I have often pondered the authenticity of the Bible. In my studies, I found much of the Bible is contradictory and even possible forgeries that were accepted as canon. For example, the gospels are riddled with contradictions that a horizontal reading quickly reveals. Horizontal reading is when you read chapters in parallel to each other and compare them. Scholarship and archeology has thrown many of Paul’s epistles in doubt. About half of the epistles in the New Testament attributed to Paul only appear after his death in the records.
Many of the so-called Gnostic texts found in recent decades were flatly labeled as heresy by various churches. They seemingly contradict the canon we have in the Bible. Yet, the Gospel of Thomas is one of the oldest gospels and even predates the Gospel of Mark by at least 20 years. The Gospel of Thomas was written around 50 CE. Many of the Gnostic and other “heretical” texts appear before the canon texts. The others often appear concurrently.
I often wonder if perhaps the New Testament many people take for God’s Word is really a combination of truth and false doctrines. Perhaps the Gnostic writings are what God intended, considering many of them appeared first. The ones I have read are certainly challenging: they demand a lot more change of heart, thinking, and action than the current NT. We trust a lot of our belief system to councils of men making decisions back in the 400s CE. Much of the current canon was decided by Roman politics. Roman Emperors sometimes involved themselves directly because of how religious division among Christians threatened the Empire.
When it comes to the Bible, we cannot be certain it is what God intended. Much of its selections depict quite petty things. Some of its selections touch divinity. We need to remember the Bible, inspired by God or not, was still penned by humans. It has mistakes. It is far from complete. We cannot know for certain if it really is God’s message. Any collection of writings can affirm itself to be so. Yes, faith has a role to play, but faith can easily be misled without skepticism and questioning. I truly doubt God views women as inferior to men. That was a cultural view-point. I doubt a loving God will eternally torment people for sins committed in a single short span of time. Punishment is a part of correction; eternal punishment is an oxymoron. The person would never have a chance to change! These passages just seem to be a reaction from the writers wanting their enemies to face “justice.”
I don’t claim to know if the Bible we have is true or not. I have not a clue. I only seek to learn what I can about it. Faith without evidence can easily land you in a ditch or worse. I find many of the Gnostic writings such as the Gospel of Thomas appealing. They speak of universal compassion and dialogue. They have a sense of universal acceptance that traditional interpretations of Christianity lacks. I think that is why I identify more with Buddhism than traditional (and fundamentalist) Christianity.
It is troubling for me that the Bible is so blatantly wrong on so many counts: Creation, the Great Flood, the rise of Israel, The Roman Census, and others. If it was the Word of God, it would certainly get history and science right. The Bible has very degrading passages toward women as well. Such as the treatment of women when they are on their periods or the commands from Paul about keeping silent at worship. The more I study the Bible, the weaker my faith becomes. It just doesn’t stand up to my questions or to the archeology. Of course, parts of the Bible do hold up fairly well: Mark, 1 Corinthians, Wisdom (Ecclesiastes), and several others.
I have been accused of picking and choosing from the Scripture, yet the canon itself was constructed the same way back in the 400s. I sometimes envy the easy surface reading many people do. My mind simply doesn’t rest and needs to get to the heart and roots. Of course if more people studied the way I do, perhaps religion would become more unified in Jesus’ teachings of love and compassion instead of being divided by layers of artificial doctrine.