Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Perfect Word of God? Reliable Historical Document?

Countless Christians maintain that the Bible is a special book because God somehow acted to bring about its writing. We will leave aside for now the point that different Christian sects have different Bibles, with different books included or excluded, and they disagree about which translation is best. Let’s focus on the fact that many Christians maintain that the Bible is a perfect, unerring, non-contradictory book. The claim is often that it is entirely consistent and coherent internally.

Contradictions, conflicts, missing details, reversed sequences, and other sorts of glaring internal inconsistencies are easy to find. Consider the first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which give accounts of the life of Jesus. Among other differences, they give four very different accounts of the events at Jesus’ tomb after he was executed:

In the Luke account, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women go to the tomb, find it open, talk to two men in shining garments, and then go tell what they saw to the other disciples.

In the Mark account, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome go to the tomb, find it open, and find one man sitting there in white inside. They talk to him, then they run away in fear and they do not say “any thing to any man; for they were afraid.”

In the Matthew account, Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary go to the tomb. A great earthquake opens it by rolling the stone away. They go inside and find an angel of the Lord in white. Then they leave with fear and joy and run to bring the disciples word.

In the John account, Mary Magdalene (by herself) finds the tomb open. She goes and gets Simon Peter and the other disciple “that Jesus loved.” The two of them go to the tomb and find it empty. They leave, but Mary stays crying. Then two angels appear to her. Then Jesus himself appears to her. She talks to him and then goes to tell the rest of the disciples.

These starkly different accounts of the alleged resurrection of Jesus should raise serious questions for anyone who thinks that this book can be employed as a reliable historical document or trusted for accuracy concerning Jesus. In addition to these obvious contradictions, there are countless other passages in the book that contain similar problems.


t.k.foster said...

Excellent post again. There are an amazing amount of gospel contradictions (one of my favorite being Jesus' last words on the cross in Luke vs. John).

However, another argument that can be used to show that there are contradictions in the Bible is the multitude of various interpretations for passages. Take Salvation for an example, if the Bible only has one view on Salvation, why are there so many different views on how a person becomes saved? Why do we have people like John Calvin and John Gill who study the Bible and come to very different conclusions (predestination vs. free will)? Just within Protestantism there are countless sects, and this doesn't include the other Christian brances. It's ironic when you consider that this statement:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Is in the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:33). One has to wonder, if the Bible really is the word of God, and God is all-knowing, couldn't he have made his word much more clear since he doesn't author "confusion?"

Anonymous said...

I believe this is a really important topic for atheists.

We must put the deconstruction of the bible and other religious stories at the forefront of our attack on theism.

That is, we must find the contradictions and we must broadcast them loudly to the masses. Most of the faithful sheep won't mind because they think "faith" solves all contradictions, but it will influence those in the middle who we are after.

(A corollary of this deconstruction is also the identification of all of the evil and immoral acts the bible promotes.)

A book that identifies many of these contradictions Richard H. Schlagel's _The Vanquished Gods_. I recommend it highly.

Anonymous said...

The Bible is really only a reliable source for documenting the immorality of god and christians:

Death to the Rape Victim (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NAB)

If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife.

Murder Rape and Pillage (Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.

David's Punishment - Polygamy, Rape, Baby Killing, and God's "Forgiveness" (2 Samuel 12:11-14 NAB)

Thus says the Lord: 'I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.'

Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die." [The child dies seven days later.]

Anonymous said...

Wow! The accounts of how Jesus was found in the tomb sound so much like entries for a story-writing contest!


The scriptures are a book based on history and not philosophical proof texting. It is possible that Matthew chose not to include the version of Mark or that of Luke. It is a matter of choice and not trying to corroborate the same exact details. That does not make it contradictory but proves once again that the gospels are reliable accounts of history and not accounts that were made up. The Bible is inerrant and infallible on what it affirms historically and not philosophically. Selah!

Matt McCormick said...

Don't have any idea what you mean by philosophical proof texting, Self-Righteous Life, but if one account says that there are two men inside the tomb and another account says that it was empty, I'd hardly call that more proof that the book is inerrant and infallible. And given that the allegedly empty tomb is the single most important claim in all of the Christianity, this is not very encouraging about the reliability of the document. But maybe the fact that you are contradicting yourself also proves that your comments are accurate too? The only folks who still call the Bible infallible are the ones who (still) haven't read it. For starters, here's a short list of several hundred similar contradictions:

Contradictions in the Bible

Adrenlyn said...

It's amazing how much we seem to let our agenda and view shape the evidence (myself included).
Is the Bible the most reliable historical evidence that exists today or not? I'm starting to think Aristotle doesn't exist, or his pupil Alexander of Macedon.

the Dreamer said...

if religion is a mind virus then to would not atheism, both are fanatical beliefs of the universe it is not religion that is a mind virus but fanatism in any thing. study logic learn it use it god was created by man for man, like anything else extremeism always destroys and kills people. just ask the jews in 1940 or people in sibera in the cold war, hell even people in guantomo bay now. everything is a construct of the mind we can not see,hear,feal,speak,smell without a mind who is to say that everything we see is not false. it may be a new idea that you should always seek truth. but ateists and religios do not do either. everything can not be explained in science or spirtalty because the universe is subjective. nothing and everything exists, atheism is the dinial of somthing beyond your perception. denial leads to lies deny nothing and beleive nothing just ever vigilantly seek the truth, but know you will never truly find it. magic and miricles are acts of the mind like everything else. I am the dreamer of unkown realities; because I think.

orangejulius said...

I just wanted to say hey pat, why dont you learn how to spell first of all dude..and secondly, stop watching the movie Inception...lol...Man you were all over the place. Everything we see,smell,feel,hear,etc maybe false? are you serious? That blunt your smoking, does that seem real to you? Of course it does..you might want to lay off it bro.LOL..I would debate you about this whole thing with the Bible but you wouldn't get it(as intelligent as you sound)...,SIKE!We"ll just see how your mind and senses work when you die and you realize oh crap the Bible was real and Jesus WAS and IS who HE says HE is... ok Mr. "dreamer of unknown realities"...Lol..lol that doesnt even make any sense but then again it must be because you,"think"