Philosophy of Religion

Chapter  5 Arguments for the Existence of God: Experience

Section  3. Revelation

There is an argument to prove that god exists.  It is based upon sacred scripture.  It is based on the belief that god has revealed god’s existence to humans through the creation or inspiration of the text, which is then thought to be a sacred text. Humans experience the text directly and through that experience many believe that they have contact with the deity.

 Revelation consists of:

Sacred Texts-

·       Inspired by the deity/intermediary

·       Dictated by the deity/intermediary

·       Written by the deity/intermediary  

Argument from Revelation or Scripture:


1. God must exist because the scriptures say so. (Bible, Koran, Vedas, etc.)
2. The scriptures are true because they were written by God or by inspired individuals.
3. Who inspired these individuals? (God did)

There are different sorts of problems with this argument:

LOGICAL PROBLEM:

Fallacy:  Classic circular argument

This argument assumes what it is trying to prove and thus is considered to be one of the poorest arguments of all those offered to prove the existence of god.  You must accept that the book is from god in order to accept it as being truthful and accurate and then when you accept it as being truthful and accurate you read in it that there is a deity and so conclude that there is a god and that is what you needed to think in order to accept the book as being truthful and accurate in the first place.

This circular reasoning would not convince a rational person who was not already a believer ion a deity that three was a deity.

PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM:

In addition today there are many people who refuse to believe that the texts are accurate descriptions of events that occurred long ago.  People are aware of the psychological phenomenon whereby people who repeat tales are inclined to exaggerate or otherwise distort what actually occurred.  Events might have been seen in retrospect as having been directed by a deity or as having some meaning in terms of a plan devised by a deity or as symbolic of the deity.  

 Finally, it is now known that what have been considered to be sacred texts were voted upon by the leaders of the religious movements.  Certain texts were excluded and others included by deliberate calculation of the practical results desired by those who had the power to declare the texts to be officially inspired or written by the deity.

The use of texts that are considered by some to be sacred are not likely to prove to the non-believer that they are sacred.  The use of the texts to prove to a non-believer that there is a sacred source for the inspiration to the authors of the texts is not likely to be convincing when there are alternative explanations for what was created so long ago.  Those alternative explanations having to do with human psychology and sociology are being accepted by steadily increasing number of people, including those who claim to be religious.  Most simply can not believe that the reports contained with the scriptures are accurate or true and fewer and fewer can accept the texts as being directed by the deity.

TRUTH PROBLEM

A ) VARIATIONS in the SACRED TEXTS of the western religions:

What version is the official version of the "holy book"? Why?

What versions of these sacred scriptures are to be taken as the OFFICIAL and the truthful versions?  In all three traditions of the West: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are records to indicate that there were and are variations on the sacred texts.  In all three traditions a time came when the community needed to determine what the official version or the Canon would be.

JUDAISM

The cannon is the Tanakh is also called מקרא, Mikra or Miqra, meaning "that which is read", referring to the Jewish practice of public reading from the Scripture while in synagogue .On the development of the canon for the bible today used by the Judaic tradition read here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_Jewish_Bible_canon

There are books that are not included in the Hebrew Bible.  They are Apocryphal and include: Tobit, III and IV Esdras and another omitted book is that of the Book of Enoch.  Read one translation of it here: http://www.heaven.net.nz/writings/thebookofenoch.htm

ARTFL Project: This site offers various online versions of the Bible in different languages. The site is organized to facilitate comparison of the versions: http://estragon.uchicago.edu/Bibles/

Dead Sea Scrolls: A selection from the scrolls is available for on-line scrutiny. This site provides information on the historical context of the scrolls and the Qumran community from whence they may have originated. It also relates the story of their discovery 2,000 years later. In addition, the site aims to introduce us to the challenges and complexities connected with scroll research: http://metalab.unc.edu/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/intro.html

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures: This site contains abstracts from articles published in the Journal, as well as some bibliographies concerned with the Hebrew Scriptures: http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/JHS/

CHRISTIANITY   What books?  What testaments?  What gospels?

On the development of the Christian Cannon or the New Testament read here:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_Christian_biblical_canon

New Testament Web Resources: Maintained by Mark Goodacre, this excellent site is an up to date, annotated guide to good academic New Testament web resources. This site will be of interest to both students and teachers: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre/links.htm

Society of Biblical Literature: This site provides an interesting list of Electronic Resources for Biblical Studies: http://scholar.cc.emory.edu/scripts/SBL/SBL-MENU.html

On the New Testament:

Here is a collection of early Christian writings that includes gospels that were not accepted into the official cannon.

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

The Gnostic Gospels

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html

ISLAM       On the Quran:

The developement of the Koran or Quran read:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_and_development_of_the_Koran

Origins: by scholar  Ibn Warraq

According to one tradition, during Abu Bakr’s brief caliphate (632-634), ‘Umar, who himself was to succeed to the caliphate in 634, became worried at the fact that so many Muslims who had known the Koran by heart were killed during the Battle of Yamama, in Central Arabia. There was a real danger that parts of the Koran would be irretrievably lost unless a collection of the Koran was made before more of those who knew this or that part of the Koran by heart were killed. Abu Bakr eventually gave his consent to such a project, and asked Zayd ibn Thabit, the former secretary of the Prophet, to undertake this daunting task. So Zayd proceeded to collect the Koran "from pieces of papyrus, flat stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades and ribs of animals, pieces of leather and wooden boards, as well as from the hearts of men." Zayd then copied out what he had collected on sheets or leaves (Arabic, suhuf). Once complete, the Koran was handed over to Abu Bakr, and on his death passed to ‘Umar, and upon his death passed to ‘Umar’s daughter, Hafsa.--- Ibn Warraq

There are however different versions of this tradition; in some it is suggested that it was Abu Bakr who first had the idea to make the collection; in other versions the credit is given to Ali, the fourth caliph and the founder of the Shias; other versions still completely exclude Abu Bakr. Then, it is argued that such a difficult task could not have been accomplished in just two years. Again, it is unlikely that those who died in the Battle of Yamama, being new converts, knew any of the Koran by heart. But what is considered the most telling point against this tradition of the first collection of the Koran under Abu Bakr is that once the collection was made it was not treated as an official codex, but almost as the private property of Hafsa. In other words, we find that no authority is attributed to Abu Bakr’s Koran. It has been suggested that the entire story was invented to take the credit of having made the first official collection of the Koran away from ‘Uthman, the third caliph, who was greatly disliked. Others have suggested that it was invented "to take the collection of the Quran back as near as possible to Muhammad’s death."

The Collection Under ‘Uthman

 According to tradition, the next step was taken under ‘Uthman (644-656). One of ‘Uthman’s generals asked the caliph to make such a collection because serious disputes had broken out among his troops from different provinces in regard to the correct readings of the Koran. ‘Uthman chose Zayd ibn Thabit to prepare the official text. Zayd, with the help of three members of noble Meccan families, carefully revised the Koran comparing his version with the "leaves" in the possession of Hafsa, ‘Umar’s daughter; and as instructed, in case of difficulty as to the reading, Zayd followed the dialect of the Quraysh, the Prophet’s tribe. The copies of the new version, which must have been completed between 650 and ‘Uthman’s death in 656, were sent to Kufa, Basra, Damascus, and perhaps Mecca, and one was, of course, kept in Medina. All other versions were ordered to be destroyed.

This version of events is also open to criticism. The Arabic found in the Koran is not a dialect. In some versions the number of people working on the commission with Zayd varies, and in some are included the names of persons who were enemies of ‘Uthman, and the name of someone known to have died before these events! This phase two of the story does not mention Zayd’s part in the original collection of the Koran discussed in phase one.

Apart from Wansbrough and his disciples, whose work we shall look at in a moment, most modern scholars seem to accept that the establishment of the text of the Koran took place under ‘Uthman between 650 and 656, despite all the criticisms mentioned above. They accept more or less the traditional account of the ‘Uthmanic collection, it seems to me, without giving a single coherent reason for accepting this second tradition as opposed to the first tradition of the collection under Abu Bakr. There is a massive gap in their arguments, or rather they offer no arguments at all. For instance, Charles Adams after enumerating the difficulties with the ‘Uthmanic story, concludes with breathtaking abruptness and break in logic, "Despite the difficulties with the traditional accounts there can be no question of the importance of the codex prepared under ‘Uthman." But nowhere has it yet been established that it was indeed under ‘Uthman that the Koran as we know it was prepared. It is simply assumed all along that it was under ‘Uthman that the Koran was established in its final form, and all we have to do is to explain away some of the difficulties. Indeed, we can apply the same arguments to dismiss the ‘Uthmanic story as were used to dismiss the Abu Bakr story. That is, we can argue that the ‘Uthmanic story was invented by the enemies of Abu Bakr and the friends of ‘Uthman; political polemics can equally be said to have played their part in the fabrication of this later story. It also leaves unanswered so many awkward questions. What were these "leaves" in the possession of Hafsa? And if the Abu Bakr version is pure forgery where did Hafsa get hold of them? Then what are those versions that seemed to be floating around in the provinces? When were these alternative texts compiled, and by whom? Can we really pick and choose, at our own will, from amongst the variants, from the contradictory traditions? There are no compelling reasons for accepting the ‘Uthmanic story and not the Abu Bakr one; after all they are all gleaned from the same sources, which are all exceedingly late, tendentious in the extreme, and all later fabrications, as we shall see later.

see more on this here http://www.secularislam.org/research/origins.htm   or here Origins of the Koran

PROBLEM:  VARIATIONS in the Koran  see: http://answering-islam.org/Green/seven.htm

B) NO VERIFICATION of stories in the BIBLE or VERIFICATION not Possible

The purpose of this text in this section is not apologetics nor theology nor interpretation. The purpose is to point out that there are problems with the text of the bible and the basic sacred texts of the Western religions if the reports of events are  taken literally as some fundamentalists insist on doing.  If people are wiling to look at the text and consider non-literal interpretations and to look at the meanings and possible value of the text for individuals and groups then the question or issue with its accuracy and truthfulness may be set aside or overcome.  More on this in a later chapter on Religious Language World Views and Reason. 

As was previously noted in the chapter on Religion and Science, there is no conflict between the two if:

1) the claims in the bible are not taken literally but are interpreted and the meaning of the bible text and the lessons of the text are given importance over their veracity as reporting events and making empirical claims.

2) science studies religion as a natural phenomena with manifestations at the level of individual experience and group experiences that functions in a number of ways for individuals and societies.

Are there any parts of the sacred texts that may be true in an empirical and historical sense?  Probably there are, but it is difficult to determine which would be true.

READ: Bible , Truth and Knowledge

======================================================

PROBLEMS WITH THE BIBLE 

FLAT EARTH

The shape of the planet would need to be one of a FLAT EARTH if the Bible is literally true. The flatness of the earth's surface is required by verses such as these:

Daniel 4:10-11. the king “saw a tree of great height at the centre of the earth...reaching with its top to the sky and visible to the earth's farthest bounds.”

Isaiah 11:12 "And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

Matthew 4:8: "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world"

Luke 4:5: "And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time."

Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him...”

Revelation 7:1 "And after these things I saw four angels standing on four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree."

OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE BIBLE, NEW TESTAMENT and OLD TESTAMENT

Introduction to the Bible and Biblical Problems

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/intro.html

Biblical Absurdities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/absurd.html

http://faithskeptic.50megs.com/absurdities.htm

Biblical Flaws

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/flaws.html

Biblical Atrocities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/atrocity.html

http://faithskeptic.50megs.com/atrocities.htm

Biblical Inconsistencies

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html

Biblical Vulgarities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/vulgar.html

Biblical Contradictions

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/7273/biblicalcontradictions.html

http://faithskeptic.50megs.com/contradictions.htm

Two Creations

http://faithskeptic.50megs.com/creation.htm

Problems With the Idea of a Deity that is Supreme and All Good

http://liberalslikechrist.org/about/problemswithGOD.html

Bible errors

http://liberalslikechrist.org/about/whatkindofgod-1.html 

http://www.slideshare.net/Kukuasu/david-icke-bible-errors

Stat Stationary and Flat Earth

http://faithskeptic.50megs.com/flat.htm

NOTES ON BIBLE PROBLEMS Compiled by Richard Packham

http://home.teleport.com/~packham/bible.htm

Problems with the Integrity of the Bible~ James Buckner ~

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/james/tough.html

Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject The Bible by Joseph C. Sommer

http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/Some_Reasons_Why_Humanists_Reject_the_Bible

The Bible Problem Dr. Charles R. Vogan Jr., Ph.D.

http://www.cs.umd.edu/users/mvz/bible/bible-inconsistencies.pdf

6.       http://www .talkreason.org/articles/bible-science.cfm

SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE: SOME CONFLICTS http://www.religioustolerance.org/sci_bibl.htm

 

Proceed to the next section by clicking here> next

© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.

Return to:                Table of Contents for the Online Textbook