Guest Post by Candi Delshamagus
I tend to be a bit of a troublemaker at the best of times. Playing “devil’s advocate” is one of my favorite games, and “sexual innuendo” is my favorite sport. I’m going to step out of character for a moment, and try to show you a little of the thinker behind the stinker.
While browsing through book reviews on Amazon, I came across a review that was not a review. Though it had every appearance of being a book review, it soon became apparent that the person who’d written it hadn’t read the book at all, and was basing her rating on the cover, title, and assumption of the contents. The posting has obviously been taken down by Amazon since, as I can no longer find it.
In general, the ‘reviewer’ was complaining that she was insulted and annoyed by the use of biblical stories as a basis for fiction, particularly fiction involving sexual content. She claimed that such use was disrespectful to Christians, the bible itself, and God.
Now, I’m a firm believer in everyone having a right to state their opinion, and I normally don’t engage in the discussion of religion, but I’m about to make an exception and state my opinion. For the record, this article is strictly my opinion, with examples of some of the information that brought me to my conclusions. This is not necessarily the opinion or belief of anyone at Two Fantasy Floosies, Hot Ink Press or Sizzling Book Reviews. They should not be held responsible, in any way, for what I believe.
Also for the record; although I no longer participate in the traditions of any given church, I was raised in one of the Christian religions, and even went so far as to take a training course and teach Sunday School.
If fiction writers around the world were to strike the bible from their list of possible story sources, we would also be obliged to remove every text of every other recognized religion existent. To go a step further, every book of mythology would become a questionable resource, since what we now refer to as mythology was, at one time, the religious belief of another culture.
I want to address the Christian bible(s) directly, here.
I first began to question the validity of the bible as a book of historical fact when, as a child, I was gifted with two different editions of the book. Since I was baptized an Anglican, the King James Version was the first bible I owned, and long before I could read. When I began Sunday School in the United Church, I became a student of The Good News Bible.
Even at that age, (seven years old), I had trouble understanding how a book could be God’s direct word, but exist in more than one form. Always a curious child, I asked several adults to explain this to me, but none could come up with a satisfying explanation.
In the years since, I’ve come to believe that the bible is simply a book. In fact, I believe the bible could be the single greatest fiction anthology ever compiled.
Now, before anyone goes getting their panties in a bunch, give me the courtesy of an explanation. I’ll tell you some of the information I’ve found, over the years that led me to my belief.
Various theories exist as to when creation, as detailed by the bible, occurred. Most biblical scholars agree upon one of two dates, either 5500 BC or 4000 BC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_creation#Creation_according_to_the_Bible)
Scientists recently discovered symbols carved into a tortoise shell in Western China possibly dating back to 6597 B.C. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2956925.stm) If this date can be proven, that would make it the earliest known form of written language.
Even if we could reconcile the date of Genesis to match the date of the earliest writing, this only makes it possible that the story of creation could have been recorded, in perfect detail, close to when it occurred, but not very probable. Most people, at that time, would not be literate. What is far more likely is that the stories of Genesis were passed down, generation to generation, orally. Like a colossal game of telephone, facts would have been colored by the perspective of the storyteller, some left out as inconsequential, and some embellished to make the story more interesting or memorable.
By the time the oldest book, (some believe Job approx. 1500 BC, others believe it was the first five books included in the bible, called the Pentateuch and written approx. 1446-1406 BC)
http://ministerbook.com/topics/facts-about-bible/ Still others believe it was 1 Thessalonians approx... 50 AD. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_the_Bible), the story would be so skewed and twisted, nothing in the story could be considered fact.
Even going with the oldest date of 1500 BC, and the latest agreed upon date of creation, 4000 BC, there is a 2500 year gap between the events recorded and the earliest date they were recorded. It seems likely to me, that the “history” in the early books of the bible is more akin to mythology than fact. Again, that is simply my opinion.
The first complete old testament is believed to have been assembled in 100 AD. The first known listing of the new testament was 367 AD. The first complete English bible didn’t appear until 1382 AD http://www.biblica.com/bible/history/41/
Between the writing of the first book of the bible and the Christian bible we see in our churches today, there have been additions, deletions, revisions and edits to further corrupt the original texts. Kings, politicians and religious leaders, each with their own agenda, have “polished” the bible to suit the needs of their times. The book so many rely on as “The Word of God” has been changed so much from the original texts — who is to say they can truly know God’s will, by reading “His” word?
Then, there is the argument that the words were delivered directly to the authors of the various books of the bible. Even if we completely disregard all the alterations made to those books, we could look at these authors with skepticism. If someone stood up tomorrow and said God had given them the newest book of the bible, most people would nod politely and call the nearest psychiatric hospital.
“But God spoke to me!” they’d say.
They’d likely be diagnosed with something like Narcissistic Personality Disorder with psychotic features. Schizophrenic with delusions of persecution schizophrenic with delusions of persecution schizophrenic with delusions of persecution as little as fifty years ago we probably would’ve had them lobotomized.
Based on these points, and so many more, I’ve come to the personal decision that the bible is a book of parables. An excellent tool, (written and edited by powerful men), for instilling moral values in a literate populace, but still a work of fiction. Is it wrong to use as a research tool for fictional writing? Well, obviously I don’t think so, since I’ve based my debut, in part, on biblical stories. Many might disagree with me and that is their right, their opinion. It is not the place of another man or woman to condemn me for it, but the place of God, or whichever deity a person chooses to believe in, or eschew.
As far as sexual content — there are more stories of sex, incest, and debauchery in the pages of the bible, than I’ve ever seen in a single book before. Granted, couched in archaic language as it is, it’s far less explicit, but that doesn’t make it any less sexual. Angels appear to women, in the form of men, and impregnate them. Men lay with their wives handmaidens at their wives’ command. One man is even tricked, by his own daughters, into sleeping with each of them. In the days the bible was assembled, even in the subtle language we find it now, these segments.
Another book, not sanctioned by the church, with identical references to carnal relations, would be vilified, banned and destroyed. To me, that makes the bible one of the oldest, most widely revered books containing erotic tales, ever known to man.
Perhaps I will learn differently, after I leave the mortal plane, but until then I will live and continue to write what I know, and what I’ve learned. Or perhaps I’ll write what I don’t know. It is, after all, only fiction.