Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Bible That Doesn't Exist Part 2


In part one I used Exodus 32:25-29 to highlight the possibility that cruelty & genocide in the Old Testament may denote interpolations (later additions) to the Bible text. In this article I will cover the New Testament, Apocrypha (books of questionable authorship or authenticity) & the writings of the Church fathers. My desire to know the truth is what motivates me to question the religious tradition that God inspired every Biblical book, protecting them from any corruption.

The conclusion will try to address the new Bible that emerges from the ashes of the official canon.

The definition of which books should constitute the New Testament developed gradually during the 2nd - 4th centuries, a fact borne out by lists of New Testament works that omit certain books that today are considered canonical, such as The Muratorian Fragment (c 170 - 180 C.E). It does not mention the books: Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, James, & a letter of John. The Muratorian Fragment represents one of the earliest lists of New Testament writings yet found. Eusebius of Caesarea (c 263 - 339 C.E) wrote a history of the early church entitled Ecclesiastical History (c 303 - 325 C.E) in which he categorizes; James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John & 3rd John, amongst disputed works. It isn't until 367 C.E that Athanasius bishop of Alexandria in his 39th Festal Letter listed the same 27 book canon we today would call the New Testament, this list was "officially" confirmed by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1546.

The Comma Johannem is the name given to Bible verses found at 1 John 5:7 in some translations. This is how the verse appears in the text of the KJV:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

1 John 6:7 (KJV)

These words first appear in variant form in the Latin Liber Apologeticus by Priscillian towards the end of the 4th century, the first extant Biblical manuscript to include the Comma is the Greek Codex Bodleianus from the 9th century. It is clear that 1 John 5:7 was added to 1 John to combat the "heresy" of Arius (256 - 336 C.E). Here we have evidence of a New Testament interpolation & an obvious motive for its addition. While 1 John 5:7 is well known as an interpolation & is subsequently left out of many modern Bible translations, it is clear proof that the contents of the Bible were not untouchable, & that the New Testament has been subject to tampering from early times.

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:43-44 (NIV)

These two verses are absent from: Papyrus 69 (c 300 C.E), Codex Sinaiticus (c 350 C.E), Codex Vaticanus (c 350 C.E), Codex Washingtoniaus (c 400 C.E) & Codex Alexandrinus (c 440 C.E). So why were these words added to Luke's Gospel? Once again the record of the early church seems to show their purpose was to counter particular opponents of the Church, in this case Docetic Gnostics.

While some are ready to concede that 1 John 6:7 & Luke 22:43-44 are interpolations few will consider the possibility that a scripture is an interpolation without evidence of its absence from early manuscripts. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an example of a possible addition that appears in all extant manuscripts. So what evidence is there for interpolation? Let us start by looking at the verses in question:

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV)

These verses are conspicuously transferred to the end of the chapter in some manuscripts including Codex Claromontanus (c 550 C.E) & Codex Boernerianus (c 850 C.E). When verses appear in different places of a text it is usually evidence of a gloss, a gloss being a short note written in the margin of a book by a scribe or translator that somehow finds its way into the main body of the text. On its own the fact these verses appear in various locations in different manuscripts does not constitute evidence for interpolation, however these verses flatly contradict statements in other works attributed to Paul, such as:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)

Another peculiar feature of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is the expression "as the Law says", here the author claims the Mosaic Law sets the president for women's submission yet seems unable to quote any such instance in the Law of Moses, or elsewhere.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is remarkably similar to other verses that claim Pauline authorship:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1 Timothy 1:11-12 (NIV)

Again, the idea that a woman must not exercise authority over a man & must be silent seems to contradict Paul's sentiment in Galatians that "There is neither male nor female...in Christ". The fact that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 share an affinity with verses in 1 Timothy is interesting as amongst scholars, the books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, & Titus (commonly grouped together as The Pastoral letters) are considered pseudo-Pauline, that is to say not considered written by the apostle Paul. The Linguistic evidence against Paul's authorship of the Pastoral letters is overwhelming, all together 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus consist of 902 words, fifty-four words are proper names. Of the 848 words that remain from the original total, 306 words do not occur in Paul's ten letters. These totals exceed comparable statistics from the ten Pauline letters when compared to one another. Of the 306 words that do not occur in the ten Pauline letters, 175 are hapaxlegomena (words that don't occur elsewhere in the New Testament), in fact, there are almost two & a half times as many hapaxlegomena in the pastoral letters than in any of Paul's other letters. Obviously linguistic peculiarities alone do not discredit Paul as the author of the Pastorial letters, however there is other evidence that weighs against Paul's authorship:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NIV)

The Encratites were a 2nd century Christian sect, who according to the likes of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, & Hippolytus, abstained from meat, wine, & marriage. During the third century, Hippolytus (c 170 - 236 C.E) gives a description of the Encratites that is remarkably similar to the "hypocritical liars" described in 1 Timothy:

"Encratites are very prideful and violent, abstaining from animal food, being water-drinkers, and forbidding to marry, and devoting themselves to asceticism."

Refutation of All Heresies, Book 8

The pastoral Letters are absent from manuscript Papyrus 46 (c 175-225 C.E).

Like the Pastoral letters; Jude is preoccupied with combating heresy, the book contains some of the strongest diatribes in the New Testament. The heretics Jude condemns are accused of turning the grace of God into a license for immorality, & denying that Christ is Lord, the writer compares his opponents to fallen angels, unreasoning animals, the inhabitants of Sodom & Gomorrah, & Old Testament cads; Cain, Balaam, & Korah. The book appears to contradict the words of Jesus by stating:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude 1:7 (NIV)

Yet Jesus implies that Sodom is yet to be judged:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Matthew 10:14-15 (NIV)

Was the sin of Sodom & Gomorrah "sexual immorality & perversion" as the writer of Jude claims? Not according to the book of Ezekiel:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NIV)

In my opinion the fact that Jude quotes from two apocryphal works counts as evidence against the book's authenticity, Jude 1:9 quotes from an apocryphal work that Origen (c 185 - 254 C.E) & Gelasius of Cyzicus (c 400 C.E) call The Ascension of Moses, the other is a direct quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9 found at Jude 1:14-15. Furthermore Jude 1:17-18 seems to imply that the apostolic age (first century era of the apostles) has passed. The letter of Jude also shares a number of passages with 2 Peter, these shared passages do not represent one book quoting the other, rather they denote one book reworking the text of the other, compare: 2 Peter 2:10 with Jude 1:8, 2 Peter 2:12 with Jude 1:10, 2 Peter 2:17 with Jude 1:12-13, & 2 Peter 3:2-3 with Jude 1:17-18.

Of all disputed New Testament books (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter), 2 Peter, is regarded with the most suspicion by scholars:

"most modern scholars do not think that the apostle Peter wrote this letter. Indeed, for no other letter in the New Testament is there a greater consensus that the person who is named as the author could not, in fact, be the author."

An Introduction to the New Testament

The reasons for this consensus are manifold, aside from its dependency on Jude (or visa-versa) 2 Peter has the highest percentage of hapaxlegomena in any book of the New Testament; of the 399 words in 2 Peter, 57 (14%) are not found in 1 Peter or any other New Testament book. Throughout the New Testament the Greek word abyssos (abyss) is used to describe a place or condition reserved for the demons, such as Luke 8:31, Revelation 9:1-2, & Revelation 20:1-3, yet 2 Peter 2:4 uses the Greek word tartarus (translated as hell in most Bibles) in place of abyssos:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

2 Peter 2:4 (NIV)

In Greek mythology tartarus was a place where gods & monsters were imprisoned later in Roman mythology, people were sent there too. Virgil gives a description of tartarus:

"Suddenly Aeneas looks back, and under a cliff on the left sees a broad castle, girt with triple wall and encircled with a rushing flood of torrent flames – Tartarean Phlegethon, that rolls along thundering rocks."

The Aeneid, Book 6

Its clear that 2 Peter is trying to superimpose the pagan Greek & Roman concept of tartarus (a hellish place of torment for gods & humans) onto the Christian concept of the abyss (a place of imprisonment for demons only). This is also the case with another book that claims the apostle Peter as author, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter an early 2nd century work that describes the punishments awaiting murderers, blasphemers, homosexuals & others in gory detail:

"And beside that rock was a place full of much fire, and there stood men which with their own hands had made images for themselves instead of God, [And beside them other men and women] having rods of fire and smiting one another and never resting from this manner of torment.... And yet others near unto them, men and women, burning and turning themselves about and roasted as in a pan. And these were they that forsook the way of God."

The Apocalypse of Peter, Fragment 2

The descriptions given in The Aeneid, & Apocalypse of Peter are remarkably similar to the religious concept of hell as articulated by Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, & Islam. Both 1 & 2 Peter are absent from the the 2nd century Muratorian fragment, in his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius says:

"One epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine. And this the ancient elders used freely in their own writings as an undisputed work. But we have learned that his extant second Epistle does not belong to the canon; yet, as it has appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other Scriptures."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 3

Quoting Origen Eusebius also writes:

"And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, left one acknowledged epistle; possibly also a second, but this is disputed."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 6

2 Peter is absent from the 4th century Syriac Peshitta Bible.

Marcion of Sinope (c 110-160 C.E) was expelled from the Roman Church for heresy in 144 C.E. The only books Marcion considered scripture were: Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, & Philemon. Unfortunately everything we know about Marcion comes from the references of the early Church fathers who label him an Encratite & Gnostic, yet descriptions of his teaching seem to only share aspects of those belief systems. Marcion is also charged by the Church of excising verses & whole chapters of the books which he reckoned scripture, including parts of the ten Pauline letters & most of the first four chapters of Luke, omitting the nativity & boyhood of Jesus. Did Marcion as the Church fathers claim, really delete materiel because it conflicted with his own theology? Or did he restore Luke's Gospel & the letters of Paul to their original state? Unfortunately, the oldest extant manuscript of Luke is dated to the early 3rd century & the earliest Pauline manuscripts to the late 2nd, so regarding the alleged tampering we only have a "his word against theirs" situation. It should be noted that the Church Fathers hated Marcion, they clearly saw him as fair game having no qualms calling him "the first-born of Satan" & describing him as Antichrist:

"And, as we said before, the devils put forward Marcion of Pontus, who is even now teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and on earth, and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son, and preaches another god besides the Creator of all, and likewise another son. And this man many have believed, as if he alone knew the truth, and laugh at us, though they have no proof of what they say, but are carried away irrationally as lambs by a wolf, and become the prey of atheistical doctrines, and of devils."

Justin. First Apology, Chapter 58

"And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.”

Against Heresies, Book 3

Remarkably, Marcion's claim that the Gospels had been corrupted are not completely unqualified. Mark 16:9-20 from the last chapter of Mark's Gospel is absent from the manuscripts: Codex Sinaiticus (c 350 C.E), & Codex Vaticanus (c 350 C.E), also the reference to drinking poison at Mark 16:18 is echoed by the Apostolic Father Papias of Hierapolis:

"Another wonderful event happened respecting Justus, surnamed Barsabas, who, though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious through the grace of the Lord."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 3

The last chapter of John, John 21, is included in all extant manuscripts, the last verse of the preceding chapter says:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

John 20:30 (NIV)

However the first verse of John 21 begins with the Greek: meta tauta ("after these things") which seems conspicuous considering the content of the previous verse. John 21 even concludes in a way that seems to hint to its own apocryphal identity:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:25 (NIV)

No manuscripts of an individual letter of Paul survives & no manuscripts of early collections of Paul's letters survive either. Why don't we have any manuscripts of Paul's letters before the middle 2nd century? Was the disappearance of these manuscripts related to the 2nd century publication of the final compiled & interpolated New Testament? We know that the Church Fathers actively suppressed & destroyed books they considered heretical or even superfluous, such as The Gospel of Peter (c 70–160 C.E) & The Diatessaron (c 150 - 160 C.E), we also know that The Martyrdom of Ignatius & at least seven of the Letters of Ignatius were forged by elements within the early Church. When considering the vitriolic & unchristian way the Church Fathers condemned their opponents isn't it reasonable to conclude the likes of Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, & Tertullian were in fact the apostates? Most of the interpolations in the New Testament are distinguishable by the following characteristics: the demonization of opponents (2 Peter 2:1-22), marginalization of women (1 Timothy 1:11-12), & carnality being depicted as instinctually sinful (Jude 1:23). Tellingly these characteristics are strongly evident in New Testament apocrypha such as The Acts of Paul & Thecla (c 200 C.E), a book which depicts the apostle Paul extolling the virtues of virginity & celibacy:

Blessed are the bodies and souls of virgins, for they are acceptable to God and shall not lose the reward of their virginity, for the word of their Father shall prove effectual to their salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall enjoy rest forevermore.

Acts of Paul & Thecla Chapter 1

I don't mean to imply that the genuinely inspired scriptures do not contain any sexual morals, because I don't believe that to be the case, I do however feel it's important to make a distinction between sexual morality & the sexual morbidity that is commonly associated with religion.

While working on this essay I wondered how Christians would respond to it, the idea that parts of the Bible were forged is a hard one for Christians to confront, Why so? I feel that many Christians are dubious about what motivates scholars to criticize the Bible. I agree that the motive behind a lot of Bible textual-criticism seems to be an anti-theistic one, I also feel that the majority of alleged Biblical inaccuracies & contradictions, are simply unfounded usually due to a lack of context or the result of sloppy translation yet the attitude of many truth seekers out there seems to be one of looking for errors in the Bible then loudly proclaiming the supposed error without making any efforts to double check, understand the books or their history. So it seems we have Christians who believe that the Bible was divinely protected & therefore we must believe every sacred word, & on the other side you have many non-Christians who say that the Bible wasn't protected & any spiritual truths it may contain are little more then myth. It's hardly surprising then that many Christians opt for the former over the latter discourse, in my opinion both extremes are wrong, irresponsible even.

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)


Monday, 20 October 2008

The Bible That Doesn't Exist Part 1


People have lived for it, died for it & killed for it, Judaism, Christianity & to a lesser degree Islam, base their beliefs on its contents, it has influenced politics, art, culture & ethics, like it or loath it the Bible is a hugely influential work. So how can it be that the Bible doesn't exist? As you may already know rather then being a single volume, the Bible is an anthology of ancient religious texts. Generally speaking Christians regard the 39 books of the Old Testament & the 24 books of the New Testament to be sacred scripture, most Christians believe the books of the bible were divinely co-authored, protected & catalogued together, this is the definition of the Bible I want to address; the Bible that doesn't exist. To the reader I ask not to jump to conclusions regarding the angle I'm coming from but to read the article in its entirety before judging. Before we tackle the topic at hand I think it's important to define the meaning of the Christian idea of Biblical Inspiration, then take a look at the scriptural proofs often cited by proponents of this concept.

"With regard to the Bible, inspiration denotes the doctrine that the human authors and editors of canonical scripture were led or influenced by the Deity with the result that their writings many be designated in some sense the word of God."

The Oxford Companion to the Bible

So it follows that if God did indeed transmit his thoughts into the minds of the writers & editors of the Bible then what is contained in it would always be truth. This leads us to the concept of Biblical inerrancy:

"None of these [canonical] authors has erred in any respect of writing." "Therefore, since they wrote the things which He [God] showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for his members executed what their head dictated."

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E)

The main scriptural proofs that subscribers to Biblical Inspiration & Biblical inerrancy cite are 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & 2 Peter 1:20-21:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)

A problem in using 2 Timothy 3:16 to justify the Bible canon as we have it today is that the author doesn't define a canon here, he merely claims that there is such a spirit inspired canon & then goes onto describe characteristics of it, another explanation is that Paul is claiming all sacred texts are spirit inspired which would seem like a very odd thing for the apostle to say..

2 Peter 1:20 says that no prophēteia or prophecy of scripture has its origin in human will, so here we again must make a distinction between what is to the author sacred scripture & that which is considered scripture today. No Bible book presents any list of texts that would constitute a Bible as we have it today; so the question of which books should constitute the Bible (& indeed why) depends, really on which religious authority you ask, biblical canonization is purely a religious concept it is neither historical nor scriptural as I shall try to demonstrate.

The Koine Greek noun graphe is translated as scripture in both 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & 2 Peter 1:20, in the New Testament Jesus often used graphe in reference to books we today consider part of the Old Testament (Matthew 21:42, John 5:39). So does Jesus quotations of these texts mean they are spirit inspired? Does it make them part of a sacred scriptural canon? Well yes & no, allow me to explain; Jesus explicitly quotes Old Testament books 33 times in the Gospels I feel its important to examine these references on their own merits, of these 33 references Jesus introduces 11 of them with the expression "It is written", 5 are introduced with the words: "You have heard that it was said" (or something similar), 2 are introduced "Is it not written in your law?", & the remainder do not feature introductions. What's interesting is that Jesus only uses the expression "You have heard it was said" when quoting the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament) specifically Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy, Jesus never uses this expression in conjunction with any of his 20 quotes of the Prophets or Psalms. Could it be that Jesus was making a distinction between inspired scripture & Jewish oral traditions?

Can Christians, honestly claim we are comfortable with the God sanctioned genocide in the Old Testament? I'm not talking about just any Biblical depiction of violence, much of the violence in the Old Testament is reported without adding a value judgment, neither am I referring to violence as a literary/figurative device (as is used in the Prophets & Psalms for example), I'm talking about instances when the text has God explicitly approve or command cruelty or genocide.

Let's take a look at one of these first instances of cruelty as it exhibits a number of rather peculiar features. In the book of Exodus after the Israelites start worshiping a golden calf at the foot of mount Sinai Moses asks YHWH to forgive his people:

But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. O LORD, he said, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance for ever.' Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Exodus 32:11-14 (NIV)

So at the behest of Mosses YHWH relents from bringing disaster on the people, but then something odd happens..

Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughing-stock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, Whoever is for the LORD, come to me. And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.' The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.

Exodus 32:25-29 (NIV)

In verses 11-14 Moses petitions God not to destroy the Israelites, but then in the verses quoted above he appears to have a change of heart & as a result the Levites kill "about three thousand people" with Moses praising them for killing their own "sons and brothers", moreover here Moses quotes YHWH as giving the command to "Go... Killing his brother and friend and neighbour", yet we don't read of YHWH giving any such command to Moses or the Levites in the previous dialog of verses 11-14.

The next day Moses said to the people, You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin. So Moses went back to the LORD and said, Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin— but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. The LORD replied to Moses, Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin. And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Exodus 32:30-35 (NIV)

In the above verses we see Moses again asking YHWH to forgive the idolaters, God then decides to punish the Israelites with a plague, so, just how many idolaters were left for YHWH to forgive or punish after 3000 of them had already been killed? If verses 25 - 29 are removed, a clear logical transition emerges between verses 24 & 30 that sees Moses petitioning YHWH to not destroy the Israelites & God reiterating his promise the following day to not destroy them, punishing them with plague instead. Here we have an instance of mass slaughter in the Bible that appears to be an interpolation (a foreign addition to the text), in my opinion Exodus 32:25-39 presents the possibility that much of the genocide & cruelty depicted in the Old Testament could very well denote additions to the Bible text, to those who doubt the possibility of interpolations in the Old Testament look no further then the Septuagint (early Greek translation of the Old Testament) with its sometimes lengthy interpolations not found in other manuscript traditions such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or Masoretic Text. Many Christians may baulk at the idea that the Old Testament is littered with interpolations, the idea that God allowed the contents of the Bible to be corrupted stands contra to the very entrenched religious tradition that it wasn't, but to those who doubt I ask you what is easier to say; that God allowed the scriptures to be corrupted? Or that YHWH commanded:

However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.?

Deuteronomy 20:16 (NIV)

So, we are led to the inevitable questions of who would have hijacked the scriptures, when & for what purpose? It's interesting to note that in Exodus 32:25-29 the Levites take centre stage, prior to this incident the Levites are depicted as little more then descendants of Levi (such as Moses, Aaron & Miriam), but here we see the Levites depicted as bloodthirsty zealots who become "set apart to YHWH" & "blessed this day", so were the Levitical priests, who in later years, held so much influence over the kings of Israel & Judah, responsible for such a corruption? If this is so we might expect to see more clues within the Bible text itself, & we do.

Josiah was king of Judah sometime during the seventh century B.C.E. The books of 2 Kings & 2 Chronicles report that Josiah initiated many religious reforms during his rule including the removal of idols from the temple & the destruction of Judah's pagan shrines. It is during this time that the high priest Hilkiah "finds" a scroll in the temple, Hilkiah calls this book "the book of the law", this book is then presented to Josiah:

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD." He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: "Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple." Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

2 Kings 22:8-10 (NIV)

So just what was this scroll? Deuteronomy? Leviticus? The entire Pentateuch? The answer is we don't know, neither 2 Kings nor 2 Chronicles describe this text in any detail only describing the text as "the book of the law of YHWH, by the hand of Moses". Its interesting to note that the title of Deuteronomy in the Greek of the Septuagint is Deuteronomion meaning "second law" or "copy of the law", this to me is very curious; after all why would the Israelites need a "second law" anyway? What happened to the first one?

The prophet Jeremiah makes some very bold statements that seem connected to the contents of a book of the law:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.

Jeremiah 7:21-23 (NIV)

How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?

Jeremiah 8:8 9 (NIV)

Apologists claim that both of these scriptures are meant to be taken metaphorically, this interpretation seems like a stretch of logic based purely on the assumption that it's impossible for YHWH to have allowed the Pentateuch to be corrupted. Even when scripture makes it quite clear that the Israelites corrupted the Pentateuch, most Christians would rather hold to the religious dogma that the Bible is incorruptible.

The priest & scribe Ezra was the great grandson of Hilkiah, he is mentioned in the Old Testament books Ezra & Nehemiah:

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra 7:8-10 (NIV)

The book of Nehemiah states that after returning from the exile Ezra brought the book of the law & read it aloud to the people. It is interesting to note that the apocryphal works The Wisdom of Ben Sira & 2 Maccabees celebrate Nehemiah & other figures from the post-exilic period, but make no mention of Ezra. What do non-biblical Ezra traditions say about the scribe? In 2 Esdras (c 100 C.E) God commissions Ezra to restore the law:

Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people.

2 Esdras 14:45-46

This Ezra tradition is echoed by medieval Islamic scholars notably Al-Tabari (838 - 923). In his work Annales he claims the law had been destroyed but was later rewritten by Ezra:

"When [the Israelites] returned to Palestine, they had no divine scripture, for the Torah had been seized and burned, and it perished. Ezra, one of the captives in Babylon who returned to Palestine, spent day and night grieving over it, in solitude. While he was in waterless valleys and in the wilderness, grieving over the Torah and weeping, lo and behold, a man approached him as he sat, and [the man] said, "O Ezra, what grieves you?" Ezra said, "I grieve over God’s scripture and covenant which was among us, but our transgressions and the Lord’s wrath against us came to such a pass that He made our enemy prevail. They slew our men, and destroyed our country and burned our divine book, without which our worldly existence and our life to come has no meaning. What shall I weep over if not this?" The man said, "Would you like it to be returned to you?" Ezra asked, "Is that possible?" "Yes," the man replied. "Go back, fast, cleanse yourself, and cleanse you garments. Then be at this place tomorrow." Ezra went back, cleansed himself and his garments, and went to the appointed place. He sat there, and the man came carrying a vessel filled with water - he was an angel sent by God - and gave Ezra to drink from that vessel. The Torah then presented itself in Ezra’s consciousness. Ezra returned to the Children of Israel and set down the Torah for them, so that they might know what it permits and what it prohibits, its patterns, precepts and statutes. They loved it as they had never loved anything before. The Torah was established among them, and with it their cause fared well. Then he died. In the course of time, the Israelites considered Ezra to be the son of God. God again sent them a prophet, as He did in the past, to direct and teach them, and to command them to follow the Torah." (pp. 230-231)

That isn't necessarily to say these traditions are true, but if they fit into a greater body of seemingly unconnected traditions then we can't simply dismiss them outright. The other traditions which I am referring to are the theories that propose that the Pentateuch didn't reach completion until the 6th century B.C.E, towards the end of the Babylonian exile of the Jews. With the exception of minuscule fragments the oldest textual witness to the Old Testament is the Dead Sea Scrolls dated to the 2nd century B.C.E. Surely it cannot be mere coincidence that there are no extant manuscripts of the Pentateuch from before the exile?

"In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries [Dead Sea Scrolls] have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100."

The Oxford Companion to Archaeology

It is at this point that the idea of the Bible as an immaculate collection of inspired sayings falls apart & what we are left with is inspired fragments embellished by bloodthirsty Jewish zealots for their own ends, or to put it another way; the Bible that doesn't exist. Such tampering with the scriptures makes them no less valuable, if anything their value is increased by the fact that embedded amongst its sayings, we are able to make out the narrative of conspiratorial propaganda that is witness to its very corruption. What I am asking Christians is wherever they want to worship the God of love, mercy & compassion or a god fashioned in man's own bloodthirsty image. My intentions with this article were to give hope to Christians out there who struggle to reconcile scriptures such as Exodus 32:25-29 & Deuteronomy 20-16 to have faith, not in any religious tradition of man but faith in the mercy of God.

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness

Exodus 34:6 (NIV)


To be concluded..