I think I’m in love with Newsweek. Seriously. Seeing a major national magazine carry an article exposing the Bible as the flawed book written and cobbled together by fallible human beings, full of interpolations and mistakes, is outstanding. Seeing it carry such an article without a sugar coating – amazing.
If you haven’t yet, go read Kurt Eichenwald’s intriguing exposé. Here’s a taste for ye:
No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.
About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament. (That’s the same amount of time between the arrival of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and today.) The first books of the Old Testament were written 1,000 years before that. In other words, some 1,500 years passed between the day the first biblical author put stick to clay and when the books that would become the New Testament were chosen. There were no printing presses beforehand or until 1,000 years later. There were no vacuum-sealed technologies to preserve paper for centuries. Dried clay broke, papyrus and parchment crumbled away, primitive inks faded.
Back then, writings from one era could be passed to the next only by copying them by hand. While there were professional scribes whose lives were dedicated to this grueling work, they did not start copying the letters and testaments about Jesus’s time until centuries after they were written. Prior to that, amateurs handled the job.
And that’s not even the bit that had the fundies screaming for blood, folks. That’s just one of the many bits that made me sit up and go, “Damn, that Kurt fellow is absolutely right. Interesting!”
In other news, I’m actually reading this bloody book right now. I’m in Exodus at the moment, and cringing every three seconds at how bad it is. It’s not just the moral monstrosity that is the Old Testament god.* It’s not merely the assholishness of the patriarchs. It’s the fact the damned thing is so atrociously writ.** You can tell it’s cobbled-together bits of various sources. You don’t even have to be a scholar to see that. There’s endless repetition that isn’t even poetic. There’s conflicting accounts of the same event, yet purportedly written by a single individual. There’s the sudden segues into genealogies in the midst of stories, which basically look like they’ve been crowbarred in after the fact. And so much more!
There’s squeamish euphemisms, too. I finally found out what “place your hand beneath my thigh” means. It’s basically dudes saying, “grab my circumcised dick, son, and swear to me!” I can’t wait to talk to the next blue-nosed fundie about this during an argument about smut in modern literature.
There are a couple of poignant bits here and there, a few nice turns of phrase, a few things that with a lot of polish can be told as actual stories, and the Genesis creation tales (both of them) are quite nice in places. But overall, it’s not that great. Infallible, fuck no. Amenable to being taken literally? Only if you’re willing to duct tape and zip tie your brain and leave it locked in a closet as far as this book is concerned. The greatest work of literature of all time? Oh, puh-leeze. The source of all morality? Dude, if that’s where your morals come from, stay the hell away from me.
Reading it has led to another project idea, however, so I don’t feel I’m wasting my time. Much. I merely skim the begat bits. And I’m mostly just reading it in fits and snatches whilst waiting for other things to happen, so that’s a little bit of all right, then. Besides, I can hardly wait to see what horrors await me in the chapters virtually no one reads.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with flat-earth creationists and a bet with Alfred Russel Wallace. Oh, my darlings. You’ll definitely want to tune in on the 12th for that story…
**h/t Doctor Who