Friday, 16 October 2009

Bible Study: Humans are too Stupid to Understand the Bible

Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430) Biblical insights brought about a lovely phase in how the good book was treated. Conceit and self-importance were to be thrown off and replaced with an understanding that the whole truth of the Bible and indeed life itself, could never be fully known; that language was inherently defective and it was impossible to express the divine mystery in scripture.

Thus, disputes over the meaning of the Bible were pointless, ridiculous even, as the Bible expressed a truth that was infinite and beyond comprehension of every single person, therefore humanity is drawn together in a humble recognition of its shared ignorance.

For Augustine, the Bible was about love and any quarrelling over the Bible or a set interpretation was like arguing with God’s love, calling God a liar and was seated in pride, not service to God.

Augustine was almost Jewish in his approach to the Bible, seeking exegesis and outing those that used the Bible to spread hate and dissention as illegitimate Christians. All good stuff which eventually led to the lectio divina concept I’ll be turning to next week…

Sounds great right?

Augustine also sowed the seeds of humans as one big humble ignoramus, unable to comprehend the often bizarre and cruel workings of God and deemed best not to trouble their simple minds with such complexities and just prostrate themselves before the jumbled collection of stories and marvel at its wonder.

Any atheist reading this blog post will be familiar with this, as it is often the religious person’s last and desperate attack in any heated debate: “HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY CHALLENGE AND UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORK?!?!”

This attitude to the scriptures, of reverence to the text itself and the idea that any difficult passages can be negated with a meek shrug, was a new phase in the Bible’s development that stemmed from Augustine’s desire to end the arguments over scripture but instead it just enabled those that wished to misuse the text for their own purposes to have a great line to silence any dissenting voice.


  1. Sad to say I think many, Christians & Athiests alike miss the point of the bible. It's a whole collection of diverse texts written at different times, by different authors, seeking different audiences. Some bits try and explain the universe as best people could at the time, some bits are hygene laws, some are just historical records. Some bits are collections of letters, poems & songs. I suspect that some bits may have been influenced by certain herbs indigenous to that neck of the woods. Some bits are very sensible "Thou shalt not Kill" Other bits, such as the bit about killing people who eat shellfish, less so.

    I think anyone with an ounce of intelligence should be able to figure out what parts should be taken and what bits left alone.

    I believe that the Good Lord created the Redneck Mid West so that all of those who couldn't figure that out had somewhere to live.

  2. Rog:

    Well that is what my series of Bible posts is about, the fact that the Bible is indeed just a collection of odds and sods, altered and edited over time and not some fixed document but you'll see that such ideas are quite new. For most of history people have treated the Bible as a flexible document, in the more Jewish tradition.

    "I think anyone with an ounce of intelligence should be able to figure out what parts should be taken and what bits left alone."

    Indeed but then to an atehist like me this invalidates the document as a whole, why does it have to be pick and mix, why do we need it for trusims?

  3. Daniel,

    I often wonder how many people have adopted athiesm as a reaction to the extreme stupidity of some christians. I'm not questioning yours or anyone's beliefs/motives. It's just when people start any conversation with "I'm a Christian" you know that you are in for a hard time. I take the view that people should judge each other by their actions. In my blog, I'll often describe myself as a "bad Roman Catholic" because that is what I am. I say it where it gives the reader some perspective on my viewpoint. I don't read the bible much, I do attend Mass. The reason I do is because occasionally something is said that shakes me out of my complacency and it forces me to think about things I wouldn't. I most certainly don't subscribe 100% to the package. It stokes my feeling of rage against injustice, bigotry, inequality and intolerance. You may find it strange, but it works for me. You might find it a bit contradictory, but whilst I'd feel no need to argue with you against Athiesm, I would have a burning desire to argue with born again Christians who spout cobblers. I believe we've got our own paths to follow. That is what I find objectionable with some aspects of some Christians behaviour. If I had the choice I think I'd rather stop committed Christians starting wars in places like Iraq than try and convince committed Athiests that my take on the universe is the right one. I'm not arrogant enough to be completely sure I'm right about anything, but I feel comfortable with my beliefs. Sort of the central feature of my creed is live & let live. That's why Christmas dinner this year will be shared with an Athiest, a Healer and a Jew & our respective Children, and to be quite honest I'd not have it any other way.

  4. Rog:

    I think most people adopt atheism because they are creatures of science and reason and can live in the now as if heaven on earth and can control their moral behaviour not based on threats of hellfire but because to be kind and good to other humans is reward in itself.

    And other human centred rubbish!

    Thanks for your thoughful comments on the matter Rog, much appreciated.


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