For reference, John and I founded The Barbados Philosophical Society in 1974, and have been good friends since, despite my veering to atheism and John retaining an eclectic and open view on all spiritual systems.
In this particular exchange, we discussed the meaning of the Easter story and especially the degree of contradictions in the various accounts, from what the women who arrived at the tomb actually observed, to where the angelic messengers were situated, to whether Christ could be touched after the resurrection, to whether Christ stayed on Earth for a while to whether there was a resurrection at all. Oh, and whether Hell actually has a theological basis.
On the conflicting accounts in the King James Bible :
Most of these controversies arise because of citing the King James Bible. One must understand that this is the simplest of all the bibles, because it was designed to be written with no more than 8,000 different words in total. Obviously, it has more than a million words, but only 8,000 words are used repetitively to make up the one million- no more. So it was dsigned to appeal to the simplest minds possible and to serve the largest population possible.
But as we know, being popular doesn't make it correct, nor does it confer absolute truth. As a matter of fact, with such low verbal density or use it would be comical to even suggest the King James Bible (or any other) comes remotely close to truth. What it does, for the masses, is present a cartoon version of reality. Because of this cartoon reality, there are bound to be contradictions and clashes because the writers themselves sought to portray complex real accounts in fictional or exaggerated forms.
It also needs to be emphasized that the King's printers had a monopoly on printing bibles. So,by around 1650, the KJV had driven the rival Geneva Bible totally out of the market. It wasn't because of being more accurate! It was because powerful interests leveraged that the KJV would reign supreme! Another startling historical fact is that what eventually became the "King James Bible" by 1526-30 was not in fact the original, but rather up to 90 percent adopted from William Tyndale's English New Testament, published in 1526. This version was actually published in defiance of then English law - so it is amazing so much of it was then incorporated into the original KJV.
Tyndale's tack was to render Scripture in the common language of his time to make it accessible even to a humble plow boy. By basing his manuscript on Hebrew and Greek texts he'd defied an English law from 1401 that forbade the publication of any English book without Church of England permission. Wise to the dangers, Tyndale conveniently went abroad while he was burned in effigy outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London. They also consigned hundreds of copies of his New Testament translation to the flames. But, he got the last laugh, when a year after he was strangled for heresy in the Netherlands, King Henry VIII granted a license to a complete "King James Bible" that was more than three-fourths Tyndale's translation from his English New Testament!
Sadly, most of those who obsess over this Bible don't even know this!
But to return to the point again, it is clear most of the contradictions occur because of the haphazard way the KJV especially was assembled. For example, the translators assembled by 1650 were granted wide latitude in how they specifically formed different translations of the text. My point is that it may not have been necessarily that Luke or John disgreed with Matthew at all, but that the later translators so mucked up the original (already bastardized) manuscript of Erasmus that these things were in abundance.
But that's why no one can read it literally. And all those who say you can are fooling themselves!
On the resurrection - whether it really occurred:
From my studies the resurrection was a metaphor. It was how we'd like to have seen Christ rise up after being cruelly crucified but it didn't really happen. In the end, it doesn't matter, the resurrection has become the sine qua non goal of all Christians and that is fine. We or they can emulate Christ and aspire to a similar event though it didn't really take place. My take again, is either the original scribes embellished what actually occurred (likely the body spirited away by disciples) or the later translators did, or at least added more to the story. Say turning the young men originally in the tomb into 'angels'.
Given this, whether Christ as the man spirited away from his tomb was touched or not, is irrelevant. To me it is just one more red herring dredged up on the overall narrative, much like arguing over how many angels can dance on the tip of a pin!
On Hell as any kind of real place of torment:
Hell was never an original teaching of the Church, and the only reason it's so frequently cited now is because the crazy fundamentalists have latched onto it. The most common afterlife teaching - by Clement of Alexandria and Origen of Adamantius- in the early centuries after Christ’s death was metempsychosis. Unlike reincarnation, which metempsychosis is often confused with, the same soul exists and is resurrected in a succession of different human bodies in an evolutionary process. Ordinary reincarnation, meanwhile, allows for reincarnation into animal bodies, even after a human incarnation, which metempsychosis does not.
The Christian metempsychosis teaching probably endured for at least 500 years before later Church fathers decided at the 2nd Council of Constantinople, that it gave men too much time to seek God. So, a device had to be used to spur on and speed the desire for redemption. The device decided on was “Hell”. Now, recall this was around 400 A.D. and there were no evangelicals skulking around with their KJVs in hand. There was only one Church, one religion: the Catholic one. So anything that later accrued or occurred had to have been copied from these early times, Church teachings, doctrines, dogmas and canons.
So any claims evanglicals make to being "original" in anything - say especially their acceptance of Hell- is purely fantasy and self-delusion. They are merely lying to themselves and their people if they believe they are the first Christians. No! They spun off from the RC Church like all the other Protestants! Including King Henry the Eighth's Anglicans!
The modus operandi for inventing Hell was to simply take certain passages in the then Latin Vulgate that referred to “Gehenna”, which was really a dump for burning offal outside Jerusalem, and convert that earthly burning pit into an everlasting abode for punishment. What better way to punish than by fire, which is about the most painful, as anyone who’s ever touched a red hot frying pan or stove knows! Thus, Gehenna became the putative basis for eternal torment at the Council. All teachings to do with metempsychosis were ordered expunged, and any transgressors were to be listed as heretics. In a firm outline of the properties of Hell, the Council further mandated:
- It become the final abode of eternal punishment for all who rejected the Church's teachings or the Pope's authority
- It include the agency of fire and this fire never be quenched - and further it have the capacity to burn the soul without destroying it permanently (else there'd be no "eternal" aspect)
- Hell was under the governance of "Satan" or Lucifer, with a hierarchy of sub-Devils (Asmodeus, Belial, Pazuzu et al) to administer other punishments
- All non-Catholics, because of they're being outside the state of sanctifying grace, to be destined for Hell
The other job mandated by the Council was to insert the words and references to “Hell” into the scriptures and this duty was charged to various transcribers, translators. At key points also Jesus had to make the odd reference to it, including the threat of punishment for those who refused to believe, specifically “accepting” him as Savior (e.g. the bogus John 3: 16) .
So, in the end must we accept a personal Savior?
Not at all. Christ as Savior for Gentiles never had been intended in the original scriptures. He was instead designated as a Messiah for the Jews! It was Paul of Tarsus that sought to make Jesus' (intended) localized religion worldwide. In fact, Jesus would have been appalled at that!
Besides that, Jesus was among a host of God-men fabricated through time, including Horus and Mithra. The evidence shows Jesus to be a much later creation by copyists who used the earlier Mithra legends. Almost everything in the original Mithra template, from the birth date (December 25th, identified with the winter solstice), to being born of a virgin, working miracles and dying on a cross then ascending. Christians copied the Mithra mythology because it fit in perfectly with their own narrative. However, in order to make this work they had to destroy all the Mithra texts - as they did when they burned down the library at Alexandria - to make it appear their narrative was the original.
Once the great ancient pagan library was reduced to ashes, the later Christian copyists could set to work!
By then, over a century had passed since the days of Jesus and the Church- which had NO role to play during his life- had become institutionalized. It thereby became an entity to serve no other purpose than to perpetuate the teaching of Jesus in an indefinitely postponed “Parousia”. This in turn, led to the impetus to add to, as well as further embellish and reinforce the Savior –Redeemer myth. The easiest way to do so was to copy legendary tales from earlier pagan sources and insert them into later translations. This mightily helped church leaders in their constant exhortations to the faithful to not lose sight of the goal.
The idea of "saving" or "salvation" itself is off because it inflates humans' self-importance. It is the same way with sin. That also inflates human self-importance. I mean, if a puny human can offend the Almighty God, imagine! The human must have vast powers indeed to affect an infinite Being.
Beyond that, humans are already 'saved' if that is the term. If we are all one energy of one Being then that Being can't be divided against itself. Also, if there is indeed a God and It is infinite there is simply no place for Hell to fit in, so in many respects, we all are one and no one can be abandoned. Even atheists!