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A Few New Ideas for the Immigration Policy Debate

[A Two-part Series]

Part 1

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

These lines above are from the poem, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. They appear on the Statute of Liberty.

 

Introduction

It is an historical fact that since immigrants have tried to assimilate in America, it has always been the case that the “new kid on the block” has the most trouble or difficulty trying to fit in with their old country cultural norms, names and languages. And every group had their small number of bad “apples.” Sometimes the barrel of apples was quite large.

For example, the Five Points Gang in New York at the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century was a large criminal organization, primarily of Irish-Americans from the sixth ward (the five points of Manhattan, New York). There were many other immigrants that came to America, formed gangs, and proceeded to organize along race/ethnicity lines among the various neighborhoods in New York.

Considering the current state of politics under the Trump administration, the notion of a hypocritical nation jumps right out at you. The irony is so thick one could slice it with a butcher knife. Given the plurality of ethic and many Caucasian gangs at the turn of the twentieth century, the government nonetheless wasn’t proposing a policy to ban the Irish, Catholics, Polish people, Germans, Scottish, Italians, or later blacks.

Today’s target appears to fall on Hispanics and those of the Muslim faith. Every generation of Americans who were originally immigrants from other nations always fears the next generation coming to America. However, by the time all of these ethnic and religious groups become second and third generation citizens, low and behold, they tend to become fully assimilated true Americans. Why? It may sound like an overly used cliché, but America is still the land of opportunity, and the world knows it.

Values versus Facts Regarding Immigration

Ultimately, the pushes and pulls of political and social forces will determine what the Country’s immigration policy will be. This in turn will be determined by the “value judgments, preferences, biases, and conceptual framework” dictated by those in positions of power.

But please, make no mistake about it—there is no such thing as absolute truth or absolute right or wrong values. All values are relative, and our notions of what is truth are based on only one thing i.e., truth is only what we agree it is—nothing more, and nothing less.

But whether “agreed upon truth” has any relevance in the real world, there is but one arbiter who stands above the fray of conflicting value judgments and notions of truth. And that arbiter is not ultimate truth, but Facts.

Facts are a piece of information used as evidence, or as part of a report or news article. It is a thing that is indisputably the case. Consequently, Part I of this Blog will present facts on immigrants. I will do this by answering two questions a lot of citizens have about immigrants, and therefore, albeit, immigration policy.

In Part II, I will answer the question of how much crime is connected to immigration. I will also present a few ideas that are different from the original amnesty proposals, as well as the current White House administration that uses race and religion for purposes of supporting an extremist ideology that is the antithesis of American values as reflected in democratic institutions and the United States Constitution.

Of course, neither liberals nor conservatives can ever escape making value judgments. Values do underlie a lot of human choices. But values from any political identity that is devoid of knowledge, or are impervious to facts, does everyone a great disservice. We all need in our decision-making ability to be guided by facts, not ideology or religious extremism whether from the Left or the Right.

Questions about Immigrants

There are three questions I’d like to address in Part I and II: (1) should there be limits to immigration? (2) Why do we need more immigrants? And (3) Do immigrants (legal or illegal) commit a lot of crime? Part I will answer the first two questions; Part II will address the question of crime and immigration.

These are the types of questions that most citizens want answered. Facts may be able to dispel a lot of false assumptions made by a sizeable number of these citizens. The facts may dispel or contradict our notions of reality. This is why research rather than rhetoric should inform public policy on immigration.  

     Finally, in Part II I will present a new proposal for a humanitarian approach to Immigration policy, including the specifics on how to achieve such a policy. There will be a final comments section at the end of each blog.

Should there be Limits to Immigration?

The answer to this question is primarily a value judgment.  However, one way to create a logical and reasonable, data-driven way to address the issue of how many immigrants to allow in the United States each year is to consider how many taxpayer citizens die each year.

First, there is one birth every seven seconds in the United States, and one death every ten seconds. This amounts to approximately less than one percent (.77) increase in the population each year. However, newborns this year won’t be ready to pay taxes (generally speaking) for another 18 years.

We know that there are approximately 122,000,000 taxpayers who pay federal income taxes each year. Depending on how many die each year would give one an approximate estimate of how many taxpayers are needed for replacement. New immigrants might be able to pick up the slack as contributing taxpayers.

The increase in population due to the annual birth rate (which does exceed the number who die) won’t help the nation’s coffers. As said above, this is because, generally speaking, the newly born won’t be prepared to pay taxes until they are at least 18 years of age.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not obtain this type of data, i.e.,  (taxpayer deaths).

For the sake of argument, let’s assume this: There were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States in 2014. The United States had a total population of 317,000,000 in 2014. The percent of taxpayers represent about 317,000,000 / 122,000,000 or 39.2 percent of the total U.S. population.

Thirty-nine point two percent of the number of deaths would equal approximately 1,024,303 deaths of taxpayers. However, since 23.3 percent of the population is 18 or under, a fair guess would be that the actual number of taxpayer deaths in 2014 would be closer to 1,024,303 minus 238,662 or 785,641 taxpayers. All of this is based on assumptions. And, as we all know too well, “assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups.” However, for the sake of argument, let’s proceed further into this analysis.

One article I reviewed on this topic was titled, “Refugees and Asylees in the United States” dated October 28, 2015, by Jie Jong and Jeanne Batalova. They reported that:

“The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for refugees. For people living in repressive, autocratic, or conflict-embroiled nations, or those who are members of vulnerable social groups in countries around the world, migration is often a means of survival and—for those most at risk—resettlement is key to safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, the United States resettled 69,933 refugees and in FY 2013 (the most recent data available) granted asylum status to 25,199 people.

By the end of 2014, as wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide continued to unfold, the number of people displaced within their country or having fled internationally reached 59.5 million, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—the highest level ever recorded.

And by mid-2014 there were more than 1.2 million asylum seekers worldwide. Ongoing war in Syria alone has led more than 4.1 million people to seek refuge in neighboring countries and beyond and to the internal displacement of more than 7.6 million Syrians.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration proposed to significantly increase the number of refugees the United States accepts each year—from 70,000 in FY 2015 to 85,000 in FY 2016 and 110,000 in FY 2017—and scale up the number of Syrian refugees admitted to at least 10,000 for the current fiscal year, which began October 1.

The United States offers humanitarian protection to refugees through two channels: refugee resettlement and asylum status. Using the most recent data available, including 2015 refugee arrival figures from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s 2013 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, and administrative data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, this spotlight examines characteristics of the U.S. refugee and asylees population including the admissions ceiling, top countries of origin, and U.S. states with the highest resettlement.

It also explores the number of refugees and asylees who have become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), followed by an explanation of the admissions process.”

Summary Viewpoint:

     Immigration involves more than refugees from war-torn countries and asylees. It involves people escaping poverty, poor governmental response to poverty, crime in the neighborhoods, social injustice involving organized crime such as terrorist acts committed by drug cartels in Mexico and several South American countries.

  Simply put, based on my earlier analysis, the multi-faceted problem of immigration is not keeping up the pace with the country’s annual death rate, thus putting the nation at risk for fewer and fewer tax dollars for future federal budgets.

     We should be admitting somewhere around 785, 641 immigrants each year into the United States at the same time we are creating Amnesty for those illegals who settled in the U.S. in prior years. If one accepts the notion of amnesty and replacement of taxpayers who die each year, I think a perfectly reasonable upper limit of immigration could be set at 1million per year.

Why do we need more Immigrants?

     The answer to this question is best represented in an Obama Administration White House blog posted on July, 12, 2012 by Jason Furman and Danielle Gray. The title of the Blog was, “Ten Ways Immigrants Help Build and Strengthen Our Economy.

“Summary: Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe.

America is a nation of immigrants. Our American journey and our success would simply not be possible without the generations of immigrants who have come to our shores from every corner of the globe. It is helpful to take a moment to reflect on the important contributions by the generations of immigrants who have helped us build our economy and made America the economic engine of the world.

How do immigrants strengthen the U.S. economy? Below is our top 10 list for ways immigrants help to grow the American economy.

Immigrants start businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants.

Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and according to the latest estimates, these small businesses generated more than $776 billion annually.

Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent of the foreign born are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies.  According to the National Venture Capital Association, immigrants have started 25 percent of public U.S. companies that were backed by venture capital investors. This list includes Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, and Intel.

Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists.

Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011 foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

Immigration boosts earnings for American workers. Increased immigration to the United States has increased the earnings of Americans with more than a high school degree.

Between 1990 and 2004, increased immigration was correlated with increasing earnings of Americans by 0.7 percent and is expected to contribute to an increase of 1.8 percent over the long-term, according to a study by the University of California at Davis.

Immigrants boost demand for local consumer goods. The Immigration Policy Center estimates that the purchasing power of Latinos and Asians, many of whom are immigrants, alone will reach $1.5 trillion and $775 billion, respectively, by 2015.

Immigration reform legislation like the DREAM Act reduces the deficit.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, under the 2010 House-passed version of the DREAM Act, the federal deficit would be reduced by $2.2 billion over ten years because of increased tax revenues.

Comprehensive immigration reform would create jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform could support and create up to 900,000 new jobs within three years of reform from the increase in consumer spending, according to the Center for American Progress.

Comprehensive immigration reform would increase America’s GDP. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that even under low investment assumptions, comprehensive immigration reform would increase GDP by between 0.8 percent and 1.3 percent from 2012 to 2016.

As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that generations of immigrants have helped lay the railroads and build our cities, pioneer new industries and fuel our Information Age, from Google to the iPhone.  As President Obama said at naturalization ceremony held at the White House last week:

The lesson of these 236 years is clear – immigration makes America stronger.  Immigration makes us more prosperous. And immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.  And these young men and women are testaments to that. No other nation in the world welcomes so many new arrivals.

No other nation constantly renews itself, refreshes itself with the hopes, and the drive, and the optimism, and the dynamism of each new generation of immigrants. You are all one of the reasons that America is exceptional. You’re one of the reasons why, even after two centuries, America is always young, always looking to the future, always confident that our greatest days are still to come.

We celebrate the contributions of all Americans to building our nation and its economy, including the generations of immigrants.”

Comments

Ha! So there you have it. How do we make America great again assuming this slogan has any real meaning in a country that is already great? It’s to bring in more (not fewer) immigrants each year.

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It is between fifty and sixty years since I read [The Apocalypse] and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy or capable of explanation than the incoherence of our own nightly dreams.

Thomas Jefferson (Third President of the United States, 1743-1826)

 So what is truth anyway? Is my truth the same as your truth? Is truth absolute or is it variable, conditional, a product of culture, or depend entirely upon the interpretation of the word itself? Is truth only a matter of faith or are there empirical ways of getting at the truth? Well, it appears that truth is not absolute. Truth is, quite simply, what we agree it is. It is a matter of consensus that can change over time. Scientific truth operates in this conditional sense of everything being subject to change. So, why not any other “type” of truth?

Theologians, when discussing truth, would answer that everything has a cause and that cause is God. In their opening pages to their book, The Idiot’s Guide to the Bible, the authors ask a thought provoking question in their own right. If everything has a cause (as theologians assert) then what caused God? Theologians, of course, don’t answer that question and can’t answer the question.

At one level these questions are asking for an answer that is logical, empirical and straightforward, based on reason and facts. Most of us lead lives that are rather pragmatic and ordinary where we tend to answer everyday questions using facts and reason. At another level some questions simply have an underlying dimension of value judgments. The answers to these value-laden judgmental type questions also tend to be value-laden, judgmental type answers.

It should be obvious the judgment type answers to value-laden type questions are not facts or data; they are nothing more than statements of value or preference. For example, people on both sides of the abortion issue often ask and answer questions that are riddled with value judgments. Another example of a value judgment question (it must be remembered that many cherished beliefs are really cherished values) is–what is the purpose and meaning of my life? Since everyone presumably would have a different purpose in life, what this question is really asking is, “Does my life have value?”

 Science of course is unable to answer judgmental or value-laden questions such as meaning and purpose, or the ultimate value of one’s life. Theologians and ministers ask these types of questions and provide these kinds of answers every day. 

 At times it is true that scientists also make value judgment statements about the value of research findings, and the delight and joy at making discoveries and unraveling the laws of the universe. There is value when science does succeed as when cures are found for illness, and new medicines created in the laboratory. However, that is where the similarity between science and religion ends. Real knowledge and scientific methodology separate physical science, medicine, and the social sciences from religion. While the physical sciences (chemistry, biology, physics and medicine) came on strong from the 17th century, the social sciences of psychology and sociology made their strong entry and debut into the world of science, and scientific methods, during the twentieth century.

Knowledge in medicine and the physical and social sciences are contained in books, articles in magazines, newsletters, the Internet and small publishing houses that cater to the publishing needs of scientists everywhere. And such a body of knowledge spreads back in time regarding the content of the material.  In addition there are over 1500 formal academic journals published around the world each month. Each journal usually covers 10-12 articles on new research findings that have passed muster by a professional peer-review process.

Unlike the quality and quantity of authoritative serious knowledge created and reported upon by scientists today, religions rely almost exclusively on ancient documentation to support their belief systems. In order to provide religious answers on meaning and purpose special documentation is needed.  In Judaism, it is the Old Testament known as the Hebrew Bible. In Christianity it is the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In Islam it is the Koran. Scriptures are used to teach adherents and to serve as justification for a particular belief system.

This is only speculation, but perhaps the first writers of the Judaic and Christian gospels needed to “market” the material as–you guessed it–“The Word of God.” If God is the real author and architect of the bible, He would be much better than some nondescript followers of Jesus. Ever wonder why there is so much debate as to who wrote this chapter or that chapter in the Bible?

One must remember that in the timeline for authorship in the Old Testament their mythological stories were created by men centuries before the New Testament. In order to garner support for the New Testament someone among Jesus’ later adherents to the new religion came up with the bright idea that wouldn’t it be nice to hijack the scriptures of another religion and call it their own. If Judaism’s Old Testament were borrowed, wouldn’t that increase the probability that other non-Christian Jews might throw their support to the fledging Christian religion?

 Interpretation of Scriptures

 In Christianity one problem that surfaces is that the documentation provided is itself highly problematic and questionable as a source of any kind of authority in its own right. In the case of the 27 books of the New Testament and 39 books of the Old Testament, interpretation of scriptures is not a straightforward process. Far from it! Differences of opinion differ everywhere from biblical experts, scholars, and from biblical archaeologists on the one hand, to practicing priests, ministers, and Christian schools on the other. Believers differ greatly on the matter of whether scriptures hold any “truth value” for them.

One important reason scriptural interpretation is so varied is that the Bible itself is believed to have had many authors and many scribes to convey its content. Richard Dawkins has commented that, “The fact that something is written down is persuasive to people not used to asking questions like: ‘Who wrote it, and When?’ ‘How did they know what to write?’ ‘Did they, in their time, really mean what we, in our time, understand them to be saying?’ ‘Were they unbiased observers, or did they have an agenda that colored their writing?’ Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. All were then copied and re-copied, through many Chinese Whispers generations by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas.” [i]   

If one thinks that these differences of interpretation of the Bible are occurring only in the modern era, he or she is poorly informed. Before the orthodox only abbreviated viewpoint of Christian literature was assembled into what we call the Bible today, the rich tapestry of comprehensive writings on Christianity from many different sources were, for the most part, circulating throughout the ancient religious communities of the Middle East.

 Diversity of Opinion in Early Christianity

 There was no New Testament for early Christians. The books that were eventually collected into the New Testament had been written by the 2nd century but had not been gathered yet into a widely recognized and authoritative canon of Scripture.[ii] The best way to determine if early Christians held differing opinions about Christ and Christianity is to know what their beliefs were and how they differed.

For example, according to Erdman, “The wide diversity of early Christianity may be seen above all in the theological beliefs embraced by people who understood themselves to be followers of Jesus.”[iii]  Erdman goes on to cite an impressive offering of different beliefs among early Christians of the second and third centuries. Among those Christians, some thought there was just one god, and others believed there were two gods. Some thought there were thirty and some even believed there were 365.[iv]

There were Christians that thought God created the world; other Christians thought or believed that this world had been created by a subordinate, ignorant divinity. (Why else would the world be filled with such misery and hardship?). Yet other Christians thought it was worse than that, that this world was a cosmic mistake created by a malevolent divinity as a place of imprisonment, to trap humans and subject them to pain and suffering.[v]

There were Christians in the second and third centuries who believed that the Jewish Scriptures (the Christian “Old Testament”) was inspired by the one true God. Others believed it was inspired by the God of the Jews, who was not the one true God. Others believed it was inspired by an evil deity. Others believed it was not inspired.[vi]

 In the second and third centuries there were Christians who believed that Jesus was both divine and human, God and man. There were other Christians that argued that he was completely divine and not human at all. (For them, divinity and humanity were incommensurate entities: God can no more be a man than a man can be a rock.) There were others who insisted that Jesus was a full flesh-and-blood human, adopted by God to be his son but not himself divine. There were yet other Christians who claimed that Jesus Christ was two things: a full flesh-and-blood human, Jesus, and a fully divine Christ, who temporarily inhabited Jesus’ body during his ministry and left him prior to his death, inspiring his teachings and miracles but avoiding the suffering in its aftermath. [vii]  

 Finally, there were Christians who believed that Jesus’ death brought about the salvation of the world. Others believed that Jesus’ death had nothing to do with the salvation of the world. There were other Christians who said that Jesus never died.[viii]  

At the time the New Testament was written (The Gospels that were included in the New Testament were all written anonymously), and later assigned the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as reputed authors, there were other Gospel books (to be discussed later) that were becoming available as sacred texts that were being read and revered by different Christian groups throughout the world.[ix]

But all these other Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses were viewed as heresy by the orthodox religious authorities of the day. As rich and as popular as these books were among early Christians, they were excluded from becoming part of the sacred scriptures or canon of Christianity. What eventually became the 27 books of the New Testament is only a subset of all Christian literature that was once available to all Christians.

At the root of the development of orthodox views only of Christianity–was politics, even in the ancient world. Holding a conservative orthodox view of Christianity today is, as it was in early Christianity, to see only one view of Christianity. Just because it’s a politically derived set of canonized scriptures doesn’t make it any more descriptive of the historical Jesus than if the literature of those branded the heretics of Christianity had succeeded instead in dominating the sacred texts of Christianity.  

 Modern Day Differences of Opinion

 Despite the orthodoxy of winning the battle to control the scriptures of early Christianity, large differences today exist among the world religions and the many denominations within Christianity itself.

Any particular church’s doctrine may be at great variance, not only with other world religions and other denominations within Christianity, but with the very tomb of religious cannon itself that they promote as their source of authority–the Bible. There are wide variation of opinion regarding Christian doctrine espoused by skeptics, the general public, evangelicals, born-again Christians, notional Christians, agnostics and atheists, and differences by age, gender, and race.

Differences of opinion are the rule where the Bible is concerned, not the exception. One group that has received a lot of media attention is known as the Jesus Seminar. This is a group of academic scholars who question the truth behind the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith.

 According to Lee Strobel,

 The Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith: the Jesus Seminar believes there’s a big gulf between the two. In its view the historical Jesus was a bright, witty, countercultural man who never claimed to be the Son of God, while the Jesus of faith is a cluster of feel-good ideas that help people live right but are ultimately based on wishful thinking.[x]

 One of the great apologists for Christianity was C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). Many younger generations may more likely remember C.S. Lewis for his creative fictional work, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” C. S. Lewis was one of the great defenders of the Faith since his conversion to Christianity in 1931. There were many Christians at Oxford in the 1940s. Many, like Lewis, felt that both the pros and cons of the Christian religion should be discussed openly. This led to the foundation of the Socratic Club.[xi] C.S. Lewis served as its president until 1954 when he became a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at Cambridge University, England.

 Many scholars today probably would dismiss Lewis’ logic as nothing more than Socratic debate double-talk, or that his underlying assumptions about the relationship of natural to supernatural things or events made no sense at all. There was one statement in the Preface to Lewis’ book that did make a lot of sense. That is, Walter Hooper wrote, in the preface to Lewis’ book, God in the Dock, “Regardless of one’s education, it is impossible to decide whether Christianity is true or false if you do not know what it is about.”[xii] The methodology, of course, of knowing what something is about, should be based on observation, knowledge, and interpretation of the facts and assumptions made.

 Interpretation of the Bible itself is made further difficult by the conflicts between various texts. There are texts within the New Testament that conflict with one another as well as conflict with those sacred texts that were rejected by the Orthodox Church. These rejected texts may have been more representative of who Jesus was and what Christianity was about than those texts that eventually became the “Orthodox view” of the Bible people read today.

For example Elaine Pagels reports in, Beyond Belief–The Secret Gospel of Thomas, “Christian mystics, like their Jewish and Muslim counterparts, have always been careful not to identify themselves with God. But the gospel of Thomas teaches that recognizing one’s affinity with God is the key to the kingdom of God.”[xiii] Pagels goes on to say that, “Orthodox Jews and Christians, of course, have never wholly denied affinity between God and ourselves. But their leaders have tended to discourage or, at least, to circumscribe the process through which people may seek God on their own. This may be why some people raised as Christians and Jews today are looking elsewhere to supplement what they have not found in Western tradition.”[xiv]

 Where Does the Old Testament Come From?

 It is important for people to understand that,

 The stories of the Bible evolved slowly over centuries before the existence of orthodox religions. Many belief cults spread stories and myths handed down by oral tradition from generation to generation long before people wrote them down. Many of the stories originally came from Egyptian and Sumerian cults. All of these early religions practiced polytheism, including the early Hebrews. Some of the oldest records of the stories that later entered the Old Testament came from thousands of small cylinder seals depicting creation stories, excavated from the Mesopotamia period. These early artifacts and artworks (dated as early as 2500 B.C.E.) established the basis for the Garden of Eden stories at least a thousand years before it impacted Hebrew mythology.[xv]

 How eventually were they written, depended upon different languages. According to Martin Manser, “The two main original languages of the Bible were Hebrew and Greek. The Old Testament was mostly written in Aramaic. The entire New Testament was written in Greek, the language commonly spoken and written throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.”[xvi]

Today there does not exist any original writings of the Old Testament. What does exist are hundreds of fragments from copies that became the Old Testament. The original material of the Old Testament was handed down as mythological stories via an oral tradition. However, when scribes got into the act they began to use Cuneiform tablets, papyrus paper, leather etchings and the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.[xvii]

 The writers, or scribes of the Old Testament, as mentioned wrote in classical Hebrew except for some portions written in Aramaic.[xviii] 

 The traditional Hebrew scribes wrote the texts with consonants but the Rabbis later added vowels for verbal pronouncing…In the second century C.E., or even earlier, the Rabbis compiled a text from the manuscripts as had survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E…This text incorporated the mistakes of generations of copyists, and in spite of the care bestowed on it, many errors of later copyists also found their way into it. The earliest surviving manuscripts of this text date from the ninth to eleventh centuries C.E. It comes mostly from these texts which religionists have used for the present Old Testament translations.[xix]

 Where Does the New Testament Come From?

 In a nutshell,

 Scholars have long debated whether Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John actually penned the Gospels. Because John and Matthew were thought to be original disciples and Mark and Luke were companions of Paul, their names may have been used to add credibility to the account. Many scholars argue that the gospel writers were disciples of disciples or members of communities who were influenced by Paul or the disciples.[xx]

 Pastor William R. Grimbol regards the Gospel writers as editors. According to Grimbol,

 Although the primary sources for the story of Jesus are the Gospels, the Gospels are not firsthand accounts. The writers of these books were not reporters. The Gospels were recorded several decades after the events of the life of Christ. They were written from the perspective of looking back upon Christ’s life and forward in anticipation of his return. The Gospels were not your average history books. The gospel writers gathered many patches of oral tradition concerning the life of Jesus. Each gospel writer received several of the same patches, some that were slightly different, and a few that were unique. Each gospel writer then weaved these patches together with the thread of his personal faith standpoint.[xxi]

 There is great discontinuity in the bibles that were created. First, the material of the Bible came from many unknown authors spread over a great expanse of time. One Thousand Two Hundred and Fifty years separates the beginning of the writings on the Old Testament to the end of such writings (1450 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E.).[xxii]

It is believed that any New Testament writings didn’t begin to be written until more than 30 to 95 years after the death of Christ.[xxiii] It is believed that Christ died in 30 C.E.[xxiv]  “The Gospels cannot really be dated, nor are the real authors known. It is based on speculation that Mark was the first, written between 60 and 70 A.D., Matthew second, between 70 and 80 A.D., Luke (and Acts) third, between 80 and 90 A.D., and John last, between 90 and 100 A.D.”[xxv]  The Epistles were written by the Apostle Paul long before the first Gospels were created. These Epistles were written between 48 and 58 C.E.[xxvi]

“All of the Gospels except John contain possible allusions to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70 C.E., and thus it is likely they were all written after that date.” [xxvii]  Also, there appears nothing in Paul’s letters that either hints at the existence of the Gospels or even of a need for such memoirs of Jesus Christ.[xxviii]

Some scholars believe that in 90 C.E. Old Testament books called, “The Writings,” were created as part of the Christian Canon. The Writings included Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles.[xxix]

It is also reported that, “The oldest copy of the New Testament yet found consists of a tiny fragment from the Gospel of John. Scholars dated the little flakes of papyrus from the period style of its handwriting to around the first half of the 2nd Century C.E. The language of most of the New Testament consists of old Greek.”[xxx] In 150 C.E. two important events occurred: (1) the four Gospels were collected and put together, and (2) The School of Alexandria was founded in Egypt, quickly becoming a major center for both Christian Theology and Greek Philosophy.

What many Christians fail to understand is that, in addition to the four Gospels of the New Testament, there were many other texts created by the early Christian religion. But these texts were suppressed [These texts will be discussed in detail in Part II]. They were known as the Agnostic texts, and were very important to early Christianity.[xxxi] The first recorded use of the term “Christian” occurred at Antioch, Syria, home of one of the first Christian Churches.      

The backdrop of the path of how today’s Bible became what it is, is based on modifications over the last 2000 years. According to the history of the Dark Bible, “There has existed over a hundred different versions of the Bible, written in most of the languages of the time including Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. Some versions left out certain biblical stories and others added stories.

The completed versions of the Old and New Testaments probably got finished at around 200-300 C.E. although many disputed the authenticity of some books which later ended up as Apocrypha (un-canonical or of questionable authorship). For example, the book of Ecclesiasticus appears in the Catholic Bible but not in Protestant versions.”[xxxii]     

 In Part II of Problems of Interpretation of the Bible several areas will be covered including: Texts that were banned from the Bible, the problems connected to literal, figurative, and symbolic interpretation of scripture, the differing characterization in the Bible of God as a Loving God or a Murderous Thug, and the contradictions in the Bible as to whether the path to salvation is through Faith or Good Works.


[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion ( Boston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 2006) 92-93.

[ii] Bart D. Erdman, Lost Christianities—The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 3.

[iii] Ibid., 2

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid., 3

[x] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 124

[xi] C.S. Lewis,  God in the Dock—Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 8

[xii] Ibid., 9

[xiii] Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief—The Secret Gospel of Thomas, (New York: Random House, 2003), 75

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] The Dark Bible: A Short History of the Bible  n.d. [online]; accessed 5 Sept. 2005; available from  http://www.nobeliefs.com/DarkBible/darkbible2.htm

[xvi] Martin Manser, Bible Stories, (Bath, UK: Miles Kelly Publishing, Ltd., 2000), 8

[xvii] The Dark Bible.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Pastor William R. Grimbol, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Life of Christ, (Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2001), 7

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] The Dark Bible.

[xxiii] These dates are a matter of conjecture. No one knows for sure when they were written.

[xxiv] Richard Carrier, “The Formation of the New Testament Canon (2000)” [online]; accessed 10 Apr. 2006; available from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Individual books of the Writings occurred much earlier. They were not put together into a collection until 90 C.E.

[xxx] The Dark Bible

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid.

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