Theology and Technology: How the Blockchain can influence Biblical Scholarship
Religion in today’s world irrespective of which religion one practices or the denomination they relate to is based upon a person accepting the traditions and interpretations of the past without understanding if these traditions and sources are authentic. Thus, the base for all religion has to do with belief in a higher power (God) and internalizing past traditions as part of the modern-day codicil of foundational religion. The existential problem with such a system is that the roots of our shared traditions are based on events and individuals that cannot be historically verified. In addition, the codex of traditions that formulate our beliefs (Torah, Old Testament and New Testament) and which we hold sacred today are not necessarily what they were or how they were written at the times of them being transcribed.
If we were to examine such truths, we would just have to go back to the biblical traditions of creation to see how we have no singular tradition, or in other words, no one chain of historical evidence and truth to track what came first and where our biblical traditions began. For example, in Chapter 1 of Genesis we read that the world was created in six days with God resting on the seventh day. Within this chapter there is an order of creation and within this order man is created last as seen in Genesis 1:27. However only a few verses later in Genesis chapter 2 we find a completely different tradition. For their man is created first, as evidenced in Genesis 2:8. These types of examples are numerous throughout our religious history and one only need to mention the two different versions of the 10 commandments as found in Exodus 20:1–14 and Deuteronomy 5:6–18 to further see this. In Exodus we are told to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” While in Deuteronomy we are told “observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.” As we can see there are differences between the words “remember” and “keep.” Furthermore, in Deuteronomy we are keeping the Sabbath because God freed us from Egypt and in Genesis, Egypt is not mentioned. Which is correct and authentic? Where is the genesis block of the genesis story and how can we build upon the blocks of our traditions without knowing which block or commandment came first?
These theological and chronological questions are not just an issue when looking back into our past traditional texts, but they are also one today. We can never be sure which interpretation of a commentary is authentic, came first or is the foundational genesis of the next interpretation. Even today with so much commentary out there we can never be sure as to what came first and is it authentic. In actuality, we can know all these things from today and moving forward if we were to implement a new technology that is slowly changing the way society interacts with each other and that is through the implementation of blockchain technology. I would like to show how this technology is not only beneficial to business applications but also how it can be applicable for the world of religion.
If we were to reach back to our example of the two different versions of the Ten Commandments –we could surmise that each commandment is built upon the one that comes before it. For example, you cannot worship another god’s until you state that there is only one God. Thus, the second commandment is built upon the first. The most important thing when considering the functionality of the commandments is the logic behind how they fit and the rules that they are bound to; Blockchains are very similar. A blockchain is like a single commandment that is put together with other commandments. What happens when they are put together? They become linked. In other words, they become The Ten Commandments instead of a single commandment. Now imagine if the name of the creator of these commandments, God, and the date of individual creation was printed on each commandment. Regardless of the order, pattern, or structure these commandments were received at Revelation you (or anyone who comes and looks at these texts) will be able to tell exactly who created each one and when. The verifiability and auditability brought about by this, now public info, printed onto the commandments allows us to ensure each piece we use is part of the original revelation at Mount Sinai. Now, once our structures get viewed or studied, nobody ever has any concern over which version of the commandments came first because with the public timestamp we would have totally auditable authenticity.
Now, with the concept of auditable authenticity in mind, let’s define the blockchain; A blockchain is a distributed ledger whereby every piece (commandment) holds the same information and all of them fit together one piece at a time. What differentiates the blockchain from our religious example is the ability for far more information than just a name and a date to be ‘inscribed’ onto every block. As a distributed digital ledger, all information written to the chain is made completely public and immutable (cannot be changed). Furthermore, since the ledger is completely distributed amongst all those who use or access the blockchain, authenticity can be confirmed by multiple people and nothing put on the ledger can ever ‘disappear’ or ‘go missing’, thus ensuring information accuracy through a complete lack of centralized trust.
Had such technology existed thousands of years ago we would not be arguing over biblical authenticity and the authorship or time of the Bible being written. However, we can use this technology today to solve these issues when moving forward with new commentaries and interpretations. For if we were to build religious blockchains or codicils of commentaries we would know who wrote the commentaries, upon what information they were based, and which commentary preceded the other. Thus, proper credit would be given to the theologian who came up with original ideas or new commentaries. Nobody would be able to forge or claim credit for these new interpretations as they would all be immutably written down, public to all, never kept in one location and traceable always. Not only that but they would be placed in an order of when they were written and thus the link of traditions would be known and verifiable instead of being up for debate and questionable.
In the end, while blending modern theological writings and blockchain technology may sound strange, it is well worth adapting to this new technology, for if we do our traditions will remain known and sacred. Thus, allowing us to study our traditions instead of trying to figure out when they came into being and by whom.
The Author is an ordained Rabbi, Theologian and Certified Blockchain and Ethereum Expert.