Alan Watts- Jesus and His Religion Part 2

Alan Watts- Jesus and His Religion Part 2


Now, what about them, the authority of these
scriptures? We could take this problem in two steps. A lot of people don’t know how we got the
Bible at all. We Westerners got the Bible thanks to the
Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and members of the church
wrote the books of the New Testament. And they took over the books of the Old Testament
which even by the time of Christ had not been finally decided upon by the Jews. The Jews did not close the canon of the Old
Testament until the year 100 A.D. – or thereabouts – at the Synod of Jamnia. And then they finally decided which were the
canonical books of the Hebrew Scriptures and embodied them in the Masoretic Text, the earliest
copy of which dates from the tenth century – early in the tenth century A.D.. The books to be included in the New Testament
were not finally decided upon until the year three hundred and eighty-two – A.D. again
– at the Synod of Rome under Pope Damasus. So it was the church – the Catholic Church
– that promulgated the Bible and said “we are giving you these scriptures on our authority
and the authority of the informal tradition that has existed among us from the beginning,
inspired by the Holy Spirit.” So you receive historically the Bible on the
church’s say-so. And the Catholic Church insists, therefore,
that the church collectively, speaking under the presumed guidance of the Holy Spirit,
has the authority to interpret the Bible. And you can take that or leave it. Because obviously the authority of the Bible
is not first of all based on the Bible itself. I can write a bible and state within that
book that it is indeed the Word of God which I have received. And you’re at liberty to believe me or not. Hindus believe that the Vedas are divinely
revealed and inspired with just as much fervor as any Christian or any Jew. Muslims believe that the Koran is divinely
inspired. And some Buddhists believe that their Sutras
are of divine – or rather Buddhic – origin. The Japanese believe that the ancient texts
of Shinto are likewise of divine origin. And who is to be judge? If we are going to argue about this – as
to which version of the Truth is the correct one – we will always end up in an argument
in which the judge and the advocate are the same person. And you wouldn’t want that if you were brought
into a court of law, would you? Because if I say that, “Well, thinking it
all over I find that Jesus Christ is the greatest being who ever came onto this Earth,” by
what standards do I judge? Why obviously, I judge by the sort of moral
standards that have been given to me as somebody brought up in a Christian culture. There is nobody impartial who can decide between
all the religions because more or less everybody has been in one way or another influenced
by one of them. So if the church says the Bible is true it
finally comes down to you. Are you going to believe the church or aren’t
you? If nobody believes the church it will be perfectly
plain, won’t it, that the church has no authority. Because the people is always the source of
authority. That’s why de Tocqueville said that the
people gets what government it deserves. And so you may say “Well, God Himself is
the authority!” Well, how are we to show that? That’s your opinion. Well you say “Well, you wait and see. The Day of Judgment is coming, and then you’ll
find out who is the authority!” Yes, but at the moment there is no evidence
for the Day of Judgment, and it remains until there is evidence simply your opinion that
the Day of Judgment is coming. And there is nothing else to go on except
the opinion of other people who hold the same view and whose opinions you bought. So really, I won’t deny anybody’s right
to hold these opinions. You may indeed believe that the Bible is literally
true and that it was actually dictated by God to Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles. That may be your opinion and you are at liberty
to hold it. I don’t agree with you.

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