Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for June, 2011

Spread of Civilization from the Tower of Babel

Shortly after Adam and Eve, came the story of Noah’s Ark.  Actually, according to the Bible, all the people of the world are descended from Noah’s three sons, because everyone else was destroyed in the flood.

Noah’s ark landed in the mountains of Ararat, just north of Iraq, in modern day Turkey.  This area is also known as Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and the site of the Garden of Eden.

According to the Bible, the people decided to build a tower to the heavens, to ‘make a name for themselves’.  (Genesis 11)  To thwart their effort, God confused their language, hence the name ‘Tower of Babel’.  Then from there, God scattered them over the earth.  Would it be possible to find evidence of this in world history?

I researched in Wikipedia.org to find out the dates of different world civilizations.

The early Bronze Age in Mesopotamia is estimated to be around 3000 years BC.

The earliest Greek civilization is estimated to be 3000 to 2000 BC.

In China, the earliest recorded dynasty was the Xia Dynasty, 2100 – 1600 BC.

In Hawaii, the earliest habitation dates to 300 BC.  They believe that people migrated by boat from Polynesia.

The Aztec empire in Mexico began around 1400 AD.  The Inca civilization in Peru began around 1200 AD.

There did seem to be a logical progression of migration around the world.  And I was surprised that the ancient South American civilizations were so recent.  Just this quick listing of dates seem to support the idea that people originated in the area of Mesopotamia, and over a period of about 4400 years, spread over the earth.

Next:  The Nations Derived from Noah’s Sons

Proving the Garden of Eden

According to the Bible, (Genesis 2:8-23) God planted a garden in the East, called Eden.  He created Adam and Eve and put them in the garden, telling them they could eat of any tree, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Bible actually gives the location of the Garden of Eden, it says that a river watering the garden flowed out of Eden, and separated into four rivers, two of which were the Tigris and Euphrates.  The Tigris and Euphrates rivers still exist, and go through present day Iraq, known in Biblical times as Babylon, also known in ancient times as Mesopotamia.  Mesopotamia is known in world history as the ‘cradle of civilization’, known for the bronze age, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, music and agriculture.

I thought it’s pretty amazing to learn that the location of the Garden of Eden is also Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.  It would make sense that if mankind started there, it would lead to a concentration of people, creating the right environment for civilization to begin.

Next: Spread of Civilization from the Tower of Babel

Living Proof Part 2

The Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East is constantly in the news, it’s a passionate, deeply rooted conflict, how did it start?  It seems to be driven by differences in faiths, but I had heard about a reason that intrigued me, so I searched in Wikipedia.org.

Interestingly, the article in Wikipedia, after outlining reasons for the conflict, zeroes in on the root cause – both Israelis (Jews) and Arabs claim the area of Palestine, also the area of the state of Israel.  Why do both claim the same land?  Because they both believe they are the chosen people and that Palestine/Israel is the promised land.  Where did these beliefs originate?  The Bible.

Both Jews and Arabs trace their ancestry to Abraham.  Abraham had two sons, the first born Ishmael by his Egyptian maidservant Hagar, and the second born Isaac by his wife Sarah.  This is told in Genesis 16 – 21.  Isaac’s line went on to form the Jewish people, while Ishmael was the ancestor of the Arabs.

I was astounded to think that the reason for this present day conflict is actually explained in the Bible.  In a way, the Jews and Arabs prove the Bible true, not by agreement, but by their disagreement.

A skeptic may still think that the story of Abraham is not true, so the Arab-Israeli conflict is based on something that didn’t really happen.  Can you scientifically prove the story of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac?  No, but considering the deep-rooted passions on both sides, I think it’s unlikely that it didn’t really happen.  At the very least, it’s interesting to think about.

Next:  Proving the Garden of Eden

Living Proof That the Bible is True

When I was searching for proof that the Bible is true, I realized that there is some obvious proof that people may not always think about.  You could argue that stories like the Parting of the Red Sea are fictional, and people like Moses are just legendary figures.  But there’s one thing that you can’t dispute, and that’s the existence of the Jewish people, called Israelites in the Bible.

Jews trace their ancestry to the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This is told in the Old Testament, the Jewish version is the Tanakh.  To Jews, the Tanakh/Old Testament is the actual history of their people, and the first five books,  called the Torah, were written by Moses.

Just before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and through the Red Sea, something happened, called Passover.  The Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Israelites go, so God put a plague over Egypt, killing the first born, but ‘passed over’ the Israelites,  Present day Jews hold Passover to be so important and significant, they celebrate it annually even today.  During Passover, Jews perform the Seder, a multi-step ritual to remember their ancestors’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.

It’s recognized that Jews are among the most persecuted people in the world.  According to the Bible, they were God’s chosen people.  And according to Christians, they were the people from whom Jesus came.  You would think that God’s chosen people would be protected from suffering, but with Jews that was rarely the case.

Next:  Living Proof Part 2

Gospel – An Unexpected Title for the Story of Jesus

The Gospels – written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell the story of the life of Jesus,  His birth, ministry in His 30s, death on the cross, and resurrection.  The Gospels are the basis of the Christian religion, the thing which all Christians put their faith and belief in.

Gospel sounds like a funny word, it actually means ‘good news’.  When I first heard that it means ‘good news’, I thought it was kind of interesting.  I kind of expected the story of Jesus to be called something more grandiose and important sounding, like ‘The Story of the Son of God, Who Came to Save Mankind!’

But ‘good news’ is a very simple, almost humble sounding title.  It’s almost like the writers (or whoever came up with the title) are saying, “I want to share something that is good for your life”.

In the Gospels, the bottom line message of Jesus’ teachings, besides relationship with God, is service and sacrifice to others.  I also found that interesting, because when I thought of Christians, I thought of judging, doing good deeds and people being fake. (Not necessarily in that order).  Those are actually the people whom Jesus criticized, in His day they were the religious leaders, called Pharisees.

Jesus’ teachings emphasized humble service to others.  Matthew 22:37-39 says that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind” and the second greatest is “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  This teaching actually makes sense – if you were the Creator of the world, you’d want your children to get along, wouldn’t you?

Next:  Living Proof That the Bible is True

King David – A Fantastic Hero?

I’ve read that some scholars believe that King David either did not exist, or was not quite the person described in the Bible.  It is hard to prove from a ‘scientific’ standpoint.  All we have to prove that anyone existed in ancient times are oral traditions or written evidence.

I looked up in my Study Bible to find the author of the book of 2 Samuel, which includes the story of David.  They don’t know for sure, but it is suggested that it may have been Zabud, son of Nathan the Prophet.

David was the greatest king of Israel.  He was a ‘man after God’s heart’, he wrote most of the inspirational Psalms, he was a great warrior.  Basically in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the people of Israel, and all Jews, he was the greatest hero, maybe equal or next to Moses.

But – he committed a huge sin, especially for a great hero.  He lusted after Bathsheba, and ordered that her husband be put on the front lines in the war, where he was sure to be killed.  David not only took another man’s wife, but was sneaky about getting rid of him.  David was exposed and confronted by a messenger appointed by God.  Who did God use to confront David?  It was Nathan the prophet, whose son Zabud (some people believe) wrote David’s story.

Ok, in those days, kings were pretty much autonomous, they had total power which included the writing of history.  History has traditionally been written by the victors, or at least by the people in power.  So my point is this – If the story of David and Bathsheba really happened, my guess is that David as king would not want it in the official record.  It’s an embarrassing story, especially for someone who’s supposed to be a great hero.  But, the fact that it IS in the Bible makes me think that maybe it is true.  Maybe it really did happen the way the Bible tells it, because all of the blemishes and embarrassing details are in there.  David’s line was in power for a long time after him, there were many years it could have been taken out, but it stayed.

Next: Gospel – An Unexpected Title for the Story of Jesus

 

Adam Lived 930 Years?

I thought I found the first hole in the Bible in Genesis 5:5, where it says that Adam lived 930 years.  I thought that this is incredulous, after all, what’s the average life span of people today? 75 years?  It sounds too ridiculous to think that Adam lived 930 years.  Not only that, but in the geneology that follows Adam, Seth lived 912 years,  Enosh lived 905 years, you get the idea.  Also, Adam and Eve bore Seth when they were both 130 years old.  Can you imagine a 130 year old couple today having a child?

As I said, I was kind of laughing to myself about all this, but I kept reading. Actually, I didn’t come up with a plausible explanation til much later, but since I brought it up, I’m going to share it here.  This is not a scientific explanation, it’s just someone reading the Bible, thinking, “This might make sense”.

I DID think that Adam living for 930 years was kind of unbelievable.  But I thought, ok, the world was probably very different way way back in the day.  Everything was brand new, pure, pristine, unpolluted – unlike today.  Maybe it WAS possible for people to live so long in those days, for sure they ate healthier and exercised more than people do today.  I thought of newborn babies, and how pure and unpolluted their bodies start out.  Then you start adding fat, salt, sugar, additives, pesticides and modern day stress.

At this point I was willing to ‘suspend my disbelief’ as they say in the movies.  I wasn’t going to judge til I read more.

Next:  King David – A Fantastic Hero?