Scriptural fulfillmentsApril 29, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
We’re ready to look at how the actual characteristics of the Bible do, or do not, coincide with the consequences that would result from either the Myth Hypothesis or the Gospel Hypothesis. First, though, a couple quick clarifications.
Some of the commenters seem to have slightly misunderstood the Gospel Hypothesis. I am not claiming that the Gospel Hypothesis is Christianity (we’ll get to the relationship between Christianity and the Gospel Hypothesis later on). The point of the Gospel Hypothesis is to take the basic premise of an omni-X deity Who loves us enough to become human and die for us so that He and we can enjoy an eternal personal relationship together. It’s a premise that implies some substantial and specific consequences, so it’s a good alternative candidate for comparison to the Myth Hypothesis.
Also, there’s one more consequence of the Myth Hypothesis that I did not bring out before because I was having trouble boiling it down into a concise statement. Jayman’s reference to Galatians, however, has helped crystalize my thinking a bit (thanks Jayman!).
I mentioned that, if the Myth Hypothesis were true, we would expect that Scriptures would inevitably have to make some kind of accommodation to God’s absence. This does not mean, however, that the Scriptures must necessarily admit that God is really absent, and in fact one of the chief ways Scripture can compensate for God’s absence is by filling in the gap with stories that purport to show God’s presence. Such stories would appeal to various human frailties like gullibility and relationship-based assessment (i.e. believing things because of who says them rather than what is said), and because of God’s absence they would necessarily have distinctive limitations: vagueness, lack of verifiability, a requirement for significant subjectivity in one’s interpretation of the passages, etc.
Now, on to the fulfillments.
It’s pretty clear that the real-world facts match the implications of the Myth Hypothesis almost perfectly, so much so, in fact, that Facilis suggests that my “myth prediction are [sic] waaaay too ad hoc” to be taken seriously. But contrary to his objection, the consequences I’ve pointed out (among the many I could have pointed out) are consequences that are each a direct and inevitable result of the conditions of the premise: that God does not exist to supply divine inspiration and quality control, and that the Scriptures, like other aspects of Christianity, are the work of men exploiting human frailties and psychosocial mechanisms in order to build and advance a myth. Try and explain how any Scriptures would not feel the consequences of God’s non-existence, for example, and you come up empty-handed.
Now, there’s a ton of things we could say documenting the ways in which Scripture has the characteristics that best match the Myth Hypothesis, so in this post we can only skim off a few representative samples. Let’s start with the Bible as a reflection of the culture and values of the time in which it was written. Exodus 21 contains a number of laws for God’s chosen people, and these laws very clearly establish the legitimacy of slavery, and even of selling your daughters into sexual slavery. Verse 21 goes so far as to flatly state that slaves are “property,” and can be legally beaten to the point that they can’t walk for a day or two; verses 4-6 outline a strategem that a slave owner can use to blackmail a slave into agreeing to become a permanent slave, at the cost of losing his wife and children if he doesn’t.
Many Biblical saints had multiple wives, for which they are never condemned as immoral (though some complained about them, go figure). Solomon had so many wives and concubines that he could go to bed, legally, with a different woman every night and not see the same one again for over two years. And there are many other examples we could give of similar moral, cultural, and legal changes between what is reflected in the Bible texts and what we accept as good and right and true today. So the Bible does reflect the human views of the times and cultures in which it was written.
And yet, lest we think that God was pressured, somehow, into bending His Law to accommodate human conditions, the Bible also shows God as imposing new, arbitrary, and radical changes, such as capital punishment for the new “sin” of working on Saturday, even for such trivial offenses as picking up sticks for firewood. Some might suggest that this was because God was just the sort of fellow who would rather impose a death penalty than liberate the oppressed, but that would be a bit snarky. In any case, we do have a clear reflection, even in this, of the morals and values of the day: life was cheap, gods were harsh and arbitrary, and justice (if we can call it that) was swift and merciless.
The scientific understanding reflected in the Bible also matches the consequences predicted by the Myth Hypothesis. Genesis 1 has the earth being created before the sun, and ground vegetation arising before sea life (not to mention, of course, a creation week consisting of six evenings and mornings from the beginning of light to the origin of man). Genesis 3 gives us a talking snake (who is not identified anywhere in Scripture as being Satan) even though snakes lack vocal cords. And the whole Bible gives us heaven as a physical place situated in the skies over Israel, from the opening of the doors of Heaven to let the Flood waters fall down, to the Ascension, to the gates of Heaven opening to reveal the Second Coming of Christ.
Christians today, of course, believe that heaven is not a literal, physical land up in the sky, though paradoxically they still expect Jesus to come from there even though there’s no there there for him to come from. Their understanding of heaven changed gradually, as men learned that the ancient, Biblical view of heaven was not literally true. But the Bible itself consistently reflects the old flat-earth mentality in many ways, from the idea that God is “up” in heaven looking “down” on the world, to the idea that there will be a line of sight from every man on earth to the returning (descending) Christ.
I’m out of time for today, so we’ll have to stop here. We’ll pick up with part 2 tomorrow.