WHO WROTE the BIBLE?
Summary of an interview with Jim Veitch, National Radio, March 2006.
1. The Church's approach to the Bible.
Most people in the churches understand the Bible as The Word of God. They want guidance from the Bible about how to live their lives. They want spiritual direction. What does God say? They are not greatly concerned about the Bible's historical context, e.g. why did Mark write his gospel in that way, or what is the history behind Christmas or Easter? Ministers and priests have largely avoided historical questions to the detriment of their congregations.
2. Veitch's approach to the Bible.
Veitch is more concerned to talk about the history behind the books of the Bible. It is misleading to take texts out of their historical context. Questions like: What this or that meant when the biblical authors wrote it? What sort of things were happening around them at the time? What was going on in the writers' heads to influence their writing? …. are of great historical interest - and relevance.
3. The age of the Bible.
It is now generally agreed that nothing was written down prior to or during the Jews exile to Babylon (586BC). Dates of authorship previously suggested are no longer accepted. There is now a consensus that the books of the Bible came together in written form between 400BC - 400CE.
The books reveal a people searching for an identity, e.g. Why were they a "chosen people", why were they holed up in Babylon, during the exile, is God real or not?
4. Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, are they historical?
They are great figures created by the generation who followed. (They could have had some historical precedent?)
The Torah is an historical framework mapped out by the biblical writers, it is not a strict historical document. This applies to other parts of the Old Testament also.
5. The New Testament
The New Testament came into existence between 398 - 410 CE. No copies of the complete Christian bible can be dated earlier than the 4th century, Jerome's Latin version of the New Testament was completed c 386CE.
Mark, probably written c 75CE after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, is "a novel". It was written for an angry people, who saw Jesus as a way of handling their anger. (Anger management!)
The earliest fragment of a New Testament text is from John's gospel 125-150CE
6. The Jesus Seminar and who is Jesus?
(The Jesus Seminar in the USA is a community of scholars who, inter alia, have been trying to trace the original voiceprints and footprints of Jesus>)
Veitch discusses the Seminar's work in this context. He looks at the earliest New Testament documents Q (from "Quelle" = source) the Sayings gospel of Thomas and the Didache. ("Q" and Thomas are dated 50 - 60 CE)
These early documents say nothing about the birth and resurrection stories. They portray Jesus as a sage, a wise man and free spirit, who showed people how to relate to God and live well.
The terms "Son of God" and "Saviour", often applied to Jesus, were used frequently in the Roman world. The Gospel writers and Paul employed these titles to make Jesus into a Roman-like figure, with high Roman status.
The story of Paul and the early church is contained in the Book of Acts which Veitch estimates was written between 125 - 150 CE.
It is the story of Christianity on the move and what the Church was like about 125 CE, not immediately after Pentecost. It's a thumbs up victory story, a signal to readers that "we Christians have made it. If we can, you can too." But Acts is a story written backwards, as though it were the story of Christian origins.
E and O E.