human sacrifice. It says that we shall be rewarded and happy if we take our little children and dash them against the stones! What?! If that is not what it means, then why don’t they say what they really mean?
So what words are the Biblemongers actually abiding by? The old prophets didn’t speak English. The Old Testament was originally written all in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. The version of the Bible with which we are now familiar has gone through numerous translations. And as with all translations, they are never absolutely literal but often paraphrased, as I demonstrated earlier, and everybody has their own version. It’s like the parlor game Telephone, whereas one person whispers something into the next player’s ear and that person tells the next person and so on, and by the time it reaches the end of the line, it’s nothing like the original message.
In I Love You, Phillip Morris (2010) Jim Carrey tells his secretary a joke, which then circulates around the office, and by the time it gets back to Jim at the end of the workday, it’s a totally different joke. Nothing is ever retold verbatim. It’s always subject to revision and reinterpretation. So it is, too, with multiple translations. But no matter how good a translation it is, it’s still the original writer’s one-person opinion.
Who translated the Bible? Why, heterosexual white men, of course! I would think that their opinions and outlook on life are going to be biased, at least. The King James version, for example, which is a very commonly-used edition, was translated from the Greek by blatant male chauvinists. King James I (who was actually a “queen”), and others of his era, had a very low regard for women, in general, but Bible thumpers are always quoting their bigoted comments. The Bible’s true authorship is rather a moot point with me anyway, as I am not at all convinced that any of it is true, as far as the characters and events related therein go. Who is the biographer? Who was actually there when all that stuff was happening, and then wrote it all down and lived long enough to tell about it?
Actually, some Biblical scholars have accredited Moses as the author of the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch. It is the basis of the Hebrew Torah as well. So right there you know that anything that happened before or after Moses’ time must be all made up or at least speculation. When did Moses record his account, by the way? It must have been while he was in Moab, waiting to die. If he instead related the stories verbally, to whom did he tell it? Might all of the people mentioned throughout the Bible, at least the Old Testament, be made up? Maybe none of them ever existed at all, which brings me back to my original contention that the Bible is merely a book of fables and myths.
Historian John Boswell made an in-depth study of the likelihood that supposed condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible do not exist in the original texts at all, but are actually the result of later translators imposing the prejudices of their times onto the translations. Boswell has written, “In spite of misleading English translations which may imply the contrary, no extant text or manuscript, Hebrew, Greek, Syriac or Aramaic, contains the word ‘homosexual’. Of course there are ways to get around the lack of a specific word in a language, and an action may be condemned without being named, but it is doubtful in this particular case whether a concept of homosexual behavior as a class existed at all.” So, there, you people who like to cite that famous passage in Leviticus (20:13) which outlaws homosexual cohabitation.
If you want to buy that convenient Biblical condemnation, perhaps you should also condone some other sanctioned no-nos from the same source. In Leviticus and other passages of the Pentateuch, it says that women are not ever to cut their hair, her hair being a “woman’s glory.” Now, what woman living today has never cut her hair or shaved her legs or armpits or consider such actions wrong or sinful? Check this one out. “A man shall not go near a woman while she is menstruating.” How can something like that be avoided? How do you know who’s having their period, unless they tell you, and what man would consciously stay away from his beloved wife or girlfriend for several days every few weeks? That same chapter also outlaws any instance of adultery, which is then punishable by death. Think about how many people, male and female, the world over, has succumbed to that prevalent infraction.
So, you see, it’s not just we gays who are Biblically damned. But wait! These Bible quoters are not even being true to their convictions. They are not taking the passage literally as written. What it actually says is, “If a man lieth with another man as he would a woman…” It doesn’t specifically say that they’re having sexual intercourse with each other. They are reading more into it. A common euphemism for coitus is “sleep,“ as in, “Did you two sleep together?“ But people can actually sleep together without having sex. I have done it on many occasions. Maybe, then too, just to lie with a person is as innocent as it sounds. It is common for people to reduce everything down to sex. One can redefine anything to suit their own particular purposes. And do! For instance, when some states recently legalized marijuana and gay marriage at the same time, it gives that passage new meaning. “If a man lies with another man, he should be stoned”! Oh, okay! See, they’ve been interpreting it wrong all this time!
Chapter 11 of Leviticus has a detailed rundown of which animals God’s people should and should not eat, the criteria depending on the beast’s hoof formation and whether it chews a cud or not! Sea creatures that have fins and scales are okay and all those that do not, like shellfish, are out. It goes on to tell us which birds and which insects we are allowed to eat. For example, we are encouraged to eat locusts, grasshoppers and beetles, but “all other flying, creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.” What?! Well, I for one, consider it my own business what I put into my body. How dare “God” or anybody else tell us what we can or cannot eat! And who living today actually follows such a dietary edict?
I have told you how I question everything. During one of our daily tours in Israel (we were in Jaffa this day), our tour guide, Mark, was telling us some legendary tale about St. Peter receiving some kind of cloth from God which had pictures of animals on it which could be processed into food or some such nonsense. God told Peter that it was okay to eat any of the animals on the cloth, but Peter objected, saying that the animals on there were unclean, and God kept trying to assure him that they were not. So I asked Mark, ’Who told Peter that certain animals were unclean in the first place?’ “Well, God did.” ’But God just told him that they were not unclean. So who is he going to listen to, this God or the other one?’ Mark had to admit, “I think you have a point there.” I was just trying to get him to think about was he was telling us, instead of just repeating what he has been taught and believing what he is saying to be true. Mark related several statements to us that day that have no basis of proof or truth to them.
The Bible says that it is against sacred law to touch the skin of a dead pig. So not only are pork eaters of the world condemned, but so is everyone who has ever handled a football! It even says that it is all right to sell your children into slavery. There is something about a man’s planting two different crops next to each other being punishable by public stoning! Common modern-day practices like birth control, adultery and even masturbation are outlawed in the Bible. Who is entirely guiltless of any of these “abominations”? And why don’t they take issue with all the killing and mayhem going on all over the place? If they want to cite abomination, I think that would be it.
Maybe the confusion lies with the actual meaning of abomination. The context of the word as it is used there refers to actions that were culturally “inappropriate” at the time. Please realize that our standards for decency and morality have changed considerably since Biblical times. I wish that some people wouldn’t give the word such a strict connotation. “That’s an abomination. You shall be put to death!“ What, for having this shrimp cocktail? For shaving my girlfriend’s armpits while she‘s on her period? For playing touch football with my son? For lying down with my male friend as I would my sister?! Gee, you’re so strict!
According to the Bible (Genesis 17:9-14), it is God who sanctioned male-child circumcision. But of course, if you have read my Oh, God, You Devil! essay, you know that it was Father Abraham who came up with this barbaric tradition. It is described as “the seal of God.” But it has occurred to me, if God does not want us to have our foreskins, why are all we men born with them then? Our having foreskins is Its doing. Why would God command us to mutilate ourselves that way? Does It want us all to endure some kind of blood and carnal sacrifice in Its honor after the fact? I rather doubt it.
This is how it is justified by some. “Circumcision imprints into a man’s body a lifelong sign that Israel will be perpetuated through him, that his seed, passing through the circumcised portal, will create children who will in turn be pledged to the Jews.” What?! You’re going to cut off part of my dick for that?! I don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about, I’m certainly not going to subject my kid to such an ordeal on that stupid premise. What does passing one’s seed have to do with whether he’s circumcised or not? I can pass semen and whatever else through my uncut penis without any problem. That is a totally senseless explanation, in my opinion. So all those non-procreating, homosexual and/or celibate Jewish men were circumcised as babies for nothing, then. But then, non-Jewish faiths as well have taken up that same practice for their children, when it has nothing to do with them. “Well, it’s in the Bible, so we have to abide by it.” Not!
What these so-called “Christians” have not seemed to acknowledge is that Christianity was founded in the name of Jesus Christ, who is a New Testament personage and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Old Testament. All their arguments and points-of-view that they cite from Leviticus and the other Old Testament books are not at all Jesus-inspired or condoned. If you claim to be a Protestant Gentile, why do you adhere to and swear by the sentiments in the Torah? That has nothing to do with you.
So if we conclude that God did not write the original Scriptures, and we know that Moses couldn’t have been the only alleged author, who did then? God can’t write, per se, despite Charlton Heston’s claim in The Ten Commandments that the Tablets were written by “the Finger of God.” (The middle finger?) Men wrote the Bible, via inspiration from God, or so they said. (I wonder what language God speaks?) But if you think about it, everything that anybody writes is God-inspired. All human thought comes from God, doesn’t it? So who appointed all those so-called prophets and scribes as the official spokesmen for God? I sure didn’t. Any of us could do the same thing. This very essay that you are reading right now is completely inspired by God. My God told me what to write and what to say. But who would deem it holy and consider it the ultimate gospel? But why not? I mean, people know me. I’m trustworthy, intelligent. Why shouldn’t my philosophy of life be taken seriously and being just as valid as those other anonymous old farts?
An entire religious sect, the largest worldwide and with 800 million followers, was established from Quotations from the Works of Chairman Mao Tse-tung. It is the main text of Maoism and the second most widely distributed book in the world. Similarly, Confucianism is based on the philosophic writings of Confucius. And I learned a while ago that our very own Thomas Jefferson wrote and published his own rewritten account of the New Testament. He denied accusations that he was an atheist, he just didn’t buy Jesus’ purported divinity. So he wrote his own version, entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, making Jesus a normal, mortal man who did not perform miracles and other fantastic public displays. Jefferson chose to concentrate more on Jesus’ teachings and embraced the true “Christian” philosophy without the supernatural trappings.
At least Confucius, Mao and Jefferson were real people who lived during modern times. None of us living ever knew any of those old Biblical prophets. What are their credentials? Why should we govern our lives based on the claim that the writings of people we don’t even know were “inspired by God”? Well, so what if they were? Then so is mine and so is yours.
Don’t you think that most of that scriptural advice and counsel is a bit outdated and obsolete by now? They didn’t know as much about the world as we do now. An encyclopedia, for instance (which is inspired by God, by the way), is revised every few years, because the world is constantly changing, and we keep learning new things. New amendments are added to our U.S. Constitution when they affect current events and the changing laws. I often change my mind about some things that I write; I have that option. One’s free will is forever mutable. So why do people like to cling onto that antiquated, antediluvian Bible that hasn’t changed its views since it was first written? We are the products of our own modern times, and our lives are very different than they were in Biblical times. We don’t build things out of gopherwood anymore and don’t use the cubit as a standard measurement, for example.
I mentioned before that I suspect the Old Testament to be mostly myths and fables with much paraphrasing and speculation about events that may or may not have happened so long ago. I learned that almost all of the New Testament books, too, except the four remaining Gospels, were written 25 to 40 years after Christ, by Paul who never even met Jesus, and in Greek, a language that Jesus may not have even spoken!
When I visited Mt. Beatitudes in Israel, the place of the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” it occurred to me to pose the question, how do we have an account of what exactly was said on that occasion? Was there someone there writing down everything that Jesus said, or did Matthew or someone else happen to remember his entire speech and was able to recreate it, word for word, many years later? There was no recording devices back then. In my Bible the sermon takes up five whole columns. That’s a lot to recall. And even for those who witnessed the event, were all those people spread out all over the place able to hear every word that was said? There was no amplification. Could Jesus project his voice that well? Monty Python spoofed that in Life of Brian (1979). From a distance away somebody asked, “Blessed are the cheese makers?”
The books of the New Testament that you Christians hold so dear are merely fabricated propaganda created by St. Paul in order to curry favor with the Roman Catholic Church. My point is, we should not take anything in the Bible literally or at face value or trust the validity of the quotations and events therein or the accepted translations, for that matter.
[Related articles: A Critique of Catholicism; Heaven and Hell; Jesus H. Christ!; Nativity Redux; Oh, God, You Devil!; Sin and Forgiveness; The Ten Commandments]