What do historians think of the Bible?

BOOK OF BOOKS: The Power of the Bible

BOOK OF BOOKS: The Power of the Bible

Born out of the hardship of its time, the Bible is relevant to this day. For Christmas, we'll take a look at them on four pages of Focus.

Rolf App


@ tagblatt.ch

In his ship's Bible, which the studied pastor Charles Darwin used on the research ship "Beagle" while he was developing the ideas for his theory of evolution, the date of the creation of the world was entered. It was October 23, 4004 before the birth of Christ, 9 a.m., when God created heaven and earth. The earth was still desolate and empty, but the Spirit of God hovered over the water.

This is how the creation story begins in the first book of Moses, the part is that polyphonic structure that we call the Bible today. And about which not only clergymen have a lot to say, but also philosophers, anthropologists and historians. The Old Testament in particular spans a wide arc - from creation to the end of world history. That had never happened before, says the philosophy historian Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann in a special edition of the Philosophy Magazine dedicated to the Bible. And he states: "We still largely think of history as a history of progress, as a history of the improvement of the world." Only then, the ultimate goal is no longer in God's judgment, which rewards the good, but perhaps in a perfect society such as socialism strives for.

Answer to profound tremors

But as aloof as it is presented, the Bible is so much a child of that long period of time in which it was written. The beginnings of biblical literature go back to the 10th to 8th centuries before Christ, there are always revisions, the Bible is adapted to the needs of the time, until the Church in the fifth century AD establishes a binding canon of the holy books. Even today, the Bible is a support for people in need. But even then it was the answer to profound, even catastrophic shocks, such as those brought about by sedentariness of people.

The anthropologist Carel van Schaik and the historian Kai Michel work out this aspect in a stimulating book. For them, the Bible is part of the cultural evolution: through the Bible, people have learned the rules of social coexistence that they previously did not need as free roaming hunters and gatherers.

In this way the Bible becomes a mirror for people. And it still is, as the following pages show.

Philosophy Magazine: The Bible and the Philosophers. Carel van Schaik / Kai Michel: The Diary of Mankind, Rowohlt 2016