Look - it was written a long time ago and novel writing has gotten a lot faster paced and, frankly, more formulaic, but ...

I find that is too bad that, due to the whole Inquisition, Crusades, Conquistador, Machiavelli, Witch Burning, gay bashing aspects of reading the Bible as if it were anything other than an amazing collection of short and long fiction even atheists can't read it for what it is.

Much of it is a transcription of centuries of oral histories. Some of it is an almanac of sorts (largely because it is a transcription of oral histories.) And some is pure allegory no less valid than that written by Plato.

For example - Genesis is utter crap - dangerous, mind melting crap at that - if read as if it were a science text. And it, surely, is rife with a level of sexism commensurate with the time and culture it was transcribed in.

But if you read it as a myth or allegory, one thing it comments on is our fall from nature's grace. Keep in mind that the first five books were (ostensibly) written down by the Pharaoh's love child with a Hebrew slave - Moses.

The rise of hierarchical and technologically based patriarchal civilization set man artificially (ironic term usage, I know) apart from nature. The species' tendency to participate in collective narcissism in regard to our place and role in the ecosystem resulted in true abominations - like mass killing (war) for objectives other than scarcity of resources. War, in turn and due to its destructive nature, often actually caused scarcity of resources.

So, one reading of the Eden story is that, when we began to fabricate laws (knowledge of good and evil) as surrogates for natural laws (don't eat the whole herd) we became capable of causing mass suffering of our own kind combined with damage to the ecosystem. Truly, a cautionary tale.

Just as it is possible to read Kurt Vonnegut and find the wisdom between the lines of quirky satire, so too the Bible - as long as we don't consider it, in any way, the word of god, a history book, or a science book. It is a book.

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Actually 'don't eat the whole herd' is not a natural law. A wolf will eat rabbits until it is satisfied. When it is hungry again, it will hunt, kill, and eat rabbits irrespective of the rabbit population.

That's a core principle of Natural Selection. Things lower on the food chain will be consumed until things higher on the food chain can no longer find them. Surviving lower things will have some genetic advantage to survive and proliferate while consumers die of starvation. Surviving consumers will have some genetic advantage to hunt and proliferate and consume lower things. Rinse repeat.

Wolves will eat rabbits until remaining rabbits are better at hiding. Wolves that are better at hunting scarce rabbits will survive as other wolves will die out. Fewer wolves means rabbits can repopulate. More rabbits means more prey for wolves allowing wolves to repopulate. Wolves will eat rabbits until...

As for damaging the ecosystem, everything damages the ecosystem. That's one of the principles of succession. Each new thing in an area makes it less viable for them and more viable for another. Climax communities are just a push and pull cycle until a catastrophe, natural or otherwise, hits the reset button.

There is no such thing as a balance or equilibrium in nature, only cycles -- even those aren't permanent or consistent. The only natural law beyond physical laws is to reproduce.

As for your closing 'The Bible is a book,' it's impossible to disagree with that. The Bible is a book, and like many books it's not worth taking seriously.
I stand corrected. I would like to, however, note that you said a wolf will eat until satisfied. I may have done better to state that humans will eat beyond satisfaction.

My last statement may have been irrefutably obvious, but even atheists can embue it with more than is there - giving it power they should attribute to those who believe it is the word of god.
Actually,the wolves won't die out,they will switch to a different prey species. They actually eat a variety of prey species,even mice.
What a nice post.

Speaking of wolves (I know how pertinently relevant this is) you can see the evolutionary behavior through dogs - leave 10 pounds of food out, and they will eat every single bite. Wolves are opportunist eaters who never know when their next meal might be.

You seem quite knowledgeable about ecology and evolution. That's my major right now - so give a shout if you know the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium! Woo!
There was a point to that - you may recall the examples of population dynamics of delayed density dependence of lynx and hares. Lynx (similar niche to a wolf) will eat every single hare they can. So much so that the lynx's population will plummet because so few hares remain to sustain them. Then, because of lack of predation, the hares will regain their once-respectable population size.
And from there the dynamics followed a precarious cycle of extremes.
If it were being treated as the mythological text it is, I can see shevling it next to some of the early versions of some of the Greek Myths. As far as writing quality goes, they're on par. However, when comparing the Bible to myths from other cultures it tends to be a lot less colorful. The Mabonogian had its sorcery. The Cú Chulainn stories had their geasa, shapshifting and mound dwelling "fairy" soldiers. The Greek tales were just as chalked full of sorcery with a more more elaborate array of monsters and a much more blatant use of deities. The God of the Bible, and a majority of its contents really is dry in comparison.
"Dry?" Nah ... a good Beaujolais is dry. "DESSICATED" is more like it!
In my post-Catholic perspective, Christianity is an evolution of the Greek myths, they had previously gone from Greece to Rome, where the Gods and Goddesses were renamed previously (as in the case of Poseidon=Neptune), so now God is Zeus, Jesus is Hercules, Holy Spirit is the Muse, Mary is Athena, and the Saints are the various lower Gods.
I am currently reading the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman. I am only half way through it, but so far it completly ripped apart the bible showing how it is just a book of man and is in no way the word of god. So far I would recomend it, but again, I am only half way through.
I'd been thinking about starting a thread with exactly this title but I never quite got around to it so I'm glad someone else did.

I've often heard that the bible contains some amazing literature. I have not read the entire Old Testament but I've studied some of the most popular sections (Noah, Job, the Exodus, etc). I've come to the conclusion that, as literature, the stories in the bible suck. The plot lines suck. The conflict resolutions suck. The uses of standard literary devices suck. The characters are two-dimensional, boring, poorly developed automatons who either flout god's will and suffer the consequences or try to follow god's will and often suffer the same consequences, and they suck.

Take Noah f'rinstance: The story opens with god hating everyone except Noah. Why not Noah, too? Not clear, and it doesn't really matter, it's just god's will that day. God tells Noah to build an ark, thereby subjecting the loony old coot to the ridicule of his fellow townsfolk, which I guess provides justification for the townsfolk's impending demise. Forty days of nasty weather later we find Noah & his immediate family alone on a drowned planet which means they are responsible for repopulating the earth so for the next several generations they'll have to commit incest but it's all good because god isn't pissed off anymore.

Conflict? Character development? Tragic flaws (ok, the townsfolk are flawed, but who doesn't like making fun of ark-building old coots)? Denouement? ZIP!!! NOTHING!!! It SUCKS!!!

Job's worse. At least Noah had the last laugh.

Compare the Old Testament to one of the most sublime works of civilization, The Iliad. It opens with two of the great heroes of the story, Achilleus and Agamemnon, having hissy fits over slave girls. Achilleus, the greatest warrior amongst the Achaians, refuses to fight and goes off crying to his mommy when he doesn't get his way. This results in tremendous suffering on the part of the Greeks, the death of his close friend Patroklos, and ultimately Achilleus' deranged desecration of Hector's body. Tragedy brought about not through the capricious whim of some god but by the free will and fatal flaws of Achilleus and his fellow (and opposing) warriors. Achilleus is noble, petty, generous, greedy, spiteful and ultimately forgiving. He is fully realized and three dimensional. Name ONE character in The Old Testament about whom this could be said. Also, Achilleus, his fellow warriors and The Gods Themselves are capable of tremendous buffoonery, and it's hilarious. Yes, there are many parts of The Iliad that are LOL funny.

Or take Hektor, the big bad guy fighting for The Trojans. He will be violently killed. His wife will be forced into slavery, and his infant son Astyanax will be thrown off a cliff and have his head bashed to pieces on the rocks below. Surely this is an Evil Dude, right? In the bible he probably would have been portrayed as evil, like the Pharaoh of Exodus. In The Iliad he is one of the most humane and sympathetic characters. To see this, read the second half of book VI of The Iliad. I recommend Richmond Lattimore's translation. It always brings a tear to my eye.

So, to people who claim the bible is great literature I ask: Please prove it to me. Give me some assigned reading; if you've taken the time to read this far I'm more than happy to read something in the bible you suggest. Find me a story or stories in the bible that contain: Three-dimensional characters, tragically flawed heroes, sympathetic villains, vain and petty protagonists capable of redemption, and humor. Yes, I expect great literature to be humorous at times.
Oh what a hilarious post. I couldn't agree with you more.
Often the defense for the terrible quality of the bible is that it was written so long ago.
So what?
You're completely right, the Iliad is frickin' sweet - and old. A genuinely fun read.
Also, that is even beside the point. Either a book is good or it's not. There are (not perfect) ways of quantifying a quality book - all of which the bible thoroughly lacks.
Much of the monotony in the bible is the fault of religiously motivated translators who wanted to make it look as if it were all written by the same person. It comes out stylistically homogenized and pretty much sterile. They make it look as if the main characters had only one name for their god ("God") with various qualifiers (lord, almighty, of hosts, etc.) when in fact these are speculative renderings of distinct names: YHWH, El Shaddai, Elohim, El Elyon, El Roi, etc. The modern translators seem to want to avoid the obvious question: were they monotheists at all? They also clean up some pretty colorful language. For instance, in Exodus 4.24-27, YHWH tries to kill Moses because he has forgotten to circumcise his son. Moses' wife saves him by cutting off the child's foreskin and rubbing it on Moses' testicles. The Hebrew idiom for testicles is "feet" and the translators leave it that way, making the sexual imagery undiscernible. What is needed for biblical literacy is a translation with no religious ax to grind, that treats the texts with the same scholarly eye that goes into a good translation of Homer.
Just heard of a book that just came out in paperback - Jesus Interrupted

It's about just that - and was written by a scholar who started out fundamentalist and ended up atheist through the journey of his study.


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