I do find it interesting though that apparently there needs to be a right and wrong way to interpret scripture. The fact that there are so many different "versions" of the Bible should make one stop and think about its veracity in and of itself. If any of you want to keep an open mind, then read on:
In order to fully understand the scriptures, one would need to do the following:
1) Become an expert in translating the original text yourself.
2) Become an expert in the linguistics and customs of the time.
3) Read all the texts from that era including a plethora that are NOT included in the Bible.
4) Come up with your own conclusions.
Regarding the first point, let's take the word "paradidomi" as an example. This word is used throughout the Bible and in every instance it is translated as "hand over" except when it comes to Judas and then it magically gets translated as "betray." Judas was was Jesus' most trusted ally. He was like his brother. Doesn't it make more sense that Jesus ASKED Judas to turn him in because he had confidence that Judas was the most likely to successfully complete the extremely undesirable task that the other Apostles might not have had the stomach to complete? If I had a very tough task, I know I'd ask my best friend to help me, not someone that I was unsure about.
Could Judas have betrayed Jesus in the manner in which most believe? Sure, why not? Could it also be possible that Jesus asked Judas to hand him over because Jesus already knew his fate? Sure, why not?
Many people think that Judas turned Jesus over as if the Romans had no idea where to find him. We think of Jesus being incognito as if he were Saddam hiding out in some hole in the middle of the desert. Jesus was out preaching (not at the precise moment the Romans found him, but he wasn't hiding in a hole either) and it wouldn't have been difficult for the Romans to find him. Judas had NO REASON to turn him in. The only reason would be that he was rewarded with money from the Romans, but he held the money for the group already. Thus, he could have just stolen that instead if greed was his main goal. The fact that he was entrusted with the money is a clue as to his possible value to Jesus.
But in any case, either one "could' be correct. We don't know. The point I am attempting to make is that we should be told both sides of the story and let the individual be the one to decide, but instead, most mainstream religions push only one possible story down the throats of their faithful.
A link from National Geographic about Judas and another concerning the word paradidomi:
Other words off of the top of my head include "Yam Suph" which could be translated into "Reed Sea" or "Sea of Reeds" instead of the commonly accpeted "Red Sea." Some experts are fairly certain that if Moses actually existed, he likely crossed at a place called "Pazufy" or "The Reeds" (because it was an area where reeds were abundant in the river). This is currently located just south of the Suez Canal in present day. The Sea of Reeds is actually MUCH smaller than the Red Sea... like comparing a river to a massive lake. This location also fits better with the rest of the Exodus story than does the Red Sea and there is possible other evidence that perhaps supports this. Another word that comes to mind is "almah" which is commonly translated as "virgin." Instead many scholars say that it should have been translated as "young woman" or "child of marriagable age."
The point is that it is nearly impossible to accurately translate the Bible. Even if the current text is translated 100% accurately (which it is not), because of the time frame in which it was written, there is no way that the strories are 100% accurate to begin with. Then you factor in that the stories were kept orally before written down and then translated many times over, it is an effort in futility.
It is my belief that to understand the Bible, it is important to get the main gist of the main message that is attempted to be relayed to the reader (due to the reasoning above).
For point #2, consider the fact that if an alien came down to earth and read one of our newspaper headlines that read, "Baron Davis On Fire.... Rest of Warriors Can't Shoot." They might think that a king (Baron) was engulfed in flames (on fire) and his army (Warriors) was inept. LOL
The text of the Bible was not written in English. I know most people know this, but I don't think that most people ever really sit down and consider the immense ramifications of it. Even with all of the incredible technology of today, you can go to a "translating site" on the Internet, type in a phrase in say Spanish, have it converted to English and the meaning may be COMPLETELY different than the original intent. And those are with words that are present in your mind from today, not from 27 years ago and that have been translated over and over again already.
For point #3, how many of you have actually done research on how the Bible was even created? Most just accept the Bible as fact without even understanding its historical background.
Jesus was most likely born in 6BC and died most likely between 30-33AD. The four main Gospels were written as such: Matthew between 60-85AD, Luke 60-100AD, Mark 65-80AD, John between 65-120. However, the scholarly consensus is that the earliest any of these were written was Mark in 68AD. So in the best case scenario from a Christian point of view, taking the lowest number of the Gospels (60) and the highest number for Jesus' death (33), that would mean that at least 27 years passed before these words were written. John's words could have been written 90 years after Jesus died. So why doesn't someone tell me EXACTLY what someone else said 27 years ago to the exact word. Yeah, that's what I thought... no one can do it. In fact, unless someone had a photographic memory, no one could get words spoken only a week ago 100% accurate. Now take those exact words that you can't remember because it was so long ago and now translate that conversation into a different language (since most scholars believe that the entire New Testament was written in Greek). As anyone with any sort of logic can plainly see, taking these words as verbatim is silly at best (which many people do).
It is like that game "telephone" that perhaps you played in grade school. Someone starts off with a few sentences and you tell it to the next person. By the time it gets to the end of the 25th person in the class, the few sentences are no longer the same. Details get dropped and added, words change, etc, etc, etc.
However, these are just writings at the time and there is no Bible as we know it today yet. Yet at the earliest in 150AD and probably more around 185AD, only 4 of the existing approximate 50 Gospels (each one believed to be an accurate text by different Christians) were chosen to make up that section of the New Testament. St. Irenaeus stated that "There are four principle winds, four pillars that hold up the sky and four corners of the universe; therefore, it is only right that there be four gospels." Nice! That's a great explanation for only giving us a tiny fraction of the information (4/50).
Thus, some 100+ years after Jesus died (probably more like 150 years), it was decided that only 4 accounts of Jesus would "count" toward the Bible as we know it today. Furthermore, all of those accounts were taken at least second hand and were written decades after Jesus died and translated into different languages. I'm sure those exact words are extremely accurate (roll eyes).
So you want more texts? How about say the Gospel of Peter which dates between 70-160AD. The Gospel of Peter has much in common with the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew. Or what about the Gospel of Thomas which has many of the same teachings of Jesus as the afore-mentioned Gospels? Or what about the Gospel of James which talks about many miracles from when Jesus was a child with Mary? In fact, there are so many different Gospels "left out," that they are even placed in separate categories with different titles!! LOL
Surely, you'd want to read ALL the information that you possible could about your Savior Jesus and make your own opinions right? Instead apparently most people today choose to let some ancient people do a power play and choose the texts that are still most commonly used today.
Remember these are many of the same people who could have still believed the world to be flat!!!! How can anyone let these people dictate their beliefs today? It makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.
And the 4 that they chose often completely contradict themselves even with issues as important as the birth of Jesus. But that shouldn't be surprising considering they were probably written some 75 years or so after Jesus' birth.
None of this is even touching on other texts (non-Christian) that show how many of the 4 main Gospel writers "borrowed" ideas straight from other texts not in the Bible (and stole directly from Old Testament stories and basically just swapped around names and changed minor story points... e.g. Moses for Jesus).
And what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? After all, they are basically the only documents we have dating pre-100AD.
That's not even talking about modern science which can compare non-Christian and Christian texts of the time to determine which items people commonly believe today are probably true and which are probably false.
And so on and so on.
Moreover, many of these are the same religions that go running around portraying Jesus as blue-eyed, long haired, white man. Here's what Jesus most likely looked like:
These mainstream religions can't even accurately portray their own Savior! It is laughable. It doesn't take a genius to realize that there weren't a bunch of white, blue-eyed guys kicking it in the Middle East back in the day. It would be like me cutting out random pictures in a magazine, framing them and pretending those are my kids. I could make a solid argument that this is clearly worshipping a false god because anyone with any common sense would realize that their Savior would not have been white.
Moving on to even a different train of thought for the sake of perspective, here's a question: Do you believe that someone needs to hear the message of Jesus in order to make it into Heaven?
If you answered yes, then do you want to explain why God hates Native Americans?
After all, the indigenous people were in North and South America at the time of Jesus. Jesus most likely died sometime around 30-33AD. However, Columbus didn't come to "the New World" until 1492. That's over 1450 years that the Native Americans could not have heard about Jesus (thus could not make it into heaven if you answered "yes"). Moreover, the pilgrims didn't arrive in America until 1620 and Lewis & Clark didn't have their famous expedition out to the Western United States until after 1800. So there are some Native Americans that wouldn't have heard about Jesus until the 19th century.
So I guess there are a couple of possibilities:
1) God didn't care that the Native Americans didn't get to hear the words of Jesus because it wasn't that important to him.
2) God just created Native Americans without the intention of them ever going to Heaven.
Keep in mind that none of this even covers indigenous peoples in South America, such as the Yanomamo, who were pretty much undiscovered until the later half of the 20th century.
So does God hate the Yanomamo people as well?
So which is it? Is hearing the Christian message just not important or does God disdain the indigenous peoples of the Americas? (Well, unless you are a Mormon and believe that Jesus partied with the Native Americans.)
The point is that most of this is completely illogical if you think about it. BTW... what ever happened to the ancient Egyptians that believed in Amun-Ra? What about the Greeks who believed in Zeus, etc? Are they all screwed as well? I guess Jesus coming to visit them wasn't important and God was cool with them worshipping other gods.
In conclustion, if you are steadfast in your religion, then more power to you. Just because you might try to seek out the "truth" and that truth might be different than what you have been taught in the past, doesn't make you any more or less a believer in God. But to blindly assume that there is one meaning to the Bible and to only read a fraction of the information that resides out there is downright silly. It would be like having 50 ingredients in a cookie recipe and only using 4 of those ingredients!!! It makes no logical sense.