Surprisingly enough the title of this post was not something that I said today, but instead it was from a fellow bible school student that I had lunch with. He is a good student, he loves God, and he is a youth leader in his local church. He runs a home-group, and the current youth pastor is phasing out and this guy is stepping in as the new leader soon.
So here I am feeling bad because I have all these doubts, and I come to find out that just about all of us have them. Heck our pastors and professors have them.
We were eating lunch and started talking about things we are learning (we take different classes) and he started talking about things he is learning in his Old Testament class. He said that his professor was going over the book of Genesis (creation story) and mentioned that it really was just a myth and should not be taken literally at all. The Professor then pointed out that the story of Genesis is basically just a common creation myth of the whole Mesopotamian region. Basically all the people groups / religions of that area tell and re-tell the same basic creation story over and over again, but simply tweaked it to fit their cultures.
We come to find that our Christian creation story was told hundreds and in some cases thousands of years earlier in other regions and religions, but some of the names and places are changed to account for different gods and goddesses. We are encouraged to simply look at the creation story as a story, as a myth, and not as something factual or divine. In fact, we fully acknowledge that it was just folklore that was taken from other pagan religions of the area.
He was told to simply think of this and other stories as “moral fables” that help teach us lessons about life, inspire us, or help us better understand the nature of God.
You can apply this to all kinds of things if you think about it: What about the entire story of Job? The Flood? Tower of Babel?
That was when my friend said “You know, it’s funny… The longer I am in bible school the less I believe in the bible.”
After this point, what is it I can do? I guess I could try to reassure him of the validity of his bible. Maybe I could condemn him for having doubts? Or maybe I can open up to him as well, and let him know that he is not the only one with doubts and concerns.
Sometimes just knowing that you are not the only one out there with an issue is quite helpful.
I told him that I never at any time that I could remember considered the bible to be a literal piece of historical literature. I always have considered it to be a blending of historical fact, personal opinion, political opinion, divine inspiration, and common mythology of the region. I tend to read it as an entire book, and look at the larger point that it is trying to make as a collective work – getting to know the personality of God, and how to know him more.
Heck I think that the apostle Paul was a sexist, and a bit of a jerk. Most churches, for example, read his writings on the role of women in the church and have one of 2 reactions:
- They take his words literally, and think women should not be allowed to be leaders in church, preach, teach, and even try to make them not wear makeup, certain clothing, and keep their heads covered at all times.
- They try to explain away Paul’s words with elaborate, imaginative, and speculative commentary. They can not declare that something in the bible is wrong, so instead they try to explain away what it says. Basically, oh it may say that, but it does not really say that. Maybe we do not know the whole background story, or we translated it wrong… etc etc.
I like approach number 3 better myself. Approach number 3 is simply saying – Yes it totally says that, and I disagree with it. Paul was wrong. He is being a bit sexist here. He was from a different culture, and a different time period. He was just a man. Not everything he said was sacred.
I then opened up to my friend, and let him know that although I did not know about this whole Genesis creation story thing, I was aware of the debate going on as to if the story of Jesus was actually just a re-telling or Jewish adaptation of the story of Mithra (or Dionysus).
I said that it was refreshing to hear that in our schools our pastors and professors are teaching that certain Old Testament stories are just borrowed stories from earlier religions – adapted to Jewish culture. But what about the New Testament? I find it funny that we can take such an open minded stance on the Old Testament, but the New Testament is totally off limits.
There is overwhelming evidence that the story of Christ is just a rehash of other Christ stories from earlier religions.
Based upon the facts that we know now, we can easily say that the creation story in Genesis was borrowed from other religions in the area. That it was common mythology for the Mesopotamian regions. We then say that it does not matter in the end. It does not get in the way of the point we are trying to make. It does not change our religion.
But what do we do about Christ? We have just as much proof that he too is just a borrowed story, a re-telling of the Christ story – passed down and picked up from various towns, peoples, and generations. The idea or ideal of Christ was simoly common myth in that area. It started in one area, and as people spread out the story was adapted to different people groups.
It is most-likely that there was no Jesus Christ as we know him in the bible. Either the historical Jesus was totally fabricated, and was simply a Jewish take on the worship of Mithra; Or he existed and later after his death people merged his teachings in with common fables of Mithra worship in an attempt to create a religion.
However, what does this realization mean for me as a Christian? As a Christ- ian? Sure I can easily dismiss a flood or a 7 day creation and say I can still be a Christian, but what about the knowledge that there was no Jesus?
Does that matter, or can we one day come to terms with that and realize that this as well does not take away from the greater concept or purpose of the religion?
Right now I am studying the Gnostic Scriptures, and am starting to consider the possibility that they were the first true “Christians”. I am open to the idea that the Gnostics had various myths that they adapted from region to region. These myths were not sacred to them – they were just stories to get people to become aware of some greater truths.
The Gnostics adapted the story for the Jewish culture, and in time we got Gnostic Christians. Some of these followers missed the point and took the story literally, and division occurred. Another option is that the orthodox church as we know it – knew it was a myth but intentionally wiped-out the Gnostics anyway for money and power.
It became a controlling religion with a power structure – bishops, popes, priests, repentance, penance, money, power, government – and so they wiped out the originators of the religion who stood in their way or exposing the myth for what it was – simply a story to help inspire us to take a first step to be better people, to realize that deep-down we are all spirit, and we are all son’s and daughters of God. If people had that revelation and knew they did not have to go to church, pay money to the church, and be controlled by the church – the church would loose it’s power. This power was also tied into the State government at the time (Rome), so the myth had to be preserved or even amplified.
I hate being this confused on the matter of my faith. What also concerns me is that none of this is new revelation to our church leadership and it’s teachers. The majority of the people in charge know this information in full detail – better than I do. They know, but they teach contrary to this knowledge anyway. In fact, some of them do not even have faith anymore, but they stay in positions of power to keep their churches or careers going.
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