# 100, Jewish Misuse of the Bible After the Holocaust

We must face and accept each moment and learn from it whether it be good or bad. By doing this we grow spiritually, because like God we are working all things together for good that we may love God as he loves us. (Rom. 8:28). This is the supreme good. To successfully do this we must not judge the moment, for that wastes energy that we need to evolve spiritually and do good for ourselves and others.
Jesus taught us to live this way in the Sermon on the Mount. If we do not do it, then in the tragically bad moments we will not learn from them and build the wonderful good that we could. The Jewish Holocaust of WWII was a tragically bad time. But if one judges it instead of accepting it in unity and peace to further our spiritual evolution we regress and go deeper into our past traditions and become trapped by them and self destruct.
I believe this is the case with the ultra orthodox or fundamentalist Jews after the Holocaust. They have regressed stringently into their past traditions, at least some of them, and they are creating self destruction for themselves and for others.
In the early twentieth century, the original Zionists seeking to build a homeland for Jews in Palestine did so by diplomacy, working and improving the land and fighting when they needed to. They were secular Jews and they made good, gradual progress. They were bitterly opposed by the conservative Orthodox Jews who accused them of rebelling against Judaism and profaning the land of Israel.
But after the Holocaust, in the 1950s and 60s young Orthodox Israelis developed a religious Zionism based on a literal reading of the Bible. They said the Jews must have all the land that was originally promised to Abraham’s descendants. The secular Jews never claimed this. These Orthodox Zionists soon chose a very fundamentalist elderly Rabbi Kook as their leader. He was very radical.
Kook, like Fundamentalist Christians such as Jerry Farwell, taught that Jews must return to their homeland and settle land now inhabited by Arabs and then the final redemption and peace would come to the world. This influence has hardened much of Israel’s and some of America’s politics. There are now considerable numbers of some young Israelis who say they should just kill all the Palestinians and get it over with.
This kind of scripture interpretation has led to young men such as Baruch Goldstein to shoot 29 Palestinians worshipping in the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron on the Festival of Purim, February 25, 1994. Then Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin during a peace rally in Tel Aviv. He claimed he had to kill Rabin because he was seeking peace with the Palestinians and giving some of their land back to them.
When we do not accept the bad moments as well as the good, learn from them and build good from them, then destruction ensues. The Fundamentalist Orthodox Jews and hard line Jewish politicians, it seems to me, have not learned from the Holocaust what they should. All who do not learn to love those different from them and work with them for peace ultimately will stand alone in the destruction they cause and that is what the heart of the Bible clearly teaches above all else

#99, Crusade Against Evolution

In 1920 a tragedy began for American Fundamentalist Christianity. The democratic politician, William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) launched a crusade against the teaching of evolution in public schools. He believed Higher Criticism and Darwinism were linked in humanity destroying power. But he blamed Darwinism’s evolution for the atrocities of WWI.
Bryan’s studies led him to believe the Darwinian idea that only the strong should survive created the basis for the bloodiest war in history. (But the strongest are those who learn to compassionately live in community with their fellows.) This science he reasoned, manufactured the poisoned gases to suffocate soldiers and this same science preaches that man has a brutal ancestry and it eliminates the miraculous and supernatural from the Bible. So he was certain that evolution was evil in every way. This evil symbolized modernity’s ruthless destructive potential.
Bryan’s reasoning was wrong and naïve but he picked the right moment to get a quick and strong following from his fellow Fundamentalists in the campaign against evolution. The friendship between science and fundamentalist Christians ended with horror of the Great War. Fundamentalists wanted plain speaking, unquestioning religion and Bryan gave it to them on a silver platter with a silver tongue. All by himself he put evolution at the top of the Fundamentalist agenda where it remains today. It replaced Higher Criticism as number one on the hate list because of a drama that unfolded in Tennessee.
Until Bryan started his fight on evolution, the southern states had taken little part in the Fundamentalist movement which started about 1912. However, the South was very worried about evolution being taught. The state legislatures of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas introduced bills to ban the teaching of evolutionary theory. Tennessee had the strictest anti evolutionary law.
John Scopes, a young teacher in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, wanted to strike a blow for freedom of speech and confessed to breaking the law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. A trial was set for him in July of 1925. The newly formed American Civil Liberties Union sent a team of lawyers led by the great rationalist, Clarence Darrow. Bryan agreed to prosecute Scopes in favor of the Tennessee law.
The press gleefully began portraying the trial as a judging between Christianity and science and the circus of the century came to Dayton, Tennessee. Darrow made a disaster of Bryan taking the witness stand. The press portrayed the Fundamentalists as hopelessly behind the times and unable to take part in the modern world. A few days after losing the trial Bryan died., perhaps of a broken heart
There occurred something with the the Fundamentalists in this event that we should be mindful of in dealing with them. When they were attacked and made to look foolish, they reacted by becoming more extreme in their fury against evolution. They soon came to express creation science which espouses Genesis 1 as literally true in every detail. For all of history most of the church had never taken Genesis 1 as totally literally happening. Then they became more angrily literal in their interpretation of all scripture. Before Scopes, they had been willing to to work for social reform but now they left that behind to work only on “saving souls”. They have become more isolated associating only with their own kind and moved to the far right of the political spectrum where they remain today.
This is typical of how the Fundamentalist mindset reacts to loss of face and it always makes them more reactionary and dangerous with self destructive behavior. We need loving compassion and the wisdom of Solomon to ever turn a fundamentalist from his bent. And even then we may not succeed.

Join me in a class of The History of Witchcraft at Clovis Community College on Tuesday nights in September for one hour beginning at 6:30 pm each Tuesday. Cost is $40. Call 575-769-4760 for signup.

# 98, Fundamentalist Distortion of the Gospel

All Fundamentalists of any kind, religious, political or economic, are motivated by fear and insecurity. Fear of change, fear of others different taking over, fear of losing what they have got, these are basic fears of the fundamentalist mindset. Fundamentalism and fear are pretty synonymous. For this reason fundamentalist attitudes are always dangerous to the common good of humanity.
WWI brought terror into conservative Protestantism in the United States. They thought the huge scale of slaughter in the war must be the battles foretold in Revelation. This interpretation was because conservative Protestants now thought that every word in the Bible was literally true. They began viewing current events as the fulfillment of precise biblical predictions. The Bible, they said, had predicted all of this horror 2,000 years or more ago.
Conservatives held that Jews would return to their land before the end. So when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, pledging their support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, Christian Fundamentalists were struck with awe and joy. This proved the Bible was the very word of God.
Cyrus Scofield , in the reference Bible bearing his name, suggested that Russia was the power from the North that would attack Israel before Armageddon. The 1917 Bolshevik revolution made atheistic Communism the Russian ideology and was taken as confirmation of Scofield’s view which is still gospel to many American fundamentalist Christians.
The creation of the League of Nations after WWI was taken by Fundamentalists to be a fulfillment
of Revelation 16:14. They thought this League was the revival of the Roman Empire that would shortly be led by the Antichrist.
Now the dispute of Fundamentalists with Christian liberals now turned somewhat from the focus on the literalness of scripture to the very future of civilization. Then and now they see themselves on the front line against Satanic forces that will soon destroy the world. They believe that they and their churches are the only thing holding back the demonic forces that will destroy the world. They blamed Germany’s behavior in WWI on the Higher Criticism of the Bible which originated in Germany.
Fear, fear, fear motivated everything in twentieth Century Christian Fundamentalism and still does. After WWI some Fundamentalist became ambivalent even to democracy because it could lead to the most devilish rule the world has ever seen. I would agree that this a possibility but Fundamentalism has no answer. It is a major part of the problem.
For fundamentalists peace keeping organizations such as the League of Nations and currently the United Nations would always be connected with evil because the Bible says that there would be war and not peace at the end. For them both of these organizations are totally on the wrong track.
Fundamentalism’s most shocking distortion of the gospel is that they have managed to turn Christ, the man of peace, into Christ the Warrior, who comes again to shed the blood of the multitudes but of course save his few fundamentalist friends. This comes from their focusing on a few scriptures to the exclusion of many others and thus forming a canon within the Canon which justifies their anger and lack of love.

# 97, A Godless Place


Depending on your viewpoint in the nineteenth century, the world could seem a godless place or a world of wonders which in some ways was making progress. Atheists who had been a shunned minority in the past often took what seemed the high moral ground. Ludwig Feuerbach, a pupil of Hegel felt that the idea of God worked against humanity's best interest. Karl Marx said only a sick society needed religion. Religion made an oppressive social system bearable and kept people from seeking a cure. And there is too often truth in this. Radical Darwinists started the war between science and scripture that goes on even today. Thomas Huxley, from England, Karl Vogt, Ludwig Buchner, Jacob Moleshott and Earnest Haekel made the knowledge of evolutionary theory well known and used it as a tool against religion. Huxley strongly attacked religion saying it and science could not coexist, “One or the other must go after a struggle of unknown duration.”

These atheist often had a very wrong attitude but nonetheless their criticisms probably should have been listened to and examined for the truth that might be in them much better than they were by the Christian Church. As Anthony Campolo of today says, “We should listen to our critics carefully. Some of what they say may be what we need to hear.” Sometimes Christianity's worst enemies are Christians and not its critics.

By the twentieth century, religious people were indeed under attack. Jews were attacked by a newly developed “scientific” racism. Biological and genetic characteristics of European people were so narrowly defined that the Jews became “other” to everybody else and came under violent attack.

A new flood of pogroms in the early twentieth century caused non-religious Jews to form Zionism, which sought politically to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Zionists used the biblical symbols of Israel but they were not motivated by religion but by modern secular thought. Two of their biggest concerns were nationalism and socialism along with colonizing Palestine.

Much of the new secular world was benign but it was also violent and tended to romanticize armed conflict. War and conflict killed 70 million people in Europe and the Soviet Union between 1914 and 1945. The Germans, supposedly one of the most cultivated societies in Europe committed the worst atrocities. A rational eduction does not automatically eliminate barbarism. Our technology was used to carry out large schemes of extermination.

The death camp, the mushroom cloud and now the wanton destruction of our environment show a self destructive ruthlessness at the heart of modern culture. The historical condition has always affected the interpretation of the Bible. In the twentieth century Jews and Christians as well as Muslims have developed scriptural ideaologies that have accepted the violence of modernity. This ought not to be.


# 97, Modernity and the Jews

     As with Protestans and Catholics in the Enlightenment the Jewish world was divided between those who wold embrace the enlightenment and those who wished to fight it.  German Jews called the Maskilim embraced the Enlightenment and sought to use its insights to get Jews out of the ghetto and into the modern world.  The Maskilim created Reform Judaism and held their worship services in German.  They seemed more Protestant than Jewish for they had choralsinging and mixed choirs.  Orthodox rabbis were disgusted with them for they called their synagogues temples.  Isaac Harby, a writer of plays, founded a Reform Temple in Charleston and by 1870 many of the synagogues in the U.S. had taken on at least some Reform practices.

     The Reformer were much in the modern world.  They cared not for mysterious,mystical or irrational in Jewish religion.  Reform scholars studied Jewish history very critically.  By the 1840s they founded a school called the Science f Judaism which was greatly influenced by the philosophers Kant and Hegel (1770-1831).  Hegel, in 1807, wrote The Phenomenology of Mind and called God the Universal Spirit.  He felt that the Universal Spirit would only achieve all that it cold by coming down to earth and becoming more fully realized in our minds.

     Both Hegel and Kant considered the Jewish God and Judaism as bad.  Jesus tried to liberate us but the church had gone back to the same old servitude of the law.  The Science of Judaism group reworked the Bible in Hegelian philosophical terms to correct the bad notions of Judaism to the new men of reason.  They thought of the Bible as the story of the spiritualizing that brought Judaism to self consciousness,  One scholar, Solomon Forstecher (1808-88) proposed that the Jews came to see God as Universal Spirit long before Hegel did.  The Hebrew prophets first thought their messages came from an external sourc.  But they came to relaize that it came to them from their own spirit nature.

     These scholars felt that a higher stage of reflective contemplation was the main purpose for modern Jews.  But they all did not want to do away with all ritual and tradition.  For they saw that to do so would make Judaism a lifeless, abstract bunch of doctrinewith no life to it.  They needed not just information from the Bible but spiritual experience also.  They needed to keep the delight in life and simple joy that marked Judaism at its very best and ritual, liturgy, tradition helped provide this joy.

     To combat this frightening loss of tradition, Hayyim Volozhiner in 1803 established the Etz Hayyim Yeshiva in Volozhin, Lithuania.  Soon very similar yeshivoth were started thfoughout Eastern Europe.  As Jews saw the Enlightenment increasingly as a danger the Hasidim and the Minagim joined forces to oppose the encroachment of the Enlightenment into Jewish life.  

      Fundamentalist institutions respond to modernity always by creating a safe environment-the Yeshiva for the Jews, the Bible College for the American Church, the Islamic state for Muslims.  But followers of Jesus must always be balanced and be in the world participating in its evoution but not be of its materialistic outlook.  To follow Jesus is to be salt and add the correct flavoring to all the new things in life.

I invite you to my class, The History of Witchcraft at Clovis Community College in August on Tuesday nights at 5:30 PM.  Cost is $40.  Call 769-47 for signup and info.  Hope to see you there.)

# 95,Darby, Scofield, Tribulation.Rapture, Armageddon, Millennium


A new apocalyptic vision gripped American Protestant Christians in the late nineteenth century. The seed of this new teaching sprouted from an ecstatic vision of a woman in a charismatic prayer meeting in 1836 who spoke in ecstatic trance on Christ removing believers from this world and then a time of tribulation, Armageddon and peaceful millennium following. This is the first time in history this kind of thought on the return of Christ was mentioned that I know of.

But John Nelson Darby (1800-82), an Englishman, stumbled on to these ideas and turned them into a system of clearly explained predictions based on his interpretation of Revelation. He only had a small group of followers in England but he toured the United States between 1859 to 1877and obtained a massive following. His reading of Revelation taught the following which is a newly invented scheme of interpretation for church history. “He was convinced that God would shortly bring this era of history to an end in an unprecedented terrible disaster. Antichrist, the fake redeemer whose coming before the end had been foretold by Paul (2 Thess.2: 3-8), would be welcomed and would deceive the unwary. He would inflict seven years of tribulation, war and massacre upon humanity, but eventually Jesus would descend to earth and defeat him on the plain of Armageddon outside Jerusalem. Christ would then rule on earth for a thousand years until the last judgment brought history to a close.” (Karen Armstrong, The Bible, P. 200).

This was most attractive to the American Church because all true believers would be spared from any suffering. They would be raptured, taken out, of this world before Antichrist cut loose his wolves. Everybody else would suffer Hell on earth. This was all based on one little obscure scripture in I Thess. 4: 13. Really no one one has ever been sure exactly what Paul meant by this obscure remark. Rule number three in good Bible interpretation is to never build a scheme of interpretation on one obscure verse.

This caught on because it was inline with geology's find of successive epochs in the strata of fossils in rocks. Each epoch seemed to have ended in catastrophe. Darby's theory also caught on because it coincided with the literalistic and democratic modern spirit. His interpretation was extremely literal and it was democratically open and understandable for anyone.

A millennium was no symbol for him but 10 literal centuries. Israel was the Jews and not the Church. However, much of the New Testament called the Church the New Israel. Revelation spoke of a great battle outside Jerusalem and that is exactly what would happen.

Darby's views became even easier to grasp when a Christian medical doctor, C.I. Scofield published in 1909 the first ever study Bible, the Scofield Reference Bible. It was and remained for scores of years a best seller. Darby's scheme was put in study notes along beside the relevant scriptures making the scheme of interpretation called premillennial dispensationalism easily digestible for the average person. This Bible came to dominate the Evangelical, Pentecostal and Independent Churches nationwide as well as a fair number of Main line Protestant Churches. Grace Livingston Hill's numerous Christian novels, which are good reading, are based on this premillennial dispensational interpretation. She wa a main line Presbyterian. Scofield's notes made experts out of thousands of people on the future and the Second Coming of Christ.

These notes soon became to fundamentalists almost as authoritative as Scripture itself. Pat Robertson, Jerry Farwell, Tim Lahaye and the Left Behind series all followed this line of teaching and have made bukoos of money from it.

I grew up on the Scofield Bible, surrounded by some wonderful people who followed it. I have long left it behind and may God in his mercy save us all from spiritual idiocy and prejudices. Amen!


# 94, Uncertainty and Fear


Uncertainty and fear ruled much of the Christian world in the nineteenth century. Many felt their faith and world were being destroyed. This emotional reaction was the same psychologically as the reaction of fundamentalist Muslims in the twentieth century to Western modernization's effect on their religion and world.

The two biggest fears were Higher Criticism's scientific study of the Bible and from 18559 on, Darwinism. Throughout this century, Christians were more concerned with Higher Criticism's interpretation of the Bible than with Darwin's evolution. Evolution became the church's main whipping boy in the twentieth century. Intransigent conservatives have to have something to fear and fight against or they can't survive psychologically.

Darwin (1809- 82) initiated a new phase in the history of science. Instead of just collecting facts, which had been the previous style of science, he put forward an hypothesis: animals, plants and humans were not created fully formed but had slowly changed over a long period of evolutionary adaptation to the environment. Humans had evolved from the same proto ape as the gorilla and Chimpanzee.

At first many Christians, even some leading Southern Baptists as Augustus Strong, accepted evolution as a possibility of how God created us. Frankly, I like living with an evolutionary background as the work of God and in a universe that is constantly evolving. It is a world of Magic to me!

But throughout the nineteenth century the main bone of contention between liberal and conservative Christians was Higher Criticism. The modern world had a rational bias. This made it hard, almost impossible for many Western Christians to appreciate the role and value of mythology and legend. They lost their ability to see the power and truth of myth. This always makes for a sad state of being for we live by our myths whether we are aware of them or not. It is best to be aware.

Many clergymen blamed the Higher Criticism for widespread drunkenness, infidelity, and the rising crime and divorce rates. In 1886 the great American revivalist preacher Dwight Moody (1837-99) founded the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to combat the Higher Criticism movement. This represented a crucial Christian fundamentalist characteristic, building a safe haven in a godless world.

Conservative Christians began to band together and fight the liberals in their denominations. The Bible conference movement became a very popular phenomenon. Conservatives were willing to put out good money to hear words of certainty and familiarity. But certainty can only be found by looking to the God within us in whom we live, move and have our being (Acts 17: 28).


Join my classon the History of Witchcraft at Clovis Community College in August on Tuesday nights.  Cost is $40.00. Call 575 769 4760 to sign up.

# 93, The Birth of Liberalism

 How did the discoveries of the School of Higher Criticism about the Bible effect Protestant Christians, for the Bible was more central to them than to Catholics? Many Christians rejected or ignored the findings of Higher criticism but some embraced these insights of the Enlightenment.

Friedrich Schleirmacher (1768-1834) welcomed the findings. He was an innovative thinker for those who did appreciate or need the modern critical scholarship. He developed a theology that started a new Christian movement known as liberalism. Liberalism looked for the universal religious message in the gospels and discarded what seemed extraneous cultural baggage. It tried to express the essential universal truths it found in ways that would catch and hold the attention of a modern audience.

Schleiermacher's theology did not go far enough in supporting the great spiritual truths of the Gospel but as a theological pioneer he broke wonderful ground that has been further developed by the majority of Protestant theologians since. They did not follow everything he said but built upon his basic ideas. Schleiermacher was not perfect in his thinking as we are not but his thoughts had merit and he was courageously trying to break new ground.

He was disturbed at first to find the Bible a flawed document. But he responded positively by promoting a spirituality that was fundamental to all religion, especially Christianity. He called this universal experience the feeling of absolute dependence. For him the Gospel was as Jesus taught, there is something absolute and trustworthy there to abandon ourselves to and trust for the help we need.

This was not a slavish trying to get God on our side so we could depend upon Him but rather a sense of reverence and awe before the mystery of life, an intuitive understanding that we are not the center of the universe. Jesus perfectly modeled, embodied this attitude in wonder, surrender and trust. The New Testament may be flawed but it is a good guide because it pictures how the personality and way of Jesus impacted those first disciples who started the church.

So, he argued, the New Testament is of essential value to Christians even after we understand some of its flaws because it provides us access to Jesus. However, it was correct to subject the writers of the New Testament to critical scrutiny because they were conditioned by their historical circumstances and were ordinary human beings prone to sin and error. They too could make mistakes. Yet the Holy Spirit , he taught, guided the church in the selecting of books for the church to read. The basic central guidance of the New Testament could be trusted but not every jot and tittle of it.

It was the scholar's job to peel away the cultural shell of the New Testament to show clearly the central truth within. Not every every scripture was authoritative (I certainly applaud this) so the scholar must discriminate marginal, cultural material from the gospel's main thrust. I think this is very wise thinking.

Schleiermacher was wise to begin his theology with a universal found in all religion. For theology is man's talk of and study of God. It is not God talking of himself to us. Therefore starting with what is universal to all of mankind's religion is a good mirror of what God may be actually saying to us.

It seems to me that a universal is always a better clue than a locally claimed specific.

The Bible is a people's story about God not God's story about humanity. Therefore, our story of God must always be evolving. The Bible for me is wonderful starting point, a grand pointer but we must use it to evolve further, spiritually, beyond its historically and culturally limited sense. For the Bible is about evolution of thought and understanding of God within its very own pages. The God portrayed in Jesus is much more profound and universal that the God in Leviticus though there are core connections such as the two greatest commandments. We do well to remember in all our study that the Bible is always helpful but fallible at the same time.



# 92, Path Finding Germans

                                            # 92, Path Finding Germans



German scholars led the way in breaking new Paths of discovery about the source of the Bible and how it came to be. They did this by going to great depths in applying the historical critical method developed by Baruch Spinoza. The historical critical method is the central method of study of all ancient texts today. Its scientific accuracy continues to develop.

The German scholars agreed that Moses certainly did not write most of the Pentateuch. Eventually it was proven that he wrote none of it, for none of it was written in the form that we have it today until centuries after the rime of Moses and Joshua. The Pentateuch has several different authors, each with a distinctive style.

From the Northern Kingdom of Israel came stories which always called God Elohim. These were called the”E” source. But some such as Johann Gottfried (1752-1827), professor of oriental languages at Jena University, showed that there was a Yahwist document in the Pentateuch which always called God, Yahweh. This came from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. This was called the “J” source because the Germans translated Yahweh as Jehovah.

By the nineteenth century almost all scholars of the Higher Criticism School agreed that there were four major independent sources of the Pentateuch and several minor ones which had been ingeniously pieced together by scholars and scribes in the Babylonian Captivity of 586-539 BCE to create a mythical story of origin for Israel.

In 1805 it was shown that the “D” source, which stood for the Deuteronomistic source or the law source, was the latest of the Pentateuch sources. It was actually created in about 622 BCE during the time of Jeremiah under the reign of King Josiah. All “D” material basically represents a self righteous attitude of “we are number one to the exclusion of all others, we are the apple of God's eye, and any who oppose us don't count.” Job's friends, who falsely taught that if you are truly righteous God will prosper you materially, were Deuteronomists in attitude.

In Jeremiah 8: 8, the prophet condemned the book of Deuteronomy as a lie that promoted Israel to exalt herself too much. This attitude was what caused the Babylonian Captivity. Other portions of the Bible were written in the Babylonian Captivity to oppose the self righteous, exclusive, we are number one attitude of Israel. Ruth, Job and Jonah were all written in the Captivity period for this good purpose. In each of these books the righteous hero is a hated Moabite woman, a rich Edomite or the the hated city of Assyrian Ninevites whereas the Israelites are pictured as judgmental, lacking in compassion or childish.

In these parables hated foreigners are purposely juxtaposed as repentant and more faithful to God than the Israelites. The Deuteronomistic attitude is blasted. Jesus of Nazareth taught this same wisdom by doing things like glorifying the compassion of a hated Samaritan as good compared to leading Jewish citizens Saintly behavior is found in all kinds of people besides those representative of organized religion.

Next the “P” or priestly source is discovered. It also used Elohim for God. It produce small stories that were inserted in the Pentateuch to teach priestly values and worship. One such story is in Genesis 7 where loading the ark involves seven pairs of clean animals so as to have some for sacrifice. Whereas the first instructions in Genesis 6 were to load simply two pair of all animals. But the priestly mind can not stand the thought of you coming to church without bringing an offering. The “P” Source is responsible for most all of Leviticus.

The Prophets never referred to the Mosaic law because most of the law, even the Ten Commandments were never written down until the Babylonian Captivity.

Today, historical critical research continues to bring understanding and liberation to those who will listen.


# 91, Point and Counterpoint in Biblical Studies

 Due to the Age of Reason it became harder to find God in scripture. The Enlightenment's teaching caused many scholars to study the Bible critically. This neglected the attitude of prayer and the transcendence value of the Bible was misssed. Radical Deists in England undermined the Bible with new scholarly insights.

Some like William Whiston (1667-1752) proposed that early Christianity had been more rational. Some thought that many doctrines had been created by the early church fathers and then foisted on to the church, doctrines such as the Incarnation and the Trinity, and basically there is a great deal of truth to this. These were gradual creations of thought that were turned into dogma by the beginning of the great Ecumenical Church Councils which started about 300 years after Christ.

Some tried to replace the New Testament with the Jewish Christian Gospel of Barnabas, which denied the divinity of Christ. Others argued that the NewTestament text was too corrupt to trust.

Richard Bentley (1662-1742) started a strong scholarly campaign in the Bible's defence. Using the newly developed critical techniques applied to Graeco-Roman literature, he showed how it was possible to pretty well reconstruct the New Testament manuscripts.

A great debt is owed to Germen Pietists, who are the fore fathers of modern evangelical Christianity. They wanted to transcend the dry doctrinal polemics of the competing Protestants groups. So they laid hold of the new analytic methods to reinstate the Bible. They felt the biblical critic should be above denominational loyalty. They sought to free religion from theology and lead people to personally experience the Divine.

They founded a university in1694 in Halle to promote their view of the new biblical scholarship to the laity in a non—denominational way. This university fostered a new biblical revolution. From 1711-1769 it printed 100,000 New Testaments and 80,000 whole Bibles. They also published the Bible Pentapla which was five translations printed side by side so Lutherans, Calvinists and Catholics could read their preferred version and compare it with the other versions when they had a problem.

Then, there were completely literal translations which showed that even when the Bible was in your own language, the understanding was often unclear. And if your translation was not of excellent expression it would still prove difficult to understand what God' Word was saying to you.


(The above thoughts are borrowed from Karen Armstong's, The Bible, chapter 8, Modernity. It is wonderful reading.)