Survey says: importance of bible study varies (Debate in Progress)
Posted by 1minionsopinion on October 23, 2009
Not exactly an article that begs entry into the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, but a recent survey has discovered (like so many others) that interest in biblical learning is pretty minimal in the minds of young people, compared with old farts who like nothing better than thumping bibles and complaining about young people.
Ninety percent of people 64 and over, which Barna terms as Elders, and people between 45 and 63 (Boomers) believe the Bible is sacred. That drops dramatically to 67 percent among Mosaics (age 18-25). Similarly only 30 percent of Mosaics believe the Bible is completely accurate in its teachings. That compare to 46 percent of Boomers and 58 percent of Elders who defend biblical perfection.
A majority of Mosaics also see the Bible as just one of any number of religious or spiritual texts pointing to a similar set of ethics and morality.
Fifty-six percent of Mosaics are willing to lump the Bible in with other writings, while only 40 percent of Busters and 33 percent of Elders agree.
I’m not a biblical scholar, but I took a comparative religions course in university and I’ve done a lot reading on my own time since then. One thing I can say with absolute certainty: the world is old.
The world is very old, in fact, and there still could be remains of civilizations under the dirt and rocks that rose and fell and remain forgotten because we have no way to prove they ever lived. And, when we do have proof, like Etruscan tablets, the proof is only as good as our ability to understand it.
I’m big into the ideas of connection and community right now and while I don’t know much about the archeological aspects, or anthropological findings, I still feel I can state with assurance that they traded with other cultures at the time. They befriended, they clashed, they loved, they died. We also know what gods they worshiped, because we (as in scholars) can decipher the language enough to compare their writing with other writing from around that time. We’d know a lot more if some goombah hadn’t lost Emperor Claudius’ 20 books worth of work on the subject. And we only know those existed because other writers referenced them, and we still have those writings.
To quote from that Etruscan site:
The origin of the Etruscan alphabet is not in doubt. The first alphabet was invented by Semitic-speakers in the ancient Near East, though the Caananite and later Phoenician alphabets had only consonants, and no vowels. The Greeks derived their alphabet from the Phoenicians and added vowels, producing the first true alphabet. A western variety of the Greek alphabet was carried by the Euboean Greeks to Italy, and the Etruscans acquired the alphabet from them. The Etruscans in turn passed on the alphabet to the Romans.
See how everything connects? Now think about the bible. It’s a loosely connected group of books and every one of them was written at a different time than the rest. At least 400 years separates the start from the finish. They were only pulled together later to become one big fun volume in two parts. 400 years leaves a lot of room for lost history.
I think it’s also fair to say the bible is a hybrid, built from the histories and traditions of a lot of different kinds of cultures that existed when the stories were first told, and when those books were finally written down. Every culture would have had its own ideals, and beliefs and attitudes that meshed or clashed with the neighbours once in a while but worked for them at the time. Like those sweet folks who pounded out the rules in Leviticus.
A quick wiki trip reminds me that the book exists as rules and ordinances for Levite priests for use by Levite priests back when Levite priests existed and cared about these things. These things like:
20:9 If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death.
20:10 If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.
20:13 If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.
What do the Levite priests and their rules have to do with us today? Very little — oh, except for 20:13. The anti-gay establishment loves that one. And I bet they’d do more of the death stuff if they thought they could get away with it. Until that day they pray for comes, they can only shout about burning in hell and wave poorly written signs and both annoy and terrify us.
My point (finally) – I don’t think people should be reading the bible as if god himself got carpal tunnel syndrome putting it together. I do think having some awareness of how it was created, and how long it took to become what it is today is more important, especially when it comes time to deal with the people who want to think today’s version is the way it’s always been, the way it’s always been interpreted. It’s not.
For an extra-curricular activity, take your favourite bible verse, and type it into Bible Gateway and see how many translations it’ll list that are somehow supposed to represent the inerrant word of god, yet don’t look at all like what you provided. The variations can get bizarre so feel free to post your verse and results below.