For the Bible Tells Me So?
Christians believe more than a few things that really aren’t specifically spelled out in their Bible. Here are just a few that come to mind:
- God has specific plan for your life. To back this one up Christians will often point to Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm…” In this text, however, Yahweh is speaking specifically to the exiles in Babylon circa 594 B.C.E. and nobody else. To interpret this as applying to all believers makes no sense.
- Angels have wings. Nothing in the Bible about that at all.
- Jesus loves me this I know… I’ve been looking for this one too. Nowhere in the New Testament does it actually say that Jesus specifically loves me. John 3:16 does say that God loves the world, and since I am a part of the world I guess I might be included in that circle of love in some general way, but that’s something of a stretch.
- You have to be “born again.” The phrase “born again Christian” comes from a conversation between Jesus and the Jewish leader Nicodemus in John 3:7. It’s not clear at all what Jesus is saying here because the Greek word “anothen” has two meanings. It could be born “again” or born “from above.” But, since Jesus and Nicodemus were both Jews, it’s highly unlikely that they were speaking in Greek anyway. If the conversation happened at all it happened in Aramaic, which does not have an equivalent for “anothen.” This only serves as a reminder that when we read the Bible in English, every word attributed to Jesus is a translation of a translation. Perhaps the Monty Python crew wasn’t far off–maybe it really was “Blessed are the cheese makers.”
- Jesus was a great moral teacher. Name one moral teaching attributed to Jesus that can’t be found elsewhere in religion or philosophy. The Golden Rule certainly didn’t originate with him. It’s merely an expression of our innate tendencies towards reciprocal altruism which evolved in our Neolithic ancestral environment. Furthermore, read Luke 12:47-48 and you will see that Jesus not only assumed slavery was a normal part of human society; he apparently actually approved of the beating of slaves! No, Jesus was not ahead of his time. He was very much a man of his time and never once challenged the “right” of humans to own other humans as chattel.