MUSINGS? WHAT MUSINGS?
So, just what are the “Musings of a Modern-day Heretic” anyway, and why should you care?
Well, the ‘heretic’ is me and the ‘musings’ are some thoughts I’ve had about the Bible.1 You might ‘care’ if, like me, you’ve found certain things about the Bible that just never seemed to add up. Or you might have never read the thing and just want to know what’s up.
When I read the Bible the first time many things struck me as strange and not at all like I’d learned growing up. The more I looked into it, the more I found that what’s actually ‘in’ the book and what I’d been taught ‘about’ the book, are two entirely different things. If you read on you’ll see what I mean.
First off, I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to discredit or disprove the Bible in any way. You’ll make your own decisions about that but it ‘s just that the more I read it, the more the inconsistencies and distortions became impossible to ignore. Whether these distortions were the natural result of changing times and the multitude of interpretations or deliberate attempts to press an agenda I’ll never know but the fact remains, the Bible is littered with distortions and inconsistencies.
I’m not famous and I have no academic credentials, per se. I didn’t cure myself of cancer nor did I have a near-death experience. I haven’t hooked up with aliens, studied under the Maharishi, or channeled spirits.
But I have seen God.
A bold statement, I know, but it’s true.. Actually, “seen” is not exactly the right word but it’s as close as I can get. There was no blinding light or anything like that, but I understand why people say that. There really is no way to explain it. Today I say I was consciously in the presence of the Infinite All That Is,
To make a long story short, I’d had a traumatic injury, was extremely distressed, and was at my wits end. I’d always believed in something ‘more’ and I’d prayed to God off and on since I was a kid.2 But when I prayed it was like, “please don’t let me get a ‘D’ in math,” or “Please God, don’t let her be pregnant.” You get the idea. But not this time. This time something shifted. I prayed in absolute surrender.That’s when it happened.3
To paraphrase Robert Browning, “It was like the forked tongue of the Infinite pierced my heart.”
I literally went to bed one person and woke up another. I woke up and I ‘knew’. Knew what? I knew God was real,4 he was paying attention, and he5 cared. I knew I would always have a roof over my head, have enough money, plenty of food, and people who loved me. I knew my purpose in life was to be happy. I knew there was no need for struggle or strife. I knew everything would always work out because, no matter what, God had my back. And the best part, I knew life was eternal. What we call death is an illusion.
And no, there were no drugs involved.
But there was more to it than that. I’d been a ‘seeker’6 for as long as I could remember and in the preceding couple of years I’d been seeking in earnest. I guess God was listening because in the instant I ‘knew’ these things, I also got a message. That message was,.“Shit, or get off the pot.” Forgive my French but God made it very clear that if I really wanted to get into this seeking thing, I had a decision to make. If I wanted to get serious, now was the time. And if I decided to go for it God would take me on Mr. Toad’s wild ride on steroids.
I went for it.
But I also made a deal with God.7 I told God I was going to let him show me the way. I wasn’t going to go to some guru or preacher and let them tell me what God was all about8. I was going to look at everything, read everything, talk to everybody, listen, and let God show me the way. He said, “Sounds good, let’s go,”9 and off we went.
I read the Bible five times, cover to cover, in three different versions10. I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, the Book of Mormon, the Analects, I Ching, and Lao Tzu and countless spiritual and metaphysical books. When the Mormons came knocking I let them in, They even showed me their movie.11 For the next ten years or so I was insatiable.
After awhile the common thread became very clear – have faith in the Great Spirit12 and love in your heart and everything will work out just fine. It really is that simple. God is paying attention and he cares and, if you trust the process and act from love, everything will always work out.
But there was always something that bugged me about the Bible. Not the Bible itself so much, but the way it’s presented. The more I read it, the more I couldn’t reconcile what was being claimed to be the word of God to what was actually on the page. So I started paying real close attention; cross referencing, looking into language and interpretations, researching the backgrounds of the different versions, Aramaic traditions and idioms, the Middle Eastern landscape and people of the time. Most of this was done before the internet so I did a lot of reading.13
I took a ton of notes and this book is the result of all that.14 Just one heretic’s view on the most influential book of Western civilization.
This is in no way meant to be a thorough treatise of the Bible. It’s a rare person who has actually read the Bible cover to cover. That’s okay. Think of this as an abbreviated Cliff Note version. My ‘musings’.
I’ll take you through the first part of the Old Testament, where all the basic groundwork was laid, and the first part of the New Testament, which is all about Jesus and the beginning of the Christian church. I’ll cover the basic who?, what?,when?, where? of it and point out the things that don’t seem to add up. So if you’ve never actually read the Bible this might be really helpful.15
I don’t expect you to agree with all of it but, if you’ve come this far, hang in there and see what you think.
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
So, who wrote the Bible anyway? You’d think somebody would know, right?. It turns out it’s not as easy to nail down as you might think.
The Old Testament alone covers thousands of years, hundreds of people and myriad locations.
It covers the creation of the world, the early history of humanity, how and why Abraham and his family are so important, a bunch of rules to live by, a boat-load of prophecies and finally, the rise and fall of the Jewish empire.
Then we have the New Testament which covers the life and times of Yeshua ben Yosef, better known as Jesus, more rules to live by, and a bunch of letters and prophecies concerning the early Christian church and the end of the world.
So who wrote all this stuff down and, more importantly, who collected it into the book we now know as ‘The Bible’?
When we look at the Old Testament, the fact is, nobody knows. The oldest known fragments we have date back to about 400 B.C.E.16 which isn’t very old when you figure Moses was around about 1,100 years before that and Abraham a whopping 1,700 years earlier. Not to mention Adam and Eve.17
Though we don’t know for sure who wrote it all down there’s this thing called the Documentary Hypothesis that says what we generally call the Old Testament is actually a compilation of various oral accounts that weren’t actually written down until somewhere around 400-600 years B.C.E.
According to this theory, all the books of the Old Testament were originally stories conveyed through word of mouth and date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Whether they are legends, mythology, parables, or factual accounts is anybody’s guess18, but there’s no doubt they were important nuggets of Hebrew lore.
Throughout history this story-telling tradition has been typical of nomadic tribes. The early Hebrews were nomads, constantly on the move and so it’s only natural they would use stories to pass on their heritage from one generation to the next. They’d been conquerors and been conquered themselves and more than once they’d been led off as captives to a foriegn land. As time went by, it became more important these stories be written down and a record kept for posterity.
But who did the writing? When did someone finally put pen to parchment, so to speak? We need look no further than the Bible itself to find some important clues.
Around 450 B.C.E. there was this priest named Ezra. The Babylonians had conquered Israel some150 years before and carted off most of the people to Babylon. Apparently Ezra was born in Babylon where he became a scholar and preeminent authority of Jewish tradition and law.19
The Babylonian leaders liked Ezra and were intrigued with Jewish tradition. They ended up sending him back to Israel and encouraged him to study the ways of his people and even rebuild the temple they’d previously destroyed.20
As luck would have it, Ezra found Moses’ “Book of the Law” buried in the ruins of the temple. Being a prodigious scholar and scribe and the leader of a team of over seventy scribes,21 Ezra was just the right man to happen upon this ancient sacred writing. Many scholars believe Ezra didn’t ‘find’ anything. They believe he and his team documented the laws and statutes of Moses and other stories and then presented them as having been there the whole time. He just ‘found’ them. Regardless of what really happened, the people bought it and consequently Ezra is often referred to as the Father of Judism.22
Many people take these stories literally and many others believe they are legends and metaphoric stories derived from Jewish lore. But the fact remains, Ezra and his team could have made a lot of this stuff up. Who would have known? Apparently, when Ezra finally read his findings to the people they had no clue about any of it. They didn’t know about Passover or Moses or any of God’s laws. They didn’t know about any of the feasts, rituals or sacrifices they were supposed to have been doing. None of it. They were clueless. It was all new to them.
Interestingly, there’s a story in Ezra’s findings of a king named Josiah who did essentially the same thing about 200 years before. Josiah also ‘found’ the Book of the Law in the ruins of the temple23 and read them to the people. And, just like with Ezra, the people had no idea of their history or what was expected of them. It was like it all came out of nowhere.
Was Ezra using the story of Josiah to cover his tracks? Was he the one actually doing the documenting but giving credit to a legendary king from 200 years ago? It’s easier to say you found some sacred writings than to say, “Oh yeah, we wrote all this stuff, but trust me, it’s all true.”
This Documentary Hypothesis is an interesting theory and it’s even more interesting that the earliest evidence of a written record of the Old Testament coincides with Ezra ‘finding’ the sacred books around 400 B.C.E.
If you care to look into this further I suggest you Google it. There are plenty of articles you can find about it. Happy hunting.
Now when it comes to the New Testament it’s a little easier to keep track of when things came together because, for the most part, the Greeks and Romans were heavily involved and they were meticulous record keepers.24
Without getting into what is a true gospel or not, the fact is, there are plenty of copies of New Testament writings, some dating back as far as 60 C.E.25 while others weren’t written until as much as 300 years after Jesus’ death.
The Apostle Paul26 and his followers were prodigious writers and loved to share their revelations about Jesus with the world27. There were so many of these, often competing, accounts that when the Romans took control of the Christian church they basically decided what writings were ‘official’ and which were not. This is where they ‘canonized’ certain books and condemned all the others. These canonized books were deemed ‘sacred’ and make up what we now know as the New Testament.28
You can still find some of the other ‘condemned’ books, stories and writings that didn’t make the cut29. Some survived30 but we’ll never know how many did not. The Roman church did a pretty ruthless purge of the books they didn’t approve of and the people who read them.
It’s important to remember none of this stuff, let me repeat NONE of it, was written by anybody who actually knew Jesus, who hung out with him, or knew anybody who did. It’s all hearsay. ALL hearsay. These are all stories heard by someone who heard it from someone, who knew somebody, who heard it from somebody, who swore it was true. Then somebody finally wrote it down, decades and even hundreds of years after the fact.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of room for discussion about this but personally, I believe Ezra and his crew documented the Old Testament and the Roman Catholic Church authorized the New Testament. But since, for the purposes of this book, I’m going to approach it like a literalist.31 I’m going to act like God wrote it himself and see where it leads us.
NO EVIDENCE OF ANY OF IT
Now here’s the real kicker; there is absolutely no independent evidence that any of the people in the Bible ever existed, any of the events actually occurred, or any of it is true on anything other than a metaphorical level.
That being said, I have to stress the ‘independent’ evidence part. That means you can’t use the Bible to prove its own existence. I learned in grade school that you can’t use a word to define another word derived from it; ie: you can’t define ‘consciousness’ as ‘the state of being conscious’.32 See what I mean? If you take the Bible out of the equation there is no evidence anywhere of any of it. No Noah, no flood, no Tower of Babel, no Moses, no David, no Solomon, no Jesus, no Paul, none of it.
And it’s not like there weren’t other people around who could have written about it. After all, pretty much all of it happened in the Cradle of Civilization among significant civilizations who we do have independent evidence of and who were prodigious record keepers. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyians, Greeks and Romans all documented everything.
Even though the Israelites apparently had contact with several of these civilizations, nowhere is there any record of a guy named Abraham33. There’s no record of his son Joseph or how he saved Egypt and the entire known world. There’s no record of Moses, much less the escape of two and a half million Hebrew slaves. There’s no record of David or Solomon or the huge kingdom they created. There’s no record of Noah’s Arc, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the Tower of Babel. And believe it or not, there is no record of Jesus or the Apostle Paul or any of Jesus’ disciples. There’s a bit of empirical evidence that people point to that may or may not refer to someone or something. But as far as hard, independent evidence, none, zilch, nada, nothing. We take it all on faith.34
The earliest record we have of anyone known as an Israelite is on the Merneptah Stele35 which is a big obelisk thing covered in hieroglyphics. It dates back to 1206 B.C.E. and refers to a group of people known as Israelites who weren’t big players in the region. They weren’t numerous enough to be a city state or kingdom but there were enough of them to at least rate mention as a ‘people’ living in the land of Canaan. This is when, according to the Bible, Israel was on a roll and basically dominated the entire region.
Then there are the Tel Dan Stele and Mesha Stele, both dated around the mid 800’s B.C.E. that seem to make a reference to the ‘House of David’. The Mesha Stele actually refers to the ‘House of Omri’ which some claim to be a reference to David while others say it refers to the Moab king named Balak. Either way, none of that, if true, actually proves the existence of the David we read about in the Bible.
Think about it; we have the state of Washington, Washington D.C. and a ton of people named Washington, but none of that proves George Washington ever existed. The only reason we believe there was ever such a man as George Washington is because there is loads of independent evidence of his life and times. Even still, legends have grown up around him that are complete fabrications.36
History is littered with fictional characters and places that were all created for one reason or another. For instance, there was a guy named Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote a book back in the 12th century called ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’ where he basically made up a whole history of Britain, including King Arthur, and claimed it as fact. By referring to real places and accepted lore, Geoffrey’s account was counted as a valid history of Medieval England for centuries. He was basically the Ezra of Britain. Except Monmouth’s history has since been proven to be complete fabrication.
Some refer to the Dead Sea Scrolls as proof of the Bible. What they fail to realize is the oldest of these scrolls only date back as far as 408 B.C.E. In fact, they are copies of Ezra’s books and a plethora of early Christian writings, many of which didn’t make the cut and were not included in the New Testament. They were hidden in caves in the Judaean desert as a means to preserve them from the purges of the Roman church.
Remember, you can’t use a source to prove its own existence, and these scrolls can in no way be viewed as independent evidence; they are just earlier writings, some of which match up to contemporary Biblical content and many that don’t.
I know this can be pretty daunting, It sure was to me. But when I finally started digging I was amazed that the Western world has built so much of its history on a very shaky foundation.
I realize no amount of science will shake some people’s faith and that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter anyway. People believe what they want to believe, whether it’s true or not. Who am I to say what’s true and what’s not? I admit, I may be completely off base. So, at the very least I encourage you to do your own research and, based on what you find, decide for yourself.
JUST WHO OR WHAT IS GOD ANYWAY?
How are we going to define God? There must be as many ways to define God as there are people on the planet. Some think he’s a big guy in the sky while others think he’s not a ‘he’ at all but a genderless, formless, infinitely intelligent energy. I love the way Ernest Holmes puts it; “the Thing Itself”.
I stand more with the latter group but, for the purposes of this book, I’m going to refer to God pretty much as the Bible does, as an all-powerful man in the sky. I know a lot of people get turned off just by the mention of the word ‘God’ but, if we’re going to approach the Bible literally, then we have to use the literal terms given us.
The Bible says we were created in God’s image but it seems, at least in the Old Testament, that man created God in the image of the most powerful kings and rulers of the time. Like these despots, God comes off as a petulant deity with a short temper who demands absolute loyalty and obedience. He is generous to those he likes and unbelievably cruel to those he doesn’t.
The Old Testament God is moody and prone to temper tantrums. Sometimes he can be argued with and he’ll change his mind. But then, at the next turn, one little slip up will doom you forever. To confuse the issue even more, even God’s form isn’t consistent. Sometimes he shows up as a clueless guy walking around the garden, sometimes he’s hiding in a burning bush, sometimes he’s just some guy who shows up on your doorstep. He’s even been known to get into wrestling matches with humans. But one thing that is consistent, he’s always a ‘he’. So, although it pains me, that’s how I’m going to refer to him.
It wasn’t until Jesus came along that the entire narrative on God changed. Suddenly he was the loving, benevolent, super tolerant ‘father’ who doesn’t judge you and is eternally forgiving. The New Testament God wants nothing more than to give you all the gifts life has to offer.37 Quite a change from the Old Testament fire and brimstone God.
Another thing about this God/gender thing; it does make it easier to talk about this infinitely intelligent source-energy thing if we just call it God and refer to it as ‘him’. Although I don’t believe it’s literally correct, I do see why people have been doing it for eons; it’s just easier. Early on, the king was the most powerful dude around so it was just natural that God would be the biggest, baddest king ever. That’s pretty much how a lot of people still think of him today. Thinking of God as some abstract energy life-force is just beyond some people’s ability to comprehend.38
It is self-evident a power exists in the universe that is greater than we are. Something grand and glorious gave rise to all this. It is pointless to deny the existence of Life Itself but where we go from there is up to each one of us. Regardless of how we think of it, it is what it is. Each one of us, within our own subconscious mind, will define it in whatever way works for us.39 I like how Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, called it “the God of his understanding”. He knew each person understands God in a completely unique way and nothing else matters except we acknowledge it in our own way. Ultimately, God, as far as we’re concerned, is whatever we think it is. God is quite happy to let us think whatever we want.
The nature of God is fodder for a whole book, but not this one. To state it plainly, as far as I’m concerned, God is infinite and therefore cannot be defined in any real way anyway. But if I were to try, I would say God is an all-powerful, absolute Intelligence, infinite Wisdom, LIFE itself, unconditional love and the source of all. God is ALL and all of creation is made ‘of’ God, which is way different than being made ‘by’ God. I believe God exists in its fullness in each and every one of its creation, including you and me. I believe our potential ability to create is exactly the same as this infinite creative force. It is only a matter of degree and our ability to believe we can.40
So, it doesn’t matter if you think of God as an infinitely intelligent Life force or a big powerful guy up in the clouds taking notes and getting ready for the judgment day. It doesn’t matter if you refer to God as your Inner Being, your Higher Self, Source energy, Nature, Life, the Universe, or just plain God. For the purposes of this book I’m going to stick to the literal narrative and refer to God as ‘God’, and that God is a he/him.41
Rarely is hygiene considered when we examine Biblical writings. Frankly, there wasn’t much. But we have to remember most of these Old Testament stories happened during the Bronze Age42 when advanced civilization was just getting a foothold on the planet.43 These were nomadic people used to living in the dirt and sleeping with the animals. It would be thousands of years before somebody finally made the connection between washing your hands and getting sick.
As strange as it may seem, hygiene does come into play when we start talking about the Laws of Moses. It’s very likely many of these laws were motivated more by basic health issues than the indocincracies of a petulant God.
In a nutshell, Old Testament hygiene consisted of the following;
You only had to wash your clothes if you’d touched a dead thing, were cured of leprosy, or you slept in a moldy house.44
But you had to wash your clothes AND take a bath if you’d had a discharge45, you’d touched someone or something that had a discharge, you’d touched a menstruating woman, consumated sex46, or eaten something that died on its own.47
If you found a dead rat or lizard or something like that in a bowl you had to break it if it was pottery or wash it if it was wood or brass. Same thing if the guy with the discharge touched it.48
Leprosy was a big deal back then but basic hygiene wasn’t part of the treatment protocol.49 Only when you were finally rid of it did you have to wash your clothes. But if your clothes got leprosy you had to burn them and if your house got it you had to remove the part that had it, or maybe even have to tear the whole thing down.50
I’m not sure how your clothes or house can get leprosy but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they were probably talking about mold and didn’t know any better.
The only mention of what we might call ‘bathroom etiquette’ is in Deuteronomy when the people are instructed to go outside the camp, dig a hole, do their business, then bury their pooh pooh.51
Numerous declarations demand that someone “remain unclean until evening.” This indicates a clear indication that they knew enough to stay away from these ‘unclean’ people for a reasonable amount of time.52 Whether it helped or not we’ll never know but it never hurts to error on the side of not dying. Remember, this is when a small cut or infection of any kind could easily kill you.
It’s clear these people had a rudimentary understanding of the things that could make them sick. But it’s also clear staying ‘clean’ had more to do with what you ate than it did with how often you took a bath. That being said, they did have a variety of ways of keeping themselves healthy. These become a significant factor when we consider the ‘do’s and don’ts’ Moses laid out later on in his laws and statutes.
LET’S GET STARTED
Well, that pretty much lays out the foundation of the who, what and why of this book. So, if you’re still with me, let’s dive right in. Next stop, Genesis and the beginning of the world.
1Five times cover to cover, three different versions; three more times minus the prophets, and numerous ‘partials’
2I was 22 at the time of this revelation.
3I’ve heard that’s common in revelations like mine, the ‘surrender’ thing.
4Although I had no idea what He (or It) was.
5If the “he” thing bugs you, it does me too. Read on.
6Seeking what? The meaning of life; the nature of God; things like that.
8Jerry Falwell and Hal Lindsey were big at the time.
9He didn’t really say it out loud. I heard it in my heart.
10And three more times but I skipped the prophets…repetitive and too depressing in my opinion.
11It was eye opening. I recommend it if you really want to know what Mormons are all about.
12However you define it.
13But have since used the internet extensively.
14Not all of it. I’ve still got plenty left that’s not included here.
15Without having to read the whole thing yourself.
16They used to call this BC, ‘Before Christ’ but in an act of political correctness it’s now called BCE, ‘Before the Common Era’.
17Traditional Biblical timeline puts Adam and Eve a little over 6,000 years ago. We fix this error in our discussion of Genesis.
18…and a point of contention among many traditionalists.
19How a Jew born in Babylon would become the preeminent authority on a Law he had no record of is a big question in itself.
20A lot had changed in 150 years.
21These 70 scribes were known as ‘The Great Assembly,’
22Who knows, maybe he invented it
23That temple got destroyed more than once
24It’s funny the Jews, who were Jesus’ people, discount the whole thing as heresy
25Common Era…used to be called A.D. (after death). See footnote about B.C.E. if you must.
26Paul is the father of Christianity.
27Much of the New Testament is letters written by Paul giving instruction on how to live your life.
28Interestingly there are numerous versions of the ‘official’ New Testament; Catholic, King James, Coptic, etc.
29‘The Lost Books of the Bible’, ‘The Gospel of Thomas’, ‘The Gospel of Mary’, ‘The Gospel of Judas’ to name a few.
30Notably as what we call the Dead Sea scrolls
31Someone who interprets the Bible literally.
32Or being ‘believable’ as ‘having the quality of being believed’
33In the Old Testament Abraham was a really big deal
34And the fact that it’s been literally beaten into the Western Civilization mindset for several thousand years
36Cutting down the cherry tree; having wooden teeth; throwing a coin across the Potomac River.
37That’s the ‘Good News’ Jesus was talking about
38My mom was one of them
39As John Lennon said, “Whatever gets you through the night”
40So did Jesus. Read on
42Just after the Stone Age
43At least on that part of the planet.
44Leviticus 11:25 & 28, Leviticus 11:40, Leviticus 12:6 & 14:34, Leviticus 14:47
45Your guess is as good as mine
46You know what I mean
47Leviticus 15:13, Leviticus 15:7-12, Leviticus 15:18-27, Leviticus 17:15
48Gross; Leviticus 11:32, Leviticus 15:7-12
49But there was a lot of sacrificing involved
51Deuteronomy 23:11-14 With over 2 million people out there, that’s a lot of pooh.
52Like social distancing in a pandemic.