Beyond Belief: a Buddhist Critique of Christianity
A Critique of the Bible
Christianity is a book-based religion. There is no evidence for the claims and dogmas of
Christianity other than what is said in the Bible and this fact also makes this book the
bedrock of Christianity. In the past as today Christians have picked through the Bible
arguing with each other over the meaning of its phrases and words and tried to convince
non-Christians of the truth of a book that they cannot even agree about themselves. But
one thing which all Christians agree about is that the Bible is God's word - not that it
contains God's word, but that it is God's word, an infallible and complete revelation given
to man by God. We will examine this claim and show that like most of the claims made
by Christians it has very little substance to it at all.
Is it God's Word?
If the Bible really is God's word it indicates that he is a very strange being indeed One
would expect that the creator of the universe would only speak to man when he had
something of great importance to say and that what he said would be of universal
significance. Not so. The book of Chronicles for example consists of little more than lists
of names of people we know little or nothing about and who died thousands of years ago.
No commandments, no ethical principles, no hints on how to live properly or to worship
God - just page after page of useless names. Why would God waste his and our time
revealing such things? And what about the Songs of Solomon? This book consists of a
collection of erotic love poetry. Once again, with the world in such a mess one would
have supposed that God could have thought of something more important to say to man than this.
Then we come to the Gospels which recount the life of Jesus. Why has God decided to
reveal the whole of Jesus' biography, not once, but four times? And why has he revealed
what are, quite clearly, four different and contradictory versions of the same story? Unlike
Christians, historians have given perfectly plausible answers to these questions. The Bible
is not a revelation from God, rather it is a compilation, a fairly untidy compilation, written
by many different people, over many centuries, changed and edited from time to time, and
containing legends, stories, genealogies, fables, sacred and secular writings. It is no more a
revelation from God than are the Iliad or the Odyssey, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata,
books which the Bible resembles quite closely.
Is the Bible Inspired?
Christians claim that although the books of the Bible were actually written by different
people, these people were inspired and guided by God as they wrote. While contemporary
Christians make this claim, the ancient authors of the Bible never did. For example Luke
says at the beginning of his Gospel:
Insomuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us it seemed good to me also having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you (Lk 1:1-3).
Nothing about being filled with the spirit of God either before or while he wrote, he
simply says that others had written accounts of the life of Jesus so he thought it might be
a good idea if he wrote something also. If he really was inspired by God to write the
Gospel why didn't he say so? But the claim of inspiration is not just unsubstantiated, it
also raises a very serious problem. Christians are always claiming that in prayer God
speaks to them, gives them advice and tells them what to do. They claim that his voice is
very direct, very clear and very real. But if they really have no doubt that God is
communicating with them surely his words should he recorded and included in the Bible.
The Bible contains words God spoken to Moses, Joshua, Matthew, Mark, Peter and Paul, so
why shouldn't the words he speaks to modern day Christians be included also? Christians
will balk at such a suggestion which indicates that they are not so convinced that the
words they hear in their hearts really do come from God after all.
One Bible or Several?
In ancient times there was no standardized version of the Old Testament. Different Jewish
groups and different regions had their own versions. There were the Septuagint, the
Aquila, Theodotion's version and Symmachu's version, all containing different text and
different numbers of books. The Old Testament used by modern Christians is based on the
Massonetic version which only appeared after the Jamnia Synod at the end of the 1st
century AD. The New Testament did not appear in its present form until the year 404 AD,
nearly four hundred years after the death of Jesus. Before that time, the Gospels of
Thomas, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Paul and a dozen other
books were included in the Bible. In 404 AD these books were simply cut out of the Bible
because they contained teachings that were contrary to Christian theology of that time.
One of the oldest existing Bibles, The Codex Sinaiticus, includes the Epistle of Barnabas,
a book that is not included in the modern Bible. If these books were considered to be
revelation by early Christians why don't modern Christians consider them to be revelation?
When we look at the Bibles used by modern Christians we find that there are several
different versions. The Bible used by the Ethiopian Church, one of the most ancient of all
churches, contains the Books of Enoch and the Shepherd of Hernias which are not found
in the versions used by Catholics and Protestants. The Bible used in the Catholic Church
contains the books of Judith, Tobias, Banuch, etc which have been cut out of the Bible
used in Protestant churches. Prof H.L. Drummingwright of the Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in his introduction to the Bible explains how these books came to be
cut out of the Bible used by the Protestants. These books were, he says, "in most
Protestant Bibles until the 19th century, when publishers, led by the British and Foreign
Bible Society voluntarily began to omit them". Once again, these books contained ideas
which the churches did not like so they just cut them out. How can a book like Judith be
the infallible word. of God one moment and not the next? Why are there so many
different versions of the Bible? And which version is the infallible word of God?
Are There Mistakes in the Bible?
We have seen previously that there are many mistakes in the Bible but we will have a
look at three more examples of its inaccuracies. Today, even schoolchildren know that the
earth moves; it moves on its axis and at the same time it moves around the sun. We also
know that the tectonic plates on the earth's surface move.
The Bible however, clearly states that the earth does not move. In 1 Chronicles 16:30 the
Bible says, "The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." (See also Ps 93:1, 96:10 and 104:5).
Here, and in many places, the Bible contradicts scientific fact. Moreover the Bible does
not just contradict scientific fact it also contradicts itself. Let us have a look at the creation
story. In the first book of the Bible it says that God created all the plants and trees on the
third day (Gen 1:11-13), all birds, animals and fish on the fifth day (Gen 1:20-23) and
finally, man and woman on the sixth day (Gen 1:26-27). Yet a little further on the Bible
gives a different version of the creation story saying that God created man first (Gen 2:7),
then all plants and trees (Gen 2:9), after that all birds and animals (Gen 2:19) and only
then did God create woman (Gen 2:21-22). These two versions of the creation story
clearly contradict each other.
Now let us have a look at the story of Noah's Ark. In one place in the Bible we are told
that Noah took two of every animal and put them in the ark (Gen 6;19). Later the Bible
says Noah took seven pairs of all clean animals and birds and two of all other creatures
and put them in the ark (Gen 7:2). Again the Bible is contradicting itself. Christians will
object to this saying that these and the numerous other mistakes in the Bible are only
small and of no significance. However, only one mistake is required to show that the Bible
is not infallible. Also, if mistakes can be made in small matters they can be made in
important matters. And, finally, one mistake is proof either that the Bible is not the word
of God or that God is capable of mistakes.
Is the Bible Reliable Testimony?
We have seen that the Bible is not infallible and therefore cannot be revelation. So if it is
not God's word whose word is it? Many of the books in the Bible are named after
different people who are supposed to have written them. So the Gospel of Matthew is
supposed to have been written by Matthew, one of the disciples of Jesus. The Gospel of
Mark is supposed to have been written by Mark, another of Jesus' disciples, and so on.
The Christian could claim that even if the Bible is not necessarily infallible revelation it is
the testimony of reliable people, They could claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
knew Jesus well, they lived with him for several years, they heard its teachings and they
wrote down what they saw and heard and that there is no reason for them to lie or
exaggerate. Therefore, Christians could claim that the Bible is reliable testimony. Except
that for testimony to be reliable it must come from reliable people, people we could trust,
people from good backgrounds. Were the disciples of Jesus such people? Let us look.
Some of Jesus' disciples were tax collectors (Matt 9:9), a dishonest and despised class of
men (Matt 18;17); others were mere illiterate fishermen (Mk 1:16-17). Simon was a Zealot
(Lk 6:15), a group of men known for their fanatical and often violent opposition to Roman
rule, and like many people involved in illegal politics he used an alias and was also known
as Peter (Matt 10:2). Peter and James were given the nicknames 'Boanerges' meaning 'sons
of thunder' (Mk 3:17) once again suggesting their involvement in violent politics. When
Jesus was arrested his disciples were carrying swords and were willing to use them (Matt
26:51). Hardly the sort of people with whom we would feel comfortable.
Another thing that should make us wary of trusting the testimony of Jesus disciples is that
they seemed to be constantly misunderstanding what Jesus was saying (Mk 4:13, Mk 6:52,
Mk 8:15-17, Mk 9:32; Lk 8:9, Lk 9:45). They are supposed to have seen Jesus perform the most
amazing miracles and yet despite this they still doubted. Jesus scolded them and called
them "men of little faith" (Matt 8:26, 17:20). Should we trust the writings of men who
constantly failed to understand what was being said to them and whom even Jesus called
men of little faith? If even the people who knew and saw Jesus had "little faith" how
could we, who have never seen him, be expected to have faith in him?
How unreliable and faithless the people who wrote the Bible were is best illustrated by
what they did just prior to and during Jesus' arrest. He asked them to keep watch but they
fell asleep (Matt 26:36-43). After Jesus was arrested they lied and denied that they even
knew him (Mk 14:66-72), and after his execution they simply went back to their fishing
(Jn 21:2-3). And who betrayed Jesus in the first place? His disciple Judas (Matt 26:14-16).
Association with sinners, liars and fools in order to help them, as Jesus did, is a good
thing. But should we believe everything such people say?
An even more disturbing thing about the disciples of Jesus is just how many of them were
possessed by demons or devils from time to time. Mary Magdalene who later claimed to
have seen Jesus rise from the dead, had been possessed by seven devils (Mk 16:9). Satan
entered into Judas (Lk 22:3), tried to get into Simon (Lk 22:31) and Jesus once actually
called Peter, his chief disciple, "Satan" (Matt 16:23) indicating that he too was possessed
by a devil at that time. Whether possession by devils actually happens or whether it
indicates serious psychological disorders as modern psychiatrists believe, either way it
indicates that we should treat the words of Jesus' disciples with great caution.
Who Did Write the Bible?
We have seen that the Bible is not infallible, is not revelation and is not the testimony of
reliable, trustworthy people. We will now show that the Bible was not even written by the
people who are claimed to have been its writers. Let us have a look at the first five books
in the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books
describe the creation of the world, God's first revelation to man, and the early history of
the tribe of Israel and are supposed to have been written by Moses. They are, in fact, often
called 'The Books of Moses'. however, his authorship is clearly impossible, because in
these books we have an account of Moses' death.
So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab according to the word of the Lord, and they buried him in the valley in the land Moab opposite Beth Peor, but no man knows the place of his burial to this day (Deut 34.5-6).
How could a man write an account of his own death and burial? The book of
Deuteronomy, at least, must have been written by someone other than Moses.
Now let us have a look at the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew is supposed to
have been written by Matthew (tax collector, doubter, man of little faith), one of the
disciples of Jesus. Yet we can easily demonstrate that Matthew could not have possibly
have written the Gospel of Matthew. We read:
As Jesus passed on from there he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office and he said to him, "Follow me". And he rose and followed him (Matt 9:9).
Neither now nor in the past do people write in the third person. If Matthew had really
written this we would expect it to read:
As Jesus passed on from there he saw me sitting at the tax office and he said to me, Follow me". And I rose and followed him.
Obviously this was not written by Matthew but by some third person. Who this third
person is we do not know but Bible scholars have made a guess. In the preface to his
translation of the Gospel of Matthew the distinguished Bible scholar J.B. Phillips says:
Early tradition ascribes this Gospel to the apostle Matthew but scholars nowadays almost all reject this view. The author, who we still can conveniently call Matthew has plainly drawn on a collection of oral traditions. He has used Mark's Gospel freely, though he has rearranged the order of events, and has in several instances used different words for what is plainly the same story.
This is a deeply disturbing admission, especially coming from an eminent Christian Bible
scholar. We are told that "almost all" modern Bible scholars reject the idea that the Gospel
of Matthew was actually written by Matthew. We are told that although the real author is
unknown it is "convenient" to keep calling him Matthew. Next we are told that whoever
wrote the Gospel of Matthew has "freely copied much of his material from the Gospel of
Mark. In other words, the Gospel of Matthew is just a plagiarism where material has been
"rearranged" and restated in "different words". So apparently in the Gospel of Matthew not
only do we not have the words of God, we don't even have the words of Matthew.
To the credit of Bible scholars like Prof. J.B. Phillips, they freely admit these and other
major doubts about authorship of the Bible, but such admissions make the claim that the
Gospels were written by the disciples of Jesus clearly untrue.
Mistakes and Variations in the Bible
If we look at the bottom of the pages in most Bibles we will find many notes These notes
indicate mistakes, variations or doubtful readings in the text of the Bible. And there are
literally hundreds of them. Some of the mistakes or variations consist of only a few words
but some of them are long passages (see for example the notes to Luke 9:55-56; John 5:3;
Acts 24:6; 1 Corinthians 8:36-38; 11:4-7; Corinthians 10:13-15). Also notice that the notes
to Mark 16:9-20 mention that this long passage is not found in the ancient Bible. In other
words, this long passage in the Bible was added at a later time. How can Christians
honestly claim that the Bible is infallible and without mistakes when all the mistakes are
pointed out at the bottom of each page?
In the New Testament Jesus and his disciples often quote the Old Testament in order to
make a point or, more usually, to attempt to prove that the Old Testament prophesizes
events in the life of Jesus. But when we compare these quotes with the original text of the
Old Testament we find that they are almost always different. We will use here the New
International Version of the Bible.
But you, Bethlehem Ephasthah, though you are small among the clans of
Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old (Mic 5:2).
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means the least among
the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the
shepherd of my people Israel (Matt 2:6).
The quote in the New Testament contains not just different words, it also changes the
meaning of the original. Has Matthew misquoted the Old Testament because he was not
familiar with it and made a mistake? Has he deliberately misquoted in order to alter the
meaning? Or is the Old Testament Matthew used different from the one we have today?
The New Testament quotes the Old Testament dozens of times and hardly a single quote is
accurate. Christians will protest and say that these changes are only minor and of no
importance. Perhaps so, but these are proofs that the Bible does contain mistakes, contrary
to what Christians say. Also, it is strange that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, who
according to Christians were inspired by God to write the New Testament, could not even
quote the Old Testament correctly.
Changing the Lord's Prayer
Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer before he died and since that time generations
of Christians have learned the prayer by heart. But anyone who learnt it by heart 20 years
ago will have to learn it again because the Lord's Prayer has been changed. We will
compare the original Lord's Prayer found in all Bibles until 20 years ago with the Lords's
Prayer now in The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and we will see that Christians
have even tampered with this most important teaching of Jesus.
King James Version:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, thy will
be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us
our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power, and
he glory forever and ever. Amen.
The New International Version:
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us
not into temptation (Lk 11:2-5).
Notice that these phrases - "who art in heaven", "thy will be done on earth as it is in
heaven", "but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory
forever and ever. Amen" - have been cut out of the Lord's Prayer. We should ask our
Christian friends why these verses have been cut out of the most famous and important of
all Jesus' teachings. Ask them which of these two different versions of the Lord's
Prayer is the infallible, unchanging word of God. Ask them who had knowledge
and wisdom enough to tamper with the Bible. You will find that they have great
difficulties answering your questions. Here as elsewhere, the reader is encouraged to go to
the library and the bookshop, find different versions of the Bible and carefully compare
them. We will see with our own eyes how much the Bibles differ as the result of
Cutting Verses Out of the Bible
Proof that the Bible has been tampered with is found on every page if one looks carefully.
The text of the Bible is arranged into chapters which in turn are arranged into verses. As
we read we will sometimes notice that one or two verses are missing. In the New
International Version of Bible printed by the New York International Bible society, verses
44 and 46 have been deleted from chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark. Verse 37 has been
cut out of chapter 8 of Acts and verse 28 has been removed from chapter 15 of Mark. How
can Christians possibly claim that the bible is the infallible and unchanging word of God
when they cut out inconvenient verses and words? And why have these verses been removed?
Whenever Christians want to convince us of the truth of their religion they will quote from
the Bible, believing as they do, that every word in the Bible is literally true. But when we
quote from the Bible to prove that their religion is primitive, silly or illogical (e.g. that
smoke comes out God's nose and fire comes out of his mouth, Ps 18:7-8; or that donkeys
can talk, Num 22:28) the Christian will say: "That's symbolic, it is not meant to be taken
literally." Christians are very selective in how they interpret the Bible. Some passages are
'God's word' and literally true and other parts, usually the embarrassing parts, are not
meant to be taken literally. Either the Bible is God's infallible word or it is not, one cannot
pick and choose. And if indeed some passages are meant to be taken literally and others
are not, how do Christians decide? If the Stories about Balaam's donkey talking, Adam
and Eve eating the apple, or Moses turning his stick into a snake are not meant to be taken
literally, perhaps too, the stories about Jesus' resurrection are only symbolic and not meant
to be taken literally.
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