First of all, who reads this page? I dunno, I find it strange that people like Susan Park still read this page. It’s just kind of random to me, mostly because my thoughts are boring. Does Sammy still read this? Dave Chu? Athena?
John may slam me for this entry. Oh well.
Everyone needs to read this article on the authorship of the first five books of the Bible. It’s pretty good and surprisingly fair and balanced, I think. Actually, that’s just the first part. Here are links to all of the articles:
I’ve said this before, but I’m eternally grateful that I attended Bellarmine. Just, it’s not for everyone, but I think for me, it was a huge plus not having girls there. It’s not that I had hormone issues. Er, not just that. It’s just, there are cool things about all male schools that you can’t find anywhere else. I think you learn a lot of things and avoid a lot of problems and you can’t ever have an experience like that again.
One of the biggest blessings of my time there were the religious studies classes we had to take. Starting with Intro to Catholic Christianity, and on with Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, Social Justice, other stuff. Protestants slam Catholicism a lot, and there are definitely some things wrong with it, but there are lots of areas in which the Catholic church puts Protestants to shame. For example with things like social justice. It just seems to me the Catholic church has more of a concern for and a stronger theology of stuff like social justice.
But mostly I’m grateful because Bellarmine introduced me to more scholarly approaches to Scripture. The Protestant church is kind of weird, I think. At least, my own experience, which is of course limited. But as much as we Protestants study the Bible, it’s like we intentionally limit ourselves. Like, we take certain aspects and go really in depth, but we decide to just ignore other issues, and ignore what other, maybe secular scholars have to say about Scripture at all.
Maybe that’s unfair. It’s just, growing up in the church, I studied the Bible a lot, went through tons of studies, and never once came across ideas that “scholars” have about the Bible. So when I first started learning about them at Bell it was completely shocking.
Like the ideas mentioned in the first article. I dunno, growing up in a Protestant church I learned next to nothing about who wrote the Bible, especially the first parts. Supposedly Moses wrote it, that’s all that was said. Even in college, I didn’t really learn anything about it. But early on at Bell they taught us about the ideas of the different authors of the first part of the Bible. We learned it as the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Priestly Writer, and the Deuteronomist instead of the letters in the article. And we learned about passages supporting these ideas. Like, the two accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, which gives some support for two separate sources and an editor.
More interesting was the account of Joseph being sold into slavery that they mention in the article above. If you read the Catholic Bible (the version I read was the New Jerusalem Bible), there’s parts to the story that are literally non-sensical. In like the same passage it says Joseph is sold to one group, then it almost immediately says he’s taken by another group, something like that. Completely irreconcilable.
Actually, take a look at it here (the commentary is also there, with reference to the Yahwist and Elohist sources). Genesis 37:28. He’s sold to Ishmaelites, but the Midianites take him out of the cistern? Huh? The Ishmaelites just left him there? It makes no sense. You read it, and it’s jarring. And I was shocked, because I’d read the story several times before but never noticed this inconsistency.
So of course I went back to my Protestant Bible and reread this passage to see how the heck I missed that. And it’s fascinating. Check out the NIV version here. They kind of mix the Ishmaelites and Midianites, so it’s not as odd sounding. But it still doesn’t make sense. Especially in light of verse 36. It’s only sensical if the Ishmaelites and Midianites are the same. But the way it’s translated, I dunno, it’s something I didn’t notice without looking for it.
What’s the right translation? I don’t know Hebrew; I have no clue.
So yeah, that was really interesting to me. As you can guess, Catholicism is more open to more scholarly approaches like the ones that theorize the existence of Yahwist, Elohist, etc. than conservative Protestants are. I’ve never heard any of this mentioned in Protestant churches, and again, maybe it’s just my limited experience. But it’s amazing how much translations can affect your reading of Scripture. Like the Joseph passage. And like, the New Jerusalem Bible’s heading for Genesis 1 says “The First Account of Creation”. And for Genesis 2 “The Second Account Of Creation”. That definitely colors how you read things.
Where was I. Oh yeah. So yeah, in my experience, the Protestant church just kind of ignores stuff like this and all we learn is Moses wrote the Pentateuch. But the wealth of other ideas and stuff we just ignore. We study the Bible in depth. But we intentionally limit ourselves in what or how we study.
I’m not sure why we do this. I have a hunch though. I think Protestants are afraid of challenging ideas. Just, anything remotely dangerous they avoid. Which is in a sense understandable. Once you start down that scholarly path and start looking at anything that isn’t completely traditional you risk sliding down the slippery slope and reaching a completely liberal view. That’s how liberals get there – sliding down the slippery slope. And it’s not that liberal views are inherently wrong. I just that liberal views of Scripture tend to be wrong.
And given that the end of the slippery slope is wrong, it’s better to not risk anything at all and stick with what you know is safe and just ignore everything else. That’s what I think Protestants do. We intentionally stick our heads in the sand and stick to safe ideas so we won’t be challenged because that challenge can be dangerous.
Uh, should I get into why talking about possible different authors of the Old Testament gets into a slippery slope? I think you can figure it out, but yeah, it’s there.
But even though I understand why we would ignore ideas, I disagree. I dunno, just, my philosophy is, if what we believe is true, how can we be afraid of other ideas that are untrue? If it’s true, won’t the truth of it win out over weaker, untrue ideas? Isn’t it good to be aware of these other ideas?
R.C. Sproul says something similar in his book Essentials of the Christian Faith. A great book. Let me quote from it:
I remember the second year of my Christian life. As a sophomore in college, I was stirred in my soul in a class on Western philosophy. The professor was lecturing on an essay written by St. Augustine. The lecture awakened my mind to a whole new plane of understanding the character of God. As a young Christian I yearned to go deeper in my faith. I saw the work of Augustine and others like him as a tremendous help to that end.
I decided to change my academic major from the Bible to philosophy. When I made that change I was all but drummed out of the evangelical corps on our campus. My friends were horrified at my apparent apostasy. The Bible verse I heard quoted too many times to count was “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit” (Colossians 2:8).
I was both confused and hurt by the reactions of my friends. I had turned to philosophy to strengthen my understanding of God, not to weaken it. Though I was no longer a Bible major, by no means had I rejected the Bible or my study of it. I couldn’t figure out how one could “beware” of something without first being “aware” of it. My study of secular philosophy only increased my appreciation for the depths and riches of the things revealed in Scripture. It also provided me with an understanding of those issues crucial to the Christian task of apologetics. It never occurred to me that we were supposed to abandon the world to the pagans.
Neo-monasticism breeds ignorance – ignorance not only of culture and the ideas that share culture, but ignorance of theology as well. it displays more lack of faith than strength of faith.
Amen. Sproul is about the most conservative, Reformed guy you’ll find so if he can say it, I think I can too. He’s talking about philosophy but I think it’s equally true of “scholarly” approaches to Scripture. I dunno, for me, learning these different ideas and some liberal interpretations of Scripture, it’s made me see why liberal views are (in my opinion) wrong. But that’s something I could not have known until I knew what they were.
So my take is that we need to be more aware of ideas about Scripture, things like who wrote it and stuff like that. It may be difficult, and challenge things we’ve been taught, but I think that challenge makes what we believe stronger in the end. At least, that was my experience. When I learned these things it challenged my faith, but ultimately made it stronger.
The reason I kind of worry about ignoring these ideas is that we can’t ignore them indefinitely. And what happens is, if you only hear limited views for a long time, like that Moses wrote the Pentateuch dictated by God, when you do come across new ideas, it can shatter them, and that’s not good.
Like, I learned these things and I remember I started thinking, whoa, if everything I’ve been taught just ignored these things that are there in Scripture, maybe more of what I was taught is wrong also. That’s not good. Fortunately, I was young and came across these ideas early enough that things turned out OK.
But sometimes I see people who come across stuff like this and it shatters them. Just, there’s so much weight to these ideas and everything they’ve been taught previously seems so intentionally closed-minded that they rapidly fall down the slope towards totally liberal views. And that’s not good. I read once that having an open mind is like having an open window. It’s good to let fresh air in, but you still need a screen to keep the flies out.
And I think the reason this happens is because the Protestant approach is ignore possibly challenging ideas as if they don’t exist. I’m sure people learn these ideas in seminary. But for the common folk, we don’t ever see it. I dunno, I just think that’s the wrong approach. I think we should make everyone aware of different ideas, and train them to see what’s true and not and why.
Because we don’t do this, it makes the potential harm that much greater the longer we wait, is my opinion. Like I said, I feel fortunate that I came across new ideas at a relatively young age. My worry is just that a lot of us are never exposed to these ideas so when we finally are, it shatters our faith. I dunno, maybe that’s an irrational worry, but that’s my worry.
So yeah, I think Protestants just ignore ideas too much, and I’m all for introducing people to new ideas that might be challenging, that we can think about them the right way. And a good start is reading those articles I posted above. Good to know that a lot of (most?) people don’t think the Bible was dictated to Moses.
And the articles I linked to in particular are good because they maintain a surprisingly balanced perspective. I like one thing it says near the end of the first article. Just, with the effect the Bible had on civilization, it’s hard to say there was no divine hand involved, no matter who the authors were. I thought that was a surprising thing to say for a secular site, where the main guy (not the author of this article) is clearly an staunch atheist. But it’s true. Look at the impact of the gospel. God’s hand is in it.
So read the article, especially the first part. Good stuff.