Since I am ever in need of subject matter, I was happy to discover Bruce Greenberg’s response to my criticism of Cal Thomas’ column. He takes exception to my questioning that the Bible is God’s word, that Jesus is divine and particularly to my statement that the Old Testament is barbarous. And I was relieved by his gentlemanly treatment of me in view of my intemperance in sweepingly categorizing the Hebrew Bible as barbarous, even though there is much in it that is barbarous. I do wonder how he concludes that I write under “ the guise of defending Jesus.” I insist that I write under no guise. Besides Jesus needs no defense.
To cite Paul or Peter to prove objectively that God wrote the Bible is about as probative as citing Moses or any of the prophets or newly ordained Christian ministers who claim to have received a call from God. Of course, they would testify with passion that the Bible is God written. Their standing depends on it. What is the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit that Peter said inspired the Bible? I assume that it is that voice within that prompts man to act morally, namely conscience. If that is the author of the Bible, then It is also the author of Mr. Greenberg’s response to me and libraries of homilies, sermons, philosophies, poetry and no end of words fathered by man’s conscience. .
Jesus was not satisfied with the law. His whole ministry was to modify or replace it. He replaced revenge with forgiveness. He taught that eye-for-an-eye was to be substituted with doing good for evil, turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, loving one’s enemies. He taught that not only was killing wrong but that even being angry with one’s fellow man was to put one in danger of damnation. He faced the Pharisees on behalf of the woman caught in adultery and saved her from the Old Testament penalty of stoning to death. And he challenged the law’s regard for the Sabbath by teaching that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath.
It must be presumed by Christians that the character and teachings of Jesus, the son of their God, is the character and teachings of their God. How then can they read Exodus and Leviticus and learn therein the character and teaching of Jehovah and not be struck by the light-years difference in moral makeup of Jehovah with Christ’s Father? Is it not barbarous for a god to sanction the killing of a witch, the utter destruction of anyone who sacrifices to a god other than Jehovah, killing of one who has sex with an animal, stoning to death of an adulteress , putting to death he who curses or smites his father or mother, killing anyone who doesn’t keep the Sabbath? And primitive to demand endless ceremonial obsequies, animal killings, burnt-offerings, and to decree numerous regulations with respect to priests and their dress, sacrificial ministerings, dietary duties and rituals?
The divinity of Jesus was established and decreed in 325 A.D. at Nicaea, the summer home of the Emperor Constantine, who had called a council of bishops, 250 in number, to resolve the Arian controversy, which had the Empire in turmoil. The Arians disputed Jesus’ essence as being identical with God. The council, which was called by Constantine for political purposes, was paid for by him, was held in his home locale, was influenced by him and was essentially decided by him. From the council evolved, after much controversy, the Nicene Creed, which today defines Christians’ belief in the nature of Christ. The creed declaring his divinity was the result of political and theological votes of mortals more than three centuries after his death.
There are many who have not and many who still do not believe in the divinity of Christ, notwithstanding the compromise at Nicaea, to wit: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Katherine Hepburn and thousands of Unitarians the world over.
Thomas Jefferson was so appalled by the miracles and interpolations attributed to Jesus, but introduced by “schismatising followers,” that he wrote his own bible, a book still in print. Jefferson excised from the Gospels all that he felt was not the words of Jesus, denominating Jesus’ words as diamonds and what he excised as dung. The Jefferson Bible has none of the miracles in it and it has none of what is obviously interpolated to support the church and its hierarchy.
In a letter to Francis Adrian van der Kemp, a Dutch Unitarian minister, Jefferson wrote: “Among the saying and discourses imputed to Him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same Being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; and restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and the roguery of others of His disciples.”
In a statement of his faith Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Rush: “I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; and believing he never claimed any other.” My moral evolution has led me to the same stance as that of Jefferson. I am a Christian in the same sense that he was a Christian.
I think that to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, that is, to believe every word of it literally as God’s word, is to bury one’s head in the sand and to accept without thinking that which cannot withstand the the scrutiny of reason. To think that Christ is God and God is Christ and they are both the Holy Ghost is to stretch imagination into the sphere of the absurd. To equate the moral value of the word of Paul, the word of Jehovah or the word of Peter with the word of Christ is beyond understanding.