Re: Something must change

George Murphy (
Wed, 19 Aug 1998 21:58:45 -0400

Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> At 08:04 AM 8/18/98 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> >Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> > ........................................
> >> I would merely note that in all other areas of human endeavor, except
> >> theology, we require that the data match our theories. We would not
> >> believe any historician who claimed that Lee made a march across Georgia
> >> and burned everything in sight! It wouldn't accord with the facts and we
> >> would laugh the man out of the circles of historians. Why, oh why, do we
> >> Christians think we can play such a game with the word of God?
> >
> > & I think it's high time that we also criticized Jesus' irresponsible
> practice
> >of telling _stories_ (gasp!) like the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Steward
> when he should
> >have been teaching some _true_ facts.
> The writer of Genesis, unlike the Gospel writers, didn't preface the Flood
> account with 'And he spake a parable unto them," Luke 6:39.

& often the gospels don't - e.g., there is no statement in Lk.10:29-37 that the
account of the Good Samaritan is a parable. But that isn't the point anyway. Truth can
be conveyed via fiction. What would you think of the man who wanted to "justify
himself" if, after Jesus told this story, he said "Duh, you still haven't told me who my
neighbor is"? Why did the scribes and chief priests want to arrest Jesus for telling
the parable of the vineyard & wicked tenants (Lk.20:9-19)? It was just a story, wasn't
Note that this doesn't at all answer the question of whether or not any
given account is historically accurate, fictional, or some combination of the two. My
only pont here is that truth can be conveyed by other means than accurate historical
narrative, sometimes by accounts which look superficially like historical narrative, &
that the Bible does in fact use such techniques.

> If the writer of Genesis had said that, you would have a case, but he
> didn't. And I can easily understand the preface in the Gospel accounts and
> I note that one is lacking in Genesis 6. When you said in your book that
> God worked in history to save Noah and his family, you either used history
> in a funny way, or God didn't work in history. Historical events leave
> evidence of themselves (even if only temporary); non-historical events
> don't. And the evidence must be consistent with the account.

Again, I have no problem saying that there are historical elements behind the
biblical flood story. But that is not the same as saying that the whole thing is
accurate historical narrative.

> On 8/17 you wrote:
> >>The fact that a lot of the details in the resulting account don't fit
> with >the way a huge flood in Mesopotamia would have taken place - as you
> have >often argued, & note in the following - is far from crucial.
> Tell me this. Why can't a Mormon claim that his book is 'true' but
> non-historical and support his religion in the same fashion you do
> Christianity? And by doing so, the Mormon can escape the problem that
> horses were not on North America prior to 1492, that there were no chariots
> on North America, and that there is no evidence of Jews here either. But
> of course the devout Mormon will say that he doesn't care that the details
> of his book have been exaggerated a bit. Why couldn't the Mormon simply say
> (paraphrasing you):
> The fact that a lot of the details in the resulting account don't fit with
> the lack of horses,chariots and Jews in North America - as you have often
> argued, & note in the following - is far from crucial.

> Thus we can conclude that Mormonism is as valid as traditional Christianity!

The Book of Mormon isn't just wrong in details. Its entire scenario from
beginning to end fails to match what we know of pre-Columbian America. I have never
remotely suggested that everything in the Bible can be treated as fiction. I think
there are few if any competent historians today of any religion who would deny that
Israelites lived in Palestine in the first millenium B.C.E., that they worshipped
Yahweh, that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., that Jesus of
Nazareth was an historical figure who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, that Paul of
Tarsus wrote the Letter to the Romans - just to mention a few important items.
Furthermore, there is evidence for the existence of all the writings of the Old and New
Testaments by the end of the 2d century C.E. (& for some much earlier). There is no
comparable evidence for anything in the Book of Mormon (except for the parts cribbed
from the Bible), & there is no evidence at all for the existence of the gold plates upon
which it was supposedly written before the 19th century (by which I don't mean to
suggest that there is _good_ evidence for them after that). So the supposed parallels
are non-existent.

George L. Murphy