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The Bible as Literature

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The Bible as Literature

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby dealing with it on Wed Feb 03, 2021 8:30 pm

I've never actually read it, but I'm curious if you take the Bible as a work of literature (and not as a truthful account of history or science), how does it stand up to other works of literature? Is it as worth reading as the Illiad, or Shakespeare, or Spider-Man comics, &c.? What parts of it are particularly well-written, and what parts are garbage?

Also, I've heard it said that Christians should not use Biblical passages in arguments against atheists, because the Bible is the claim under dispute. Are there reasons why atheists should not use Biblical passages in arguments against theists?

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Re: The Bible as Literature

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Remæus on Thu Feb 04, 2021 10:24 am

It's a long read, but well worth it — especially the "Old Testament" (pre-Christ), as it contains quite a few unique stories (and some that more modern literature have built on). They're scattered throughout, but the juiciest bits (IMO) are in Numbers, Judges, 1st Samuel, and 2nd Kings.

The New Testament (and in particular, the first four books) is probably the best starting place if you're seeking to understand Christianity overall, as they're far more "down to Earth" (heh) in that they deal with Christ's contemporaries and their lived experience throughout. Those first four books (the "Gospels") are each independent accounts of the same events, and the rest are full of parables and stories (including Revelations, which documents John's hallucinations as he lost his sanity while imprisoned in solitude).

Note: Christians, at large, regard the Old Testament as a historical account, as the New Testament (Christ's redemption) supersedes it and all of its dated laws (which were the laws of the Jewish people at the time). Using Old Testament verses in an argument with a Christian isn't fair to the very basis of their religion!

King Solomon's "Proverbs" is another one of my favorites, as it's one of the few times in history that a powerful leader has written out their experiences and wisdom, and much of it applies even today. There's so many gems there that one could likely spend a lifetime on this book alone.

As for the Bible in general, well, a purist Christian might denigrate it as a human construct (created hundreds of years after Christ, and translated no less!) as "Christianity" means (to them) simply living your life like Christ ("love everyone"). The Orthodox sects are most closely aligned with this idea (and I am too), but the Bible has at least preserved some of the cultural and intellectual capital that the Jews accumulated. There's very few other texts that reveal so much about our ancestors, and those that do are locked away (like the Chinese historical accounts kept in the Forbidden City).

It's likely inappropriate (if not counterproductive) to use any of the Bible in a structured argument, as most [Christian] readers will only be familiar with the translated verses, which vary widely in meaning and (presumably) intent. Your best bet would be to debate a Rabbi (at least on the Pentateuch), who would be familiar with the original Hebrew, as well as the encoded meaning that the words conceal.

Beyond the Pentateuch, it's also well worth your while to gain an understanding of divergence between various denominations (Orthodox vs. Catholic vs. Protestant (x100)) as it belies the difference in interpretation that each group split over. It's difficult to get a feeler for this, at least without speaking to well-informed Biblical scholars, but it would probably lay bare the entirety of arguments one might encounter over the meaning of "Bible verses" — the devil, as it were, is in the details.

I do wonder if the prevalence of Christanity in the West has made it a target of atheist vitriol, as opposed to some of the more violent religions, as I rarely see anyone criticizing any other religions. Maybe it's just what people are most familiar with, or the one that impacted them negatively in their youth. It's odd, because I don't really find many atheists elsewhere (outside of the West), so maybe it's just the lasting damage that the Catholic institution inflicted on us all with its original perversion of Christianity in general.

Eager to hear from others about their favorite books in the Bible! Even those who read the Apocrypha should chime in, even though it isn't part of "the Bible" — just because King James excluded it, doesn't mean it's any less valid. ;)
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Re: The Bible as Literature

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Joseph_Bennett on Tue Feb 16, 2021 3:33 pm

As I live in a Christian household and have gone through certain parts of the Bible while also coming to my own terms as of religion, I have to say the Bible is definitely unique. It's one of the oldest pieces of literature still printed today, not to mention other mundane facts.

On reading it, I can't really say for sure which books, stories or parables are crap or not, because each book has it's own attributes. I'd definitely say that from a readers standpoint I prefer to read the Old Testament. Some of the later books after Ezekiel don't stand out much to me. I wasn't one of the kids in bible school to remember much of the names of the books or whatever, but I'm familiar with some stories in the Old Testament. I think my favorite story was the one of the Left-Handed Judge. I dunno precisely where it is in the Old Testament, but it's there somewhere.

The one book in the New Testament that really stands out (mainly because it isn't about the story of Jesus) is Revelation, which is an interesting read. Apocalypse and stuff.

Hope this was a contribution to the discussion.
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Re: The Bible as Literature

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Sepokku on Sat Feb 20, 2021 12:36 am

The Hebrew Bible overlaps with the Greek Septuagint and the Christian Old Testament; furthermore, all Abrahamic religions overlap to a certain extent in their beliefs and holy books. It doesn't really matter which of the Abrahamic Bibles we are talking about, they really can't be dissected alone as a lot of the good content can only be understood by comparing and contrasting.

It's important to remember that the Bible that most Christians currently read is the New Revised Standard Version, but even that is only a slight majority (55%). Other versions include or don't include apocryphal books, as the authors saw fit. That is partially why finding the dead Sea scrolls was so ground-breaking, they revealed a bunch of things that had been omitted in current versions of the bible (by the church.)

For the truest translation of the bible, you'd probably have to find the original versions in Aramaic/Hebrew (Jesus spoke Aramaic) since a lot of meaning is lost in translation. For example, there is no mention of "The Devil" in the old testament. The word "Satan" means an adversary, and is often just a title for anyone not Christian (You are adverse to their religion). Satan is NOT some red guy with goat hooves who thinks it's funny to fuck with Adam Kadmon. In fact, the devil as most of us think of him is more in line with Iblis, a djinn from the Qurann.

Lucifer is another such example; Information available to scholars today (via translated Babylonian cuneiform text), was not as readily available at the time of the Latin translation of the Bible. The reference to "Lucifer" was interpreted as a reference to the moment Satan was thrown from Heaven. And despite the clarity of the chapter as a whole, the 12th verse continues to be put forth as proof that Lucifer was the name of Satan before the fall. Thus Lucifer became another name for Satan and has remained so, even though it actually refers to a Babylonian king

As Remauus said, King Solomon/Suleiman is a very prominent figure and renowned for his wisdom in both the Christian and Islamic bible. He does ultimately turn evil and has his city destroyed by Yahweh for his sins, but up until that point, he is pretty neat. He's also known as a magician and a lot of hermetic magic derives from him.

Adam Kadmon is a very interesting part of a Bible, as well as the Sephirot and the idea that there is a false God (Demiurge) ruling over the physical world. (The latter probably inspired the modern Christian devil) I also really enjoyed the implication that some people are evil simply because they literally do not have a soul

All of the Bibles are definitely worth reading, there is a reason they have captivated the hearts and minds of so many for so long. There is danger in only getting one side of the story, however, so I would encourage reading different versions of the same verse, or even the same story from two different religions.

As far as the bible being the claim under dispute; that can also be said for atheism. People who have faith in something do not see it as a claim, and therefore it cannot be under dispute. The atheist is just as burdened to prove their claim that there is no afterlife or that it is impossible to prove otherwise, especially so because the Christian lives in a world where the bible isn't fiction. When asked about the conservation of energy, you'd quote Chatelet. Much like a Christian quotes the bible when asked about the universe.

As for atheists not quoting the bible to other atheists; why would you? It'd be like quoting Lovecraft; they're both works of fiction

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