For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and morrow, and is a discerner (sic) of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). In the beginning . . . is how the Bible starts (Gen. 1:1). I still recall from my childhood the stories of Creation. God created the world in six days, a world that was very good, and on the seventh day, He rested (Gen. 1:31, Gen. 2:2). Stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus were usual bedtime stories that helped explain the world I was living in.
However, these stories had a larger impact on me due to the strong Christian background in my family. My father was a born-again Baptist while my mother was a devout Seventh Day Adventist from birth. God was not a fairy godmother. Adam and Eve were not Prince Charming and Cinderella of fairy tales. They werent figments of imagination my parent conjured up to put their baby boy to sleep. They were alive, they were real, and I was to learn from them. As I grew older and reached adulthood, these stories seemed to take on more and more fairytale-like characteristics.
There were too many unexplained questions regarding the Bible. For instance, logically, how could have God created an entire world in six days? What happened to Darwins theory of evolution? The stories of the New Testament intrigued me the most. How was it possible for Jesus to have been born by a virgin birth? Today, it is theoretically possible to reproduce an organism through cloning. But, I dont think that Jesus was a clone. Then, there were some stupid questions like, if Adam and Eve were the only people on earth, whom did Cain and Abel marry?
Too many questions and too many feeble answers from religious teachers, with help from studying biology and ancient history, eventually caused me to abandon my religious faith. However, throughout the years, my soul was not satisfied with the equally weak proof science gave me. I found it hard to believe that all the beauty around me came about through time and coincidence. In order to understand controversies surrounding this sacred book, I decided to question modern-day religious authorities on the validity of the Bible itself. This project is my first and last attempt to find the truth in the Scriptures.
Before we study the evidence given by todays scholars, let us first look in the Bible to see if it can prove its own validity. After all, the Bible is a collection of books written by those who we would call religious scholars. Jesus disciple, John, writes that Jesus himself stated, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (Jn. 17:17). John, the author of the Bibles last chapter (Book of Revelations), states that Gods word is truth. In the Book of Daniel, an angel of the Lord appears to Daniel in a vision and promises to tell you (Daniel) what is noted in the Scripture of Truth (Dan. 10:21).
The biblical authors also try to prove the Bibles validity through the fulfillment of its prophecies. Jesus states that the Scriptures (regarding His coming) is fulfilled in your hearing. (Lk. 4:21). Each of these passages, as well as many others, advocate the truth in the Bible. However, because the last entry of the Bible was made over a thousand years ago and because no living witness is alive to support these claims, it is difficult to tell whether or not this information has merit. Since exploring the Bible for answers seems pointless, let us examine the people most associated with the Bible today, the biblical scholars.
Since I had no method of meeting all of the biblical scholars, I used their writings to determine their views on truth in the Bible. While conducting my research, I found many similar ideas between these people. Every single person agrees that the Scriptures are true. Nevertheless, the evidence each individual gives to support his or her claim varies. Interestingly enough, when further studied, each one distinguished between truth in the historical accuracy of the biblical documents and truth within the ideas. Only one person, Dave Miller believed in the complete inerrancy (sic) of the Scriptures.
Millers defines inerrant as meaning wholly true or without mistake. He argues that even if a small part of the Bible contains mistakes, then the Bible can not be a reliable guide to salvation. He states that if the Scripture is a mixture of truth and fallacy, then the Bible would not be any different from the Koran, Book of Mormon, or any other religious book that seeks acceptance by man. If there are any errors in our modern day translation of the Bible, Miller states that it is due to the error of the copyists, not the original writers (1).
Although Miller states archaeological evidence which support the existence of many biblical characters and sites, he fails to comment upon the deeper and not surprisingly, more controversial issues such as Creation and the resurrection of Jesus that are impossible to prove through science. However, Miller believes that everything in the Bible is historically and factually accurate. Millers main argument is, despite the Bibles seemingly noticeable inaccuracy, closer study will show that each book of the Bible is in harmony with the others. Parts of the Bible seem to contradict at times and this if what Miller is referring to.
Millers weak and inconclusive evidence raises another question. How can we know whos study (interpretation) of the Bible is accurate? For example, how do we know that Millers interpretation of the Scriptures is more valid than someone elses interpretation? This contrast in interpretation between biblical scholars does not end with the Bible. These differences extend to the archeological findings that pertain to the Bible as well. Many biblical scholars state archeological evidence as proof of the accuracy of the Scriptures. There is a group of archeological artifacts that scholars refer to many times.
These artifacts have been called one of the greatest archeological discoveries of modern times (Baigent and Leigh 5). What are these artifacts? They are none other than the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947, in the cliffs of Qumran near the city of Jerusalem. The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient scrolls written by Jewish monks at or about 140 BC. These dates were determined by scientific paleographic study of the scrolls. Interpretation of these scrolls very depending on different religious scholars. All of the experts who have studied these scrolls agree on the literal meaning of these texts.
For example, they all agree regarding the existence of two characters mentioned in these ancient scrolls, the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest. However, the dispute begins when they try to determine the identities of these two religious leaders. Some have stated that the Wicked Priest was none other than Jonathan or Simon Maccabaeus, sons of a Judaic priest (Mattatheus Maccabaeus) who started a revolt against the Greeks around 167 BC. However, one religious scholar believes otherwise and it is her proof that I would like to explore more in depth.
Barbara Thiering, an Australian religious scholar, has studied the Dead Sea Scrolls for over twenty years. She firmly believes that the Wicked Teacher is a reference to Jesus. She states that if there is an error in dating the documents, that is, if the documents were actually written after 140 BC, they could be referring to John the Baptist and Jesus. Her explanation of the ancient scrolls and the Bible seem very logical. She states that the true meaning of these documents is hidden by a code. This secret code, called the Paetsha, divides the Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls into two parts.
The first part is the superficial meaning of the Scriptures. In it lies the obvious moral and spiritual meaning message of the Bible. However, Thiering asserts that there is a hidden meaning to the message of the Bible. She states that the Old Testament was written in this form and therefore, the later writers of the New Testament adopted the same style. She uses the Gospels of the New Testament as an example. There are many supernatural events in the New Testament, which create much controversy regarding the validity of the Bible.
Stories such as birth of Jesus and His ascension to Heaven are metaphysical events that can not be proved through science. The reason for this coding, Thiering states, was for security reasons in case the enemy obtained these documents. At the time, the enemy would be referring to the Romans. The external message of the Bible had two purposes. The first purpose was to deter adversaries from understanding the documents true intentions and the second purpose was so that new followers could understand the doctrines given by this new branch of religion (Riddles VHS) A metaphor for this would be a small child.
Just like a child needs stories with imaginary and fantasy-like characteristics, Christians in their infancy needed a simpler doctrine to follow. After a period of time, these people learned how to read the deeper meanings within the text. Thiering takes many of the supernatural events that occur in the New Testament and interprets their meaning. There are many references to the miracles involving Jesus in the New Testament. For example, there is the virgin birth, the feeding of 5,000 people, and the Resurrection (Matt. 1:23, Jn. 14:17-21, Jn. 20:9).
In the story of the feeding of 5,000 people, Jesus takes five loaves of bread and feeds 5,000 people. Thiering asserts that the five loaves of bread represents the Sacred Meal given by the Levites. The Levites were a descendents from the tribe of Levi who were appointed by God to hold responsibilities in the Temple. Aaron, the brother of Moses was a Levi and the first High Priest of the Israelites (Ex. 4:14). Thiering states that when the Scriptures talk about Jesus breaking the bread and giving it to the people, He was really giving them the authority previously reserved for the Levites (Riddles VHS).
Jesus Himself broke the Jewish law when He blessed and broke and gave the bread (Matt. 14:19). If Thierings theory is accurate, then many of the unexplained events in the Scriptures can be interpreted and understood. Her theories take away the divine nature of the Old and New Testament making it more believable and logical. However, her claims for this theory raise many questions. For instance, Thiering states that Jesus did not really die and resurrect. Instead, He was buried alive and rescued by His disciples after three days (Riddles VHS).
Afterwards, He went into solitary hiding, thus He was received into heaven (Mark 16:19). The puzzling aspect of Thierings theory is, if Jesus did live until an advanced age, why are all references to Him in the later parts of the New Testament made in the past tense? And if He was alive during persecution of His disciples, why did He not do anything? But, most mysteriously, why arent there any existing writings by Jesus? After all, the New Testament makes constant reference to His teaching, yet there arent any documents written by Jesus Himself.
Biblical scholars Dave Miller and Dr. Barbara Thiering both agree that the Scriptures are true documents. Miller states that the events occurring in the Bible should be taken in a literal sense. Thiering states that the Bible is a true collection of documents, however the documents must be studied at a deeper level. These two people represent the two extreme views of biblical scholars. Very few completely agree with either of these views simply because the scholars lack the evidence supporting these claims. Robert Funk, a former college professor and author of many books pertaining to the Scriptures, states that Jesus was more human than divine (Romjue 1).
In his studies, Funk has come to the conclusion that none of the divine occurrences in the New Testament should be taken literally. Even some of the sayings that are attributed to Jesus are questionable according to Funk. His reasoning comes from studying the parallels of the four Gospels, which describe the life of Jesus (Romjue 24). However, Funk has been criticized by many denominations. My uncle who is an elder for the Korean Baptist Church of Concord states that a true leader is never accepted by his own people (Personal Interview #1).
He is saying that Jesus is facing criticism because of his authenticity. My uncle believes that every word of the Bible declares the truth and this truth proves the validity of the Scriptures (Personal Interview #1). Rather than just focus on the extreme views pertaining to the Bible, let us look at the consensus of the majority of biblical scholars. Here is an excerpt from my interview with Gerard Lee Dykstra, pastor of the Reform Church of Walnut Creek. His views sum up the majority views of biblical scholars.