31 January 2009

Homer vs The Bible

Many years ago I engaged in a weekly debate with some Christians on the Lewis Trilemma - the liar/lunatic/son of god question. Both sides fought nobly and I came out at the end of it with my atheism reinforced. The Christians (who were all charming people btw) probably came out with their religiosity reinforced, so it was pretty zero-sum in the end.

Many, many arguments were advanced by the Christian side to support their beliefs, but by the end of the year their reasoning boiled entirely down to this: When I read the Bible, I hear the Voice of God speaking to me.

That's all. The final, irreducible argument. It doesn't leave much hope for people, like me, with a little god-deafness problem. It also doesn't leave much hope for them, if they happen to hear the Voice of God saying different things to each of them, as appears to happen a little too often. The rascal!

Anyway, along the way we had some entertaining digressions. For example, if you consider ancient Greek texts, Homer's Iliad, or the New Testament, you will notice that there are only a few extant ancient copies of Homer, with a large number and variety of errors. The New Testament, on the other hand, has a larger number of extant ancient copies, with far fewer transcription errors. This, apparently, demonstrates the accuracy and reliability of the New Testament. See http://www.clemson.edu/spurgeon/books/apology/Chapter4.html for an example of this kind of reasoning.

Homer was around a long time before the NT, and his/her/their works were primarily transmitted orally. The surviving documents are older, so it is unsurprising that there are fewer of them. Most of all, part of the fun of reciting a good story is embellishing it, and the early transcribers of Homer doubtless succumbed to this desire. The transcribers of the Good News however had entirely different motives and risked hell were their labours imperfect.

In other words, both Homer and the Bible come with a Creative-Commons license - but the Bible invokes the "No Derivative Works" clause. It doesn't make the Bible right any more than a commercial license makes a software product superior.

2 comments:

  1. > In other words, both Homer and the Bible come with a Creative-Commons license - but the Bible invokes the "No Derivative Works" clause. It doesn't make the Bible right any more than a commercial license makes a software product superior.

    :) This can definitely make it to quotable quotes on Reader's digest.

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  2. Not the Homer you mean but pearls of wisdom.

    If god didn't want me to eat in church, he would've made gluttony a sin.
    I felt a surge of power, like god must feel, when he's holding a gun.
    Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me. As an offering, I present these milk and cookies. If you wish me to eat them instead, please give me no sign whatsoever ... thy will be done. (munch munch munch)

    lesson is : Our God is vengeful! O spiteful one, show me who to smite and they shall be smoten!
    God is teasing me! Just like he teased Moses in the desert!

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