Archive for August 22nd, 2010

Definition of marriage

| August 22, 2010 | 2 Replies
Definition of marriage

When social conservatives smugly lecture the rest of us on the definition of marriage, they tend to leave out “marriage,” as it has existed in the many cultures described by Christopher Ryan at Psychology Today.

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If the Bible is really the word of God, why aren’t more people actually reading it?

| August 22, 2010 | 160 Replies
If the Bible is really the word of God, why aren’t more people actually reading it?

Sit back and enjoy Bart Ehrman’s research regarding what we know about the origin of the Bible. Ehrman is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . I’ve previously posted about Ehrman’s 2007 book, Misquoting Jesus.

Ehrman starts by telling the audience about a question that he asked his students recently: If the Bible is really the inerrant word of God, why aren’t all believers actually reading it? Many of Ehrman’s own students truly believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but large numbers of them haven’t yet read the entire Bible. Ehrman asks: “If God wrote a book, wouldn’t you want to see what He said?”

Most of this lecture concerns the origin of the modern version of the Bible. Ehrman presents a fascinating history of a book based upon thousands of incomplete and conflicting earlier versions. These versions are riddled with mistakes. The oldest copy that we have of any book of the new testament is a tiny scrap from the Gospel by “John” called “P52). It is about the size of a credit card and it only contains a couple sentences. It is dated at “the first half of the second century” (minute 15 of the video). Our earliest surviving complete copy of the Gospel of “John” was created about the year 200 A.D.

Most of our manuscripts of the Bible are not anywhere near this old. Most of our manuscripts were created around the beginning of the third century (around the year 200). The earliest manuscripts of most of the books of the Bible date from the 7th or 8th century. By the time that a man named John Mill actually tracked the conflicts among the 100 manuscripts he reviewed (about 300 years ago), he noted about 30,000 differences. We now have about 7,000 manuscripts, and nobody has been able to add up all the differences among these copies (21:30). “There are more differences in our existing Greek manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” So, then how can we really know what any of the writers really said? Ehrman characterizes this as “a problem.” Most of these differences are “completely insignificant . . . mistakes.”

I especially enjoyed Ehrman’s description of one scribe’s mistaken version of the alleged genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam and Eve (27:00). Many other more significant translation problems have been detected by modern scholars (32:00).

Unfortunately, this video has a glitch and it ended at the 34-minute mark. This is as far as I got tonight. I now see that there are other versions of Ehrman’s lectures available in ten-minute chunks, starting here. I’m planning on viewing the remainder of Ehrman’s lecture, and I’ll report on it in the comments.

I would add a few questions to the one Ehrman asked at the top of his lecture: If the Bible really is the inspired word of God, why aren’t more believers taking the time to understand the genesis of the Bible itself? Why aren’t they more interested in learning about the things that Ehrman has researched throughout his career. Why don’t they care more about the inaccuracies and contradictions? As Ehrman asked, don’t you need to be confident that you know the accurate version of the Bible before telling others how “important” it is? I raise these questions because, in my experience of having discussed the Bible with hundreds of Christian believers, almost none of them know about these critically important issues raised by Ehrman, and it’s a rare American Christian believer who exhibits any curiosity regarding these issues. How strange, unless, as Daniel Dennett suggested, that most believers believe in belief, rather than in the religious stories that they claim to be true.

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Use of public transportation keeps you fit and protects you from accidents

| August 22, 2010 | Reply
Use of public transportation keeps you fit and protects you from accidents

From Huffpo, commenting on a new report from the American Public Transportation Association:

Use of public transit simply means that you walk more which increases fitness levels and leads to healthier citizens. More importantly, increasing use of public transit may be the most effective traffic safety counter measure a community can employ,” noted APTA president William Millar. Apparently communities with vast public transportation networks don’t just live longer because of the exercise — they’re also less likely to be the victim of a fatal auto accident. The traffic fatality rate in the Bronx, New York is four in 100,000 contrasted by the traffic fatality rate in auto ridden Miami, Kansas which is 40 in 100,000.

Using public transportation also saves you a lot of money: “Riding public transportation saves individuals, on average, $9,381 annually and $782 per month based on the August 10, 2010 average national gas price ($2.78 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.”

It is also important to note that when you pay $35 to fill your tank with gasoline, you haven’t actually paid for most of the costs of using gasoline.

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