Thousands of people the world over trust the Bible to be their guide in spirituality and everyday living. Some people also accept it as completely without error, believing it to be inspired word-for-word by God. Can this possibly be the case? Let's take a look.
We will examine both internal and external evidence, meaning evidence both inside the Bible and outside it.
Looking within the Bible, there are two verses which speak volumes about it's accuracy, authenticity, and method of transmission. The first is Jeremiah 23.16, which says "The Lord proclaims, 'Don't listen to the prophets who are speaking to you; they are deceiving you. Their visions come from their own hearts, not from the Lord's mouth." The second verse is I Corinthians 11:32, "The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets."
If we admit, honestly, that it is possible for one to deceive oneself, and if we believe what Paul said, that a prophet was at all moments exercising free will and in control of his thoughts and behavior, then it is clear that the possibility of mistakes in the Bible is almost a certainty. If a god at any time forced someone to write a particular word, and would not allow him to make a mistake, then there is no such thing as free will. If a god at any time does something to us to keep us from making mistakes, then we are not freely in control of our own choices. So we cannot say the Bible is inerrant without taking away our own free will.
If you carefully read the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that Moses never claims to have written the books down. He simply claimed to have been given the commandments from God. Though Moses believed that He WANTED them written down (Ex. 34:27), that does not mean Moses did the writing, and it does not mean that the writing occurred immediately. To suppose this is to make huge assumptons that have no support. The only thing put into the Ark of the Covenant was the Ten Comandments which God supposedly wrote with his own hand. We know that Moses could not have written Deuteronomy because in chapter 34 he records his own death, something that is clearly impossible, so it is obvious there was another writer. The fact that both Old and New Testament authors affirm Moses as the writer simply means that they BELIEVED him to be the author, not that he actually was. An oral tradition was passed down for years and somebody finally wrote it down, probably several authors working at different times. Modern scholars no longer believe that only one person did this work. Only the most conservative fundamentalists still believe this, and they are in the minority when the whole of Christendom is taken into consideration.
In fact, at the time that Moses is believed to have lived in Egypt, the languages of Aramaic and Hebrew did not yet exist. These languages did not develop until after 800 BC, and Moses was estimated to have lived and/or died around the 1400's BC. That brings up another problem. There is no record in Egyptian history of Moses ever having lived. Even if the Egyptians chose not to record his name because of the embarrassment of what happened, the Hebrews that were involved in the exodus were estimated to have been over 2 million people including women and children. That was more than all the Egyptian population put together. The Hebrews were slaves and when suddenly they disappear from Egyptian life, it would be hard to believe that not a single Egyptian ever wrote anything about it. There was no one to do the work, and then there were the supposed ten plagues. No record of those has been found in Egyptian writings either. The Hebrew exodus, if it occurred, would have left such a huge hole in Egyptian life that it could not be ignored. It is believed that this exodus never occurred. It was one of many stories passed down and told to Hebrew children. As we know, stories told over many years tend to be embellished, and take on a life of their own. During hard times, people cling to stories and myths to help them preserve their dignity and their heritage, and to simply give them strength for everyday living. In the case of the Hebrews, it became part of their identity, something they could not easily give up. It became part of the fabric of their culture and so Moses as the author of these books became an undeniable fact. Nobody had any reason to deny it or try to disprove it, because it was what was holding their society together. The fact then, that later authors give Moses credit for the writing does not prove in any way that he actually authored them. And it helps to disprove that Jesus was actually a god. If he was all-knowing he would have known that Moses was not the author. Instead, he recounts the same myths as if they are fact, which is one proof that he was not divine If Jesus actually existed, he was no more the actual son of god than anyone else is.
That in an of itself is enough to totally discredit the Bible, but just in case you need more, watch this series of four documentaries about the archaeology of the Bible lands and how it does NOT match up to what is recorded in the text.
Click Here to watch this documentary
for evidence about whether the events
of the Bible are true.
One cannot blindly believe something just because it is convenient to do so. Think about this....there are over 5,000 different Christian denominations, let alone other religions. Why do they exist? Because no one can agree on what the text means. There are so many inconsistencies and different ways the words can be interpreted, and no clear way to get a consensus on what they truly mean. If this book was truly transmitted by a god, don't you think he would have done a better job of making sure the message was clear and understandable? Then you might say, well, it's not God that is unclear, it's man. Which is precisely my point. Man wrote it down and it is man who makes the errors, therefore there is no way to determine what is possibly "inspired" and what is not. If God really wanted to speak to all generations, he would not rely on a 2,000 year old book. He would speak to every generation fresh....without having to rely on translations that are thousands of years old.
In fact, the Bible says this very thing. "No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another 'Know the Lord', for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest." (Jeremiah 31:33). And also, "I will put my law in their minds, and write it in their hearts." (Jeremiah 31:33). This does away with the need for books and teachings. If there is a god, he/she will make himself known to everyone individually. There will be no need for anyone to teach anyone else. So those out there preaching and proselytizing are ignoring what God himself said, or perhaps they just don't trust others to interpret what God says to them in their own heads. Well, that's the point I am making about the text. That's why each person can only be responsible for himself, no one can presume to know what's good for another person. Your understanding of what God tells you might be totally different from my understanding of what God tells me. The great thing is, you are not responsible to make sure that my understanding matches yours. God, if he exists, is responsible for that. Don't take his part and try to force upon others what you believe your "correct" understanding is.....it's irrelevant. The parable of the workers in the vineyard makes it clear that God rewards us each as he sees fit, even if it does not seem fair to others. So relax.
Then there is the verse which says "All scripture is inspired of God" (I Timothy 3:16). Who wrote that? It was supposedly Paul. So what was he referring to when he said "scripture"? He could not have been referring to the New Testament because most of it had not been written yet. When he wrote his letters, they were not yet considered "scripture", they were simply that....letters. The gospels were not written until many years after Jesus died, and we know that they were NOT written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, those names were added later.
Now please understand, I am not trying to say the Bible has no value. There are spiritual truths that we can learn from many sources, only one of which is the Bible. Many of the PRINCIPLES Jesus taught were good for everyday living. But by the same token, there are other writings that also contain important truths. The Nag Hammadi writings, the teachings of the Buddha, writings from the Taoist traditions, and much more. Over the centuries, men have recognized universal spiritual truhs and recoreded them. These writings are all good and can be learned from, but none of them should be taken as "inspired" in that a supreme being told someone what to write. They should be looked at as literature, not as authoritative.
And the most important truth still holds true......trust your own inner wisdom as a guide. That is the true source of all wisdom. That doesn't mean you can't make mistakes, but it means you don't discount your own knowledge and ability to understand and make logical conclusions, and you trust your own heart.
Here are some wonderful writings that I suggest you explore, just for your own growth and knowledge. But keep in mind, you are already acceptable the way you are, and don't need to be "saved" in any way. Please put each of these writing into perspective, and derive from them general, universal truths that can improve your life. Realize that in any historical writing, those with the power write the history, so anything claiming to be historical has some slant/bias. If you recognize this,you can still benefit from the reading. Also realize that all cultures had their own myths and legends which were constructed to guide their society, and knowing something about the background of that culture helps you to see how and why they chose the myths that they chose.
The Gnostic Society Library - this includes the Nag Hammadi writings, classic gnostic scriptures, Valentinus and his tradition, patristic polemic works, the Christian Apocrypha, Mandean and Manichan writings, Cathar writings, Alchemical writings, modern gnostic texts, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Tao te Ching - In Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confuscianism, the object of spiritual practice is to become "one with the Tao." The Tao means "the way or path." The Tao te Ching was written by Lau Zu. There are many translations, which all ready slightly differently, but in which the basic meaning of the text is preserved. To buy a copy of the Tao, I recommend Dr. Wayne Dyer's "Change Your Thoughts Change Yoru Life."
The Buddhist Sutras - compiled from A to Z
Bhagavad Gita - means in Sanskrit "Song of God" and is considered a concise guide to Hindu theology, although it is only one of many Vedic texts.
The Babylonian Talmud - Jewish teachings translated by Michael Rodkinson.
Kabbalah - a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between a mysterious and eternal creator and mortal and finite universe.
Baha'i - a monothiestic religion which emphasizes the unity and brotherhood of all.
The Qur'an - Islamic scriptures supposedly transmitted by Muhammed.
The Book of Mormon - sacred text of the Latter Day Saints movement, supposedly transmitted by Joseph Smith.
Major Religious Scriptures - includes Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confuscianism, and Hinduism.
Native American Spirituality - generally speaking, one will learn about Native American spiritual beliefs best by participating directly in that culture, but there are some sites where you can read abut it.
The Bible Gateway - website where you can read the whole Bible through, in any translation, or simply look up specific citations.
Now - having given you all these resources, let me say that they are interesting and do contains some wise sayings, but they are no substitute for your own thoughtful consideration of the world around you. With some self-introspection and observation of the world, you yourself could write your own spiritual book, and it would be just as valid as any of these writings, which I encourage you to do. Take into consideration the historical context of these writings, and you will see that the reasons they were written were dependent on the culture of the time, and therefore much of them do not apply to us today. Above all, they should not be considered the words of gods. They were the words of men trying to understand the reasons for things happening in the world.