When Did Christians Start to Worry about the Bible?


October 14, 2015 by kittynh

Jeremy Trolley is a FB friend that posts wonderful history vignettes about the Middle Ages.  The battle between church and state is a recurring theme.  The transition to nations becoming what we know today started during this time.  Also, Crusades galore, with access to the Holy City of Jerusalem ping ponging back and forth.

But, this post points out just how early Christians began to have trouble with the Bible.  The old Atheist canard about “If you want to become an Atheist just read the Bible.” holds true when rewritten “If you want to have uncomfortable questions about the Bible, just read the Bible.”

Just one book... so many troubles.

Just one book… so many troubles.

Few Atheists know that the Old Testament gave not only modern Liberal Christians trouble, but also very early Christians.  This lead to the usual way of settling things in the Middle Ages, warfare, excommunications and torture and death.  Defense and interpretation of this book has caused problems for a long time.

Today we still have differing Christian camps.  Those that believe the Bible “word for word” (only they really don’t as they don’t own slaves or stone people, so far as we know), and those that like to ignore the Old Testament as much as possible.  This book is still causing a lot of trouble, with even Donald Trump calling it his “Favorite book”.  That Trump finds this his favorite book, and yet lives the life he does, shows the truth in the saying “You get out of the Bible what you are looking to get out of it.”  Divorce, greed and insulting women has to be in there someplace if Trump enjoys it so much.

Please consider friending Jeremy Trolley on Facebook.  I enjoy learning something everyday, the power of church and state shifting, the wars in the Middle East, and the influence of the Bible, show everything old is new again.

Thank you Jeremy for allowing me to share your post!

Old Testament Troubles

27 September 1249 – death of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse

Count of Toulouse

Count of Toulouse

The Albigensian Crusade had its interesting echoes throughout history. Not only did it involve death in wholesale quantities, but the reasons for it were not what was public acknowledged.

The High Middle Ages, the period from 1000 to 1300, were a period of intense intellectual development. After centuries of neglect, western European scholars rediscovered the science and literature of ancient Greece, through copies made in Moorish libraries. They absorbed everything they could of Greek mathematics, chemistry, physics, astronomy, logic and philosophy, along with the significant Muslim contributions and commentary. The Scholastic philosophers applied the techniques of Aristotle to studies of the Bible, as well as to Aristotle himself – an example of recursion. From the latter, they realised that Aristotle wasn’t right about everything, and from the former, they realised that the Bible was not entirely self consistent.

The Old Testament, a little too mean for many Christians.  Noah, probably the biggest destruction of life on Earth if the OT is be believed.

The Old Testament, a little too mean for many Christians. Noah, probably the biggest destruction of life on Earth if the OT is be believed.

Applying logic to the Bible was not always a healthy business. However, the Scholastics realised that they could not take the entire document as literal truth, and rationalised the incosistencies as being the result of metaphor or otherwise. The Cathars went a slightly different route. They recognized that the “God” in the Old Testament was a psycho who delighted in tormenting people and inflicting dire punishments on whole populations for the misdeeds of a few. They recognized this as wrong, but rather than rejecting the whole thing, they came up with the novel interpretation that the Old Testament “God”, who had created the world in seven days, was actually Satan, while the New Testament God was the good one, who had created the spiritual world.

Could the Devil have written parts of the Bible?  Maybe?

Could the Devil have written parts of the Bible? Maybe?

Naturally, the Church did not agree with the Cathars, and branded their beliefs heresy. They dealt with this in a number of ways. St Dominic recognized that it was hard to debate the Cathars, because they knew their stuff, and were better educated than your average parish priest. He set up an order of monks who were better educated and trained in theology, but they made few converts. However, the order he set up was a gift when the pope later set up the Inquisition.

Saint Dominic, we have him to thank for the Inquisition to come.

Saint Dominic, we have him to thank for the Inquisition to come.

The main reaction was the Albigensian Crusade itself. While the Pope didn’t command significant military forces himself, he could get a lot of people to do his military dirty work by promising them a papal dispensation, and promising them the target’s territory. Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, had the misfortune to be caught in the middle of all this.

The Counts of Toulouse were not minor local nobility. Raymond, for example, had two rather prominent uncles: Kings Richard I and John of England. He was married first to the daughter of Alfonso II of Aragon, and later to the daughter of Hugh X de Lusignan. He was also a distinguished man in his own right. After 15 years, he actually defeated the Crusaders at Carcassone on 14 September 1224, and he and the rest of the rebel counts made their peace with the church.

Cathars learned that thinking was not welcomed by the Church.

Cathars learned that thinking was not welcomed by the Church.

Unfortunately, the latter couldn’t leave well enough alone, and the next year he was excommunicated. Raymond tried to keep the peace, but his overtures were rejected, and it was war again. This time he lost against the forces of King Louis IX of France, and was forced to agree to peace terms, including the marriage of his daughter to Louis’ brother. After Raymond’s death, his son in law succeeded to the county seat, and when the son in law died, the county became the possession of the King, which was what the whole war had been about in the first place.

One thought on “When Did Christians Start to Worry about the Bible?

  1. simonjkyte says:

    This is really interesting. Looking at this charge from early 17th century England…
    Charge 1
    1 A motion riseing from the spirit is more to be rested in, then (sic) the word it selfe; neither Dare they take their ground from the word, because the devil may wrest it to his purpose.
    Charge 2
    2. It is a sinne to believe the word, as it is the word, without a motion of the spirit.
    The Devil may rewrite the Bible – in effect

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