Snyder, George L Snyder, Lenore Snyder, God, ethics, morals, religion
The Message is Valid
Is the message valid because the Bible is the Word of God?
Is the Bible the Word of God because the message is valid?
I claim the Bible is true. Most people, who try to prove the Bible true, get trapped in a circular reasoning loop. The Bible is true because the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is the word of God because the Bible says so. I want to avoid this. If I cannot prove the truth in the Bible except by quoting the Bible then I am a fool. And, you are a fool if you believe that it is true because I say it is true. There has to be other proof. There has to be evidence. There has to be proof through logic. There has to be proof that will even convince an atheist. There has to be proof that does not require that you already believe it is true.
The first thing I am going to do is recognize that there is text within the Bible that gets in the way of literal interpretation. Many people use these apparent contradictions to prove the Bible wrong, incorrect, at least inaccurate. I feel we should recognize these things and understand that they do not make the Bible untrue. How do you use the contents of something to prove that the contents are true when there are errors and inaccuracies in the contents?
If you refuse to believe that there are contradictions, errors, and inaccuracies in the content, I have a few things that you should check up on yourself. Check them in your own Bible. Check them in multiple versions of the Bible. Take them to your religious leaders, those who have studied the Bible and ask them. Listen to what they say and then decide, for yourself, if what they say rings true. If you really want your faith to grow stronger, you must continuously question. You must question the statements of those around you. You must question the statements within the religious community. You must question the statements of your church leaders. You must even question the Bible. After all, the Bible is not an answer book. It is a question book. The Bible is full of symbolism. The Bible is written as a lesson plan for life. Look for the symbolism in the Bible before you make any decisions. The symbolism in the stories is more important than the story. If your faith is true, it will bear scrutiny. When you have problems then your recourse is to pray. Pray that God will help you in your quest to approach Him.
It is an almost unbelievable task to keep a work this large, this complex, true to the original.
As you read this chapter, keep in mind that I do not want you to lose your faith. I do not want you to doubt the Bible. I do not want you to think of the Bible as anything other than the inspired word of God. What I do want to say is look for the validity in the messages of the Bible. Look for the value of the messages of the Bible. Do not concern yourself with the exact words. Do not base your faith on the words in the Bible, but base your faith on the messages God has put there for you to find. Base your faith on God’s messages not the words that some translator or transcriber put on paper. Look for the truth.
When you read the Bible, you will find that each time you read it, God allows a slightly different understanding to come through to you. Do not fixate on the words, listen for the message. You may find the same passage gives you a different message than it gave you the previous time you read it. I am sure you will find a different message than God presented to me. After all, you and I approached the elephant from different directions. We are all blind men and see only the part of the elephant we can see from where we stand.
There are those who believe that every word in the Bible is the exact word of God. Because God does not (some say cannot) lie and because it is the word of God, it all has to be absolutely factual. Inerrant, every word. If you believe that way, then that is nice for you. Just do not study the Bible in depth analyzing the text over and over in an attempt to totally understand it. There is one problem with that approach. If (when) you discover there appear to be discrepancies within the text, your faith is in danger. This is true if your faith has been based on the concept of textual accuracy. This is true if you have made the Bible and God the same.
Literal interpretation of the Bible began only in the 17th century. Prior to that, it was always considered to be symbolic. If you wish to have the approach to the Bible that was common at the time of the early church, you have to treat it as symbolic.
I truly believe that every one of the thousands of people who were involved in preserving the accuracy of the holy word of God wanted to do right. They all wanted it to be accurate. They all wanted it to be free from error. They all took their sacred task seriously. They all believed that it was important. They all believed that this was God’s holy word to be preserved for all time. I also believe this holds true for those whose task was to translate it from one language into another.
Now is the time to stop and think about how you would approach this holy task. Think how honored you would feel if you were selected for this work. Think how much effort you would make to produce a true and accurate Bible.
Are you one that believes, that in some way, God has kept human hands and minds free from error? Human hands that were directed by a human mind while copying a document? A human mind, tired, working by a flickering candle? A human mind that just had to go out to the barnyard and get another goose quill because the last one broke? A human that copied the text from a document that some other fallible human copied in a process that had gone on for centuries? Now if you trust these monks, these scribes, these transcribers, that’s fine. Don’t forget, the Pope directed which documents and which versions were to be saved in this manner. Of course, I’m sure you believe the Pope would be infallible in this. Oh, no! It was King James that was infallible.
This process went on for more than a thousand years. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls were copies of copies written many years after the events described in them. The oldest documents we can find have spelling errors in them. I find it hard to believe God misspells words.
What we have to believe is that in some manner, the messages that God intends for us to have were kept. The messages were kept in spite of misspellings. The messages were kept in spite of words being left out, added or otherwise inadvertently changed. The messages that God intends for us to have, in spite of the fact that this poor tired scribe misread a word. This poor tired scribe who has been hunched over the writing table for hours has just straightened up and felt that pain run through his back. But this is God’s work so he keeps on. Doing the best he can.
If you can accept the possibility that humans can make mistakes then read on. If you cannot accept the possibility that a human could make a mistake while copying sacred documents, then throw this book away. But first you try to copy the Bible by hand by candle light with a goose quill and bottle of ink. Now see how many mistakes you make. If you spill that ink on the completed pages, you will have to copy those pages over again.
Go to your Bible, look at the different translations. I like to use three different English versions for this task. The King James version, the New Revised Standard, and the Jerusalem Bible. If you know the ancient languages, use them. But for this purpose we can work in English. Set them side by side and compare the text. There are subtle differences in wording. I like the flow of the King James version even though I believe the other two translations are truer to the original writings. Now ignore the differences and look for the messages, the purpose for which this was originally written. It is the same. Ignore the words and the message is the same. If it appears that the message is different, then look again. There may be a message you have previously missed.
In another chapter I analyze the word Begotten as used in John 3:16. A word that is also not in John 3:16.
Compare the oldest documents alongside the different transcriptions and translations. The message is the same if you can ignore the words. If the message differs, then you may have missed the real message. If the message differs, perhaps God intends you to see both messages. Now think of how many human hands worked to produce that through the centuries. The real miracle of the Bible is that the same story is even recognizable. The real miracle is how closely the stories match, how closely the message has remained intact, how alike these all are. The real power of God in the Bible is the fact that in spite of the weakness and fallibility of man, there has not been more lost or corrupted.
Now that I have established that it is possible for humans to make mistakes, and declared the power of God to at least minimize mistakes, let’s proceed to examining a few things that should be obvious even if you do not understand the original languages.
First, look at the Bible’s first page. There is a creation story in Genesis 1. Later, in Genesis 2, another creation story. There is a significantly different sequence of events.
In one story, God created the animals. Then seeing that the creation was not sufficient, He created Man. It is definitely after the animals. Male and female created He them. The wording indicates that He created them at the same time. Genesis 1:24-28
The message to me from this story is that creation to be completed requires humanity. Read it, think, then tell me if I am wrong.
In the other story, God created Adam then the animals to be companions for him. He brought the animals to Adam for naming, then finding that Adam was still incomplete, God created Eve. Genesis 2:7-25
The message to me from this story is that humanity, to be complete, requires both man and woman. Read it, think, then tell me if I am wrong.
The fact that the story is slightly different tells me that we should not allow the wording to confuse us in our search for the meaning of the messages.
If the sequence of events in the two stories is different, how important is it that you believe exactly the indication that it took six days? If you believe it took six days and I believe it took millions of years? The second creation story puts the creation of Adam and Eve on the day of creation. I guess I am wrong. I guess we are both wrong. It only took one day. After all, according to the Bible, God performed this creation twice, different each time. The first time it took six days. The second time it took only one day. The second time it was easier for God? What happened to the first creation?
Look at the words only as tools to discover the message. When you read the Bible, read it for the message and leave the words alone. It is well known that almost anything can be ‘proven’ by picking words and phrases out of the Bible, interpreting them in your own way. If you stand too close to a tree, you will not be able to discover the forest. I believe the forest is more important than any individual tree.
Or, did God really have two creations? If so, which of these two are we? Maybe Erich vonDäniken knew what he was talking about. Noah was an astronaut. One creation story originated on Earth, the other was brought here by Noah. That explains the whole thing. That way there is no conflict in the Bible. Perhaps these two creation stories refer to two different creations on two different worlds. How ridiculous do we need to get?
Erich vonDäniken: Chariots of the Gods
Why would God tell of another, separate, different creation?
Is it just to confuse us?
Is it to give us knowledge or a hint that there is more that we do not know?
Should we be searching for a different message in each creation story?
Is it just to let us know that we should not worry about the exact words, the exact phrases, the exact stories?
Is it to let us know that the message is more important than the words?
If you are not ready for a religious challenge, a test of faith, skip the rest of this page.
John 3:16 Genesis 6:2
If you don’t look it up, then the next paragraph will not make sense.
If you feel justified in explaining away the part you do not like, then can you really condemn one who explains away the part you do like? If the Bible is literally factually true, then it is literal factual truth. If any part of the Bible is symbolic, then any other part of the Bible might be symbolic. Do not corrupt the words of God by reading into it what you choose to believe and explaining away the parts you choose not to believe.
Mark 2:26 1 Samuel 21:2-4.
What is the name of the priest? Maybe it is as simple as Mark made a mistake. Maybe one of the scribes just made a mistake. The truth of the message is still valid. Actually, the priest mentioned in Mark is mentioned later in Samuel in another story as the son of the one who gave the sacred bread to David. Read it and compare. Find out what these people did and look for the truth in the message given in the Bible. Do not worry about the exact words!
In the first chapter of Job the heavenly beings come together. In the original Hebrew, it reads ‘the sons of God.’ Did Jesus read the King James version, or the Hebrew version that was kept in the temple at that time?
Now I approach translation.
It is very difficult to translate from one language to another or from concepts to words. When I was learning the Russian language, near the end of the course, I was asked to translate something from Russian to English. I stood there in trouble. I could not think of the English word even though I knew exactly the meaning of the Russian sentence. Those of you who speak more than one language, know what I mean. Once you become fluent, your mind may occasionally blank out some of your original language. This is especially true if the language course is very intensive as was mine. Needless to say, when I told the teacher my problem, she was pleased. I got an ‘A’ for that hour that day. I had begun to think in Russian.
Some things cannot be translated. Especially if it is humor based on a play on words. A concept that can be expressed only in your language. Do not forget, it might be something that cannot be expressed in another language.
Refer to - “And God Said” by Dr. Joel M Hoffman
In Russian, мир (mir) means both peace and world.
Kennedy said to Khruschev: “The American people want peace.”
Khruschev immediately saw the humor, grinned and replied: “That’s what I’ve been saying all along, you want the whole world!”
All of us who understood Russian laughed. That is all except the poor translator who managed to come out with: “Mr. President, Chairman Khruschev made a very funny joke using a play on words that would take too long to explain.”
On the other side of the coin, there are two different words in Russian for the English word: intelligence. Разведка (razvedka) means knowledge or information about your adversary. Сведения (svedeniya) defines the mental ability to make use of such knowledge. These are totally different words with totally different meanings. In Russian you would never use one in place of the other. Try translating the concept of ‘military intelligence is an oxymoron’ into Russian. It cannot be translated!
I can not imagine that the original writers of the Bible avoided using such advantages of their language.
I have to consider that you might be an atheist. If so, the Bible cannot be used to validate anything. At least not to you. We may be talking to those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We have to first prove the validity of the message, the messages of the Bible.
In the Old Testament, the primary message is humanity’s faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to humanity. The Old Testament brings out the relationship between man and God. This contract is brought out in almost all of the stories of the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, I think even an atheist can appreciate the value of the message of love and commitment that Jesus tried to deliver to the world. The way of life He demonstrated.
There are those who take the words of the Bible and use them to cast doubt and suspicion on the validity of the Bible. That is not what I am trying to do here. I say look at the message behind the words. The message is valid. You will find the message validates. It is the message that makes the Bible true, not the Bible that makes the message true. See what those other people have to say. Refuse to let them confuse you. Use that same text to reinforce your own faith. Do not worry about exact words. The words are not what the original writers meant, no matter how accurate you think your translation is.
I guess God is not too displeased with what I just said. I did not get struck by lightning. At least not yet anyway.
Even the stories in the New Testament have minor conflicts in the exact meaning of the statements. But then, do you remember all the plays on words, the idioms, the current ‘hip’ expressions that would have been clear to the people of the time?
I know, I - kind of - forget - things that happened to me that long ago. When I ponder those things, I get swallowed by a great fish. Only when I realize that I should pay attention to the real message and ignore the actual words does the fish spit me out.
Jonah was not really swallowed by a whale. The word whale is not in the oldest documents. The word in the Bible is fish. In some places, in some versions it is translated as: sea monster. The whale is a not a fish. The oldest texts in the original language use the word fish, not the word whale. Every time you say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, you are corrupting the exact text as presented by God to the prophet who first wrote it. If what I say bothers you, then think about it. If that is something that challenges your faith, then I make the claim that your faith needs reinforcement.
So, what is the message behind the Jonah story? It should be obvious, it is so simple. Jonah knew what God wanted him to do, and Jonah found it to be something other than what he wanted to do. It does not matter what the task was that God wanted. It does not matter how Jonah knew what God wanted. Jonah knew that he had to do what God wanted, and until he did, he could not get on with his life. He was trapped within his own desires. You too may find that until you do what God wants you to do, the fish will not spit you out!
Ask any linguist, they will tell you that there are many idioms that cannot in any way be translated and still retain their meaning.
Ask any linguist, they will tell you that there are many words that are not translatable directly into whatever language you speak. Look at the Greek words that have been translated into English using only one word, Love. Each translation requires at least a paragraph in English to give the meaning as it would have been used in Greek.
Greek words for love are explored in the Appendix.
When Paul in his Epistles used the word αγαπη (agape) in one place and used the word έρως (eros) in another, he meant two different things. However both words (as well as others) were translated into the word love when translated into English. Therefore, in the case of the word love, the Bible in English is not correct. OK, I will concede. It is correct, just not as meaningfully accurate as the original language.
Chaucer and Shakespear lived seventy years apart and a day’s walk apart. Had they met on the street, they would have been able to communicate with one another only with great difficulty. Yet they were both English authors, writers, people skilled with words.
It is important to remember that languages change over time. That is the reason the Church decided to translate everything into Latin and created the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. They found that the Greek they spoke was changing from the Greek used in the New Testament. It frightened them to think that the changes in the spoken language would make the meaning of the Bible something other than what God intended.
It frightened them to think that the changes in the spoken language would make the meaning of the Bible something other than what God intended.
Look at the language in the King James version. People spoke that way then. We do not use that language anymore.
In another chapter, I took the word believe and explored the changes in the meaning. That is just one word.
The Qur’an (Koran) specifies that it should not be translated into any other language. It was important that God’s word not be corrupted. The problem is there are no checks to keep the Arabic language from growing, changing, maturing. There is nothing to keep the language from straying from the written Qur’an. The Qur’an is accurate, but only in the language of the time that it was written.
The Protestants condemned the Roman Catholic Church for keeping the Bible in Latin for centuries. The Roman Catholic Church had reasons. One was the difficulty in translation keeping the meaning accurate. Another was the change in the spoken language. Another was that if an untrained person studied the Bible enough, they would find apparent discrepancies. This might cause them to lose their faith. It requires a greater understanding of the Bible than what the average person would possess. These are things that must be explained properly so one would not lose their faith.
On the other side of the coin, there is a problem in not translating into other languages. When people who do not speak the original language find the faith, they cannot KNOW their holy word. They cannot study the basis of their faith.
Do not worry about the words. Look for the message. The Bible is filled with poetry, idioms, parables, double entendres, plays on words. Sometimes I use the physical layout of the text to create a visual impression. You can be sure the original writers of the Bible used such tools of the writer’s trade. Do not translate anything that uses the visual placement of the words into any other language. A part of its purpose will be corrupted. It will lose the visual or artistic impact of the message. There are indications that in some places the physical placement of words in the original text of the Old Testament had a meaning.
When translating poetry, the rhythm will be lost. Some words in the new language will have more or fewer syllables.
When translating poetry, the rhyme will be lost. Some words that rhymed in the original language will no longer rhyme in the new language.
If you want to accurately translate something, you must spend years living with the people of that time and place. Only then can you understand some of the meanings of the words used. You also have to use them in the original language.
Perhaps in order to totally understand, you have to be born at that time and in that place and live your entire life in that society.
Do not waste too much of your time examining a leaf that falls from a tree when your mission is to learn the forest. There may be something to be gained from examining the leaf. Just do not forget the real mission is to understand the forest. What if you are spending your time examining a maple leaf on the edge of a pine forest? How much do you learn about the pine forest?
The most important thing about Jesus is the message that He carried. The message He attempted to deliver. The way of life He demonstrated. The message we still refuse to listen to. If you want to live in a way that is God’s will, following the example set down in the stories of the One Who was called Christ, then you are a Christian. So how important is it if you find there are differences in the stories? Isn’t it the way of life that is important? Are you really worried about the way the words read in a book that has been translated from copies of copies by people who had or have their own prejudices? Things that were written and copied by human hands directed by human minds?
Please note that I avoided stating that you should not look at the exact words. In order to understand the forest, you must also study the leaves. What I do want to say is that you should look at the entirety of the Bible (or your other holy writings) to find God’s message.
And God Speaks:
“Listen for My message.
In 722 BC, the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V conquered the (Northern) Kingdom of Israel and many Israelites were deported to Khorasan.
After the overthrow in 588 BC of the kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, a considerable portion of its inhabitants were deported to Mesopotamia.
It was during this time of diaspora, in those locations, that what we now see as the Jewish Torah was put together from the remaining scraps of scrolls still in possession of the scribes and priests. If you believe that the Old Testament is the accurate and inspired word of God, you have to also believe that God inspired and directed these holy men in their efforts to preserve what remained of their culture, history, and faith.
I believe God did preserve those parts of His message we were destined to inherit from our Jewish predecessors. This includes two different creation stories. God wants us to have both stories. My faith is not challenged when I say that the Bible has probably been changed many times from the original meaning in the original writing. The Bible is a tool to help me find a way to move closer to God. The Bible is not God. Do not worship the Bible, it is only a tool. Use it to move closer to God, not to be the total definition of your faith. The Bible is not God!
The Bible is not God.
While the Israelites were writing on animal skins, the Chinese wrote their history on paper. This history preceded the first writings of our Bible by hundreds of years. It is true that each time a new dynasty came into power they rewrote the history in the manner that flattered the new rulers. No culture is immune to these types of changes. The Chinese are at least willing to admit it.
Remember, history books are written by the survivors. The earliest parts of the Bible are at the very least a history of the descendants of a man called Jacob (Israel) as recorded by those who survived.
This is valid for both the Old and New Testament. Look for what is important. Look for the reason God chose to allow us to preserve these writings. Look for the messages. It is up to us to bring the values of the messages of all holy writings into our hearts, into our souls.
We cannot use the resurrection of Jesus to prove the Bible is true because the only evidence that Jesus was resurrected comes from the Bible. The Bible has to be proven true through other methods before you can use the Bible to prove anything. The Bible can be used as proof only if the reader already believes the Bible is true. Circular reasoning can lead to a loss of faith once you find one small discrepancy. One small error. That is why some people who do a thorough study of the Bible lose their faith. Those people have based their faith on an absolute truth that they discover is not absolute fact.
One way around this dilemma is simple. It is simple but scarey. If you read the Bible as fiction and look for the truth within the fiction, then you can use that truth to build on, to build out from. Then you will have a solid core that will not cause you, allow you, to lose your faith.
And God Speaks to me:
“Now you have begun
After you find the truth in the words of the Bible, then you begin to realize the truth of the Bible. Then you begin to realize that the Bible is not fiction but truth. We have to look for the messages within the Bible that give validity. We have to look for the messages within the Bible that have the ring of truth in them. We have to look for that which stands on its own regardless of the source. This is how I can stand up and say that I believe the Bible is the Word of God regardless of the errors I have found in the text, in the words.
By now, you are ready for me to tell you what these absolute truths are. You are ready for the great illumination that will give you that absolute faith that cannot be shaken, that cannot be lost, that cannot be diminished.
I’m sorry. It is not that easy. You will not get that from me. Why am I so cruel as to lead you this far then dump you?
You have approached the elephant from a different direction than I. What is true to you, obvious to you as truth, is not the same as what is true to me. I can tell you what I see as truth, but that may not make it true for you. You have to find your own truth. You have to reach out and touch the elephant the best way you can. If you are at the front of the elephant, you can never see the tree, the wall, or the rope. When you approach God, you have to approach from where you are. You have to move one step at a time. If you could be picked up by some magical, mystical means and transported to the place where I am, then you would gain nothing from reading this. Who thinks that where I am is better than where you are? If what I have said earlier is true, you have a better vision of the elephant in some things than I do. But, I may have a better vision in other things.
My purpose is to show you that there is a possibility of another view, and that view though different from yours has its own validity. I believe that is what God wishes me to do. I believe that is God’s message to me. I believe this is the talent that I must use so when I return to God I will be told that I did use that talent. It was not wasted. I did not bury it in the ground.
How do you find that universal truth I have been hinting at? It is not easy. I have suggestions. Some are within the covers of this book. Some may work for you. Some may not work for you.
One thing I do believe is important; when you read things to reinforce your faith, read also the non-Christian writers. Read the story of the Buddha. Read the writings of Confucius. Read the words of the Greek philosophers. Read the writings of those who differ from you. Look for the truths in them. Most of these truths are also in the Bible. In fact, many of these truths are even worded the same.
Then read the Bible in the same manner with the same reservations in mind that you held when reading Plato. If you do, the discrepancies, the errors in the wording will not bother you. You will see more clearly the value. You will see more clearly the messages God put there for you. Look for the messages from God, not the words. Look for that which is valuable, ignore that which is unimportant.
Scripture cannot be interpreted literally. All revealed Truth is symbolic. Jesus always spoke in parables. Read with an open mind because there are multiple meanings in all sacred texts. Each time you read them, you should find fresh insights. Look for them. Look for the absolute truths that are revealed through your holy scriptures.
If you lose your faith, it was not real faith to start with. If you lose your faith it might be a good thing because now there is a vacuum within you. This empty space within your soul allows real faith to enter. If you have that empty space in your soul because your faith has been lost, listen for God. Listen for real faith. Listen and embrace God’s word to build real faith. To give your soul the real messages from God.
Even those who claim to not believe in God sometimes stand gazing transfixed when viewing God’s creation. God has given the beauty and glory of our universe to all people.
And, God speaks:
“My creation includes all. I love all of My creation. I give My gifts to all of My creation.
God has no favorites.
God speaks to all people, from all levels of society, from all walks of life, from all faith paths. Read the Greek philosophers. Study the Hindu religions. Study the Buddhist philosophy. Study the Muslim faith. Talk to religious leaders from all faith paths. Study the practices of the Jewish faith, the Catholic faith, all faith paths. You will be surprised at how much you find in common with those you previously thought had no value at all. You will find things that you begin to incorporate into your own practice.
When rain falls there is no discrimination on whose field it falls. The rain does not discriminate by what is or is not planted there. When God speaks, all He cares is that someone is willing to listen. He does not care who’s field the rain falls on. He does not care what is planted there. If you are not willing to listen and the one you think is destined for Hell does listen, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your judgement. Keep in mind that God desires the salvation of all people. God declares the salvation of all people. God loves all His creation.
Be careful. Do not allow yourself to be so conceited to believe that the only one God talks to is you. God talks to all people. God talks to people of all faith paths. God even talks to those who do not believe in Him.
Remember the story of the wise men who came from the East. These were pagans. They did not believe in the one God of the Jewish faith. They were astrologers. They saw how the stars and planets were alining. They noticed something in the sky that the leaders and wise men of the Jews did not see. These wise men were not waiting, looking for the Messiah. They did not have the prophets telling them what was to happen. God revealed to these men what those who were anxiously awaiting the Messiah failed to see. God spoke to the ones who had nothing to gain from the Messiah. God spoke to nonbelievers.
Your mind is like a parachute. It is worthless, just dead weight on your back, until it is open. Keep your mind open to accept that God loves those who believe differently. That includes you and me. Your faith path is different from mine.
God still speaks to nonbelievers.
He speaks to you and He speaks to me.
All we have to do is listen.