Why do truths from the Bible change over time?
The naive answer:
Nothing has changed. Some people in the past got it wrong, but we have it right now.
The problem with the naive answer:
The beliefs of Christianity have changed over time.
The scholar’s answer:
Many beliefs that people live by come from their culture, and not the Bible. The Bible and Christianity have influence on some beliefs, but the larger culture and society in which they live has a larger influence, and a Christian’s beliefs need to adapt to support the way in which people are living their lives if Christianity is to continue.
Here are a few examples of changes over time:
- The Christian Church used to believe that the sun and stars orbited around the Earth, and put people to death for claiming otherwise.
- Christians, especially in early America, believed and preached that people of other races such as Africans, Native Americans, and Orientals were inferior to caucasians, but that is no longer widely believed today by Christians.
- Medieval Christains didn’t eat meat on Fridays. Today, Catholics only forgo the eating of meat during the season of Lent.
- As recently as 200 years ago belief in witches and demonic possession was widespread among Christians, but today, very few Christians believe such are real.
- In the last century, many Christian parents believed in physically punishing their children with a belt, paddle, or other instrument for disobedience. Today, few do so.
- Most Christians opposed roles for women within the Church other than the rule of nun. Today it is very common for women to play any role within the church, including Minister or Preacher.
- During the time of Jesus and for many centuries after, Christians practiced slavery against people of other groups. The Bible is still used today by White Supremacists to justify and condone slavery, but most Christians believe slavery is wrong.
- Many people used to believe the Earth is flat, though few do today. Those that do are Christians.
- For the first one hundred years after Darwin revealed the process of evolution, Christians vehemently fought against the truth of it. Today, most have accepted evolution as part of the process of God’s will.
- As recently as thirty years ago, most Christians in the United States opposed gay marriage, relationships among homosexuals, and shunned or punished those suspected of being gay. Today, LGBTQ people are accepted fully in most Christian churches.
- During the middle ages, some Christians believed bathing was sinful and should be avoided.
- During the middle ages, churches allowed people to be absolved of their sins by paying the church or by doing favors for the priests.
Logically, we can conclude that the teachings of Christianity are not timeless. Some will change as cultures change and evolve because the Church doesn’t want to lose members by stubbornly clinging to unpopular ideas.
Some references for further research:
- Misquoting Jesus a book by Bart Ehrman’s documents many modifications made over the millennia.