The Bible Unearthed (The Documentary)


“Prof. Israel Finkelstein & Neil Silberman, Two of archaeology’s leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened.”

 

Israel Finkelstein

For the first time, the true history of ancient Israel as revealed through recent archaeological discoveries-and a controversial new take on when, why and how the Bible was written. In the past three decades, archaeologists have made great strides in recovering the lost world of the Old Testament. Dozens of digs in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have changed experts’ understanding of ancient Israel and its neighbours- as well as their vision of the Bible’s greatest tales.

Yet until now, the public has remained almost entirely unaware of these discoveries which help separate legend from historical truth. Here, at last, two of archaeology’s leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened.

They offer instead a new historical truth: the Bible was created by the people of the small, southern nation of Judah in a heroic last-ditch attempt to keep their faith alive after the demise of the larger, wealthier nation of Israel to the north. It is in this truth, not in the myths of the past, that the real value of the Bible is evident.

The Bible is both a religious and historical work, but how much is myth and how much is history? When and why was the Old Testament written, and by whom? What do contemporary archaeologists know about the Patriarchs? The Exodus? The Conquest of Canaan? Kings David and Solomon? Where do the people of Israel originally come from? Why were the historical accounts of the Bible written down?

A masterful archaeological and biblical investigation, The Bible Unearthed visits digs in Egypt, Jordan and Israel – including Megiddo, the cradle of biblical archeology, where 7,000 years of history have been excavated.

This far-ranging exploration of biblical history also makes use of archival footage of previous archaeological excavations, maps, biblical illustrations and computer animation, revealing ancient architecture, cuneiform tablets and other rare artifacts.

Based on the best-selling book (The Bible Unearthed) by prominent Israeli archeologist Israel Finkelstein & coauthored by American historian Neil Asher Silberman, this enthralling documentary features interviews with archaeological specialists and biblical scholars from all over the world, including experts from the Louvre, the Museum of Cairo, the Museum of Jerusalem, and the British Museum.

The Bible Unearthed does something which has never been done before: it reveals a still-unraveling revolution of what we know of the society, the history, and the men who wrote the Bible.

Exposé on Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion


Vanguard

By Douglas Anele

Richard Dawkins

Dawkins admits, for example, that Jesus’ doctrine of “turning the other cheek was” way ahead of his time, and anticipated Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. Yet the family values Jesus exhibited sometimes were not worthy of emulation: his brusqueness to his mother and prescription that his disciples must abandon their families and everything else and follow him are exemplary in this regard (p. 284).

The author highlights and correctly criticised absurdities in the doctrine of original sin, and described the Christian notion of atonement as “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent” (p. 287). Dawkins reiterates the point, often deliberately ignored by Christian apologists, that much of the moral consideration for others advocated in The Holy Bible was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined group. He acknowledges that there is some improvement in moral values globally, but attributes it not to a single factor such as religion but to the complex interplay of disparate forces.

Chapter 7 ended with the observation that religion has motivated so many brutal wars, whereas atheism, or absence of belief, hasn’t, because a more plausible motive for waging war “is unshakeable faith that one’s own religion is the only true one, reinforced by a holy book that explicitly condemns all heretics and followers of rival religions to death, and explicitly promises that the soldiers of God will go straight to a martyrs’ heaven” (p. 316).

Chapter 8 has the interesting title “What’s wrong with religion? Why be so hostile?” In it, Dawkins defends his anti-religious atheistic stance. He distinguishes between fundamentalism and passion. A genuine fundamentalist believes a proposition not on the basis of evidence but because the proposition in question is contained in a purported holy book. Dawkins attributes his passionate defence of evolution to the fact that religious fundamentalists are missing the impressive, awesome, evidence in favour of the theory because of blind adherence to antiquated ancient literature.

Moreover, anyone who accepts a proposition on the basis of scientific evidence knows what it would take to make him change his mind, and would readily do so if the necessary evidence were forthcoming. But a genuine believer can never do that. Hard core fundamentalist religion is antithetical to scientific education of the youth, by teaching children right from the beginning that unquestioning faith is a virtue (p. 323). On the dark side of religious absolutism, Dawkins points out that in Muslim countries conversion to another religion or making statements which religious authorities consider “blasphemous” is punishable by death. He cites the case of Sadiq Abdul Karim Malallah who, in September 3, 1992, was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia “after being lawfully convicted of apostasy and blasphemy” (p. 325).

Dawkins also acknowledges the existence of fundamentalist “Taliban mentality” in Christian countries, particularly the United States. He also refers to the fallacious arguments religious bigots marshal against homosexuality and abortion. One of such bad reasoning is the anti-abortionist argument (or Great Beethoven Fallacy) that abortion is wrong because it deprives a baby of the opportunity of a full human life in the future (p. 337).

According to Dawkins, Peter and Jean Medawar have blown the argument out of the water by arguing that, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means that we deprive a human soul of the gift of existence anytime we fail to seize an opportunity for sexual intercourse (p. 339). Dawkins condemned the so-called “moderates” in religion, on the ground that they see nothing wrong in teaching children the dangerous notion that believing certain propositions without question or justification but based solely on faith is good. He maintains, and I agree completely, that inculcating in children unquestioned faith primes them to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads, crusades and suicide bombers.

Having argued trenchantly in chapter 8 that indoctrination and brainwashing of children with dogmatic religious doctrines is a grievous wrong, Dawkins followed it up in chapter 9 with a dissection of religion-motivated child abuse and how the dangers associated with faith can be avoided. He tells the sad story of how, in 1858, a six-year old child of Jewish parents living in Bologna, Italy, named Edgardo Mortara was legally abducted by the papal police in accordance with orders from the Inquisition. The little boy was brutally taken away from his weeping mother and distraught father to the Catechumens in Rome and reared as a Catholic. Apart from occasional brief visits under close watch by priests he was never seen again by his parents (p. 349).

Dawkins highlights the physical and mental abuses children are subjected to in the name of religion, and decries the nonchalant attitude towards, and ignoble defence, by the clergy and some highly-placed individuals of those who committed atrocities against children in the name or religion (pp. 350-379). He criticises the hypocrisy of accommodating extremist religious absurdities and deadly practices such as human sacrifices in the name of “cultural and religious diversity”; he laments the wastage of human and material resources for religious purposes.

Dawkins highlights the dangers inherent in deliberately twisting ideas culled from science to suit preconceived religious beliefs. However, although he was highly critical of the complacency and mis-education of children in scientific knowledge by faith-based educational institutions, he acknowledges the educational benefits of studying comparative religion as a part of literary culture. On pp. 383-385, he lists some useful and handy phrases, idioms and clichés from the King James Authorised Version of The Holy Bible.

Surely, he says, “ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature.” Thus, he concludes that an atheistic world-view does not justify abolition of The Holy Bible and other sacred books from the educational system. According to Dawkins, “we can retain a sentimental loyalty to the cultural and literary traditions of, say, Judaism, Anglicanism or Islam, and even participate in religious rituals such as marriages and funerals, without buying into the supernatural beliefs that historically went along with those traditions. We can give up belief in God while not losing touch with a treasured heritage” (p. 387).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pyramidion’s editorial policy.

Centuries of Lying in the Name of Christianity


A Review of Forged by Bart D. Ehrman

By Walter C. Uhler

“The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed”

– Thomas Paine

Professor Bart Ehrman has done something that more than 99 percent of American Christians have failed to do. He has devoted much of his adult life to a serious study of the New Testament.

Ehrman commenced his studies at a fundamentalist Bible college, Moody Bible Institute, before completing his undergraduate education at Wheaton College. While at Wheaton, Ehrman did what every serious student of the New Testament must do; he studied Greek. As he explained in Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, “I took Greek, so that I could read the New Testament in its original language.” [p. 4]

After graduating from Wheaton, Ehrman went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under one of the world’s great experts on the Greek New Testament, the late Bruce Metzger. Among Metzger’s many scholarly contributions is his indispensible book, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, which identifies the three classes of sources available for ascertaining the text of the New Testament: Greek manuscripts, ancient translations into other languages and quotations from the New Testament made by early ecclesiastical writers, such as Augustine, Eusebius, Tertullian and Marcion. [p. 36-89]

Readers of that book would learn, for example, that the oldest known portion of a New Testament is a few verses from John that were written during the first half of the second century — or approximately a full century after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Readers also would learn that the two oldest surviving complete New Testaments are the codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus. Sinaiticus is a fourth-century Greek Bible discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century that not only contains the complete New Testament, but also The Shepard of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas, books that were considered to be part of the New Testament for several centuries. Vaticanus also is a fourth-century Greek Bible that has been housed in the Vatican Library at least since 1475.

Because approximately 5,000 Greek manuscripts containing all or part of the New Testament have been identified, textual criticism became a necessity. As Professor Metzger put it, “The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another.”

(These are facts to keep in mind whenever some biblical literalist, presumably incapable of reading Greek, tells you that the New Testament is inerrant.)

Having studied under Metzger and reading all he could, Ehrman not only abandoned his early belief that the Bible was inerrant, he also was compelled to conclude: “the Bible not only contains untruths or accidental mistakes. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies.” [p. 5] As he asserts in Forged, “Throughout this book it will become quite clear from the ancient writings themselves that even though forgery was widely practiced, it was also widely condemned and treated as a form of lying.” [p. 36].

Given that 84 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be a holy book, one would think that such people would be concerned to learn that many of the New Testament books are forgeries. Yet, whenever I have brought New Testament forgeries, mistakes or contradictions to the attention of a Bible-believing Christian, he or she invariably falls back to the excuse: “Well, it’s simply a matter of faith, isn’t it?”

Upon hearing this excuse, I always respond: “No, if it were simply a matter of faith, I could assert that my cell phone is my savior, and so could you. You obviously believe that your faith in Jesus Christ is superior to my faith in my cell phone because it is based on nearly two-thousand years of tradition that was legitimized by the stories told in the New Testament.” Protestants are even more focused on that book, because — ever since Martin Luther – they’ve been told, Sola scriptura, (by scripture alone).

What’s worse is the sad fact that few Christians even comprehend the disturbing paradox: Had Jesus returned as quickly as he predicted, nobody would need a New Testament.

Remember the biblical passages that suggest Jesus’ imminent return? “Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come to power.” (Mark 9:1)

Or, how about Paul’s expectation that he and some of the Thessalonians will be alive when the apocalypse occurs. Remember how he contrasts “those who have died” with “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord?” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17) [The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, p.314]

Obviously, either Jesus or Mark got it wrong — and so did Paul. According to Professor Ehrman, Paul “appears to have no idea that his words would be discussed after his death, let alone read and studied some nineteen centuries later.” [Ibid]

Nevertheless, “as hopes of Christ’s imminent return began to fade in the later first century,” Christians began to realize that they must create structures which might last at least for a generation or more amid a world of non-believers. [Diarmaid MacCullough, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, p. 118]

Structures? Yes, Christians attempted to create a universal faith based upon: (1) an agreed list of authoritative sacred texts, (2) the formation of creeds and (3) the establishment of an authoritative ministry (bishop, priest and deacon) [Ibid, p. 127-137]

Thus, as Ehrman notes, “Christians from the very beginning needed to appeal to authorities for what they believed.” [Forged, p.7] “The ultimate authority was God, of course. But the majority of Christians came to think that God did not speak the truth about what to believe directly to individuals. If he did, there would be enormous problems, as some would claim divine authority for what they taught and others would claim divine authority for the completely opposite teaching. Thus most Christians did not stress personal revelation to living individuals.” [Ibid]

Yet, it was precisely the need to establish authority that prompted Christians to forge parts of the New Testament books, as well as entire books of the New Testament, by falsely claiming that they were written, for example, by Peter, Paul or Mark.

Consider, for example, the fact that neither of the two oldest complete New Testaments (codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus) contains the last twelve verses that we find in Mark today. According to Professor Metzger, “Since Mark was not responsible for the composition of the last twelve verses of the generally current form of his Gospel, and since they undoubtedly had been attached to the Gospel before the Church recognized the fourfold Gospels as canonical, it follows that the New Testament contains not four but five evangelic accounts of events subsequent to the Resurrection of Christ.” [p. 229]

Professor Ehrman is less diplomatic. He simply notes: “Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen.” [p. 250] Somebody forged them so they would pass as being written by Mark.

Ehrman doubts that the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter were actually written by Peter. Through the examination of word usage that didn’t gain currency until after Peter’s death in 64 CE — such as the word “Babylon” which was a code word for Rome that came into use near the end of the first century; scholars have come to believe that the letters are forgeries. Moreover, “there are excellent grounds for thinking that Peter could not write.” [p. 70]

Now consider the thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to have been written by Paul. According to Ehrman, “Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.” Six, probably, are forgeries: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians. (Readers who are interested in the evidence used to categorize them as forgeries should turn to pages 95-114 of Forged.)

Thus, readers might now find it ironic that 2 Timothy 3:16 claims, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” After all, 2 Timothy, as noted above, is one of the Pauline letters now thought to have been forged.

Equally ironic, and more amusing, is the use of forged New Testament scripture by the leading proponent of Christian Economics, Gary North. As reported recently in the New York Times, Mr. North not only believes that “the Bible is opposed to organized labor, and especially to organized public employees,” he also believes that no form of government assistance “will escape the ethical limits” of the Apostle Paul’s dictum, in 2 Thessalonians, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Being an evangelical Christian, the poor soul doesn’t even suspect that 2 Thessalonians is a forgery.

Unwittingly, Mr. North and all Christians who take the New Testament at face value commit a disastrous procedural mistake. They establish their Bible-based moral code of right and wrong before ascertaining the true and the false in that Bible. “Effective virtue, as Socrates pointed out long ago, is knowledge; and a code of right and wrong must await upon a perception of the true and the false.” [Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public, p. 20]

Now that Professor Bart Ehrman’s Forged has demonstrated, “from the first century to the twentieth century, people who have called themselves Christian have seen fit to fabricate, falsify, and forge documents, in most instances in order to authorize views that they wanted others to accept,” today’s Christians have no excuse for their procedural confusion.

DR. ASHRAF EZZAT: Muslims Dare Not Put the Bible on Trial


DR. ASHRAF EZZAT: Muslims Dare Not Put the Bible on Trial.

“Muslims dare not put the Bible on some despicable trial; this is beyond any Muslim’s wierdest imagination”