Augustine in the 4th century asserted that the New Testament had been corrupted by copyists and that the Old Testament contained errors, some of them deliberate, like the years of descent of the 10 generations from Adam. He refused to become a Christian until Bishop Ambrose convinced him to understand much of the Old Testament ‘in a figure.’ From earliest church beginnings, many solemn tenants, dogmas, and doctrines have been issued causing division and sometimes, shedding of blood. Mohammed was born in the 7th century, claiming a distinctly different word from God. By the 10th century, three crusades had been fought across 3 continents. Rome and Constantinople became competitors in both doctrine and church hierarchy.
The Reformation of the 16th century had political elements as well as spiritual. The protest of Martin Luther, an obscure German Catholic Monk with a hatred for Jews and distrust of the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation, catalyzed a sometimes bloody breakaway from the domineering authority of the Roman Catholic clergy. But the Holy Writings have survived the centuries and have endured, wonderfully and providentially through the translation of many tongues, times, and cultures. (Translation is an ongoing, continual effort.) From the beginning, they were argued over. Are they literal or allegory, historical or myth (“a symbolic representation of a non-historical truth” –Dr. Lewis), inspired of God or pious men’s ideas? Christians were tortured, drowned, beheaded, or burned at the stake for what they believed the Scriptures taught about God, by other men who believed differently what the scriptures taught about God. Competing sects sprang up.
Neither the Old nor New Testaments were widely available to read but by learned clergy until the 17th century. Before that time the multiplication of manuscripts, writings and books was by hand copy and before the 12th century few could read anyway. This written Word in the first 1500 years following the passion of our Lord was conveyed to the common people by clergy, often in the Latin tongue which many could not understand. The arrival of the printing press and education opportunities led by Christianity made the Bible at last personally available. Excusing Pope and Priest, dogma became everyman’s game.
Hundreds of denominations have since arisen, died, split, and changed over time in their singular beliefs about exactly what the written Word of God contains and what it means. Modern day “prophets” have given rise to various mainstream sects. These days, Christians fight not with swords but high octane arguments while from without, Islamic Jihad screams once more. Nevertheless the written Word of God remains to the believer, and in spite of the unbeliever, God’s true Word. There are times when the prayers to God of one may be contrary to the prayers to God of another. Many godly and studious Christians have solid, unchangeable points of view (on matters usually of less importance than essential.) All cannot be right, but all are invested in their opinion, zealously believing themselves submissive to God. One more reason to believe human volition does in fact exist to someday be saved unto a glorious truth.
Paul and Peter professed the resurrection of Christ as the central theme and theology of Christian belief. Countless other pearls are tucked away safe and sound within the largess of ‘gospel’ which cannot be confined to ism’s or independent thought. We cannot make God’s truths anything we want them to be. The Scriptures breathed by God to prophets, kings, shepherds, apostles, a physician, a shepherd, and perhaps 2 sons of Mary, are preserved two thousand years hence, commented on, yes, but spending an inordinate time garnering dust, and unread. What a shame.