quinta-feira, fevereiro 23, 2017

Reading the Bible: “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Elliott Friedman

“The question, after all, is not only who wrote the bible, but who reads it.”

In “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Elliott Friedman

Some of the texts date to 400 AD or later, such as the second half of Matthew, the whole of John and the whole of Revelation. I would consider a "complete, unabridged Bible" to consist of all texts either used by, or referenced by, any Abrahamic sect whatsoever from 2,200 B.C. through to 1,400 A.D., plus the Book of Mormon (it is as legitimate as any other sect, which isn't saying much). In other words, a document from which you could reconstruct the actual founding of the original sect by Babylonian or Sumerian priests amongst the Canaanite animists and magi, all travels by all the differing groups, and the root causes of every schism, through to the present day. No such book has ever been compiled, but the word "Bible" means "The Book". Singular. The only true singular book you could ever have that can be true to every Abrahamic group (and if it can't be, it's not singular) is a book that includes everything that has ever been relevant to any of them. This is the same way the Saxon Chronicles are treated. There are (ok, were) many versions (a fire destroyed a great number of them), but the Saxon Chronicles as a unified concept refers to the compilation of this material. The abstract concept of the "complete" Saxon Chronicles refers to all of the versions, whether they survive or not, as an entity. Not a physical entity but what a computer scientist or mathematician would call a logical entity. A set is a logical entity, it exists but it doesn't exist in any physical sense. In this aspect I’m siding with Friedman. I can't quite accept that all Bibles are equal, as we can identify authors and therefore can identify later forgeries, material that doesn't belong in a unified collection, etc. We can define a logical entity that truly is The Book, the superset of all material that has ever existed, organized into logical subsets by some means. The Old Testament is a logical subset. It's a collection of material that has enough commonality to be a distinct grouping. But it does not exist, in any sense. Different Old Testaments use different books, so the Old Testament is the superset of all the different books that fit in this grouping. All of the real Old Testaments are subsets of this master set. The universal set, the set that contains all the material ever used in any Bible by ANY Abrahamic sect, contains a great deal of material that no longer exists. So what? The universal set still exists, the fact that we can't establish what's in it would still be true even if all the material survived and all records preserved. It's a limitation of logic. But there has been only one history. At time “t”, person “p” only held specific things to be true. If they had held any other beliefs, we would have a different history. The infinity of possibilities doesn't apply because only one of them happened. Time is sequential, so only a finite number of intervals have ever existed. These produced a finite number of different belief systems. Even if everyone had their own, it was still finite. If you imagine everything ever thought or said by these people as being written down (with duplication removed), you'd have a lot of writing but it would be finite.

A lot of these events are of no consequence, so we can imagine those removed as well. For similar beliefs, you only need the common bit once and the differences noted. Keep going and you end up with a stupendous theoretical book, but one which is not only finite but well within human capacity to both imagine and, indeed, record. Bigger volumes of data are handled all the time.

The information is lost to humanity, but so what? In order to understand why the Iraqi followers of John the Baptist regard Jesus as a Satanist, you have to have knowledge that doesn't exist. But we still know that we need that information to understand the big picture and therefore we still know we need to have place markers for where the information would have been. The need doesn't vanish because some scroll got burned.

Circumstantial evidence cannot scientifically prove that an unobserved phenomenon is true. How did life on earth form? Living cells consist of a number of molecules including proteins and nucleic acids (DNA, RNA). Proteins are chains of amino acids which are linked together with the aid of RNA. There are 20 amino acids which can be linked together to form any number of combinations which in turn determines the type and function of the protein.  How were the first amino acids created in the primordial seas without the assistance of RNA? Or maybe RNA was created first? As you can see, a single protein is outrageously complicated (just look up the structure of a protein molecule if you still don't believe me), but nucleic acids, DNA and RNA are even more complicated. DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates are not molecules that randomly come into existence in a chaotic, torrential environment (this is called spontaneous generation, proven wrong by Louis Pasteur), they are the products of an omniscient/omnipresent being. A single prokaryotic cell (bacteria) is more complicated than a space shuttle yet are we to believe the space shuttle was designed but not life? Science tells me that spontaneous generation is impossible. If you want to know how a cult that practiced snake-charming in tombs with saucers of milk acquired a belief that handling snakes was the way to Heaven or that the dead would rise from their graves, you’ll have to read this. Nevertheless, relativism is only true if an objective observer is capable of absolutism.

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