Sounds like a dumb question, doesn’t it?
I finished the Bart Ehrman lecture series referred to in the last post. I recommend it to anyone whose knowledge of the History of the Bible (as opposed to its theology) consists of what you are taught in school or church. Most likely, like myself (a product of parochial schools), you have no real understanding of the history behind that book. Six hours of lectures are not the equivalent of a lifetime of study, but it is a very good introduction to the subject.
My question now, that I throw out to anyone reading this, is – why are scriptures, of necessity, old? Ehrman listed in his last lecture the criteria for becoming scripture, and if I can do this from memory they are
- Age (i.e. written near the time of Jesus)
- Orthodoxy (i.e. the right beliefs contained therein)
- Widespread use (i.e. not just one church or a few read them at services, but they have been widely disseminated)
- Apostolic origin (it had to be written by an apostle or some companion of an apostle)
The first one is what interests me. Why don’t we have scriptures that set forth the proper belief of the particular church that were written recently? I understand that if they were written now, by the first criteria, they wouldn’t be written near the time of Jesus, so I guess my query is what does being written close to Jesus’ time have to do with the appropriateness of the scriptures?
Supposedly, the original books of the New Testament were, at least, inspired by god. The early church fathers must have felt that if they were written by actual Apostles, or close companions of the Apostles, then they were more prone to be orthodox (again, containing the right beliefs). Close proximity in time apparently meant a close proximity to Jesus’ actual words, rather than some later approximation, and hence would be more reliable, theologically speaking. But, as you can see, the theological legitimacy is much dependent on the historical legitimacy of the scriptures.
To hear Christians speak today, god is always with us, even in modern times. What prevents him from inspiring written books or other writings in the present time? More to the point, what prevents him from making known the legitimacy of such writings in an unambiguous way? Being omnipotent, it should be a simple task for him. Why force us to jump through historical hoops, such as those that Ehrman and other scholars are forced to jump through, with all of the limitations cause by time, loss of original materials, lack of sophistication regarding preservation etc.?
For instance, couldn’t he cause a CD, DVD or other electronic or digital medium with a new set of scriptures on it, to be created and then dropped in the middle of the Vatican on a beam of light, while hundreds of thousands watch, coupled with some unambiguous miraculous happening indicating a divine, supernatural origin for the new or supplemental scriptures? Can’t god do that? Why do we have to rely on outdated books, the originals of which are lost, to make theological decisions of the utmost importance to the human race? Where has god been these past 2000 years, totally silent on these matters, never once updating his scriptural pronouncements? Did he send Rick Warren to write The Purpose Driven Life, yet forget to tell us that it should be considered scripture?
The very fact that scholars like Ehrman exist, because of the necessity of dealing with ancient texts on which to base modern thought, indicates that there’s something wrong with this picture. God should be able to update scriptures at whim, the better to prevent the human race, laced with natural, god-given skepticism, from questioning them. Leaving us to analyze 2000 year old non-existent writings is a ludicrous way to run a religion.
It’s just one more reason to arrive at the obvious conclusion that scriptures are the invention and product of humans, not gods.