Why Do We Trust Ancient Texts as Accurate?

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Devils' Advocate, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    This thread does seem to have focussed on aspects of Christian doctrine, or perhaps that's me.

    It might be better to look at the question generally. Why do Buddhists believe in their ancient texts? Or Taoists, or Hindus. Why do Bahai believe in their texts?

    Of course, not all texts address Revelation, but then the total doctrine is believed to be revealed. The Hindu texts say 'remembered' rather than 'revealed', but on examination it means much the same thing, if we take as a working hypothesis that Revelation is something more than intellectual speculation.

    Bahai's for example, speak of 'Progressive Revelation', but the acceptance of that is a matter if faith, there is no proof as such. Unless I've got it wrong, it simply accepts that the Abrahamics are revealed traditions, and then declares itself a continuity of a progression as it sees it.

    As I understand it, Bahai believes in doctrines cover 'essential spiritual truth, and ephemeral social constructs' (Smith 'An Introduction to the Bahai Faith'). I think Abrahamic metaphysics and theology argues (as does the best of the Greek philosophical traditions, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism) that 'spiritual truths' and disclosures of the Divine Nature are atemporal because the Divine is atemporal. (Pantheism is more problematic as I'm not sure I've ever come across a sufficiently-worked out metaphysic. Panentheism in its various expressions allows for this to a greater or lesser degree).

    Revelation is necessarily couched in the language of the day, but Revelation one can discern and know the Absolute and Infinite, and thus the core of Revelation, a self-disclosure of God, is not progressive in that sense, unless one believes God is relative and governed by finite contingency. The traditional metaphysical systems would say the idea of 'progressive revelation' is a confusion between the Absolute who reveals and the contingent in receipt of the revelation.

    Thus when discussing 'ancient texts' then, we need to discern between the 'essential truths' and the 'social constructs'. The primacy of science is itself a social construct when it comments on the possibility of Revelation, and the forms by which it manifests, for example. A nephew of mine, a scientist, was once asked if he believed in God, and replied simply that he could not, because he was a scientist! Simply not so, but many, if not most, seem to think that science precludes a belief in God.
     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    My views reflect a broader consensus, I think.

    They may well do, but the Southern United States is not 'many if not most' Christians! And if the argument was presented as 'here in the Southern United States' I would have little to offer, other than consolation.

    I'd be interested to know what percentage of those who support that view actually have a theological education and reference Patristic theology, for example, as opposed to those who follow whoever their leaders are, who patently misrepresent the general Christian teaching. Creationism as its presented there is not Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican (Evangelical) doctrine. What US denominations believe in it, I don't know.

    So I can agree it's a problem in certain parts of America, but that would be nothing, except that America occupies a certain position on the world stage. All in all, it's a question of politics, not religion, really.

    I have written here before about the way in which Christianity in America has been reshaped in light of 'the American Dream', and from what I see I think many think God somewhat closer to John Wayne than Jesus Christ, but here I think I might inadvertently offend American Christians.
     
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  3. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx]
    [​IMG]


    The increase in recent years of 'Humans evolved, but God had no part in the process is due to an increase in young people embracing this view.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    That poll, I can't find where it was conducted and how many participated in it.
     
  5. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    * * *
     
  6. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Why do Baha'is trust ancient texts as accurate? For this discussion let's just limit ourselves to the ancient text of the Koran and more recent Baha'i Writings. From my limited understanding the simplest answer resides in the words of the Manifestations of God, their being, and their creative influences. They produce progress in the world of humanity, springing up entire civilizations. For example, see Muhammad. So we can say we trust the Koran because of Muhammad's own self. This is why, for example, Abdu'l-Baha tries to prove Muhammad's prophethood from this perspective we're taking regarding the creative influence of the Manifestations of God:

    I think this question ("Why do we trust ancient texts?") is also problematic from the Baha'i perspective. I've included a long quote from Baha'i scholar Nader Saiedi to help explain why. "The Word" isn't just limited to the text you feel with your hands and read with your eyes; the Manifestation of God is the Speaking Book that reveals the hidden meanings of scripture that ordinary human beings can't penetrate. Also, he notes believers discern but a shadow of the truth (and this is related to what "one can discern" in Thomas' post):


    Now consider the Bab and his statements about those incapable and capable of understanding his scripture:

    "The substance of this gate is that none shall encompass that which God hath revealed in the Bayan except Him Whom God shall make manifest, or the One Who is taught such knowledge by Him, as well as the Exalted Tree from which the Bayan hath emerged. For should all the oceans in the heavens and on the earth turn into ink, all the beings into pens, and all the souls into those who inscribe, they would be incapable of interpreting even a single letter of the Bayan, inasmuch as God hath destined neither a beginning nor an end for any letter thereof."

    "Say! Verily the Revealer of the Bayan knoweth its beginning and end, which is none other than Him Whom God shall make manifest. As to all else besides Him, these know naught save that which He hath taught them."
    Ian Kluge, a Baha'i philosopher I know, explains progressive revelation is an example of what a philosopher might call "evolutionary Platonic perspectivism":

    So we can see how our understanding of past Manifestations of God differ over time because of our progression in knowledge. Kluge wrote:


    With this in mind, I prefer a slight variation of our question:

    "Why do we accept ancient understandings or interpretations of ancient texts?"

    I hope this helps to illuminate the Baha'i view somewhat. Please keep in mind I'm not theologically or philosophically trained, so don't expect too much from me here.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  7. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    To put it simply from the Baha'i perspective the scripture of each religion was trustworthy for the time and culture the Revelation was addressed. Humanity adds to and changes the original revelation and give it a cultural cloak. This is the "evolutionary Platonic perspectivism" that Kluge described. Each new revelation affirms many ancient spiritual laws and spiritual teachings, take off the cultural cloaks, and than add new spiritual laws and teachings. Revelation progresses as humanity spiritually matures over time. Essentially humanity both evolves spiritually and physically. This process is clearly exemplified by the evolution of humanities spiritual nature through the Old Testament to the New Testament, and also apparent in the spiritual evolution in the Koran and the Baha'i Revelation.

    Actually this is how the different diverse religions relate in history as human cultures evolve overtime, whether the view of the Baha'i Faith is true or not.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I went back and corrected my comment on the Buddhist scriptures after reading a few excerpts online from Without Syllable or Sound: The World's Sacred Scriptures in the Baha'i Faith. I'll have to do more personal research in comparing Buddhism and the Baha'i Faith later; I'm busy learning more about Islam and Christianity at the moment (which is a handful).
     
  9. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    Side note: In considering ancient religions and trusting scripture. It is well documented that ALL ancient scripture has been edited, redacted and added to over time. There are no original scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedic religions nor Buddhism. The cultural cloak and time makes it difficult to accept that the scripture is absolutely trustworthy for today's world. This a significant part of the reason for the cyclic rebirth and renewal of Progressive Revelation.

    Buddhism is the ancient religion that I am closest to, and I considered myself a Buddhist before I became a Baha'i. Buddhism has evolved into a belief system of many Gods and no God in different sects. The God of Buddhism is an apophatic God unknowable to human efforts. It in spiritually evolved from Vedic religion (Hinduism) a religion with a cultural cloak of too many Gods.

    Despite the problems of being specifically reliable and trustworthy the scriptures of the world may be studied for inspiration and understanding of the spiritual cyclic evolution of humanity.
     
  10. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    To begin with, there is no proof as such, that any one scripture nor any one sequence of scripture, as in the Bible is or contains Divine Revelation or the only Divine Revelation. All belief in a religion or religions presupposes a heavy 'matter of faith' that the scripture is reliable and trustworthy as to what is believed. The matter of fact of the lack of original revealed scripture has been edited, redacted and added to over time. There is the obvious cultural and linguistic cloak in all ancient religions.

    Actually 'Progressive Revelation' is based on more than just a 'matter of faith.' There is the evidence of the progressive nature of religions in the spiritual cyclic evolution of humanity. As with all religions there are assumptions of the nature and extent of Revelation from God and the relationship to humanity. The Baha'i Faith is based on the foundation of the relationship to God and humanity is universal throughout the history of humanity, and all Creation is progressive and evolves both physically and spiritually. As a matter of fact this is not believed by the ancient religions. Each ancient religion has a limited scope of Revelation and/or spiritual knowledge and truth as far as the relationship between God, God(s) or no God, and humanity. These beliefs classically relate to a limited cultural and regional paradigm of the world they formed in. As a matter of my search and study of religions and belief systems, the universal perspective was the only logical, reasonable and realistic approach, because of the contradictions of accepting only one of the many different claims of exclusivity of any one ancient religion over others. My conclusions considered the possibility that this evolution of the spiritual nature of humanity could be a purely natural evolution of behavior as reflecting the physical evolution of humanity, and there is the possibility that the 'Source' some call God(s) does not exist.
     
  11. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I agree there's some editing, but not to such an extent that scripture is corrupted. Perhaps you'd like to start a thread in the Baha'i forum on the Baha'i view of tahrif. Baha'u'llah, responding to the Muslim accusation that the Christian scriptures are corrupted, asks: "Can a man who believeth in a book, and deemeth it to be inspired by God, mutilate it?"
     
  12. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    I do not believe that the Bible was edited to the point that the spiritual nature of the scripture could not be understood, but accounts of events were indeed added to the NT to support specific interpretations that became doctrine and dogma of churches. Corruption is indeed the product of interpretation of the text in the history of a religions. It was not mutilated, as such. The human element remains in the evolution of beliefs when doctrine and dogma is added as later interpretation of scripture, ie the traditional Christian interpretation of the Trinity.

    The New Testament scripture is sufficient to understand the the reality of Christ's Divinity is spiritual not physical.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Ahanu –
    Agreed.

    Agreed.

    We would say that ‘revelation’ is of the Divine Nature Itself, a ‘knowledge’ that cannot be spoken, and the ‘way’ from here to there, as it were, is contained in the text. At face value there’s the moral dimension, at a deeper level there is ‘the way of the heart’, and Scripture speaks from heart to heart. The way can be spoken, but the heart cannot be expressed in words, and it’s here that what matters more is not the content of the words.

    A person might well enjoy a profound and personal union with the divine, but might well appear outwardly to the profane eye as ‘simple’, measured against cultural intellectual values. But someone who believes and obeys the literal word at its most simplistic level, even if they declare they have no spiritual sense, they are nevertheless engaged in ‘the way of the heart’. Man cannot see nor measure the heart and soul of himself or another … and the wise say ‘judge not lest ye be judged’.

    There is nothing hidden from the heart of the faithful with regard to the Divine. In a union with God, there is nothing other than God.

    So whilst we might talk of Revelation ‘unfolding over time’, this is from the outside as it were, looking up or looking in (depending upon your symbology). It is the view from this side of the veil, the view of time and space and finitude. There’s an old saying that says ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ and there’s nothing new over the sun either. As far as I know, there is nothing in any Revelation that is not implicit in every Revelation, and is there ‘for those who have the eyes to see’, when that eye is the ‘eye of the heart’ rather than the eye of the (human) mind, which tends to get caught up in various forms of text criticism.
     
  14. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    I do not believe that the Bible was edited to the point that the spiritual nature of the scripture could not be understood. It was not mutilated. The human element remains in the evolution of beliefs when doctrine and dogma not in the original text is added as later interpretation of scripture, ie the Trinity.

    I believe the scripture as is, is sufficient to understand that the Divine Reality of Jesus Christ is spiritual not physical.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2016
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Quite.

    This does not necessarily mean its content or meaning has been changed or obscured. Scholars performed a cross-comparison between al the extant versions and came to the conclusion that there is no clear evidence of substantial change of emphasis or meaning.

    Of course, and good scholarship takes this into account. The issue is not an insurmountable problem, the cultural differences between the West and the Far East have not rendered their ancient documents and teachings inaccessible.

    But there's no proof regarding the spiritual domain, so surely such statements are a matter of faith?

    Man clothes his knowledge in ever more sophisticated language, but that does not mean that the spiritual content of even an inchoate belief falls short of an intellectually worked-out statement, nor does an inchoate belief impair the engagement between the soul and its Source, even though it might offend modern sensibilities.

    Nor do I see any sign that man loves his neighbour any more or less than in antiquity. The Golden Rule applies today no more nor less than it did millennia ago ...

    My studies of the Sophia Perennis have led me to different conclusions:
    The great spiritual traditions speak in their own language, but the meaning of the teaching is universal and accessible.
    Each confessional paradigm is complete and entire in and of itself to attain that of which it speaks.
    It is inevitable that the most part of humanity will see their own belief as absolute – such is human nature – and by the same token that followers of one faith see fault and flaw in the others.

    Quite.
     
  16. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    Not all scholars. If you consider the apologetic scholars as believers, than your statement would probably be true.

    The anecdotal claim here is what is good scholarship. I would go far beyond the apologist scholarship of traditional Christianity in consideration as to what is 'good' scholarship. Of course, the ancient documents of ALL religions are accessible, So what? Accessibility is not at issue.


    Ultimately yes all such statements of belief in one religion or another are a matter of faith, but also yes it is based on the evidence of progressive nature of the teachings and beliefs of the world.

    Inchoate or embryonic spiritual teachings and laws exist in all ancient religions, that of course bloom and bear fruit in later Revelations. Modern sensibilities are often offended by embryonic spiritual teachings as well those that bear fruit in later Revelations.

    It is not the sophistication of the language nor intellectually worked out statements (this sounds rather humanist and convoluted) that is meaningful concerning the spiritual evolution of humanity through progressive Revelation. It is the actual spiritual laws and teachings the become the standards in the changing and evolving spiritual nature of humanity that are meaningful.

    True, but that only confirms the limits of the fallible nature of humanity, and the universality of the Golden Rule. The concept of Progressive Revelation provides spiritual teachings and laws beyond the Golden Rule.

    True if you take into the universal consideration of all religions of their great spiritual traditions, the meanings and teachings of Revelations are indeed universal and accessible.

    Over simplified generalization, but in part justifies the problems of ancient religions that, of course, go much further than seeing faults and flaws. No the Baha'i Faith does not make the absolute claims that ancient religions do. Religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianisms and Vedic beliefs do not make as absolute exclusive statements of belief as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.[/quote]
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    No, it's the consensus of scholarship. Only those who hold a partisan position continue to try and create doubt.
    The infamous 'Johannine comma' (1 John 5:7-8) is a case in point.

    Virtually no modern translation includes the 'Trinitarian formula', since scholars for centuries have recognized it as a late addition. The passage appeared for the first time in 1522 under political pressure and scholars then as now knew it was inauthentic. The early church did not know of this text, yet the Council of Constantinople in AD 381 explicitly affirms the Trinity! So to imply that the Johannine comma was inserted to support an invented doctrine is nonsense, as the doctrine was dogmatically defined at Constantinople but was in place from the beginning, as there is material evidence dating from the 1st century that clearly asserts a Trinitarian baptismal formula (The Didache).

    How could they do this without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek NT for another millennium? Constantinople’s statement was not written in a vacuum: the early church put into a theological formulation what they got out of the NT.

    The development of doctrine arrived through the process of theological debate and often in the face of imperial persecution. "Anyone with an understanding of the healthy patristic debates over the Godhead knows that the early church arrived at their understanding from an examination of the data in the NT. The Trinitarian formula found in late manuscripts of 1 John 5.7 only summarized what they found; it did not inform their declarations.” (Daniel B Wallace, PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary).

    Can you give examples from your tradition?

    Exactly, that's the point. So the argument for a 'progressive revelation' that suggests earlier revelations are deficient is, in my opinion, flawed.
     
  18. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    Disagree, I believe it is the consensus of apologetic scholars ONLY. Scholars like Bart D. Ehrman do not share your view. I most definitely consider critical scholarship to be beyond apologist traditional scholarship, which I do nt consider unbiased and critical as it should be.

    First there is no such documented 1st century evidence for what you claim. The Trinity is most definitely a later development whether true or not. The Didache is most likely in evolved document with similarities with the 'Doctrine of Discipline in the Dead Sea scrolls. Dates range form ~very late 1st to the 2nd century. Ther is no evidence of any documents dating to the 1st century, and it does not support the literal Trinity formula nor the Resurrection. Claims are by inference only.

    Of course, it was not written in a vacuum. It was compiled, edited and redacted under Hellenist/Roman culture. The Christian Jews were for the most part gone and were not involved in the later compilatin of the NT.

    Disagree, the Trinitarian formula was determined under Hellenist/Roman influence. Absolutely nothing is found in the first century to confirm the Trinitartian formula. There are many scholars in history that take either side on the comma issue, since it is in some but not all ancient manuscripts. I am indifferent to this debate, because I consider the the Trinitarian formula became the dominant view later under Hellenist/Roman influence, and it is in direct contradiction to Jewish Old Testament monotheism.

    simply the principles and spiritual laws of the Baha'i Faith, which you can read for your self. I may go into this further, maybe in another thread.


    Not flawed at all, because it is well documented. I have no problem with the early Revelations being deficient based on the divided conflicting ancient religions on issues like the harmony of science and religion, and the social and legal equality of women.

    The assumption of the Baha'i view that the absolute claims of ancient religions that each one is universal (catholic) is flawed, and Revelation is universal and an evolving changing spiritual nature of ALL humanity throughout human history lies at the heart of our disagreement. The individual religions and sometimes specific sects or churches make the claim that they are specifically the only universal Revelation. For example, the Roman Church claim to be catholic, and the only way of salvation for humanity.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    OK. I think you're wrong.

    No, but his claims have been strenuously rebutted, and he rather represents the extreme position, having gone from 'born again' Evangelic Christian to Agnostic.

    I'm sure you do.

    Actually there is.

    Again, this is generally dismissed by scholarship. Too much evidence that the early church was very wary of Hellenist/Roman influence. The Arian dispute, for example, was a rejection of overt Platonism, even though the Fathers were themselves mostly Platonists. Origen and Clement came under similar suspicion. The Fathers could see the distinctions, even if you can't.

    Wrong. Didache. Ignatius of Antioch ...

    It's evident to me that this is going nowhere, so I shall bow out at this point.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  20. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon everything is in pencil

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    This is a problem of well accepted academic scholar I know personally and lives in my area. I have most of his books, and I have read them and listened to some of his public lectures. No he has not 'been strenuously rebutted.' There are, of course, disagreements between scholars, but is unwarranted to trash a scholar, because you do not agree with his beliefs, and his conclusions. John Dominic Crossan is another recognized scholar that would not tow the establishment line.

    Your response does not dispute the distinct Platonic influence on scripture, doctrine and dogma by the church fathers and later leadership in the Roman Church. I did not claim overt Platonism. You in reality confirmed the influence of Platonism in the thinking of church fathers, which went along way to forming the foundation of traditional Christianity.

    The Didache does not specifically mention the Trinity nor the Resurrection. It is an evolved document that supports the latter development of ritual used in traditional Christianity. No there is not evidence in the first century of the document as it appears in its later documented form.

    Bow out if you wish, but you cannot expect me to agree with your establishment party line of reasoning of apologist scholars, and it is unfortunate that you take disagreements personal and attack scholars beliefs trashing their well documented academics. My views and citations are not without merit, and have the support of well recognized scholars like John Dominic Crossan.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016

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