Thou Shall Not Lie
Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Bible is one of the most influential pieces of literature ever written.
Consisting of various prophetic accounts, songs and psalms, parables, and the written word of God, the Bible is taken literally by some, taken very seriously by many, and totally ignored by others. To the former, it’s canon, law, and a way of life. To the latter, it’s just a story. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be both. After all, it’s called ‘the greatest story ever told’ for a reason.
Over time, the Bible has gone from being interpreted as a verbatim account of history to a more fluid understanding that it was written by many people over the course of a thousand years; needless to say, there are bound to be some discrepancies, exaggerations, and metaphors.
And yet the Bible has greatly impacted not only the realm of religion, but virtually every tenant of our society as well. Its main messages have been promulgated across the world and its cultures, directly influencing law, philosophy, speech, and manners. You may not believe what it has to say, but the Bible has already influenced your life; its teachings are virtually omnipresent.
So how true is it? Though many of its tales are from first-hand accounts, other primary sources from around the ancient world have different accounts than what went down in Jewish and Christian history. Which ones will you believe?
“The Romans hated the Christians. Tacitus called their religion ‘a most hideous superstition’ and said that they were charged with ‘hatred against mankind.’ Even when he criticized Nero for being too cruel to Christians, Tacitus still believed that Christians were ‘criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment.’ He wasn’t alone.
“Suetonius called Christianity a ‘mischievous superstition’ and actually praised some emperors for keeping the Christians in line. There’s a reason for all the hate, though. When the Romans heard that Christians ate the body of Christ, the Romans took it literally. Many Romans believed that Christians would break into ritualistic cannibalism and incestuous orgies during assemblies. There’s no reason to believe that Christians were really cannibalizing anybody. However, it’s interesting to think that if Christianity had been wiped out, that’s exactly what our history books would say about Christians today.”
Yer a Wizard, Jesus
“The Talmud gives its own version of the crucifixion of Jesus. It tells the story of a man called ‘Yeshu’ who is generally accepted as the Jesus of the Christian faith. According to the Talmud, before Jesus was executed, a herald was sent out calling him a sorcerer. ‘Anyone who can say anything in his favor,’ the herald said, ‘let him come forward and plead on his behalf!’ No one came forward to stand up for Jesus.
“In the Talmud, a man named Ulla is quoted as saying of Jesus, ‘Do you suppose that he is one for whom a defense could be made?’ Ulla goes on to condemn the people who defended Jesus, saying that the scriptures said that a person like Jesus should never be spared. ‘With Yeshu, however, it was different,’ Ulla said, ‘for he was connected with royalty.'”
Moses Was… an Atheist?
Many accounts from history tell different stories about Moses that force us to question his true background and motives. The Roman historian Tacitus, for example, said that Moses was actually atheist.
“Tacitus seemed to have a hard time piecing out the true story of Moses, but he did his best. Like the Egyptians, Tacitus said that Egypt was plagued by a disfiguring disease and that the pharaoh expelled the victims. In this version, though, the pharaoh sent them into the wilderness.
“According to Tacitus, Moses was one of the diseased exiles and he hated God. He ‘urged his companions not to wait passively for help from god or man, for both had deserted them.’ Moses led his group to Canaan and conquered it. Then he founded Judaism—not because he believed in it but as a political tool to keep his people loyal.”