Something more important to a "Christian" than Bible "study"?
We have scheduled Bible studies twice a week - Tuesday and Sabbath (Saturday). Our core group is a friend of 24 years and another, newer friend of two to three years. Lately, the son of my newer friend, (let's call his son Bob) who lives in Utah, has joined our studies. Along with Bob is his sons of 13 and 14 years, who have very little exposure to the Bible. This study is done through the speakers of a cell phone connection, but it works after a fashion.
The normal routine is for us to either read through the Bible and discuss issues as they arise, or to bring questions to the study for discussion. Since the boys have joined us, we have been reading Luke in order to give them a foundation for the concept of salvation, and were coming to the end of that book. During this reading, we discovered that the boys had a very limited understanding of the story of the gospels, and they did not even understand the human need for salvation. To them, it was just a series of words that they had heard before, but words that had no real meaning. While deciding where to go next, my friend and I suggested the book of Genesis, thinking that this would give the boys a foundation of understanding the very beginning of sin, the fall of humanity, and the need for the eventual salvation of Jesus Christ. Sounds reasonable, right?
"No, I won't let my boys learn that story"
To our surprise, Bob objected to the idea of teaching his boys from the book of Genesis. When we asked why, he told us that he did not want them taught about the Biblical story of the flood. We thought that he doubted the truth of the story, but he assured us that he believed that there was a flood, but that the Bible had the story wrong because men had changed it. He put much of the blame for those changes on the Catholic church. You see, Bob has also informed us that he is an ordained minister, as well as a student of history.
Well, Bob explained that there was a story about the flood that was written down some 500 years before the Bible version was written. Since that version differed from that of the Bible, the Bible version must be wrong, supposedly modified by the Catholics over the years, and he did not want his boys to learn a lie. While my friend and I had heard of the Gilgamesh story, we knew of it only as myth and legend. Here was an example of someone who took it to be truth over the Bible. That called for some research.
Doing a little research on the epic of Gilgamesh, the story quickly gets out of hand. As you can see by reading the sites at Encyclopedia.com and PBS.org, there are many versions of the myth and many psychological interpretations of the meanings of the relationships between the characters of the story. One even describes the story as an example of love between adolescent boys before the discovery of "love for women". Another interpretation describes the story as a parallel to the romance of Alexander.
Nothing strange about that...?
The story itself describes characters that are 2/3 god and 1/3 man, goddesses, beasts that eventually become more human, seekers of immortality by their own efforts, and includes stories of the flood. The fact that this story was written down before the writing of the Bible stories of the flood, regardless of the extreme variations between the two accounts, is used to justify the belief that the Gilgamesh story must be the truest of the two.
Reading a story about a king who evidently really lived, but has been mythologized beyond any believable concept, does not establish confidence in the use of the story to contradict the Bible.
Another surprise from Bob was his absolute confidence in the fact that the book of Enoch should be included in the canon of the Bible. In order to accept this idea, you must believe that, among other things, fallen angels can manifest physical bodies that have the ability to impregnate women, and even have the desire to do so. While the passage in Genesis 6:1-4 is interpreted by many to infer that this is actually what happened, if you read the passage to mean that Godly men took unGodly women as wives, you will believe differently. Adding a Ph.D. to your name does not make you right if you believe something that is not true. Many have faith in a god and a son of that god that does not match the Ones in the Bible.
The Book of Enoch - which one?
If you read the first eight chapters (5 pages) of the book of 1 Enoch (Ethiopic), you are faced with decisions and curiosity of the meaning of the words used. Since the book is attributed to the grandfather of Noah and that person was not on the Ark, are we to assume that a manuscript of his was carried aboard the ark by Noah even though we were not told that information? Or was it written later by a different Enoch? When a manuscript is so filled with "information" that cannot be verified or even suggested as being reasonable, when do we decide whether it must be taken as true or deem it false? How do we determine the parts that may be factual and which must be false? This is left to the individual as a matter of faith. That faith may be real, but the subject of that faith may or may not be real.
Reading the first chapter of 3 Enoch (Hebrew), we are treated to the words of a Rabbi Ishmael (a Rabbi from the second century A.D.), who we later find out was describing what Enoch saw when He "ascended to Heaven", before Enoch was transformed into the angel Metatron. However, 3 Enoch can only be traced back to the fifth century (according to Rejected Scriptures). It starts with no explanation of events, no introduction to characters, and it is all done in King James English. However, later, Rabbi Ishmael was told that Metatron, to whom he was speaking, was actually Enoch (Chapter 4.2). Then, I guess that Ishmael came back down from Heaven to relate his findings in this book. I think, maybe. If you read the book and can make heads or tails out of the statements, then you have learned something not taught in the schools. These words can be construed in many ways to mean anything, and since there is no precedent or antecedent to clarify, anyone can be right in saying what the book means.
Myths about the Dead Sea Scrolls
At a site called New International Version, you can see a list and explanation of six myths about the Dead Sea Scrolls:
1. The Dead Sea Scrolls Disprove the Bible
2. There was a Vatican Conspiracy to Conceal the Dead Sea Scrolls
3. The Scrolls Reveal that Jesus was Born and Crucified in Qumran - and He Survived the Cross
4. Some Scrolls Were Destroyed by the Bedouins Who Found Them
5. The Scrolls Include a Passage from the Gospel of Mark
6. No One Knows Where the Scrolls Came From
Elsewhere at a site called Shepherds Theological Seminary, there are more myths that are commonly believed by people like Bob who need something to shake up their world:
1. The JEPD Theory (or Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch)
2. The Genesis creation account is merely borrowed from ancient Near Eastern myths
3. The Genesis Flood is an overblown version of other ancient legends
4. The Patriarchal Narratives are myths
5. Isaiah is not a literary unity to be attributed to the prophet Isaiah
6. Daniel is not prophecy, it is history made to look like prophecy
7. The Synoptic Problem
8. The Gospel of John is anti-Semitic and different from the Synoptic Gospels
9. The Historical Jesus (the Jesus of history is not the Christ of faith)
10. Paul is the founder of a Hellenized Christianity that changed Jesus' Jewish gospel message
So, if you need something to help you create a discussion that throws the Bible into shadows, you can see that there are plenty of them around.
The issue here seems to be standards. As with most people, Bob has a set of standards that change with information he receives as he learns. If one has a gap in knowledge of a particular subject, whatever he receives on that subject will be used to fill the gap. If there is information in the part of the person's experience pertaining to this matter, he must decide whether the new information should replace the existing information. Bob's decision implies that he feels his existing knowledge of reality is not accurate if it is based on the data written in the Bible. This new information may be recognized as not completely accurate, but he feels that it is more accurate than what is in the Bible. His standards are changing with his perceived need for new information. The accepted canon is no longer his standard. The question becomes, what else will he no longer recognize when new information arises?
The question here is whether we should continue with the "bible" study. While the boys need to become familiar with the word of God, their dad is responsible for their education unless he passes that responsibility to others. Based on his statements at this study, he has not passed that responsibility. If he wants to continue using several non-Biblical authorities, and try to convince us that they are a new standard, then by definition this is no longer a Bible study. If you no longer respect the authority of the Bible, then you can make up your own to match your own beliefs.
While I respect everyone's freedom to do so, I cannot follow the example.
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your view.