Jesus Couldn’t Have Died for Original Sin

August 14, 2011

Christianity tells us that we are all sinners and doomed to Hell, unless we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The reason we are doomed is that we are all sinners. The Apostle Paul says in Rom 5:12:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The reason that we are all sinners is that we “inherit” the “Original Sin” of Adam.  As sinners we deserve death.  Only Jesus’ death could atone for Original Sin.

Right?

That puts Christians in an awkward position.

Christians have to hold that there really was an Adam and Eve and a talking Serpent in the Garden of Eden.  They have to accept the creation story of Genesis. Most Christians have abandoned this position in favor of concepts like “divinely guided evolution”.  A few Christians still argue in favor of creation a la Genesis but the arguments have been exposed over and over as baseless dogma and have rapidly lost traction among all but the most fundamentalist of Christians.

Or, Christians can accept evolution, even if they qualify it as divinely guided evolution.  Then there was no Adam in a garden with Trees of Life and Knowledge.  If there is no Adam, there is no Original Sin.  There is only our nature (is it sinful?).  And our nature is the product of evolution (is it divinely guided?).  If there is no Original Sin, then why did Jesus die?

Advertisements

The Bible: Inspired Scripture?

July 24, 2008

As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, 2Ti 3:16, the key verse that Fundamentalists use to claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God could not possibly mean that New Testament scripture is inspired (see New Testament: Inspired Scripture?”). Now, I will show that the English translations for this verse are not accurate, and that the verse does not even mean that the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) is inspired! The explanation will get a bit technical, but I will provide examples along the way. Note that I’ve provided the Greek here for reference – but you will not need any previous understanding of Greek to understand this post. So just stay with me and just take it slow.

To my knowledge, the original Greek text for 2Ti 3:16 is not disputed and is recorded in the Stephanus Textus Receptus as:

πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν πρὸς ἔλεγχον, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ

An English transliteration of the above Greek is:

pasa graphē theopneustos kai ōphelimos pros didaskalian pros elegmon pros epanorthōsin pros paideian tēn en dikaiosunē

For convenience, I’ll use the transliteration from here on out when I want to talk about the original Greek. The NIV translates this verse as:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

But that’s not the best translation of the verse. The literal word-for-word translation of the beginning of this verse is (we only care about the beginning – the rest is undisputed):

each writing God-breathed also profitable for…

Note absence of the verb, “is”, which is not used in the Greek. The question is: where should “is” go in the English translation? Should it go in this location?

Option 1: “each God-breathed writing is also profitable…”

If so, then the verse simply states that ‘writing which happens to be God-breathed is profitable’ – it does not state that ‘all writing is God-breathed and is therefore profitable.’

Or should the verb, “is”, go in this location:

Option 2: “each writing is God-breathed also profitable…”

If it goes here, then the verse really does make the claim that ‘all writing is God breathed. ‘ Note that the order of “writing” and “God-breathed” are different in the 2 options – more on this in the Example 2 below. So which translation is correct?

It depends on whether the verb, theopneustos (God-breathed, or “inspired”), is used in the passive form or the active form. The word was originally known only in the passive verbal form and it was most likely used in the passive form here too, though this is disputed – see this technical discussion for the history of the debate and why the passive form is more likely).

Example 1: Active vs. Passive verbs

In the sentence, “the dog bit the boy”, the verb “bit” is active because there is a subject (the dog) that acts upon an object (the boy) and that particular action is described by the verb (bit). However in the sentence, “the bitten boy cried”, the verb bitten is passive because it does not describe an action between a subject and object, and it is used as an adjective because it describes the state (bitten) of the subject (the boy). In English, the passive and active forms, “bit” and “bitten” are written differently. In Greek, theopneustos would be written the same way whether used in the active form or the passive form. In the passive form, theopneustos likewise serves as an adjective because it modifies the word, “writing” – it tells you it is not talking about just any writing, it is talking specifically about God-breathed writing.

Example 2: “writing God-breathed” – or – “God-breathed writing”?

In English, the adjective comes before the noun as in big (adjective) house (noun). In Greek, the adjective comes after the noun, as it does in many other languages – like Spanish for example. To say “big house” in Spanish, you would say “casa grande”, not “grande casa”. So in the Greek phrase, “graphē theopneustos”, since theopneustos is used as an adjective as we’ve discussed above, it is translated into English as “God-breathed writing” as in Option 1 above (not “writing God-breathed” as in Option 2 above).

Now, with the correct translation for graphē theopneustos as “God-breathed writing“, there is only one place to put the auxiliary verb, “is”:

each God-breathed writing is also profitable…

One final note, the word “graphē” does not mean scripture or sacred writing, it means any “writing”. It is the same word used for financial ledgers for example. Then it makes no sense to claim that all writing is inspired since financial ledgers are probably not. It would make better sense to talk about certain inspired writings – which is exactly the case when “graphē theopneustos” is correctly translated as “God-breathed writing”.


New Testament: Inspired Scripture?

July 7, 2008

The majority of bible scholars agree that 2 Timothy, one of the 3 Pastorals (along with 1 Timothy and Titus), was written between 100-150 ce. and that Paul was not the author, despite the epistle’s own claim that it was from Paul to Timothy:

2Ti 1:1-2 (NIV translation); Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Fundamentalist Evangelical scholars hold that since Paul died in 67 ce and since 2 Timothy claims to be written by Paul, then it must have been written no later than 67 ce (see an example of this claim).

No matter which group of scholars is right, the Bible could not be the inerrant Word of God. In other words, if the majority of bible scholars are correct, that 2 Timothy was written between 100-150 ce, then it is a forgery claiming to be written by Paul when in fact it was not. Thus the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God since it includes a forgery. However if the evangelical scholars are right, that Paul really wrote 2 Timothy cerca 67 ce, then the Bible is still not the inerrant Word of God. Here’s why:

The essential verse that fundamentalists cite to support their claim of the Bible’s divine inspiration is 2Ti 3:16 which states (NIV translation):

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Ignoring the obvious logical problem of why we should accept that 2Ti 3:16 is itself inspired, let’s get a bit more technical. “Scripture” in 2Ti 3:16 must mean the Hebrew Scriptures, since the preceding verse, 2Ti 3:15, says (NIV translation):

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…

If we presume that a reasonable average age for Paul’s audience was 30 years old, then the “scripture” in 2Ti 3:15 must have been considered scripture 30 years earlier; that is, around 27 ce (67 ce – 30 years) – which means that the “scripture” in verses 2Ti 3:15-16 must have been written much earlier than 27 ce to be considered scripture. The earliest New-Testament scriptures were written in 50 ce, long after the “scripture” which was referenced in 2Ti 3:15. Then 2Ti 3:16 could not possibly be referring to New-Testament writings; it must be referring to Old-Testament writings (Hebrew Scriptures). If 2Ti 3:16 is referring to Hebrew writings, then there is nothing in the New Testament that suggests specifically that any New-Testament writings are divinely inspired.


The Gift of Faith

July 5, 2008

I recently wrote about a spiritual gift test I had taken online. Besides being amused that fundamentalist Christians seem to believe that ordinary talents that we all possess are somehow supernatural gifts, I was struck by one gift in particular: the gift of faith. I thought about this when J.D., another poster on this blog, took the test and came out with a score of 0 (that’s zero: zilch! nichts! nada! zippo!) for his gift-of-faith score. According to SpiritualGiftsTest.com, the saved receive their spiritual gifts, including the gift of faith, upon salvation. They justify their claim with the following verses:

1Co 12:4-10; Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Rom 12:3; …God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

But wait a minute – isn’t faith required for salvation? Then how is faith one of the gifts that one receives after salvation?

It gets worse. If our faith is a gift from God, and if salvation requires faith, then those who are saved were chosen by God to be saved (just as Calvin thought). Then those of us who do not believe were not meant to believe. If God created us and we were not meant to be saved, then it was clearly God’s plan to create us for the purpose of torturing us throughout eternity for our unbelief.

One popular (if inane) chorus that Christians often chant is that it takes too much faith to be an atheist. Rather than respond with reason which all to often falls on deaf ears and sluggish intellects, we should simply quote 1Co 12:4-10 and respond: “it’s a gift from God.”


How the Animals Got Their Names

June 9, 2008

Gen 2:19-20 explains how animals got their names:

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Let’s assume for the moment that the above passage was written by mere mortals (the Elohist source to be exact) who lived around 850 bce in the Land of Israel. The statement that Adam named all of the birds and land animals sounds reasonable enough – there simply weren’t that many different animals in that area which the writer would have been familiar with. Now let’s assume that the above passage was written under divine inspiration (the verbal, plenary inspiration theory) where God guided the author to transmit his divine message exactly as he intended it. Suddenly, the statement seems ludicrous because we would expect God to know how many animals he created. For example, God would surely be aware of the Giant Pandas he created that are native only to China, or the Capivara found only in Brazil, or Beluga Whales and Polar Bares found only in the Arctic Ocean, or the Platypus found only in Australia. Adam would have his work cut out for him naming the myriad of animals found world wide – and the Beluga Whales would have died of dehydration and heat exhaustion in the process! But it gets worse. What about trilobites that died in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago (there are more than 10,000 fossil species of just trilobites alone!)? Did Adam name them? What is the ancient Hebrew word for it (or a word for it in any ancient language)? What about all of the other millions of extinct species of animal? What about the microbes (e. coli, amoebae, extremaphiles, etc., etc.)?

Walk me through it one more time: why should I believe that the first chapter in Genesis (for starters) is the divine Word of God?


Atheism by Faith?

May 27, 2008

Part 1: Spot the Equivocation

Fundamentalist Christians often charge that atheists can’t know that God does not exist (after all, we can’t prove the negative) so atheists have to take it on faith that there is no God, just as fundamentalists take it on faith that God exists. To an extent, fundamentalists use logic and evidence to support their religious claims, but if you look beneath the surface, if you ask “how do you know” often enough (but how do you know that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God?), you finally arrive at the answer: “you just have to have faith,” or other creative variants like “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” The idea is to put atheism on equal footing with Christian fundamentalism; to show that atheism is no more evidence based than Christianity.

Have you spotted the fatal flaw yet? The flaw is that the fundamentalists equivocate the meaning of the word, “faith.” When applied to religion, fundamentalists mean blind faith – the willingness to accept and believe without evidence (and even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary). On the other hand, when they apply the word, “faith,” to conclusions based on evidence, they mean that if we don’t know for sure (i.e., if we don’t have proof), then we have to believe that our conclusions are true. However, considering the available evidence, and then accepting the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence is far from blind faith – it is “reasoned belief.” When referring to the “blind faith” of Christianity, and the “reasoned belief” of skepticism, fundamentalists use the same term, “faith,” for both, even though the meaning of each is quite different. Once you make the distinction, the charge that atheism is no more evidence-based than Christianity, crumbles.

Part 2: The “Faith Game”

Just for fun, consider an aspect of faith from the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. The author of Hebrews (let’s just call him “Paul” for now) says in Heb 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

According to Paul, faith is the evidence. Fundamentalists who accept Intelligent Design claim that we have to take evolution on faith since we have never seen animals evolve (never mind that we actually have seen animals and plants speciate, and we have ample evidence to consider evolution a fact). Therefore, they claim that evolution is “not seen” but that proponents of evolution (biologists) simply take it on faith. Then according to Paul (and fundamentalists by definition, take Paul’s words as absolutely true), the “faith” of the biologists is itself the evidence of evolution; the biologists’ faith is “the evidence of things not seen”. By their own reasoning, fundamentalists must admit that there is evidence for evolution.


Bible Contradictions and Christian Fundamentalism

August 19, 2006

Question: what would it mean to Christian Fundamentalism if it were to admit that the Bible contained contradictions?

I am singling out Fundamentalism here because biblical scholars, both secular and Christian (with the notable exception of the Fundamentalist minority), basically agree on who wrote the bible and how the various biblical canons were formed. The majority of Christians in the world do not hold that the bible is the inerrant word of God. They believe it is the Word of God in the sense that its writers documented oral traditions about God and His hand in history; the oral tradition originating from divinely inspired people.

My guess is that the Fundamentalist beliefs wouldn’t actually change much if they were to concede that the Bible contains contradictions. What would change is that Christian leaders would not be able to exert the same level of authority over their church members. Fundamentalists in general would feel more empowered to think for themselves rather than blindly follow their preacher’s dogma.

If this is true, then is the excessive rhetoric about inerrancy actually about power and control, and not about the faith?


%d bloggers like this: