Holy Cow II

cow

What still qualifies as heresy?

To be Christian, do you have to believe Christ is the only way to eternal life? Some who claim they are, don’t. Does a Christian think the Bible is divinely inspired scripture? There are many working on changing it. Are these recently revived heresies still wrong considering how many people believe them? Does the changing view of revolving society have any bearing on the eternal truths of God’s message and standards?
With all the variety of church teachings and practices that have come about, what could even be called heresy these days? To be heretical is to go against the predominant beliefs, but hairs have been split so many times there is little left that is sacred. The Nicene Creed and the apostles creed both still hold up in most churches, but little else has universal agreement. It seems as though anything else you want to throw in the mix with them is totally up for debate. Surely there must be a number of people required to agree on something before it is established as a “common belief”. Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and a variety of other groups claim to be believers in Christ but have greatly different views than Roman Catholics or protestants. There are a lot of them, so does that disqualify their differences as heresy? Under the official definition, it would seem they are.
As a person trying to come to a more stable grip on what you truly believe, its impossible to find the answers by looking up and down a rule book, especially when the rule book has things in it contradicting any reasonable understanding or is otherwise completely unrelated to the scripture its supposed to uphold. Something becoming holy simply by being popular among a certain crowd screams out against the necessary universal truth required of something truly divine.
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus said this. It has been used to give way to a great many things which oppose his greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” The things common throughout religious communities that go against what the Bible teaches are far too numerous to get into, not to mention all the stuff that has been tacked on because it doesn’t say you can’t. Christ was offering an ongoing dialog with the understanding that the rest of his message has already been considered when petitioning for exception or change. We should not expect our neighbors to be struck down and all their stuff to be given to you and your brother in law because you prayed for it and said “in Jesus name” at the end.
He spoke of things like, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” and“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said, ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” When reaching various consensus’, forgotten is the requirement of keeping with the teachings of God for their beliefs and traditions to be valid points of faith or honorable forms of worship.

If one man stands alone as the last one believing Christ died for his sins, is he a heretic, and if so, is that a bad thing?

Matters of faith are not simply a popularity contest. Every belief, every truth, even sharing the story of Jesus Christ has been exceedingly unpopular in different times and places. Countless people have stood for beliefs which now seem unquestionable, only to be burned alive because it wasn’t popular when they said it. If one man stands alone as the last one believing Christ died for his sins, is he a heretic, and if so, is that a bad thing? The way God enabled our redemption, was by coming into the world as a heretic. Bringing a message of love, understanding and reconciliation which was so unpopular he was crucified for it. It wasn’t a new message, looking back it was already spelled out in the earliest communications of God to men, it had simply been turned on its head through adaptation to popular opinion.
From the Sacred Calf in the desert to the murder of Jesus Christ, mass murder of unbelievers to mass suicide, commonality of beliefs in no way indicates correctness of beliefs. There is an ever growing expanse of beliefs, people always thinking they have found a more righteous path, and in our societal turn to ignore rather than confront, it will continue, heresy has become a nothing word with little to no consequence.
(To be concluded…)

Holy Cow

And other Christian heresiescow
Definition of heretic
1religion :a person who differs in opinion from established religious dogma (see dogma 2);especially :a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who refuses to acknowledge or accept a revealed truth
• The church regards them as heretics.
2:one who differs in opinion from an accepted belief or doctrine :nonconformist

If you find serious fault within the structures of the church, you’re not alone. Christians have been finding faults among their fellow saints from the very beginning. Heresy has become more often noticed and spoken of by those outside organized religion than those within it. Some pretty obvious deviations from what Christ said provide easy targets for critics, both uninformed and informed, and those who participate in organized religion and those who don’t.

For over 300 years, the Christian faith expanded rapidly with little centralized leadership despite serious opposition, spawning varying beliefs among different church communities. Most of the root beliefs were the same but not always, and serious fundamentals were being twisted within certain groups. In the fourth century, the basic beliefs of Christians were confirmed by gathering the church leaders of the time. Known as the Council of Nicea, this group established a standard doctrine of faith for the followers of Jesus Christ. The church now had a unified understanding of beliefs. The Council had been called for by the Roman emperor Constantine due to his own conversion to Christianity from pagan beliefs, he accepted their doctrine and established it as the accepted religion of Rome. The other thing put in place was centralized earthly leadership attached to the ruling government. Those who refused to accept the newly established order were labelled heretics and either killed or forced underground by Roman authorities.

For the next 700 years these tenants of faith held together Christians as a single group. But as religious practices grew and hierarchy expanded, eventually there was a split. Known as the great schism, the catholic (universal) church was divided into two distinct factions, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox dissenters were essentially accusing the church of heresy and didn’t want to be under Roman authority, so they split off and formed their own central leadership. These two groups continued to grow both in size and religious rules, divided by region and leadership for another 500 years, quieting any major dissent under the guise of silencing heretics. Then came the Reformation. A movement of faithful Christians of various levels of authority within the Roman church who were essentially labeling the Roman Catholic church and it’s leadership heretics.

Commonly blamed on Henry the VIII wanting a divorce, the reformation storm was brewing long before he was even born. With the major turning point coming through Martin Luther, the reformation gave heresy its biggest and broadest introduction to the average person. Suddenly everyone was vying for position as the new leadership of proper Christian faith. Since that time the number of Christian denominations has continued to grow, with each new division sighting another perceived heresy as their need to start a new group rather than be included with another.

According to the oldest of Christian communities, everyone not following their established and eternally updated doctrine and practices is a heretic. According to the newest of Christian communities, every group already existing are heretics. So as it turns out, all Christians are heretics depending on who you ask. It doesn’t carry the weight it once did, beheadings, torture, burning at the stake and the like doesn’t go on between rival Christian communities or individuals like it has in the past. There are vast and growing differences in beliefs and practices among those who consider themselves Christian, thankfully the desire and acceptability of killing each other over them has settled. Disagreements once grounds for scourging and execution have been accepted as theological differences worthy of little more than a roll of the eyes.

(to be continued…)

What is a Church?

What is a church?

 

According to Webster, a church is:

  1. A building that is used for Christian religious services

  2. The clergy or officialdom of a religious body

  3. A body or organization of religious believers

  4. A public divine worship

  5. The clerical proffession

When we use the word church we’re usually referring to a building or an organization, definitions 1 and 3. When people blame the church for things they are referring more towards #2 or 5. Things like “I’m going to church” “that’s a beautiful old church” or “the church is having a fund raiser”. Or the negative side, “the church is judgmental”, “the church persecutes people”. These aren’t necessarily a misuse of the word, but it does distort people’s perception of what it really means. None of the world’s religions use the term “church” outside Christianity. Temples, Mosques and Synagogues serve much of the same purpose as places to practice the tenants of faith, but are considered holy places among Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or any number of other religions.
As the facility manager for an Anglican Church, I take my job seriously. I want to maintain the highest of expectations as to the care and attention to detail, so it is welcoming to church members and accommodating for the work of the church. And though Christian facilities are to be respected for the work that they enable, they are just buildings. Property to be owned and maintained for the use of the Church, they aren’t sacred or holy. The Kingdom of Christ isn’t restricted to or centered on a location. The bible never refers to a building as a church.
Nowhere, even in the Old Testament do you see the word church mentioned, clarifying there is one Christian church and God gave his only son to and for the church. The first time the word is used is in Matthew 16:18 where Christ is quoted speaking to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus wasn’t saying he was beginning construction of a building on top of Peter, with walls and a moat designed to physically protect His followers from evil. Any reference to church you can find is referencing those joined together through faith in Christ. Faith in the Lord is our protection. The church as the bible uses it fits the 3rd and 4th definitions best.
In Paul’s letters he writes to the early members of the church. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 he says “to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” Galatians 1:2-3 “ and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:” Ephesians 1:22-23 “ and he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” From the perspective of the Father, all Christians are gathered as the bride of His only Son.
We can refer to a portion of the entire church as a church, so you do have churches. In Acts 15:41 Paul “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” He’s referring to multiple separate gatherings of church members. Each group is equally the church as an individual gathering, but the purpose and mission is all under the singular authority of Christ. Paul was attending to the needs of the whole church by addressing the individual needs of a particular group. You can compare it to personal fitness in a way. You only have one body, but it’s made up of many parts, each require different things to grow and stay healthy.
There are many factions or denominations of Christians, but only one body of Christ. Every person who has faith in Jesus Christ is a member of his Church. Each of us are like a single cell of a greater being, each with our own function. Christians commonly refer to the church building as church, that doesn’t mean that’s what the building is, that is what the building is for.

Showing up at “church” every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than wearing a suit makes you a gentleman. The Church, as the Bible teaches us Is Christ’s body, it’s health is maintained by offering honor to God and sharing the gospel with everyone by teaching and example.

Every Christian should feel like a welcome guest and a gracious host when attending church. Honoring the Lord of Hosts who has brought us into his Kingdom, serving and attending to our fellow saints. Whether that be at a building specifically designed and used for worship and sharing the gospel, or simply engaging in a conversation regarding faith. Matthew 18:20 says “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. All in all, definition #3 fits pretty well.
As for definition #4; a public divine worship. We don’t check our Faith at the door when we leave, we are to be lights to the world. Matthew 5:16 “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. How we behave when we are outside church as a gathering, says as much or more about our individual faith as when we are among other Christians. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to behave as such wherever we are. Showing up at “church” every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than wearing a suit makes you a gentleman. The Church, as the Bible teaches us Is Christ’s body, it’s health is maintained by offering honor to God and sharing the gospel with everyone by teaching and example.

 

A short read

Faith or Religion

 

What is faith

One of the all-time great movies is the original Karate Kid from 1984. Mr. Miagi shows how mundane chores, or enjoying the beach translated to steps taken toward the greater goal of learning martial arts. He didn’t lay out a strict training regime of punching and kicking, he showed Daniel a new way of living. He didn’t isolate him to a dojo, he made him productive, took him fishing and to the beach. He showed him how to see the movements and flow of combat in everything around him. In much the same way, being a Christian is a way of living, not a set of practices. Faith gets brought in to everything we do if that is our focus, it is the path of life and the only path to eternal life. It guides us both personally and professionally in our views, decisions and relationships.
Faith is trusting God. When you have it you know. When you struggle with it you know. When you don’t have it, you know. Only you and God really know exactly where you are in your faith. I think everyone has or does struggle with their faith at times. The thing that comes to my mind with anyone questioning their faith is that they are always searching for more. You don’t often see people who have faith looking for an excuse to quit believing in God, though some have allowed the world to lead them to wander from their faith. I don’t think anyone who has ever truly accepted Christ as their savior ever loses their faith, however hard they may try to hide from it. Questioning isn’t a bad thing. It’s a lack of questioning or never giving it a thought that draws us away by either getting comfortable with our religious routine, thinking our actions fulfill our obligation to worship God through lip service or by simply ignoring God completely because of anger, arrogance and shame, pushing away from God.
Most of what Jesus spoke about was regarding faith, he demonstrates its power, tells how to recognize it in ourselves and others, and assures us of its reward.

What is religion

In short, religion is the practices and structure of how we exercise faith in our daily lives and routines. Anymore it can refer to virtually anything we do on a regular basis. Some people watch football religiously, some wash their car religiously, it’s strictly adhering to a schedule or a method of what we do and how we do it. While some branches of the Christian Church have built up elaborate religious structures, very little of it has anything to do with what the Bible teaches. Often it directs people to do things or require practices never mentioned or even specifically taught against in the Bible.
Throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people were subject to the laws laid out by Moses. Religion, spelled out to Moses from God as a way to distinguish the Jewish people from their neighbors. In Matthew 5:17 Christ says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. What Christ did was abolish religion and replaced it with relationship. The true purpose of the law was always about relationship with our creator. He still sets his people apart. Throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Christ shows and tells us how we’re supposed to live in the world, not of the world. If highly structured “religious practices” were His message or the answer, surely he would have preached about it.
Sharing the gospel is the mission of Christians. It is about engaging people on whatever level they approach the subject of faith. People don’t generally engage in something they aren’t at all interested in. If they are struggling with faith or have no faith, they are wanting more or they wouldn’t engage in the conversation. Even if it seems they are only attacking your faith, it is still something they are interested in. You may think they don’t have faith by what little you know about them and they may not want to admit how much they think about their faith. Though people use it improperly quite often, this is a good example of when to apply Matthew 7:1 “judge not, that you be not judged”. God is the only one who really knows how that person feels about him. The strength of our faith is a direct reflection of our relationship with God. Questioning or seeking a better understanding of faith and discerning God’s will is how we develop our relationship with him.
Engaging people in conversations about religion isn’t very productive, it’s not the same conversation as talking about faith. So many horrible things are done under the heading of religious movements, defending or debating them is pointless. You can discuss history and debate motives, but all that can come from it is more proof of mankind’s fallen nature, both in the examples discussed and the argumentative tone that rises from it.
We have faith in lots of things, faith just means trust. People act religiously about a lot of things, from praying to mecca 5 times a day to washing their hands. Christ is your best friend, being a Christian puts you in a direct relationship him, you can trust your best friend to love you, take care of you when you need it, tell you how it is and forgive you when you fail them. Your best friend doesn’t make a bunch of requirements to be his friend, he accepts you how you are, because he knows you accept and have faith in him.
Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6. Mark 7:6-13 (7:1-13), Matthew 23:8-10 (23:1-12), Matthew 10:13, Luke 1:51

What the Mechanic said; about the Bible

This is the post excerpt.

What the Mechanic said

About the Bible

We’ve all heard of the Bible, The Holy Bible that is. It is without a doubt the most recognized book in the world. Most religions have their own book, books, or writings which guide their leaders and followers in the proper way to understand their beliefs, guide them in their faith or direct them in their religion. Islam has the Quran, Hinduism Has the Vedic scriptures, Buddhism has Tripitaka among others, Sikhism has Guru Granth Sahib, and Christians have The Holy Bible. Pretty much anything we do from basic personal hygiene to brain surgery, relationships to emotions has a stack of books a mile high telling you what it’s about and how to do it. The Bible is about our relationship with God. It tells us who he is, who we are, and how to relate to him and each other.

Studied and investigated more than any text ever written, the Holy Bible has been accepted by Christians as the authentic Word of God since it was assembled in the 4th century A.D. from the various Jewish and Christian writings available. Unbelievers and skeptics of all kinds have questioned and doubted its validity as the Word of God for a variety of reasons throughout the centuries, but lately it seems to be brought into question even by some proclaiming to be Christian. The motives and decisions about what writings to include and what not to include, the possibilities of messages lost in translation, even the wording and message itself has been brought into play as our culture tries to assimilate itself back into the Bible. The fact that the Bible is an authentic ancient text has even been brought up, suddenly attempting to cast doubt on the fact that the Bible is even old enough to be remotely authentic after 2000 years of common knowledge of its existence.

A lot of sayings, directives and beliefs are credited to the Bible, which are never stated anywhere in it. Many of them likely began as part of a good sermon, others are slight variations on what is scriptural but have taken on the position of representing actual scripture due to their common usage. They sound Biblical and have been perpetuated because they make have been made useful. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” has been used by many a parent to get their children to bathe or wash for dinner. “God will never give you more than you can handle” gets quoted to everyone during hard times. “The lord helps those who help themselves” is used to get people to take responsibility for their life and as an excuse to avoid helping those in need. “Money is the root of all evil” puts the blame for sin on an inanimate object. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a catch all for things we don’t understand. All these frequent quotes and many more attributed to the Bible are in fact, not what the Bible says and often, directly contradict the Bible.

The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions.

We live in a very knowledge based and highly critical time. But somehow we have gone the way of trusting the most superficial knowledge and joining the side of unwarranted popular criticism. The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions. As our society creeps further away from traditional Christian values, it has become more acceptable to twist the wording and meaning of the Bible, more common to dismiss it as man-made or corrupted. Our worldly desires conflicting with what many know as moral standards compels us to change the standard rather than face our immorality. “It isn’t sinful, the Bible was misinterpreted”, “there is no such thing as sin, the Bible was made up to control people”. We find it harder and harder to justify our society’s behavior within our understanding of the Bible, so rather than reign in our society, we distort or attempt to discredit the Bible to avoid facing potential judgement, not only from society at large but also from ourselves and from God.

There are many common misconceptions about the Bible, where it came from and what it says, who wrote it and why. Though a great deal of direct information is available, much of it is unknown by most people, and without ever committing to investigate or even read it, assumptions are made and positions taken without any actual knowledge at all. It’s these false assumptions, misconceptions and innocent ignorance which present some of the biggest challenges to acceptance of the Bible as an authentic ancient text and as divinely inspired scripture.

History

A look at the origins and history of the Bible confirm the legitimacy of The Holy Bible we know today as an authentic ancient text. When compared to other ancient records, writings and texts, the Bible stands out strongly as having vastly more proof to its authenticity.  Arguments that it has been changed and edited to suit various Popes and kings simply don’t stand up to the evidence. The thought that meanings are changed to suit translation are untrue. Proof of painstaking accuracy over millennia has been found. Distinctly divided into the Old Testament and New Testament, the Bible is not a single book written in a single time. It is the collection of writings by Jewish and Christian prophets and leaders from across hundreds of years, put together to preserve and clarify the teachings of God. As we find more and more pieces of older and older copies of the individual writings, the more solid the case for the integrity of the Bible we know today.
The writers of the Bible come from a wide range of time. The earliest writers lived millennia before the last, and the difference in time from original writing to known copies varies widely as well. While the oldest copies of many books of the Bible are over 2000 years old, they are still separated by decades to over a thousand years from the originals. This isn’t at all unusual in the world of ancient writings. Most of the ancient writings we have are dated by the earliest reference to them by others because there is no original dated works to confirm their age.
Finding the earliest written versions of the books of the Old Testament is not likely to happen. It was tradition to burn worn editions rather than preserve them. The Masoretic texts are the culmination of the first Jewish scholars to add vowels to the original ancient Hebrew writing of the Torah, with the oldest known copies dating to 930 A.D. is consistent with the modern Torah.  The oldest copies of the Old Testament scriptures from a collection commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, some scrolls dating from the second century B.C. are again, remarkably consistent with the modern Torah and Old Testament. A Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint is known to have been started in roughly 247 B.C. with portions remaining which date to roughly the same period. The most remarkable thing is that these 2000+ year old scriptures have remained nearly unchanged until today. The greatest differences occur in the Masoretic and descending Torah having differences which make Jesus less obviously the prophesied Christ. Overall, the consistency and accuracy with which they have been copied and passed down is unmatched in the world of literature.
Most New Testament books are only 30 to 150 years between fragments of copies and estimated original writing or beginning of oral tradition. Very close in historical terms and quite amazing considering the difficult times experienced by the early church.
The oldest copy of the entire Bible, which contains all of the books of the modern Bible plus two more in the New Testament and seven in the Old Testament, was copied in approximately 350 A.D. Known as the Codex Sinaiticus, it is dated to very near the time the Bible was first assembled from the known Jewish and Christian religious writings of the time. By the end of the first century A.D. the church had already designated a simple three tiered hierarchy for leadership among the believers of Christ. As the church grew, differing and often opposing theologies began to develop, mostly between regional churches, based on the teachings of the leaders among each respective church community. In a successful attempt at uniting the church in 325 A.D., Roman emperor Constantine ordered the leaders of the Christian world to meet, to confirm the authentic doctrine of Christian faith and to begin the process of compiling a single book containing the necessary divinely inspired writings applying to Christianity required to convey the true teachings of the Lord.
The Bible we know today has been painstakingly translated from the whole of known early texts. None of the original versions is known to exist nor will they likely ever be found. What we do have is over 2000 years of remarkably consistent copies and translations. The popular belief that it has been lost in translation is simply not true and all the evidence points to the entirety of the Holy Bible being faithful to its original form. The reliability of the Bible as a written work has been exhaustively researched and verified to be of truly ancient origin. This fact alone begins to answer the bigger more important question as its position as the Word of God, is the Bible the authentic message from God to his believers? What about the Bible would make a person believe or not believe it is the Word of God? What separates a great and historic book from a divine book?

Prophesy

If you name all the prophets who are commonly known or have a significant following in modern society, the list is very short. The same is true of known prophesies of unknown prophets. Astrologers, Mayan astronomers, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce are the ones most people think of when referring to predicting or knowing future events. Among them they have several predictions seemingly made. When compared to the number of predictions they made and the argument over whether or not the predictions actually came through as told leaves the world outside the Bible with few things that could be called prophetic. Even among other religious writings, accurate prophecy is strikingly absent.
The Holy Bible on the other hand is packed with prophecy. Both fulfilled and as yet unfulfilled, foretelling of the future begins in Genesis and ends in Revelations. Several books are nothing but prophesy. Were it not for the Bible fulfilling it’s prophesies consistently, it would surely have been dismissed long ago. Throughout the pages and ages of the Old Testament, prophets told the Israelites what was going to happen. Both good and bad outcomes of the things that would happen to them were foretold to them again and again. Each time they followed an order from God to do what they thought to be impossible they succeeded. Each time God presented a choice to Israel, they were told what would be the result of their choice. Though the results changed based on the situation, the choice was always the same, follow God or don’t follow God.
Despite the repeated warnings and promises fulfilled within their time, Israel continued to ignore or misinterpret the prophets sent by God. From rebellion in the desert leaving Egypt to failing to recognize Christ when he came, God’s prophets again and again proved themselves. It was the truth of these warnings and acknowledging the prophesies that brought them back to the Word of God and gave them the lasting fortitude to keep it protected.
The birth of Crist was foretold throughout the Old Testament and even among groups outside the people of Israel. The foreign wise men who brought gifts alerted the priests of Israel about Christ’s birth who confirmed the match with prophesy. The confirmation was so striking, the King of Israel killed all the children born for a two year period in an attempt to protect his position from the awaited everlasting king. Christ and his disciples made many statements of prophesy that were thought laughable at the time, and others which were quite direct but misunderstood or disbelieved until fulfilled.

Message

Nearly every religious text has some good messages in it somewhere. Bits of wisdom and direction we can all learn from are everywhere. The Bible’s message is love, forgiveness and a direct relationship with God. Yes, its loaded with other things, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, love your enemy for to do otherwise makes you no better than he, Love your God with all your heart, mind and soul…notice a theme here? A few specific sins are pointed out, around 120, all of them essentially falling under the 10 commandments. It doesn’t offer us any set of religious practices or call us to holy places. It offers only two things which could be considered ritualistic by anyone. To believers, these are not religious practices, they are Holy Sacraments; baptism and the Eucharist. Baptism is our accepting of God and is only to be done once in a lifetime. The Eucharist is a reminder of the tortured flesh and flowing blood that was the direct result of, and penance for our sins.

Results

The effect that the Bible has had on society as a whole is another great testimony of its divinity. No other piece of literature, or principles of faith have had as large, lasting or positive an impact on humanity as Christianity and the Holy Bible. Societal standards of decency and morality are based on the teachings of the Bible. Though twisted at times to support political and personal agendas countless times throughout its history, the Bible represents and encourages all that is good among mankind and calls out and condemns all that is evil.

What the Mechanic said; about the Bible

What the Mechanic said

About the Bible

We’ve all heard of the Bible, The Holy Bible that is. It is without a doubt the most recognized book in the world. Most religions have their own book, books, or writings which guide their leaders and followers in the proper way to understand their beliefs, guide them in their faith or direct them in their religion. Islam has the Quran, Hinduism Has the Vedic scriptures, Buddhism has Tripitaka among others, Sikhism has Guru Granth Sahib, and Christians have The Holy Bible. Pretty much anything we do from basic personal hygiene to brain surgery, relationships to emotions has a stack of books a mile high telling you what it’s about and how to do it. The Bible is about our relationship with God. It tells us who he is, who we are, and how to relate to him and each other.

Studied and investigated more than any text ever written, the Holy Bible has been accepted by Christians as the authentic Word of God since it was assembled in the 4th century A.D. from the various Jewish and Christian writings available. Unbelievers and skeptics of all kinds have questioned and doubted its validity as the Word of God for a variety of reasons throughout the centuries, but lately it seems to be brought into question even by some proclaiming to be Christian. The motives and decisions about what writings to include and what not to include, the possibilities of messages lost in translation, even the wording and message itself has been brought into play as our culture tries to assimilate itself back into the Bible. The fact that the Bible is an authentic ancient text has even been brought up, suddenly attempting to cast doubt on the fact that the Bible is even old enough to be remotely authentic after 2000 years of common knowledge of its existence.

A lot of sayings, directives and beliefs are credited to the Bible, which are never stated anywhere in it. Many of them likely began as part of a good sermon, others are slight variations on what is scriptural but have taken on the position of representing actual scripture due to their common usage. They sound Biblical and have been perpetuated because they make have been made useful. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” has been used by many a parent to get their children to bathe or wash for dinner. “God will never give you more than you can handle” gets quoted to everyone during hard times. “The lord helps those who help themselves” is used to get people to take responsibility for their life and as an excuse to avoid helping those in need. “Money is the root of all evil” puts the blame for sin on an inanimate object. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a catch all for things we don’t understand. All these frequent quotes and many more attributed to the Bible are in fact, not what the Bible says and often, directly contradict the Bible.

The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions.

We live in a very knowledge based and highly critical time. But somehow we have gone the way of trusting the most superficial knowledge and joining the side of unwarranted popular criticism. The ever increasing need for instant gratification of the things we want and things we want to know leaves us believing the easiest answers to some of the deepest questions. As our society creeps further away from traditional Christian values, it has become more acceptable to twist the wording and meaning of the Bible, more common to dismiss it as man-made or corrupted. Our worldly desires conflicting with what many know as moral standards compels us to change the standard rather than face our immorality. “It isn’t sinful, the Bible was misinterpreted”, “there is no such thing as sin, the Bible was made up to control people”. We find it harder and harder to justify our society’s behavior within our understanding of the Bible, so rather than reign in our society, we distort or attempt to discredit the Bible to avoid facing potential judgement, not only from society at large but also from ourselves and from God.

There are many common misconceptions about the Bible, where it came from and what it says, who wrote it and why. Though a great deal of direct information is available, much of it is unknown by most people, and without ever committing to investigate or even read it, assumptions are made and positions taken without any actual knowledge at all. It’s these false assumptions, misconceptions and innocent ignorance which present some of the biggest challenges to acceptance of the Bible as an authentic ancient text and as divinely inspired scripture.

History

A look at the origins and history of the Bible confirm the legitimacy of The Holy Bible we know today as an authentic ancient text. When compared to other ancient records, writings and texts, the Bible stands out strongly as having vastly more proof to its authenticity.  Arguments that it has been changed and edited to suit various Popes and kings simply don’t stand up to the evidence. The thought that meanings are changed to suit translation are untrue. Proof of painstaking accuracy over millennia has been found. Distinctly divided into the Old Testament and New Testament, the Bible is not a single book written in a single time. It is the collection of writings by Jewish and Christian prophets and leaders from across hundreds of years, put together to preserve and clarify the teachings of God. As we find more and more pieces of older and older copies of the individual writings, the more solid the case for the integrity of the Bible we know today.
The writers of the Bible come from a wide range of time. The earliest writers lived millennia before the last, and the difference in time from original writing to known copies varies widely as well. While the oldest copies of many books of the Bible are over 2000 years old, they are still separated by decades to over a thousand years from the originals. This isn’t at all unusual in the world of ancient writings. Most of the ancient writings we have are dated by the earliest reference to them by others because there is no original dated works to confirm their age.
Finding the earliest written versions of the books of the Old Testament is not likely to happen. It was tradition to burn worn editions rather than preserve them. The Masoretic texts are the culmination of the first Jewish scholars to add vowels to the original ancient Hebrew writing of the Torah, with the oldest known copies dating to 930 A.D. is consistent with the modern Torah.  The oldest copies of the Old Testament scriptures from a collection commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, some scrolls dating from the second century B.C. are again, remarkably consistent with the modern Torah and Old Testament. A Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint is known to have been started in roughly 247 B.C. with portions remaining which date to roughly the same period. The most remarkable thing is that these 2000+ year old scriptures have remained nearly unchanged until today. The greatest differences occur in the Masoretic and descending Torah having differences which make Jesus less obviously the prophesied Christ. Overall, the consistency and accuracy with which they have been copied and passed down is unmatched in the world of literature.
Most New Testament books are only 30 to 150 years between fragments of copies and estimated original writing or beginning of oral tradition. Very close in historical terms and quite amazing considering the difficult times experienced by the early church.
The oldest copy of the entire Bible, which contains all of the books of the modern Bible plus two more in the New Testament and seven in the Old Testament, was copied in approximately 350 A.D. Known as the Codex Sinaiticus, it is dated to very near the time the Bible was first assembled from the known Jewish and Christian religious writings of the time. By the end of the first century A.D. the church had already designated a simple three tiered hierarchy for leadership among the believers of Christ. As the church grew, differing and often opposing theologies began to develop, mostly between regional churches, based on the teachings of the leaders among each respective church community. In a successful attempt at uniting the church in 325 A.D., Roman emperor Constantine ordered the leaders of the Christian world to meet, to confirm the authentic doctrine of Christian faith and to begin the process of compiling a single book containing the necessary divinely inspired writings applying to Christianity required to convey the true teachings of the Lord.
The Bible we know today has been painstakingly translated from the whole of known early texts. None of the original versions is known to exist nor will they likely ever be found. What we do have is over 2000 years of remarkably consistent copies and translations. The popular belief that it has been lost in translation is simply not true and all the evidence points to the entirety of the Holy Bible being faithful to its original form. The reliability of the Bible as a written work has been exhaustively researched and verified to be of truly ancient origin. This fact alone begins to answer the bigger more important question as its position as the Word of God, is the Bible the authentic message from God to his believers? What about the Bible would make a person believe or not believe it is the Word of God? What separates a great and historic book from a divine book?

Prophesy

If you name all the prophets who are commonly known or have a significant following in modern society, the list is very short. The same is true of known prophesies of unknown prophets. Astrologers, Mayan astronomers, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce are the ones most people think of when referring to predicting or knowing future events. Among them they have several predictions seemingly made. When compared to the number of predictions they made and the argument over whether or not the predictions actually came through as told leaves the world outside the Bible with few things that could be called prophetic. Even among other religious writings, accurate prophecy is strikingly absent.
The Holy Bible on the other hand is packed with prophecy. Both fulfilled and as yet unfulfilled, foretelling of the future begins in Genesis and ends in Revelations. Several books are nothing but prophesy. Were it not for the Bible fulfilling it’s prophesies consistently, it would surely have been dismissed long ago. Throughout the pages and ages of the Old Testament, prophets told the Israelites what was going to happen. Both good and bad outcomes of the things that would happen to them were foretold to them again and again. Each time they followed an order from God to do what they thought to be impossible they succeeded. Each time God presented a choice to Israel, they were told what would be the result of their choice. Though the results changed based on the situation, the choice was always the same, follow God or don’t follow God.
Despite the repeated warnings and promises fulfilled within their time, Israel continued to ignore or misinterpret the prophets sent by God. From rebellion in the desert leaving Egypt to failing to recognize Christ when he came, God’s prophets again and again proved themselves. It was the truth of these warnings and acknowledging the prophesies that brought them back to the Word of God and gave them the lasting fortitude to keep it protected.
The birth of Crist was foretold throughout the Old Testament and even among groups outside the people of Israel. The foreign wise men who brought gifts alerted the priests of Israel about Christ’s birth who confirmed the match with prophesy. The confirmation was so striking, the King of Israel killed all the children born for a two year period in an attempt to protect his position from the awaited everlasting king. Christ and his disciples made many statements of prophesy that were thought laughable at the time, and others which were quite direct but misunderstood or disbelieved until fulfilled.

Message

Nearly every religious text has some good messages in it somewhere. Bits of wisdom and direction we can all learn from are everywhere. The Bible’s message is love, forgiveness and a direct relationship with God. Yes, its loaded with other things, loving your neighbor as you love yourself, love your enemy for to do otherwise makes you no better than he, Love your God with all your heart, mind and soul…notice a theme here? A few specific sins are pointed out, around 120, all of them essentially falling under the 10 commandments. It doesn’t offer us any set of religious practices or call us to holy places. It offers only two things which could be considered ritualistic by anyone. To believers, these are not religious practices, they are Holy Sacraments; baptism and the Eucharist. Baptism is our accepting of God and is only to be done once in a lifetime. The Eucharist is a reminder of the tortured flesh and flowing blood that was the direct result of, and penance for our sins.

Results

The effect that the Bible has had on society as a whole is another great testimony of its divinity. No other piece of literature, or principles of faith have had as large, lasting or positive an impact on humanity as Christianity and the Holy Bible. Societal standards of decency and morality are based on the teachings of the Bible. Though twisted at times to support political and personal agendas countless times throughout its history, the Bible represents and encourages all that is good among mankind and calls out and condemns all that is evil.