Saturday, July 10, 2010

But It's All One Story!

Now this is something which I never quite understood when I was a believer, the claim that the bible is all one big story, or that as a whole it conveys one unified message. If there were only 1 message in a book that size, it would be the king of boring books, nothing would ever be able to touch it in boring-ness.
I think that the reason this 'argument' has risen to popularity lately is perhaps because many Christians can see the blatant discrepancies between biblical texts, so they unconsciously concede the point that the bible is full of contradictions. They retreat to the position that "It's all one story", as if that is some kind of argument for its validity (which it most certainly isn't). The only possible way I can see of linking up all the books of the bible together would be the following summary "God does some things". In Genesis he's creating things, sending snakes to lie to people, promoting incest, committing genocide and giving boring genealogies. In Exodus he's talking through trees, sending plagues, murdering children, turning rivers into blood, turning sticks into snakes, drowning entire armies and kicking people out of their homelands. I think you get the point by now. The 'story' can only be unified by the line "God does things", and to suggest otherwise would be dishonest.
You could possibly elaborate on that by saying "God flaunts his power, and might makes right" or something like that, but I can't imagine the overall plot line would get any more complicated than that.


  1. I seem to remember doing a big mother post about the unified message on one of your blogs from last year.

    I can indeed myself consciously see that the Bible is full of "contradictions". Always found it a bit of a strong word to use in this context.

    I can also consciously see one unified message in the Bible. Even though the author(s) of the Torah themselves weren't aware of what first century evangelists John and Paul might record as "God's Word".

    I insist, the Bible was compiled by intelligent people! Not men on acid. Compiled because of it's similarity in doctrine, theme and story. Things were kept out of the Bible because of major contradiction and discrepancy in doctrine, etc.

    I think a person can read and interpret the Bible how it's probably meant to be read and interpreted. With a Bronze Age, Middle Eastern mindset (rather difficult).


    They can read it the easy way. At a Post-Modern 21st century surface level, observing "obvious" errors, mistakes, contradictions - write it off as "clearly being" crackpot scribblings from a historical period of ignorance in their mind and therefore justify getting on with their "far more modern / informed / intelligent / logical life however they might so choose. Whether that be good without God (billboards now? really? Brilliant atheists) or, I guess the opposite would be "bad without Satan" haha.

    But honestly, how could anyone be so arrogant? I don't care if you believe in the idea of a supernatural / spiritual realm or not. The Bible is full of incredible wisdom regardless. Just because some writer lived their life in a previous millenia does not make them a complete dumbass.

    Analogy (maybe not a perfect one):
    Puff, the Magic Dragon - much speculation by listeners as to the song "obviously" being entirely about smoking marijuana. However the writers protest this as nonsense.

    I'll listen to the writers. Thanks.
    I'll listen to Buzz Aldrin. Thanks.
    I'll listen to the fire fighters that were inside the WTC. Thanks.

    It's a shame we don't still have the writers of the Bible around to question. But we do have well educated Biblical scholars. So instead I'll listen to them.

    Finally, I think, if God exists, then might may just probably make right? Unless some upstart is keen on devising some mastermind only-in-the-Hollywood-movies "underdog humans surprisingly take out the bigshot God" plan. Good luck with that one

  2. I was always told that its overarching theme was showing how man was flawed so that God could come in and save the day by his grace and mercy. I used to buy that; however, it's ironic that I now realize that all of the worst atrocities in the bible were either directly committed or at least commanded by God. All for good reasons, I'm sure.

  3. I never said that there wasn't anything worthwhile in the bible, all I was really saying was that analysing it as a single work with one message, one story etc. is retarded.

    As you know, the bible contains many different texts spanning many different periods. They were written in different circumstances and from different doctrinal perspectives, for example the evolution of the term Satan.

    Perhaps I should have elaborated a bit more on this in the initial post...

    Anyway.. Much of the literature contained in the bible has valuable insight into the religious and cultural mindset of the time that it was written in. But because the books were all written at different times, the religious ideas often conflict with each other.

    One last point.. The books contained within the bible for the most part are not history books at all. Much of the accounts have been shown by archaeology to be at best unreliable, so contradictions in 'facts' are to be expected.

    Maybe I should do a second post.

  4. Nah it's not retarded at all. One message is clearly identifiable to me (and many other Chins) when I read it. And I'm honestly not lying to myself. I'm not into that. The only real issue is - whether it all holds water or not haha :D

    I don't see Satan "evolving" in the Bible either. Pop culture on the other hand - evolves him and God and many other things all the time.

    Different books. Different times. Yes. Different doctrine? Not really. The major doctrinal difference is Jesus. THE GUY CREATES HUGE ISSUES. Jesus not only divides the Bible in two when it comes to doctrine (old and new covenants). He also divides the three Abrahamic religions. He's a controversial chap that Jesus. Controversial enough to become a 'swear' word of all things. Jesus Christ...

  5. From what I've seen, the 'one story' view is not held by biblical scholars at all.

    The evolution of the concept of Satan happened before 'pop culture' existed. It happened over the period of the development of the Jewish religion, which is why there are two main views within Judaism, if you read the links I posted in a comment the other day you'd remember this. One view is that Satan is not an entity at all, but rather is a word used to denote anything which impedes one from doing gods work or causes one to sin. The other view is that Satan is an 'angel' sent by god to challenge humans. A test of sorts, in this view Satan can not act without the permission of god. This is a stark contrast to the Christian view that says Satan is a literal entity who rebelled against god and is a force of evil.

    On the issue of doctrine, I'll see how many doctrinal discrepancies I can rattle off the top of my head. Circumcision (old and NT passaging saying it is required) and NT passages saying it isn't.
    Original Sin from Adam or Eve, NT contradictions only.
    Is there an afterlife? Numerous OT contradictions and NT says yes only.
    Does god enjoy/desire animal sacrifices? many OT contradictions, NT only says no.
    Does god get angry? Some OT passages say no, most others say yes (or depict an angry god)

    I'll stop there.. There are many, many other issues beyond those that show doctrinal inconsistencies within the old testament, not to mention the number of doctrinal problems that arrived with the new testament. This among other things is why I said that to consider it a cohesive work with one storyline and one message was 'retarded'.

  6. The Christian view of Satan you quote is the same group of fundies who believe in a literal Genesis.

    The majority of Christians I know view Satan through both of those Jewish perspectives. Under the control of God, etc. etc.

    Your paragraph on doctrinal discrepancies (whilst being a little hard to understand, feel free to clarify yourself) really highlights my point on Jesus being the difference.

    Circumcision - was a requirement under the Old Covenant. Jesus arrives. No longer a requirement.

    Original sin - committed by A & E. Jesus arrives. Original sin is sent packing through him.

    Afterlife - I think is unattainable without Jesus fullstop. See the conditional immortality doctrine. A relatively minority view I would subscribe to. No eternal burning.

    Animal sacrifices - required under Old Covenant. Jesus arrives. He replaces all animal sacrifices (the whole 'lamb' thing). The contradictions I think you're referring to are the passages where it appears God is not interested in the Israelite animal sacrifices. This is very basic doctrine. He was not just after someone to kill their sheep or whatever and go "there you go God. Happy?" His omniscience allows him to see into the Israelite minds and he sees that their heart is not behind their sacrifice. They were simply going through routine.

    Now with the anger of God one - it should be common knowledge that God is capable of getting angry. But he is "slow to anger". Slow does not mean "he doesn't get angry". Just means he has a relatively long fuse. Relative to what? I don't know.

    You can't just say many, many other issues and not back it up :D Dish out some more

  7. Circumcision? As far as I know Jesus never said anything on the matter. Paul circumcised Timothy in the book of acts.
    Original sin is a Christian doctrine not a Jewish one.
    Isaiah 26:14 They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased they shall not rise.
    Psalm 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
    Ecclesiastes 9:5
    The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward.
    Whereas in other places in the OT...
    Ezekiel 37:12
    Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
    Daniel 12:1
    And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

    The Old testament seems to be a bit conflicted about the afterlife, the New testament books however are unanimous in their support for an afterlife. Jesus himself even mentions eternal suffering for the unbelievers. In fact, Jesus is the only figure in all of the biblical texts to mention suffering in the afterlife.

    Animal Sacrifices...

    Numbers 18:17-19
    Thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.

    Actually, I just noticed something. As far as I can see, all of the verses promoting animal sacrifice come from the Pentateuch. The rest of the old testament is pretty consistent in saying that god doesn't want sacrifices.
    Isaiah 66:3
    He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.
    Jeremiah 6:20
    Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.
    Isaiah 1:11
    I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
    Psalm 51:16
    For thou desirest not sacrifice ... thou delightest not in burnt offerings.

    The new testament has absolutely NOTHING to say about animal sacrifices.

    You know how favourably the Old Testament Jews thought about homosexuals. What did the law order the Jews to do?
    In Leviticus homosexuals are to be killed.
    In 1 Kings however..
    "And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, ... he took away the sodomites out of the land. "

    How about incest?
    The OT law books were pretty clear that it was a "wicked thing" (Leviticus 20:17, 20:19, 18:9, 18:12 and Deuteronomy 27:22) BUT, Genesis and exodus have several accounts of people marrying their cousins, aunties, sisters... Without saying that they were doing wrong.

    This one should be pretty obvious.

    Acts 5:29
    We ought to obey God rather than men.
    1 Peter 2:13
    Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.

    This too.

    Psalm 86:5
    For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
    1 Samuel 15:2-3
    Now go an smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.

    The conflict between Old Testament Laws and the Christian doctrine that they no longer apply would be worthy of an entire post in itself.

    With regard to the Satan issue, I really doubt that every Christian you know takes the Jewish view. I'm fairly certain that nearly every Christian that I know takes the literal Christian view of Satan as an angel that rebelled and will be destroyed in the end times.

  8. On top of all that..

    There are several different 'denominations' of Judaism. They differ slightly in doctrine to each other.

    Though there are no where near as many denominations as there are of Christianity. Something in the number of 5-10 versus 10,000+

    EVEN IF there were no doctrinal differences between anything in the bible. EVEN IF there were no factual contradictions or fabrications in the bible. It STILL wouldn't be convincing as a genuine holy book. But the fact that these things exist indicate to me very clearly that it is a work of men. Many sophisticated theologians and biblical scholars also accept this view that it was composed by men.

  9. Circumcision - Timothy was circumcised because him and Paul were going to hang out with Jews. And they all knew Tim's father was Greek. It's called being culturally sensitive.

    "Original sin is a Christian doctrine not a Jewish one"

    I don't see how this relates to what we have been talking about. Christian or Jewish. The doctrine still fits. The difference is Christians believe Jesus disposed sin. Jews believe the Messiah hasn't even come yet.

    Afterlife -

    Isaiah 26 is a song of praise which at verse 13 compares God, immortal, to other human lords that have ruled over the Israelites. Verse 14 is referring to the mortality of those lords. That is all.

    Psalm 6 is a desperate prayer for mercy. The psalmist says that "dead people don't remember you and those in the grave can't praise you". He's begging God for mercy, "sooner rather than later please God" before he dies.

    Ecclesiastes 9 is questioning whether death is fair or not.

    Ezekiel 37 is a figurative vision. Not literal dry bones that are literally going to come back to life.

    Daniel 12 is yet another figurative vision of the end times. Where the dead will rise and spend eternity in heaven or hell.

    I'm not seeing any of these verses saying there is no afterlife.

    Animal sacrifices -

    I already said in my last comment that God's expressions of distaste towards sacrifices and other routine religious practices (see the whole of Isaiah 1) was to do with people who didn't have their heart behind their practice. They would just do it to hopefully 'appease' God's wrath rather than truly repent from their wickedness. Your quoted Psalm 51 is a genuine prayer for forgiveness from the heart. The psalmist recognises that simply killing a beast and burning it will not solve the problem alone. The animal sacrifice was only a symbolic display to go along with the repentance of the heart. It's not as though God finds pure joy in people popping under water then coming out again! He's far more interested in the heartfelt intention behind the religious visible demonstrations.

    The New Testament (covenant) says nothing about animal sacrifices FOR GOOD REASON. Jesus.

    I see no contradiction with the homosexual verses. Would you find contradiction if one homosexual was sent to one town and another to a different town? Or if one homosexual was stoned against one wall and another stoned against a different wall? Doesn't have to be exactly the same punishment. Just the same end result, which appears to be "no homosexuals". Please don't use this to resurrect another Homosexuality argument. I personally am not sure where I stand on this topic but I think Jesus would have loved them along with the prostitutes and the tax collectors.

    How can people of Genesis or Exodus be condemned for incest if the incest laws hadn't been released yet?

    Acts 5 has men trying to stop the apostles spreading the gospel. They put Jesus' command - to take his story to the world - as priority. Fair enough.

    1 Peter 2:13 begins "For the Lord's sake...". God's word is priority in all instances.

    No contradiction. Only to submit to your human leaders unless they are stopping you living righteously according to God.

    Contrasting Psalm 86 with the destruction of the Amalekites? Really?

    People dead set on stopping Israelites from reaching the Promised Land aren't exactly "calling upon God for mercy".

  10. Anyway, I think Old Testament and New Testament differences would be rather a daft post as the differences are the reason some people are Christians and others Jews. Not exactly bringing anything to the light with that one.

    Satan sigh. Actually looking at your Christian definition again, it appears I (and other Christians I mentioned) believe all 3 perspectives. The perspective I am slamming as bollocks is the Red Horned arch enemy style Devil that is a God's equal opposite.

    "EVEN IF there were no doctrinal differences between anything in the bible. EVEN IF there were no factual contradictions or fabrications in the bible. It STILL wouldn't be convincing as a genuine holy book."

    I feel like some true colors are possibly coming out with that statement!

  11. Besides the OT passages about Elisha/Elijah there are only 2 passages that mention people coming back to life, and those are the ones I already mentioned. Every other instance of death is similar to the ones I mentioned that you brushed off as inconsequential. Scholars have determined that belief in an afterlife came very late in judaic belief. Possibly from a Hellenic influence.

    Don't know if you noticed me writing this before.
    "all of the verses promoting animal sacrifice come from the Pentateuch. The rest of the old testament is pretty consistent in saying that god doesn't want sacrifices."

    No contradiction in the law for what to do to homosexuals? Well setting aside the fact that it's absolutely morally detestable to do either (what a great moral god you have)
    One passage says to kill them. One passage says to exile them. One of them is written as a law, the other written saying that they were doing gods will. That is a contradiction, if you don't see it as such then you must not know the difference between exile and death, because they're very different things.

    How can the people of genesis and exodus be punished for laws that hadn't been released yet? Well it may help to clarify that all of the books were written around a similar time-frame and we have no evidence to suggest that any of the events depicted in them ever happened. The bible is teaching one thing and having its characters doing the exact opposite without rebuke.

    Killing children and infants is ok according to Ryan if they don't believe in the Hebrew god.

    The 3 different perspectives are all rather contrary to each other, if you believe all 3 simultaneously you might need to seek professional help for a new disorder that I propose be called "not realising the cognitive dissonance involved with simultaneously holding multiple contradictory beliefs" or NRCDIWSHMCB

  12. Late in Judaic belief? And yet we have Enoch disappearing off somewhere with God in early Genesis.

    Killing homosexuals because of homosexuality is detestable to Ryan.
    Killing children and infants for whatever reason is also detestable to Ryan. That was a leap and bound to a sickly strange conclusion on your part, I was merely highlightly the non-contradiction. Not endorsing the mass murder.

    I'm going to sum up (nutshell) - I'm basically playing "Bible's advocate".

    It is entirely alright to say that you disagree with the Bible or that you feel like the Bible is full of sick crap (even I think it is). However I think it is wrong to go spreading poor, surface level interpretation of scripture and representing it as contradiction when it is not. It's basically misleading people of a more ignorant level similar to how the fundy creationists mislead people who possess a minimal knowledge of science.

    It's not a disorder that requires professional help thanks. It's an understanding that one word can be used to describe more than one thing.


    1. the Hebrew and/or Aramaic word for 'accuser' 'adversary' etc
    2. a spirit/angel from God that tempts
    3. a spirit/angel that rebelled against God and tempts us away from God.


    1. believes God doesn't exist
    2. believes God possibly exists
    3. believes God PROBABLY DOESN'T exist


    1. seeing with the eyes
    2. tool to cut through wood.

    etc. etc.

    There are buttloads.

    Alrighty ptighty. Night

  13. Yes, late in Judaic belief. The concept of a universal resurrection (even if only of believers) wasn't developed till much later. Besides, Enoch obviously never ascended into the clouds because Genesis never really happened.

    I'm glad to hear that you think genocide and hate-crime-murder is wrong. The god of the bible seems to think otherwise though. How is claiming that one worships a benevolent, merciful god NOT a contradiction when he's quite obviously shown from his sanctions and actions that he's an unmerciful mass murderer?

    Yes, I disagree with nearly all of the moral content of the bible. But there is no way that I'm promoting surface level interpretations of it. My whole point from the beginning was to poke at the claim that it is all one story, which IS in fact a surface level interpretation in itself. It's an overarching generalisation that doesn't really fit much of the content of the book. Sure, there are a few events written in it that seem on the surface to outline a 4 or 5 part story, but that overlooks the purpose of nearly every single one of the texts.

    Your analogies and explanations of concepts in the next part are not substantial.

    1. the concept of an obstacle to righteousness, temptation to sin etc. NOT A SPECIFIC ENTITY OR THING
    2. A SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL, who was sent FROM GOD to TEST humans.
    3. A SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL, who OPPOSES GOD, and want's to RUIN humans.

    You simply can not believe all three of those things simultaneously without having an obscene level of cognitive dissonance, they are just so contrary to each other.

    You described 3 different types of atheism, and one of them isn't even a type of atheism it's more of a very weak deism.

    Many of our words like saw have multiple, rather contrary meanings because they originated from different sources and things like that.

  14. Enoch doesn't have to literally ascend to the heavens for an afterlife concept to exist. Someone wrote the story early on, someone had the concept early on. That someone was Judaic.

    You're right the atheism example doesn't work. I was tired and twas the first thing to spring to mind (funny that). The explanation however is substantial.

    You might use the word 'Satan' in one instance to describe one thing and in another instance to describe another thing.

    No cognitive dissonance required.

    Like the definition of 'saw', the Bible's contents originated from different sources over different periods (you yourself said this in your other comment). So I see the 'saw' analogy working fine.

  15. One person going to be with god doesn't equal universal resurrection of the dead. Also, you may find it interesting to know that the Pentateuch was not written early in the history Judaism at all. In fact it was much later than Job (Which has its origin in Sumerian literature)

    If you're talking purely about the multiple definitions of some words, then sure. No cognitive dissonance is required, it's perfectly valid to understand multiple definitions. However this is not what we were talking about at all. We were talking about beliefs, concepts and beings. You can not simultaneously believe all 3 definitions of Satan, just like all 3 could not simultaneously be true. You can not simultaneously believe in god and not believe in god at the same time.
    You can not simultaneously believe in magic and also not believe in magic at the same time.
    You can not simultaneously believe in Satan as a representative of god, Satan as an evil self-serving individual working against god, and Satan not as an existing being but as a concept all at the same time. It just doesn't work.

  16. The Pentateuch dates back further than the rest of the OT (bar Job) though. Yes?

    What I'm saying (or at least what I was trying to say) is that Satan in one passage might have one definition. In another passage, another definition. Not one passage, all 3 definitions at once. I agree that wouldn't work.