Sixty-Six Consistent Books?
The primary reason for the recent break in updating this website was for one of my occasional hikes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. It's something I quite enjoy. Quite often during the hike, I end up running into someone with about the same pace, and we hike together, generally shooting the breeze.
And that happened this time. I ran into a fellow from Ohio hiking the Canyon for the first time, and we seemed to be having a good chat while we both photographed our progress down the trail. Until about halfway down, when out of the blue, he asked me:
What is your faith?
Now I don't hike into the Grand Canyon looking for the argument clinic, even though I've been known to leave a UCTAA business card in a Gideon Bible there, so I played my deaf old geezer card, and didn't understand what was said.
Anyway - he tried it a couple of other ways, and eventually asked:
What is your spiritual position?
For whatever reason, that came through loud and clear, and I could not pretend not to hear, so I answered:
I've been an agnostic for many, many years.
I used to be something like that, but after a lot of study, I found some answers I could believe in.
I just nodded non-committedly and carried on hiking. He said nothing more, and I thought he'd got my message that I wasn't interested in such a discussion on the hike. And the conversation turned to other matters.
I thought the issue was now dead, but later that afternoon, relaxing at Phantom Ranch, he tried again.
What I wanted to talk about on the way down was Bible - which is really sixty-six different books written over a period of about four thousand years by about forty different authors, and in spite of that, they are all consistent with one another.
Still not wanting an argument, I was forced to be clear.
I'm not interested in discussing that.
And that was that. The issue did not come up again.
But suppose I had been ready to ruin an enjoyable hike by getting into a discussion, or more likely an argument... What would I have said? Essentially that every fact in his statement was open to dispute.
Generally this is true for the Protestant version of the Bible (39 books in the OT, and 27 in the NT), but it is not true for all Christian versions of the Bible.
What we have is a book which went through hundreds of years of arguments and discussions from the time of the earliest Christians in an attempt to establish which of over a hundred books were indeed sacred, and which weren't. It has not been resolved to this day.
- Catholic Bible - 73 books
- Greek Orthodox - 77 books
- Ethiopic Church - 81 books
- Coptic Church - NT of 29 books
- LDS - Joseph Smith, while accepting the KJV, decided the Song of Solomon was not canonical
Four thousand years?
4,000 years was probably an accidental misstatement which the person would have corrected in a discussion. But what would he have corrected it to. If you do a web search on the statement as quoted, you'll find that the most common formulation is about 1,500 years. This assumes Moses actually wrote the Pentateuch in the middle of the second millennium BC. Theological scholars not bound to Moses as the author as dogma, generally date these books to the fifth or sixth centuries BC. This really sets the period in which the books of the various Christian canons were written as about 800 years.
Forty different authors?
If you go by traditional biblical attribution, this is probably correct. If you go by analysis, it is certainly wrong. Textual analysis shows that certain books of the OT, beginning with Genesis, had multiple authors. It also shows that many of the letters attributed to Paul are outright forgeries, written by others in an attempt to lay to rest early Christian heresies. In addition to that, books of the NT have a considerable number of additions not in the oldest known manuscripts, showing that any number of anonymous scribes felt compelled to correct perceived errors and to embellish the stories. It is not out of line to suggest that their are more unattributed contributors than there are attributed ones.
In any event, we are dealing with many more than forty authors.
Really? The books of the Bible -regardless of how you count them - are fully consistent with each other?
This claim is just risible. Not only aren't the sixty-six - or seventy-three - or eight-one - books of the Bible consistent with each other, a considerable number of them are not even internally consistent. A reading of the first two chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1 & 2, is sufficient to establish this.
So, in summary, we have a statement intended to introduce me to the spiritual wonders of Christianity which was invalid on every count. Not to mention the unstated assumption by the person making the statement that in today's Christian infused society I would be unfamiliar with the Bible.
So why didn't I take the time to point these issues out to him? Other than his need to be intrusively evangelical, he was a pretty decent guy. Quite simply, an argument would have ruined an enjoyable hike - and he would have no more listened to my views on the Bible and Christianity than I was prepared to listen further to his.
On the hike, over halfway down - the trail ahead and the river below