Conversations With My Children
Ethics, Free Will, The Origins of the Bible, as well as Reflections on the Perennial Philosophy, and Angst and Expectation
The concept of this book occurred in meditation over the death of a friend. When I wrote it, however, I was thinking of my children. My friend and I had shared many conversations over the years, during which we had delved deeply into the questions of Ontology, Epistemology, Phenomenology—and had come to understand several things about each that had taken quite a long time to come to an understanding of. It occurred to me then that a great deal of our efforts at making relatable and understandable disparate fields of philosophical thought in a way that our children or grandchildren could read might save them a considerable amount of time—and, in my own case, as my children are still quite young, in the event that I die before my children reach the ages requisite to showing real interest in, and logical capacity for seriously discussing, such topics, they may in a limited way by reading this posthumously converse with their father about the deepest questions of existence.
The Origin(s) of the Bible(s)
There is a strong case to be made that the Bible is the single most influential text in history. Yet where did the Bible come from? To those who have never given the matter serious thought, the question may seem a strange one to consider. The Bible is so ingrained in Western culture that its presence and origins are, if thought of at all, generally viewed as self-evident. The Bible is the revealed word of God, and it’s ethical precepts form the foundation of civilized society. As regards its epistemology (“How do you know what the Bible says is true?”) the Bible is the factual basis of its own authority.
That being the case (the Bible being (a) ubiquitously accepted and (b) the self-legitimizing source of God’s revealed word), one would expect the origins of the Bible to be well known. The fact, however, is that it is not. From Parochial schools to Protestant colleges, Catechisms to Born Again Baptisms—the circumstances of the construction of the Bible are strangely absent from any sermons, Sunday school lessons, or Vacation Bible Camps. Many good practicing Christians are surprised to learn that the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament were not, in fact, written by the eponymous Apostles—or that the earliest Canonical Gospel, that of Mark, is thought to have been composed no earlier than 60AD, a full thirty years after the reported death of Jesus. Moreover, most Christians are completely unaware that the Gospels of the New Testament are not the only purportedly historical accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ.
The history of the Bible is fascinating and completely comprehensible to those of no particular, special academic background in history or theology. It has long been my suspicion that many would be eager to learn the details surrounding the assembly of arguably the single most influential book ever compiled. However, among the countless books published regarding the creation of the Bible, those that actually meet the standards of Facticity expected of serious intellectual endeavor are unreadable to those not already possessed of a significant academic background in the necessary areas of knowledge. Typically around four or five hundred pages in length, their authors indulge in exploring countless minutia of church history and theological debate—all of which distract from the story of the Bible’s creation, and bore those without a diverse background in both Late Classical history and Medieval history, as well as early Christian theology and mysticism. Generally the philosophical disputes between early church leaders are given an especially great deal of emphasis in such books. While this is entirely understandable, it is largely tangential to the matter of the Bible’s construction. For the purposes of understanding where the Bible comes from it is enough to know that by such and such a year such and such a book had been accepted as Canonical (officially accepted). If you are interested in why a particular book was rejected by the Catholic Church but retained by one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, research of such kind has never been easier, and I wish you well, but such details are beyond the scope of this brief treatment.
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