So you buy Timothy Beal.
The "Edenic myths" applied to ancient times, in the case of Genesis to
compositions in the Hellenistic Age, around 200-100 BCE, referring to
the past beginning with a creation story updating the Enuma Elish,
relying largely in the book "Babylonica" written by Berossus, a
Babylonian priest and historian: for Chaps. 1-11. That's NOT "us."
Their thinking was very different from ours in modern,
post-Enlightenment scientific times. So it's a mistake to relate this
myth, or any ancient myths, to us in our times. They are illusions to
us, but in ancient times there was no significant difference between
illusion and reality, or myth and what we call real history.
For the ancients they were not what they "really wish to be true." They
were verbal expressions using imagination on what might have occurred
when they lacked any direct evidence, "reasoning" from what they saw as
real, and human beings and their "attributes", basically sensory
experience. Contrary to their being "messy", etc., the myths provided
stability to their thinking, brought order out of a chaotic environment.
They brought a feeling of security from their insecurity. So Beal has
it just the opposite of what is the truth.
Modern people believe these myths because they are in the Bible which
they have been trained to believe as literal truth about the past. Does
this include innumerable much more myths from around the same times,
like Ugaritic, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian? No, because they are not in
the Bible. So for moderns, they are not so messy or unstable, rather in
a way they provide a sense of stability in the modern believer's mind,
as "ways" their God acted in the past, creating our world. We
unbelievers call it illusion, but so much of our lives and thinking are
illusion, e.g. the "self" that is "I", and so-called free will.
Illusion is part of our lives and with evolutionary value.
Everything we believe is based on faith. It's just a matter of degree
from what can be supported by evidence and reason, or "blind faith" for
some that provides a feeling of order out of chaos.
The Bible also gives believers a strong sense of spirituality, values,
and moral behavior with others, as well as "love" for others (ignoring
the opposites in the Bible). Spiritual stability enhances real sense of
stability. So there are various Bibles, with some rather insignificance
differences. So what? What else is new? God's word still is in the
Bible even though humans didn't do a good job of preserving it: so goes
the believer's mind. They see reality is the unfolding of "God's plan"
for the universe and for us, and as it unfolded in the past more
imperfectly, it shows progress while we are getting more "God-like".
While the official canon was formed by Anthanasius (his letter to the
bishoprics at the instruction of Constantine, in the fourth century),
but it is essentially what had existed as the most revered writings
since the beginning of the 2nd century, some, like Paul's, earlier. They
actually were canonical but just not "officially" as required for the
new religion of the Empire.
Archaeological studies refer to artifacts which show how some people
thought and some history that is real: not much though. And not to an
Beal completely misses the point, as well as being inaccurate. We all
believe in myths of some sort or other, but we progress with science.
We all need beliefs to give us a sense of security and stability,
whether or not they were true (like the myth of Diana to replace the
trauma some felt at her death, and the Elvis myth). Let the believers
have their myths, so long as no harm is done to others. Unfortunately a
great amount of harm has been done, in both Christianity and Islam. We
can and must strive to stop that, but the harm is not from the myths,
but rather in the religious mind of radicals. Let them have their
myths. Beal is just a killjoy.
On 2/22/2011 5:03 PM, killertiel wrote:
> My Take: There's no such thing as the Bible and never has been
> Editors note: Timothy Beal is the author of "The Rise and Fall of the
> Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book." He is a Florence
> Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University.
> By Timothy Beal, Special to CNN
> When things get messy, when the ground drops out from under us, we
> conjure myths of pristine and happy origins.
> Unemployed, we might find ourselves longing for that former job as
> though it had been ideal, a time of complete self-fulfillment,
> forgetting how we dragged ourselves there some mornings, hoping for
> something better to come up.
> In the middle of an ugly divorce, we might find ourselves longing for
> the early years of the relationship as though that had been our time
> in Eden, forgetting the stresses of money, unreliable used cars,
> in-laws and learning to live together.
> These Edenic myths are illusions whose power lies not in their real
> presence but in their expression of what we really, really wish were
> true. But they also have the power to remove us from full, mindful
> living in the present, which is messy, unstable and insecure.
> And that's the stuff that opens us up to others, making us vulnerable
> to the real-life risks of relationship.
> So too with the life of faith. We may long for an original, solid
> rock, a foundation that will not falter in the storm. For many, that
> rock is the Bible. But that, too, is an illusion.
> Ronald Reagan once said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island
> and could have only one book to read for the rest of his life, it
> would be the Bible.
> I wish someone would've asked, which one? Which version? Protestant?
> Jewish? Catholic? Orthodox? Syriac? Each has a different table of
> The Jewish one obviously doesn't include the New Testament, but it
> also has a different order, beginning with the Torah, considered the
> core of scriptures, then the Nevi'im, or "prophets," then the Ketuvim,
> or "writings."
> The Catholic Bible includes all of the Protestant Bible plus seven
> additional books, known as the Apocrypha, as well as significantly
> different versions of and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel.
> Different Orthodox Bibles (Greek, Ethiopian, Slavonic, etc.) include
> those plus other apocryphal books as well as a collection of poems
> known as the Book of Odes. So does the traditional Syriac Bible, but
> it does not include Revelation and four other New Testament books
> found in other canons.
> And which translation would he bring? There are dozens available, and
> they vary widely in both style and theology. Many of the most popular
> ones today are highly interpretive "meaning-driven" versions in which
> translators don't translate word-for-word but instead write what they
> believe conveys the equivalent meaning of larger blocks of text.
> So "my cup runneth over" might become "you blow me away." Or a passage
> buried in Leviticus that prohibits a man from lying with another man
> as though with a woman (other no-no's in this list include adultery,
> sex with a woman on her period, and marrying a divorcee or a brother's
> widow) becomes a universal ban on homosexuality. Put two translations
> side-by-side, and you may find yourself hard pressed to know if
> they're even translating the same passage.
> And which edition would he bring? A good old-fashioned floppy black
> leather one? Or a niche-market edition like "The Golfer's Bible,"
> loaded with full-color pictures and "inspirational messages teed up to
> reach the golfer's heart."
> Then again, depending on the terrain and climate of his island, "The
> Waterproof Bible: Sportsman's Edition" might be a more practical
> choice. How about one of the many Manga Bibles on the market? Or a
> Biblezine, a Bible in magazine form filled with jump-off-the-page
> callouts and graphic features on balancing work and play, shopping,
> healthy eating, and finding love? Or one of the thousands of study
> Bibles loaded with notes and commentaries telling you what it means
> according this or that (usually conservative) viewpoint?
> These various Bibles are not only different in physical form, but
> their value-adding content is also values-adding, steering readers
> toward theological, moral, and political views.
> You get the point.
> There is no "the Bible," no book that is the one and only Bible. There
> are lots and lots of Bibles. They come in many different physical and
> digital forms with a great variety of content � different canons,
> translations, notes, commentaries, pictures, and so on.
> Don't believe me? Next time you're in a big box bookstore, check out
> its huge Bible section, or just type "Bible" in the search box of an
> online store, and prepare to be overwhelmed. The Bible business sells
> more than 6,000 different products for over $800 million a year � all
> sold as "the Bible." It's a flood of biblical proportions.
> "Hold up!" some will say. "Stop the madness! We've got to save the
> Bible! We've got to get back its original, pure, unadulterated Word,
> before there's no turning back the tide." An understandable response
> to this alarming scene of biblical liquidation.
> In my new book, "The Rise and Fall of the Bible," I say, OK, let's try
> that. What we discover is even more surprising than all the diversity
> of Bibles on the market today. Here's the thing: Not only is there no
> such thing as the Bible now; there never has been.
> There is no pure original, no Adam from which all Bibles have
> descended. During the time of Jesus, there were many different
> versions of Scriptures in circulation, and no central publishing house
> or religious authority to standardize the process.
> Same with the early Christian movement. Indeed, it wasn't until the
> 4th century that there was even an official canon of Christian
> Scriptures. Even then, moreover, there were lots of unofficial
> varieties. The "story of the Book" is a fascinating one, with many
> surprising turns, but the upshot is that the further we go back in
> history, the more biblical variety we discover. "That old time
> religion" is an illusion.
> For many of us, it's more than a little disconcerting to realize that
> there's no pristine original Bible to recover, that it's messy and
> plural all the way back to the beginning. But is it not also a very
> familiar feeling?
> Trying to save the Bible by recovering the Adam of all Bibles is as
> futile as trying to save the marriage by recovering the Eden of
> married life. There's no such thing, so there's no going back. Our
> desire for a pure, unadulterated, original Bible, "in the beginning,"
> is an illusion that shields and distracts us from the real, unstable,
> often terrifyingly ambiguous relationship with another that is the
> life of faith.
> Life is crazy uncertain, so it's understandable that many of us want
> religion and especially the Bible to offer deliverance from it. But it
> doesn't. It's not a rock but a river, not a book of answers but a
> library of questions. When we take it seriously, and soberly, it calls
> us deeper into the wilderness � away from the sunny shoreline of the
> island and toward the uncharted interior.
> That wilderness, like the ones in which the Israelites wandered and
> Jesus was tested, can be a place of danger and disorientation, but
> also of renewal and reawakening.
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