Conversation with a Biblical scholar - Richard Dawkins

by CookieMonster 14 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • CookieMonster

    Quite interesting when you look at the Bible objectively and the historical records. It highlights the problems of using the Bible as authoritative and validation of history.

    SPOILER: Didn't know that the Immanuel prophecy attributed to Jesus as being born from a virgin is actually a mistranslation.

  • sowhatnow
    i know, its something else when you dont have any religious propaganda influencing your mind and your free to reason.?
  • Heaven

    None of the authors of the Bible ever met Jesus. Many Christians do not know this.

    Many believers haven't even read the holy book they believe in. They just want to believe what is served up to them by the religious authorities of their church. Facts and historical accuracy are not for them. But this leaves an issue with any group claiming to have religious truth (which they basically all claim in one way or another).

    One just has to read the Bible to see there are issues with these religious claims versus The Bible versus facts and reality.

    Bart Ehrman challenges any believer to conduct a comparative analysis of the gospels. They contradict one another and not just once or twice, but many times. How can one claim to have any 'truth' when one's belief system's foundational book is flawed in this manner not to mention containing factual errors?

  • Finkelstein

    The bible writings have many " Embellished Stories " concerning the power and strength of the god of which the ancient Hebrews / Israelites worshiped appropriately similar to how other ancient civilizations expressed stories of their god(s) of worship.

    Therefore the bible should be correctly used as reference only to the sociological behavior of these ancient people.

    The bible writings are a historical reference to how the Hebrews had a self involving relationship to their god (YHWH)

    Some of these stories were expressed intentionally to cultivate and draw in a self identifying framework of people together in a engaging and structured set of beliefs, similar to how many organized religions are devised today ie. the JWS.

    Even the mythical teachings of a spiritual Messiah was not inherently unique from the Hebrew/ Israelite nation itself and there were actually self described Messiahs that predated the life of Jesus Christ within this ancient nation.

  • ttdtt
    Richard Dawkins RULES!
  • slimboyfat

    It's a bit disconcerting when an "expert" makes such a jarring factual error. This professor says the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not applied to the gospels in the manuscript tradition before the mid-fourth century. That is plain wrong. The names were applied from the mid second century by Irenaeus and others, and the earliest manuscripts bearing the names appear around 200 C.E.

    He adds a random comment about the early fragment of John. What's that got to do with it? It doesn't contain the title so is irrelevant to the issue. Then he states that the names were sometimes written at the side of the text rather than as a title. I read a lot about textual criticism and the canon. I have never read anything about authorial names in the margins of early manuscripts instead of in the title. If anyone knows anything about that I'd be interested to see it, but his hesitation and his manner make me suspect he just made it up.

    Even if the gospels is not his area of expertise no expert on the Bible should make that kind of mistake.

  • kepler

    Listening to the discussion, it came off to me something like a cross-examination by a lawyer ( advocate) of a friendly witness. But when John Huddleston pauses in response to a question about why he needs verification from Assyrian Annals about Biblical Kings and Chronicles relating to the military process of the House of Omri:

    "It's a good question." It does not sound fake. I looked for some background on Professor Huddleston and found some explanation of his viewpoint at the school website. See below.

    In essence, both Dawkins and Huddleston are coming from the same perspective, but for different reasons. Dawkins the biologist draws conclusions about religious beliefs from his unrelated academic work, but based as well on the necessity to find cause in mechanism. Huddleston studies religious texts as well, but is bound either by profession or considerations of academic integrity to do the same. In the first ten minutes or so, it is difficult to say whether Huddleston actually has a religious persuasion. But maybe he does. He just does not allow it to influence his professional work. So if you are looking for a debate here, it's just not there. Dawkins is simply smart enough to know where archeology and near eastern studies stands to ask his guest the right questions to support his own viewpoint.

    Personally, from my own reading of this sort of thing, I am astounded by the lack of evidence for David outside of the Bible too. Yet the fact remains that there was a Kingdom of Judah as well as Israel. Is there an explanation for Judah's existence that completely sidesteps Solomon and David? How about that Temple attributed supposedly to the clan?


    As a scholar who deals primarily with history, society and culture of the ancient (and sometimes not so ancient) Middle East, I adopt a comparative approach both in my classes and research. Thus, discussion of any text or artifact--biblical, Mesopotamian, Egyptian or otherwise--draws upon its wider ancient environment (for example, understanding biblical wisdom literature, historiography, or prophecy as larger ancient Near Eastern phenomena). In this regard, teaching the Bible in a secular, liberal arts institution can be a subversive enterprise. Any talk of authors, redactors, compilers, and their motivating ideologies situates the biblical text within its human context, and ultimately explains it as a human product, an approach in accord with the humanities. As a historian of religion, I do not presume to get into the mind of the deity in the Bible or speculate about divine motivations aside from what is present in the text. Students frequently ask me, "Why did God, who is omniscient, do X with Abraham and not Y?" I can offer plenty of reasons—literary, social, historical, political, etc.—for why the author or editor might wish to portray the biblical deity in such a fashion, but as an academic in a secular institution I deal with socio-political, literary and other motivating factors, rather than timeless theological truths. For me, it is the human dimension of ancient texts, including the Bible, that make them most appealing as an object of study, and that allows me to ask questions that would otherwise be less relevant from a purely theological perspective. It is my goal to instill in students an appreciation for the underlying strategies and ideologies that inform these ancient writings and the cultures that produced them.

    Prior to his career in academia, Professor Huddlestun worked as a professional musician, living in southern Europe and Israel. He also pursued studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew language, Egyptology) before returning to the U.S. to begin graduate work at the University of Michigan.

  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic
    It's a bit disconcerting when an "expert" makes such a jarring factual error. This professor says the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not applied to the gospels in the manuscript tradition before the mid-fourth century. That is plain wrong.

    Wow SBF, that would be a major error on the Professor's part . . . IF you were right.

    But you're not. Dawkins asked him when the names were added and he said, "The bulk of the Gospels - in terms of the manuscript tradition - you have to go all the way into the fourth century." (16:50)

    This is an accurate statement. The vast majority of manuscripts did not have the names attached. The paper you cite even goes on to explain that we have only one manuscript from the 2nd century with the name John attached to it. And, for the other Gospels, we never see the names attached until the 3rd century. But the point made is these manuscripts with names were the exceptions. Not the tradition.

    It's not until the 4th century before we start seeing the names being applied to the Gospels with any regularity.

  • slimboyfat

    Coded Logic early manuscripts that are fragmentary and do not contain the beginning of the gospel are not evidence of a lack of a title. They simply don't preserve that part of the text. Put another way: there are no early manuscripts that preserve the beginning of a gospel that lack a title. (Unless you know any?) I am sorry but you don't know what you are talking about when you say the names were not applied regularly until the fourth century. In fact the names were used by writers from the mid second century onward, and they are attested in the manuscript tradition as soon as manuscripts arise that preserve the beginning of the text, beginning around 200 C.E.

    By the end of the second century, roughly a century after the books were written, they were being called by the names that are familiar to us today. So naturally one might wonder, when were they given these ascriptions?Contrary to what you may sometimes have heard, there is no concrete evidence that the Gospels received their familiar names early on. It is absolutely true to say that in the manuscripts of the Gospels, they have the titles we are accustomed to (The Gospel according to Matthew, etc.). But these manuscripts with titles do not start appearing until around 200 CE. What were manuscripts of, say, Matthew or John entitled in the year 120 CE? We have no way of knowing. But there are reasons to think that they were not called Matthew and John.

    He was also wrong about author names originally appearing in the margins. Unless you know otherwise?

  • Coded Logic
    Coded Logic


    I'm not sure if it's a miscommunication issue on my part or if you're just being obtuse but let's give it one more try shall we? You made the claim:

    This professor says the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not applied to the gospels in the manuscript tradition before the mid-fourth century.

    Plain and simple, the professor did NOT say this nor did he remotely imply it. He even went so far as to specifically point out that, for the Gospel of John, we have a late second century manuscript that includes the name. No one here is saying that the early manuscripts lacked these titles.

    You attacking this guy for a position he doesn't hold.

    More importantly, the reason the Gospels are "anonymous" is because the names were never meant to establish authorship. Rather, they were place holders to tell the narratives apart.

    We know this for several reasons:

    1.) The Greek preposition κατά (speculative - "handed down", "according to") is used to identify the Gospels instead of a proper genitive case that would imply an author's ownership or identity.

    2.) None of the Gospels identify the Author's in the body of the work which was common practice at the time.

    3.) The Gospels are written in the 3rd person instead of being first hand accounts.

    4.) When the Gospels are quoted by early writers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, etc.) they never use the Gospel names.

    5.) It's highly unlikely that a fisherman (John) and a tollbooth collector (Matthew) would be literate. Even worse, as Galileans, they spoke Aramaic. Not the Greek the books are written in.

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