1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The Bible - Literature

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Lemex, Sep 26, 2014.

    This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. Last Sunday on BBC1 they have a debate show, in which a socially relevant and divisive topic is put before a room, with one or two experts on the subject thrown in like slabs of meat thrown into a lion pen.

    Last Sunday the question was raised 'Is the Bible still relevant' - and of course you had the boring atheist type on the show who wanted everyone to know just how smart and rational he was by calling anyone in the room who believed in something he didn't a deluded idiot. But you had actually smart and rational people in the room too, like a professor of bible studies, herself a convinced atheist talking on the subject.

    What she said I found interesting. She said that while some of the stories found in the Bible are very likely completely fictional, that did not matter, because the Bible is still relevant even if you didn't happen to believe. It has been the basis of our culture for at least 1500 years after all. ('our' being the culture of the English-speaking world of course).

    I completely agree, The Bible is very relevant to me. I have to read it, and I have to know about it. I can even say I like large parts of it. The King James version, the version I know and use, has some beautiful poetry in it and some really fun stories too. Because my business is literature, and since everyone here is on a writing site my 'business' is shared by you all, too.

    The finer aspects of so much of English poetry has it's base in The Bible, Shakespeare is at times almost completely unintelligible if you do not have some knowledge of it, even from the earliest of English poetry, Beowulf: if you read the description of Grendel as 'Cain's kin', without knowing the story of Cain the way the Angle-Saxons would have seen and felt about Grendel - the entire effect of the reference is completely lost. Thus an aspect of that great poem is also lost entirely.

    So, what I'm saying is I encourage everyone to read The Bible, as it can be an amazing tool in the study of literature.

    How many people here have read the bible, and found it useful? How many of you find it relevant in any way? Even if only as literature?
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Being a Christian, I find it very relevant. :) I usually stay away from discussions like this cause they can quickly become mean - but I thought I'd drop by and support you by saying it is a good read. Naturally, I'm looking at it from a different standpoint but even if you're just inspecting it for it's literary merit it is lovely and a good way to examine power in sentence structure, poetry, clarity, and good repetition - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. That sentence has everything!
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I agree. Like you I don't want any discussion here to go down the nasty route (because I think we have all had quite enough of that, thank you very much) but honestly, I don't know how you can be a good literary critic, worthy of hearing, if you can't at least pick up on biblical allusions.

    It's like the Greco-Roman mythology, I supposed summed best up in one book by Ovid's Metamorphosis. Both the Christian and the Classical worlds are written so deep into the fabric of our societies by now that you can't really ignore it.

    If I was asked which two books are must reads for anyone and everyone, regardless of their taste, it would honestly be The Bible and Ovid's Metamorphosis. After that, go nuts. But you can't have a full appreciation for literature without a knowledge of at least one, and ideally both, I think.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
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  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with you @Lemex, both the Bible but also the Greek and Roman mythology are very relevant to our culture today. I went through a phase in high school when I studied various forms of mysticism, starting with shamanism, through to modern religions, and during that time I read the Bible, but also some of the Tora and Koran. I was always fascinated by the fact that the same myth keeps being told across cultures, since ancient Egypt and probably before then, and it is this aspect of the Bible that interests me most. Actually, the monotheistic religions in general, their emergence, purpose and consequences.

    I grew up in an atheist country, and was quite happy to call myself an agnostic. So from a literary point of view, I think the Bible has been re-written throughout European history with a specific political agenda in mind, which dilutes its literary merit, but as a template for Western culture, it holds many insights. I enjoyed parts of it, beautifully written with profound messages, I agree, but other parts frankly sickened me and made me wonder about what kind of being we humans are, if we can condone that kind of hatred and violence and even call it divine. I wish I could've read the 'original' Bible, although, some say, there never was such a thing. Very interesting text nonetheless.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The meaner parts of The Bible often cannot be ignored, but honestly I often find it a strange point when you consider literature from it's early roots. The Iliad and The Odyssey were the closest equivalence the ancient Greeks had to a 'Bible', as both epics are about the will of Zeus and the caprice of the Gods, both contain images of truly horrendous violence.

    I couldn't have felt more sorry for that poor Trojan youth in the Iliad (I even forget the book now, around book 15-20 I think) who tries to sneak into the Achean camp only to have his head cleanly cut from his shoulders. Over and over is the detail of the crunch of a sword swinging into a human body, or the iron arrowhead pumilling some poor sod. Look at what happens to Hector, he's locked out of Troy by his own kind, doomed to face the wrath of Achilles.

    Human life is, as Hobbs said, 'Nasty, brutish, and short', and really something like The Bible should reflect that. Even if only for literary purposes. If it has a message too, the message should stand or fall by it's merit to us - whatever it is. That is for each person to decide really.
     
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  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I completely agree, but what makes it palatable is multiple gods. We can choose who or what values we'll worship. There was no obligation to worship Zeus over Aphrodite, as long as all of them were acknowledged, but they served more as a metaphor for human virtues and pitfalls. With monotheism came the "Don't question me, I'm right, my God is the only one and all heathens must die". That's what bothers me about violent God in the Bible and other monotheistic texts, it translated and still translates into real-life violence and the very nature of religion orders us to 'love' all of it.
     
  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah, that is true. Like you I don't take any moral lessons from The Bible. But even if we take the worst story from The Bible, I'm still glad we have it. Art painted or written on the subject can still have an impact even if we don't take anything more than a sense of pathos away from it.

    For the sake of argument: I don't find any meaning in the story of Lot and his daughters. I don't even like it, and yet the pun in the title of 'Salem's Lot, the novel by Stephen King, wouldn't make any sense at all without it. Knowing the story, and understanding the reference goes along way to understanding the author's intention. If you can't at least guess the author's intention it becomes very hard to make any meaningful criticism.

    And also, I do think Goltzius' Lot and his Daughters is an amazing painting, despite the fact I personally don't care for the subject matter:

    [​IMG]

    What each story in the bible means to me is irreverent, what it means in the text I'm reading or painting I've viewing is however.
     
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  8. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    I have read the whole English Bible. Starting was difficult but once I got going it was quite clear. I have also read it in Finnish.
    I believe in it word to word so I'm fundamentalist. I know most get pretty bad images about that but if everybody lived like Bible teaches this would be a pretty good world.
    I find it annoying that sometimes folks think that everything said in the Bible is a order. I only follow orders straight from Jesus or God. Jesus also changes lot's of things from the old testament. Christian can't say eeye for an eye because Jesus abolishes it.
    Also I believe that Jesus is literally God's son. He is not another form of god that some claim. That has very little biblical backing.
    My believe is that life is like a test. Those who live good go to heaven those who don't burn in hell. It might sound simplistic but that is what Jesus teaches.
    I won't go deeper in this because it is bit off-topic.
    Everybody should read Bible or at least get to know the stories and teaching believe it or not.
    I also joke about my religion constantly and I'm a fan of actually quite clever series black Jesus on adult swim.
     
  9. Poet of Gore
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    Poet of Gore Member

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    wow you are pretty ignorant on the bible. Also, the bible is a collection of books and not a book with different genres.

    humans made up the Gods of greece and the nordic and etc religions. those gods were all based on humans and had the same troubles as humans.

    God took out all this bullshit.
    Christians very much question the bible and that is what brings them to the Bible
    look at all the greatness achieved due to christianity (like slave trade being abolished for most of the world), without killing the amalikites and giving the jews a homeland none of this happens. we are still sacrificing babies.

    plus christianity does not say kill the non believers. jesus says to love your neighbor and your enemy and that only God can judge people ultimately.
    if you want to post some quotes to disprove what i am saying go ahead.
    if you want me to argue all the nonsense you want to spout about this subject go ahead and i will handle them one by one.

    let's just start off with this: when we say God we mean the creator, we mean God is why there is something other than nothing.

    If you have a better reason for something instead of nothing you go ahead and post it.

    Nothing can explain its own existence except God. Why does God not have to explain his own existence?
    God is to be, is goodness, is justice, is holy. There are not his attributes but his essence. He does not need to be created to exist because existence is his nature.

    sorry i know this is not a religion forum but someone has to slap down this ignorance. Just like if someone was saying 2+2=5 we would all be correcting that person.

    now, you can see how i talk about something from nothing and there is your whole reason why polytheism is nonsense.
     
  10. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I came here for a discussion and some ancient porn broke out!
     
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  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There's more where that came from. :p I have many a naughty Greek, Roman, and Italian image collected into one big folder I call 'Art'. :p
     
  12. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Is he in your folder?

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    He is now!
     
  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Lemex : I agree. I must say that I didn't grow up with biblical references so deeply entrenched in our culture. My people are Orthodox Christians but really, we have a lot of old pagan beliefs and folklore too, so I never viewed any of it as a morality lesson, rather, as ethnography. Still, it was a bit overwhelming to see how omnipresent biblical references are in western culture, and it took me a while to 'get it' all.

    @Poet of Gore : This isn't a discussion on merits of Christianity. This is a secular discussion about the Bible as a work of literature. Feel free to join if you have anything relevant to add. I won't respond to religious lecturing, however.
     
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I actually find a lot of things in the Bible taken out of context and misinterpreted. By a lot of readers who've never studied different translations or broke down the Bible. Even from a metaphorical or eventful place. What people don't realize is there are several stages in the Bible - God before the fall - after the fall - before the ten commandments in which he made a covenant with Abraham. God after the ten commandments - God after Jesus. But it's the same loving God who wanted all good things for man. However his legal ability on the earth changes. In Eden - Adam & Eve ( because they are considered one ) are given the earth. They gave it to the devil by sinning - now, he at this point has all legal authority and can bring in and twist anything he likes - diseases, conflict, ego. Adam looses his authority. God sets into motion to give Adam back his authority. And does - That's the story of the Bible.

    As for the violence? Yeah, it's violent, but a lot again is taken out of context. The flood was caused because nearly every human had been tainted by the fallen angels - their blood was no longer divine. Technically, they're already 'dead'. Noah wasn't just a 'good' man - he just happened to be the last man who had a pure bloodline. And all the rest of the violence? Most of the go-in-an-kill them all speeches were again people already doomed, they had demonic bloodlines or were unremorsely evil people ( again doomed. ) Their are two instances of fallen angels breeding with humans. When Jesus comes... notice the change - the ten commandments are abolished, ALL sins are erased, we are now asked to love our neighbor and forgive. The holy spirit is released - God changes his resting place from the ark of the covenant to actually residing in a person. He restores all authority and puts mankind in an even better place than Adam and Eve. The tone is similar to God with Abraham.


    Just don't read the bible for face value, looking at it from a standpoint of now - study it, examine it - there's hidden truths in the Jewish text. Do you know for every letter there is a symbol and a number - that means that almost every word could have more than one meaning. Every name in the Bible has hidden meaning. Most people don't even know that God did not want the ten commandments he even calls it himself - the ministry of death.

    Also most feminists think that Eve was an afterthought. I actually believe God had every intention of creating Eve but he waited. He wanted Adam to notice something was missing ( notice God provided everything for Adam before he created him why the wait? anticipation ) and then before he could even ask God - God made Eve. But now if you look at Eve - because Adam had to wait for her she becomes something special, unique, loved, not to be ever taken for granted.
    Every little bit is fascinating - even from a literary standpoint.
     
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  16. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @peachalulu : Thanks for that explanation, it was interesting to read. My main objection is God's attitude to women, or rather, his recommendations on how to treat them. I can't get past that, I can see and read and understand it as a text, but I feel no kinship with such a philosophy, I find no 'truth' (whatever 'truth' is, is also debatable) in that aspect of it at all. This is where that book 'lost' me, so from a literary standpoint, I think that aspect of it is an increasing hinderance to its ability to communicate with modern readers. Which is why I don't consider myself a Christian, even though I quite like a lot of what it preaches as well.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I must admit I found reading the bible at times a huge struggle, and for the same reason I am finding the Qur'an a bit of a slog now. The biggest problem I have when approaching both texts is that I do not believe in god, neither are aimed at me - so I always have to read it consciously through someone else's eyes.
     
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  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Some of the passages in the Bible are absolutely beautiful. Anyone who hasn't read it is missing out. I think more colleges should include the Bible in their literature classes. For me, it's no different than the Hindu religious texts or even the Homeric epics; they're all worthy of study.
     
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  20. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    A good three years ago I made the transition from vague-Christian-non-Christian to Atheist. When I first made the switch, I'd claim that I was a fair bit stupider than I am know (still stupid, of course). I jumped on the whole modern Antitheist boat pretty swiftly. Don't worry, I moved beyond that. I haven't read the entire Bible. I've really only fully read Ecclesiastes; however, I think that book it utterly fantastic. These modern atheists try to disavow spiritualism. I don't understand how they don't realize that doing so completely removes an entire realm of human experience. I don't believe in any god. This doesn't mean that I cannot appreciate the idea of giving yourself up to a God, something theoretically vastly superior to man. This is a beautiful idea. There are plenty of secular lessons to learn from this single tenet of, well, I'm sure an ass-ton of religions.

    I'd say that most people who disregard the Bible as automatic trash because it's associated with Christianity are probably equally convinced that Science can answer all of philosophy's questions; and further, that philosophy only exists to prove that God is dead. It's pure ignorance.
     
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