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"thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness"


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In the Bible it says "thou shalt not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16, Matthew 19:18, and elsewhere).

 

Bearing false witness means lying. It means not being truthful as a witness, i.e. giving a false account.

 

But teaching children that the Bible is literally true, consistent, and without error, is bearing false witness. It is lying.

 

Wonder how you reconcile that?

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In the Bible it says "thou shalt not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16, Matthew 19:18, and elsewhere).

 

Bearing false witness means lying. It means not being truthful as a witness, i.e. giving a false account.

 

But teaching children that the Bible is literally true, consistent, and without error, is bearing false witness. It is lying.

 

Wonder how you reconcile that?

I believe the false witness verse is in reference to lying under oath in a civil case. "Taking the name of the Lord in vain" is in that context, calling God's name to give credibility to your false witness - a double no. It has nothing to do with cussing.

 

As far as teaching children the Bible is literally true, if that's what the parent believes it's not lying. They are teaching them what they believe. Just as we teach all sorts of elaborations of facts to our children regarding the mythological nobility of our forefathers, for instance. If however the parent in fact does not believe a thing is true and tries to tell someone it is, well then that's lying. If they do that to their own children (not just a white-lie like saying little snowball ran away, rather than is stuck in the treads of a semi-truck's tires), then I would consider that almost a form of abuse. Deliberate false information to a child says something about the character of the parent, like some sort of sadist.

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Thanks Antlr, this is good.

 

So when does it become harmful? If the parents believe it to be true, and teach it as literally true, then they can't be said to be knowingly bearing false witness about the text. But at what point is it harmful to convince your children that the text is literally true, even if you didn't know it was false?

 

-- KSS

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Thanks Antlr, this is good.

 

So when does it become harmful? If the parents believe it to be true, and teach it as literally true, then they can't be said to be knowingly bearing false witness about the text. But at what point is it harmful to convince your children that the text is literally true, even if you didn't know it was false?

 

-- KSS

Certainly things that are taught to children, or how they were raised can have negative consequences for them. A parent raising a child in isolation from society does so because it reflects their values. But as that child becomes an adult and wishes to join society, he will be at a disadvantage not having learned social skills through youth, for instance.

 

As far as Biblical literalism goes, in a way it sort of fits that same example. If that child interacted solely with a community that believed that, and they had no needs for advancing in a world where understanding real science is a necessity for survival, then they aren't really harmed per se', since it serves more as a common social myth. But if they wanted to compete in the world economically with those who are versed and skilled with a different set of tools (science), needing to interact with them both intellectually and socially, they will in fact be harmed by a belief that requires them to resist knowledge.

 

So a parent teaching their child the earth is 6000 years old and scientists are all atheists under the control of a demon god called Satan, should consider the advantages or disadvantages that will have for their child when they grow up hoping to survive in the world outside the safety of the walls they've built around themselves. Teaching critical thinking is a survival skill, but some parents may not see it as essential for life as they live it, or just be unfortunately short-sighted in imagining what that child may need as an adult. This can be true of a lot of things.

 

Where I see it being a greater negative consequence is that for us as a country to not prepare its children with the tools necessary to compete on a global economic scale. Having a society where half its citizens would prefer to lean myth stories over the tools of science doesn't bode well.

 

Some of this ties into my other discussion about myth, which I hope to respond to this weekend... maybe if time permits.

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Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

According to Josephus means "The ninth, that we must not bear false witness." Not much help. He elaborates later (not specifically on the commandment):

15. But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment. But if any one be believed to have borne false witness, let him, when he is convicted, suffer all the very same punishments which he against whom he bore witness was to have suffered.

 

Looks like a bust. Bearing false witness doesn't apply to the bible.

 

What about a different rule? Maybe something else could apply?

 

Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

According to Josephus this one means "The third, that we must not swear by God in a false matter."

 

That's a bit better.

 

mwc

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Hi Antlr

 

My thinking about 'harm' and Biblical literality is this: Things get harmful when group or community exclusivity appears. In other words, it is not only the literalistic view of the text, but the rejection of any other interpretation or reading of the text. On these grounds, theological rules of membership are defined. People get carved up when they fail to keep these rules. For example, in a fundamentalist community, children may be expected to elect for adult baptism (say) by age 17. It's an unspoken rule, there isn't really a second avenue to take. If they reach 22 without being baptised, they are on the outer, and not really a part of the group. The community benefits of membership are limited to that person. Likewise, if a member of the fundamentalist group marries 'outside the faith' (meaning, to marry someone who either doesn't believe, or believes a different interpretation), the member becomes a second class member of the group.

 

I find that the literalistic community has definite limits to its pastoral capabilities for its members. If a couple is in trouble with their marriage, and one 'falls away' by not attending, there is little the community will do. Somehow this is all derived from a literalistic reception of the Bible text.

 

These are examples from my experience.

 

So, I can see some connections between taking the Bible literally and the harm that causes. So while a believing parent teaching their child the literal truth of the whole Bible isn't lying, I think from experience one can say that it may lead to harm.

 

Thoughts?

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Hi Antlr

 

My thinking about 'harm' and Biblical literality is this: Things get harmful when group or community exclusivity appears. In other words, it is not only the literalistic view of the text, but the rejection of any other interpretation or reading of the text. On these grounds, theological rules of membership are defined. People get carved up when they fail to keep these rules.

I look at it like this. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is literalism the product of an internal social mindset of exclusivity, or the cause of it? I suppose I'd consider it like a supporting mythology. It's a way of looking at the world, of talking about it that supports and reinforces a mindset which for whatever reasons serves the group. So what is harmful? Literalism, or the social conditions that compel people to create the myth, to create a justification for themselves in their attitudes?

 

Are these things harmful? Yes. I'd say so. In my example above, if everything can be contained within tight borders without interactions with others who have a different set of values and ways of living, then seeing things in smaller ways might work better. If the next village is a 12 day walk away and you have next to no dealings with them, its easy enough to set up define your world within very tight parameters. But that's not the world we live in.

 

Now I suppose if we criticize or attack the myth, it is a way to talk through the myth as an intermediary to the person using it. In essence attacking the myth is likewise using the myth to support an ideal; in this case one that supports a more cosmopolitan world view. They use a literal belief of scripture to support being isolated, you attack the literal belief to see the world as more inclusive. But the real issue is one of a social vision, not the correctness of the supporting belief. Although, in practice we do attack the myth as a way to challenge assumptions. I just find it a bit ironic how we dismiss myths, yet use them to support a different social vision. :)

 

For example, in a fundamentalist community, children may be expected to elect for adult baptism (say) by age 17. It's an unspoken rule, there isn't really a second avenue to take. If they reach 22 without being baptised, they are on the outer, and not really a part of the group. The community benefits of membership are limited to that person. Likewise, if a member of the fundamentalist group marries 'outside the faith' (meaning, to marry someone who either doesn't believe, or believes a different interpretation), the member becomes a second class member of the group.

 

I find that the literalistic community has definite limits to its pastoral capabilities for its members. If a couple is in trouble with their marriage, and one 'falls away' by not attending, there is little the community will do. Somehow this is all derived from a literalistic reception of the Bible text.

 

These are examples from my experience.

 

So, I can see some connections between taking the Bible literally and the harm that causes. So while a believing parent teaching their child the literal truth of the whole Bible isn't lying, I think from experience one can say that it may lead to harm.

 

Thoughts?

Oh yes, I know these things. Social pressures towards conformity can cause a lot of harm. Again, the problem is knowing there's another world of choices available to you outside your tribe.

 

What's really ironic, is that the ideas and supporting myths of Christianity were fashioned to allow the Jewish religion to be more inclusive of the Greeks, allowing them to become "Israel" without having to undergo the less than desirable experience of having your male foreskin sliced off and committing to strict Pharisaic rules. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, but all are one." But it evolved into a religion of its own after not finding a home in Judaism. And then you got a competitor religion. One that uses all its myth to support its own exclusiveness, never achieving its fledgling vision of a world that is truly inclusive. It fell back into itself, shortly after it began.

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But it evolved into a religion of its own after not finding a home in Judaism. And then you got a competitor religion. One that uses all its myth to support its own exclusiveness, never achieving its fledgling vision of a world that is truly inclusive. It fell back into itself, shortly after it began.

 

 

I think this is very true.

 

-- KSS

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't think "bearing false witness" applies only under oath. In that case, we could not trust anyone anywhere in normal life. No store cash registrar could ever be trusted to give back the correct change and grocery line-ups would be held up while everyone counted out their exact change to be sure they weren't cheated. Financial institutions would be mayhem.

 

Police officers would never take anyone's word when they witnessed about an accident on the site and the abuse of power would be totally out of control. The same goes for teachers and just about anyone and everyone. Doctors would be killing people by "accident," etc. Lying is simply not a good idea. We have to be able to trust our fellow humans in ordinary life.

 

The OP was whether it's okay to lie about the Bible. Absolutely not! Lying about sacred matters is evil. That's my personal opinion and it's very strong and it's not exactly negotiable. I "died" for it, as did many others here who would rather suffer for truth than live a lie.

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