What is the Bible, really? Have you ever thought about that? Many believe it is the inerrant Word of God, meaning that it is absolutely 100% true and without error. I disagree. There are contradictions, the original text has been interpreted and massaged by man many times over resulting in the various translations we have today. Often, the translations are not from the original text, but are based on the cultural norms and meanings of the time in which they were transcribed. Many of the books contain the opinions of man.
Why does the Bible have only 66 books? Who decided which books would be part of the collective and which would not? The earliest of the Gospels, Mark, is thought to have been written between 60 and 80 CE, well after the resurrection of Yeshua, depending upon the source you read. Even the names of the Gospels is misleading. We are taught they were written by the men for which they are named and the authors were either disciples or closely associated with those who knew Yeshua. Not so. In the case of Mark, the author remains anonymous; some sources say he was a Roman Christian convert. None were first hand accounts with exact quotes by Yeshua, or anyone else, by any stretch of the imagination.
It is speculated that during the formation of the early church there were at least 200 gospels in circulation. Those who eventually chose which gospels were to be included in what we now know as the Bible, settled on four in deference to the 4 corners of the temple, the 4 four winds, the 4 corners of the earth, and the 4 points on the compass. As far as we know most, if not all, of what is known as the Bible originated as an oral history; stories passed from one generation to the next and eventually written down.
Does that make the Bible a false document? I don’t think so. Oral history passed down from generation to generation was the norm, and there are documents that were recorded by Josephus, a Jewish historian, that mention Yeshua and some of the characters in scripture. Again, controversy abounds; how much of what is recorded by Josephus is accurate in terms of historical Biblical accounts? The other gospels not included in the Bible have similar stories, some with more detail, some that may be even more accurate. The more I research and investigate, the more I believe that the controversy surrounding Yeshua is by Divine design. God wants us to journey with Him, and the beginning of that journey is how He chooses to reveal Himself to us. The journey is more about the relationship than it is about the “rules” that man has created to control the masses.
In Acts 25-26 there is an account of a trial involving Paul, who used to be called Saul, concerning his conversion to the newly forming ideology of Yeshua, now known as Christianity. Acts 25:18-19 states, “When the accusers stood up, instead of charging him with some serious crime as I had expected, they disputed with him about certain points of their own religion, and particularly about somebody called Yeshua, who had died, but who Sha’ul (Paul) claimed was alive.” Jewish leaders had brought charges against Paul because his claims regarding Yeshua were threatening their way of life and control over the people. In truth, the Jewish leaders who took issue with Paul and the newly forming theology were no different than many pastors today who seek to control their congregants through their interpretation of scripture.
The word religion did not actually exist until the 4th century, and is a word whose meaning in Latin is “to bind”. It couldn’t have been used in the original text. So, what does that mean? The word religion in the 4th century translation was used purposefully and in support of Christian theology. Christianity, as it developed following the death and resurrection of Yeshua, was not intended to control or “bind” others, however it become just that. As the church grew, rules and vows were put in place for the purpose of controlling the believers. Remember, most were not educated, and so they were dependent upon those who were educated for translation and interpretation. Believers hungry for understanding put their trust in man to give meaning to the words, passages, and stories within the sacred texts. The Greek translation of religion concerns fear of demons. Clearly, that definition is not even related to the scene we see unfolding in the Book of Acts, and yet I have seen that very definition practiced in many fundamental churches today.
If we look at the whole of Yeshua’s life, and the newly forming theology as it developed in the very early years after His resurrection, we meet a very different Messiah than the one many of us know from our church years. Yeshua’s life on earth is to be an example of how we are to live; our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Relationship with God transforms us, not the hellfire and brimstone that falls from many a pulpit. We become more patient, more forgiving, more merciful toward fellow man, less judgmental; we put the life Yeshua lived on earth into practice. Our focus becomes skewed when the rules and doctrines take precedence over the relationship and the journey we walk with God.
From my experiences in various churches over the years, emphasis of life as a Christian was focused on not drinking, smoking, having tattoos, or piercings, memorizing scripture, tithing to the exact penny, praying this way, saying these words, wearing these clothes, and even accumulating wealth as evidence that we have enough faith to trust God for all our needs; in other words, outward signs that were meant to declare to the world that we were Christians, while many in the pulpit or attended every Sunday without fail regularly practiced gossip, judgment of others, adultery, theft, gluttony, or other “sins”. The reality is that focus makes us little better than the Pharisees Yeshua pitted Himself against, and called whitewashed sepulchres, (graves) when He walked the earth.
Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves what the Bible means in our lives? Are the words translated and manipulated by man controlling my outward behavior because man has taught we need to follow the rules to get into heaven, or are we journeying with God, practicing the principles Yeshua lived while He wore the clothes of humanity…..