How Can We Believe in the Bible? Part 1 - Memory
I'm often asked about the credability of the Bible. There seem to be a lot of reasons to NOT believe in it. The first objection that I'm going to address has to do with how long it took to write it, and how long after the events described within that it was written.
For example, the Gospel of Mark, which is the earliest story of Jesus that is believed to have been written, was written in approximately 70 AD, about 40 years after his crucifixion. How reliable can it possibly be. And the story of Moses is believed to be written several HUNDRED years after Moses lived. What's up with that?
How can we believe in stories that were handed down from one generation to the next without being written down? What about the telephone game process, where stories change from one person to the next? What about story embellishment?
Well, to be honest, the stories probably would have undergone some change has it was handed down - for example, Exodus described 600,000 Israelites leaving Egypt - many scholars today believe it wasn't quite so many. And really early stories, like Noah's Ark, may have been embellished a lot.
BUT, it is VERY LIKELY that these Biblical stories are essentially true in describing SOMETHING that actually happened. Otherwise it probably wouldn't have been passed on in the first place.
Something significant probably happened to someone, something people can only call a religious experience, maybe even a miracle, for it to have lasted as long as it has, until it was written down.
But how reliable could the story be as its handed from one generation to the next? Wouldn't it get morphed into something barely resembling the original events? It certainly would today.
This is the thing about "back then." People had WAY BETTER MEMORIES than they do now. An old man could remember what the weather was like on a Tuesday after the full moon two months after the winter solstice 27 years ago. In the middle ages, information was carried from town to town by minstrals, who would pass information to each other in song, completely memorized after one hearing. The reason memories were so much better is BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T write everything down; they didn't record everything. They didn't have TV, CNN, the internet, that has made our memories, basically, lazy. They had INCREDIBLE memories instead.
Because of this, its completely reasonable to that stories could be handed down for decades, maybe even centuries, without changing all that much.
So that deals with the first arguement.
There are others, such as cultural difference (approach to women for example), contradictions in the Bible itself, translation differences, and disagreements with science, that I'll deal with in the subsequent weeks.