The Truth About God

Can Competing Claims About God Both Be True.

What Makes It “True”?

Understanding God through the Hebrew Scriptures can be taunting task. I put forth the idea fully understanding him is impossible. Even a basic understanding of how God treats his people need a multiple faceted reading of the bible. In this essay I will explain several reason why you will see many versions of God with a basic reading of the scriptures. The scriptures were written thousands of years ago in a different time by many people. These people had different understanding of the world and even a different language. All of these things come together to make fully understanding the stories harder but not impossible. 

According to John J. Collins in A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible the two stories of creation of the earth and of man were written by two separate groups of authors. The two groups are known as the Yahwistic and the Priestly sources. Both groups writing about the same God with very similar stories but different enough to be known that they are not the same. The Priestly source has no mention of angels or God talking through animals like other parts of the scriptures. It is also the simpler story in comparison between these two stories. Man and woman were created at the same time in God's image. In comparison to what is known as the Yahwistic source God created the man before the woman. This is the central point of the story. God makes animals to be the man's mate but none of them are perfect for him so God decides to make woman out of a part of man. Most would say that this version is the more widely known of the two stories. However, most people when asked will tell a combination of the two stories. These two stories show two different images of God. Within the Priestly story God is shown as a overseer that is controlling from what is most likely heaven. This vision of a hands off God is contradicted by the God of the Yahwistic version of the creation story. This God is shown walking through the garden and interacting with the man and woman. These two versions of God exist because of the authors that wrote the story of them. 

In the Hebrew scriptures there are many different versions of God portrayed. One is of a loving God that forgives his people of their sins. Another is of a God that can destroy an entire city of people because they are sinful. This can be hard to understand until you understand the bible as a whole.

One reason why God may seem different from story to story is that people only commonly remember certain sections of the stories. The Ten Commandments are one of the most known set of rules. However most people are unable to remember the commandments or the order that in which they appear. In the book of Exodus Moses travels up a mountain and he gets the commandments from God. This set of commandments is the more well known version. When Moses travels down the mountain and back to his people he finds them in chaos. The Israelites that were following Moses had begun to worship a golden calf. When Moses saw what they had done he became angry. He broke the tablets and had to return to the Lord at the mountain to get the commandments again. This second set is not identical to the first set of commandments. These two versions are both in the scriptures but most people will only know the first set. As children most people have only heard the first set. In the fourth grade I was required to reciete the first set of commandments for the teacher. Until I was researching for this essay I had never even known that God had given Moses a second similar set of commandments after he broke the first set. This shows that a majority of people that know the bible only know the common parts.

Many people take every work in the scriptures to be completely true and of an actual event. Much of the bible is history but some is legend. Both have been retold throughout history. The main difference between legend and history is the amount that the information have been distorted or fictionalized in the retellings. The first story told in Genesis is the story of creation in which God creates everything. He then creates Adam and then creates Eve from Adam’s rib. This story has no  proof of its historical legitimacy. Believing that this story happened is possible but not very probable. The majority of the evidence about creation contradicts this story. When this creation story was written many people had questions about their existence in the world. The writer of this story used it to answer the questions that the people had in the best way that he could. The first creation story not only answers many questions about human life on earth but also reinforces that we need to believe in God. Also Noah and his ark is another story that could also be perceived as historical if you do not read it close enough. This story has a very prevalent moral ideal that if you are not good and pray to God you will die. Noah was still very religious so that God chose him to be the one to survive. The flood killing all of creation is the hard part to understand historically and philosophically because of the idea that animals do not have free will to disobey God. Why would God kill all the animals of the earth when they would not be able to sin against Him? Also the fact that the entire world was covered in water is hard to scientifically prove. The stories of the scriptures for the most part can not be historically proven but that does not mean that they do not have a philosophical reason existing. Some stories in the Bible may have a strong background but the stories that have been studied so far for the most part are written to show what exactly we are doing here on Earth. This amount of legend in the scriptures means that the image of God may have been distorted by these legends that were created to answer questions of the people at the time.

If you have ever used a translation webpage you will know that translation are never perfect. This mistake in translation can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The scriptures were written originally in Hebrew with parts later being translating into Greek. The version of the bible that I used during my time in this course is the King James Version. The translation of the King James Bible was completed in six parts by three sets of committees. During all of this translation it is easy to see that there might be mistakes or mistranslations. Most of these are small and make little difference. One large one that many scholars point out is the meaning of the word virgin and the young woman.  These two things may have a lot in common in those days but they are still very different. Being that many young women were also virgins this does not affect the meaning until the author is talking about young women that are giving birth. Aside from Virgin Mary in the New Testament all pregnant women have known a man. The final commandment of the original set of commandments is also thought to be incorrectly translated. Currently reading “thou shall not covet...” while most scholars on the topic agree that it should read take instead of covet. This may seem like a simple difference, however, the word covet implies intent to do is bad while the action of taking is the only bad thing in the correct translation. These are only two of the known mistranslation that have been found in the Hebrew Scriptures. There may very likely be other mistakes in the translations that might affect the tone or reasoning behind what God does or does not do for his people. 

The first book of the Hebrew Scriptures is thought to be written in the fifth century BCE. Saying that this was a very different time would be an understatement. This was over two and a half thousand years ago. In modern times words can mean different things from year to year it is easy to understand that the meanings of some parts of the scriptures may have changed during the years until modern times. Because of this change we must understand that the view of God was different in those times versus now in modern times.

The Hebrew Scriptures are very complex works that have formed not only the Jewish religion but also the Christian religions use the scriptures. Being that most history books are in some way incorrect it is hard to even think that the scriptures are even close to totally true.  I was raised in a Catholic household and attended a Catholic primary school. This gives me a background in the bible. I am not saying that I am an expert or even that I will ever be an expert. Being an expert requires a full understanding of the scriptures, the authors, and the time period. God is shown in many different lights, and not all of these visions are the most friendly. Saying that this version of God is not real and only created by the distortion of the bible that has occurred since it creation would be foolish. People do not stay the same for their entire life so it is also possible that God can change throughout time. Believing this I also believe that God can be wrathful and loving toward his people but in modern days he shows less wrath and more love. It is also possible that we as humans do not see all of God’s wrath as they did in the scriptures. In all of this I believe that God is not contradictory but that he is vast and has different responses to different situations. 

In conclusion the Hebrew Scriptures are not perfect. They have been distorted by time and by the author. The translations left their mark on the scriptures along with the reader's state of mind. However if you do your best to see around all of these things you will see that God is not static or simple. As the ruler of the world he is more complex than everything that he has created. Once this is understood it is possible to see that worrying about contradictory stories is a small in comparison to understanding God. 


 Collins, J., & Collins, J. (2007). A short introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 

The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments, translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised ; commonly known as the authorized (King James) version. (Bold text ed.). (1978). Philadelphia: National Pub.