Tuesday, August 2, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 9)

The Bible was written thousands of years ago for people in a lower state of mental development than today. Many portions seem preposterous in the light of modern knowledge. In view of this, should not the Bible be re-written with the object of discarding the fabulous and re-interpreting the remainder?

First of all as to the people in a lower state of mental development. I am not so sure what lurks behind that. If it means that people ten thousand years ago didn’t know a good many things that we know now, of course, I agree. But if it means that there has been any advance in intelligence in that time, I believe there is no evidence for any such thing.bible_old_hands2 The Bible can be divided into two parts — the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament contains fabulous elements. The New Testament consists mostly of teaching, not of narrative at all: but where it is narrative, it is, in my opinion, historical. As to the fabulous element in the Old Testament, I very much doubt if you would be wise to chuck it out. What you get is something coming gradually into focus. First you get, scattered through the heathen religions all over the world — but still quite vague and mythical — the idea of a god who is killed and broken and then comes to life again. No one knows where he is supposed to have lived and died; he’s not historical. Then you get the Old Testament. Religious ideas get a bit more focused. Everything is now connected with a particular nation. And it comes still more into focus as it goes on. Jonah and the Whale, Noah and his Ark, are fabulous; but the Court history of King David is probably as reliable as the Court history of Louis XIV. Then, in the New Testament the thing really happens. The dying god really appears — as a historical Person, living in a definite place and time. If we could sort out all the fabulous elements in the earlier stages and separate them from the historical ones, I think we might lose an essential part of the whole process. That is my own idea.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 57-58.

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