When asked to provide evidence that a god exists, religious people including Christians turn to their bible or religious books for answers. But is scripture proof that God exists?
Scripture is often quoted proof that god exits, especially when debating the existence of a deity. Religious institutions encourage us to accept scripture as proof of a god’s existence.
How can we trust though, that the bible is evidence of a god’s existence? In this article, I’ve chosen to:
- Review the history of the Christian Bible.
- Question if scripture represents a god’s interaction with humans.
- Determine if scripture is proof of a god.
In particular, I’ll be referring to The Good News Bible. It was this version of the Christian Bible that I was given as a child to read and study by the Anglican church. I’m also familiar with The King James Bible, an older brother gifted a copy to me in my late teens.
The history of the Christian Bible does not provide proof that God exists
As a fantasy world builder, I often construct religious deities for my fantasy worlds. In doing so, I have broadened my awareness by delving into human history, how people who struggle to gain or retain power use belief systems as a vehicle of manipulation.
Our history contains ample examples where those in power have used belief systems as a political vehicle for social justice and the control of wealth, knowledge, equality, reason and science.
And it’s not just Christianity, though that’s the one where I’m most familiar.
People in influential positions have used their power to persuade those willing to listen to believe their interpretation of scripture. They have also used fear and illusion to convince those less educated.
That the church withheld the Christian bible from the general populace for over 1,000 years should be enough evidence of a power struggle for the control of information.
The witch trials from 1300 – 1600 AD
The ripple of witch trials that haunted Europe from the 1300s to 1600s, spilt over into the USA. It is an excellent example of how religion and scripture were used to manipulate and control the general population.
In Salem, 1692-1693, an influx of refugees led to a shortage of resources. The Salem witch trials were instigated by three children, of close relation to Reverend Samuel Parris, Salem’s first ordained minister.
The children accused three women – a slave, a beggar and a woman living in poverty – of bewitching them.
There are claims that the witch trials were never a product of the Christian Bible.
The trials condemned people to death across Europe and other continents. But we are asked to believe the motives of those who accused and sat in judgement were due to mass hysteria, resentment and gossip.
There’s no denying that these emotions played a role in the deaths of tens of thousands, including those wrongfully accused in the Salem witch trials. But behind the actions were powerful men who wielded religious scripture for guidance and justification.
Are all religious leaders overzealous power fanatics?
No. Inevitably, it is the few that give any organisation a bad name. But there are also religious teachers who believe everything as gospel and without question. That includes statements like the bible is proof that god exists.
Surrounded by their blind faith, they then go on to preach their truth, falling into the delusional belief that their religion makes them safe, provides purpose and fills a sense of being.
Then there are others, those that don’t necessarily follow blindly, who see how they can use the blind faith of others to their advantage.
The Old Testament and the New Testament as proof that God exists
The Old Testament in the Christian Bible represents the biblical accounts of the Jewish Torah. The Talmud credits Moses for authorship of the Torah.
But like the New Testament, the Torah is a compilation of stories passed down through generations. At first, the Torah was not recorded in writing but shared by word of mouth. For centuries, Jewish men would gather to hear the Torah spoken by their Rabbi.
It wasn’t until around the 6th Century BCE when the Torah became a written account.
Why and who was involved is muted by a long-forgotten history. But most accounts agree that there were a few writers involved, that there were different versions and revisions before the final version was accepted.
The New Testament has a similar beginning to the Torah
Theologians cite the Acts of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John for distancing scripture from the witch trials. Historians estimate that the books written in a Greek dialect may have come into existence sometime around 50 – 90 CE.
By “book”, we refer to a handwritten account of what happened, recorded by a historian, possibly using eye witness accounts or stories passed down. The Acts were supposed to be “eye-witness” accounts of Jesus and his followers.
There are many inconsistencies and contradictions between the different books that make up the Acts of the apostles. But this isn’t unusual for eye-witness accounts even by today’s standards.
Still, science advises not to take eye-witness accounts as reliable evidence.
The first known gathering of church leaders was in 325 CE. Roman Emperor Constantine led the First Council of Nicaea. Topics for discussion included the creation of the Nicene Creed and whether the son of God was God or a creature made by God.
When the church leaders finally collated the Bible in the 5th century, they selected texts for the New Testament from those generally accepted as canon based on the year they originated. The selection included the Acts, Letters and Gospels, written before 100 CE.
The Bible does not contain all the Christian religious scripture of the times. As well as being selected based on year of origin, other criteria included how widely Christians accepted it and how well the chosen scripture supported other canons.
During the next couple of hundred years, monks, priests, and other clergy circulated different versions of the Bible. It was also translated from one Greek dialect to another more popular Greek language during the time of Alexander the Great.
And different translations to other languages such as Old French and Czech continued in the Middle Ages. Various religious councils over the years gathered and banned other versions of the Bible due to the inclusion of texts not considered canon.
Confirmation lessons on the Bible in the Anglican Church
The Anglican Franciscan friar who conducted my religious instruction told me the careful selection of stories was also so people wouldn’t be afraid of what was to come. He referred to Revelations, advising that there were far scarier stories beneath the Vatican about the end of times.
I first met the friar at the All Saints Anglican Church in Brisbane, where I sang in the choir for a short period in the mid-1990s. He later officiated my sister’s wedding at the same church and I felt he was unusually honest about the Bible’s origins.
Moving into the Medieval, accepted scripture had to be copied by scribes because there were no printing machines. The scribes would sometimes omit or change things by accident adding notes left in the margins, and they’d add their interpretations too.
This process of copying the Christian Bible by hand continued for hundreds of years. Then came the printing press in the 16th century. Different versions in different languages of the Bible were printed dependant on those in power.
Editing and revising continued. Even to this day, religious publishers and denominations still refine the Christian Bible in its many translations and editions.
Even the Good News Bible, published by the American Bible Society and one of the more popular international versions of Christian scripture, admits to emending and combining several biblical translations with the purpose of providing a modern context.
Then, there’s the ethos that those who write, edit, translate, remove and add to the Bible are filled with the holy spirit during the process. This admission is meant to fill us with assurance that it the bible is proof that god exists.
Were the witch-hunters, cardinals, priests, monks, holy crusaders and judges appointed by church-run governments, who turned to their Bibles to condemn innocent women and men of witchcraft in the name of their religion also filled with the holy spirit?
At the time, there were those who said, ‘Yes’.
And the original writings, those that started the translations and generations of scriptures to come are lost with time.
Does scripture represent a god’s interaction with humans?
When it comes to the Christian God who created man in his image, then I’m inclined to disagree. I don’t know for sure, but as the Christian Bible stands today in its many iterations, my answer is, ‘Highly unlikely’.
The Christian Bible does appear to try to represent a true account of historical events that people believed a diety influenced. But while the intent was for it to be a factual retelling, the passage of time has in all likelihood changed the story.
Here’s what we know about the making of the Christian Bible in all its forms:
- Religious stories about a group of people passed from person to person through word-of-mouth (we all know how well that goes).
- Different versions of events recorded in writing and debated on as to which is the correct version by those holding power.
- Copying of scriptures by scribes who added, removed, made errors and used the texts to reflect on their interpretations.
- Translations to different languages where sometimes words were selected not because they were true to the meaning but the closest in context.
- A blind belief that those involved in the writing of scripture were filled with the holy spirit (unless that version was not to the liking of those in power).
Aside from a blind belief, there seems to be nothing linking the text often called, “The Word of God” with any real representation of a god or proof that god exists.
Men shared stories. Men wrote them down. Perhaps, once upon a time, there was a semblance of truth in their original telling, but it is difficult to know just how much of that truth still exists.
Is scripture proof that God exists?
With all the evidence that is put before me about how scripture came to be as it is today, it does not look good for the proof of God. If you’re seeking proof, I’d avoid the Bible. Rather than provide assurance, it raises many questions about faith and religion.
I agree that the Christian Bible did not produce the witch trials. Humans did that all by themselves. Those who held power over others used the Bible and their interpretation of it to manipulate people’s blind faith and fear to do terrible things.
I return to my confirmation lessons in the Anglican church. The friar, on Genesis, explained the story of Adam and Eve, like this:
“It is a story given to people from another time about why we wear clothes.”An Anglican Franciscan Friar (who also blessed my sister’s marriage.)
If scripture is proof of anything, then with the Old Testament, it is evidence of our early civilisation’s attempt to create law and order.
The New Testament is perhaps, – and here I use pure conjecture to give an intent of the scriptures’ goodness – an attempt to bring equality into a world where rulers segregated people into different tribes and classes of people based on birth and heritage.
Two thousand and a bit years later, you would hope that our view of what is just and what signifies equality is considerably different from those of our ancestors.
But there are stories and lessons in both the Old and New Testaments worth reading and questioning. Rather than put a modern slant on an old point of view, we should question how these views hold up in today’s society of fairness, justice and equality.
It is worth celebrating how far we have come? Or, perhaps you’ll come to the conclusion that we are still divided by ignorance.
Does blind faith in a religious canon that gave men and women the power to do evil things in the name of something else still control who we are today?
If anything, scripture is proof of our ability to release our burden of guilt onto an unknown, imaginary entity. It allows us to do bad things and be free of blame.
Holy scripture, through all its changes, represents a significant part of modern man’s history.
Written and collated by men who condemned people to death for heresy, collected coins to fill their coffers and made or changed laws in the name of a deity, how can we be sure that scripture is proof that God exists?
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