Today I read a letter in a newspaper that referred to the Bible as a collection of fairy tales. This is characteristic of much secularist thinking: it is critical from a poor basis of understanding.
The Christian Bible is two separate anthologies compiled over a period from about nine hundred BC to the second century AD. It is composed of a variety of literary genres. The first five books of the Old Testament , known as the Pentateuch, were originally compiled from the Hebrew folk tradition and are known as the Yahwist source, the Elohist source, the Priestly source and the Deuteronomic history. These were blended into one strand and then subdivided into the five books that we know now. They are composed of the following literary genres. The first eleven chapters of the first book, Genesis, are myth intended to deal with the origins of the universe and the human condition. The genre changes in chapter 12 to become folk history, a coillection of anecdotes about ancestors. Folk history is the content of much of the rest of the Pentateuch, which covers the story of Moses and the period in the wilderness.The Pentateuch contains detailed tracts of law dealing with daily matters and with ritua concerns. The food laws are contained in this section. So even a casual study of the Pentateuch would reveal that dismissing the book as fairy tales is a simplisytic statement based on limited knowledge.
The history of the Hebrews covers a large part of the text. As they settled and developed their civilisation the dating becomes more accurate, as the history follows the annals of the various kings of Judah and Israel, the two kingdoms into which the Hebrews were divided. There are also works of prophecy. This is not primarily about foretelling the futture, but about warning people of the consequences of their lifestyle. Prophetic works are not fairy tales, they are poetic material with a moral message based on profound religious experiences.They comprise much of the Old Testament.
There are also the wisdom books. These are collections of sayings and the advice of wise men. They contain a variety of works, including the book of Psalms, a collection of ancient hymns. The fairy tale genre does not even remotely describe what is present in these books.
The New Testament deals with the story of Jesus and his implications. The gospels are the testimonies of the early church based on those who knew Jesus and they recount his great works and spiritual impact. Much of the rest of the New Testament consists of letters from apostles such as Paul to various churches giving religious advice. Little tale telling is contained therein. There is also the Acts of the Apostles, which deals with the spread of the early church through the activities of first Peter and then Paul. This is very factual, as it deals with the course of missionary journeys round the Mediterranean. The final book is the Book of Revelations, the Apocalypse, which is an extended religious vision in which religious messages are given through rich and dramatic symbolism.
Thus simply dismissing a book as fairy tales is unjustified. It is a rich collection of religious worlks of various genres written over a period of more than a thousand years. I would like to finish with a plea to critics. Before you criticize a book, why don't you take the trouble to read it?
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