Monday, November 07, 2005

Just one mistake and it's fallible

Fundamentalist claim that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God. They have no choice. Without that claim their faith falls to pieces. Their problem is not that they contend to be following the will of God not the philosophy of a man. Aristotle could be be wrong about some things but right about others and there is no crisis for those who are admirers of his. The same is true for any philosophy. Philosophy is man thinking and thus susceptible ot error. And an error in a philosophy does not mean one has to turn their back on the other ideas of that philosophy.

But when you are claiming to be dealing with the revealed will of God you can’t have errors. Not one. if the Bible has one error it can have two. If it is wrong on one issue which can be proven then perhaps it is wrong on those things not easily susceptible to truth.

If the Bible can’t get mundane things correct which can be verified then what about the many things which can never be verified? For instance some people think the Bible teaches Jesus was born to a virgin. Others dispute this of course but let’s assume the Bible does teach that for a second. Now can anyone alive verify the virginity of the mother of Jesus? Of course not. So one is required to take that entirely on the basis of faith. And you do so because you think the Bible says that and that the Bible is accurate. But if the Bible is inaccurate on other things that you can prove then what about things you can’t prove like the virgin birth. The Bible can not be the infallible, inerrant word of God if it is fallible and filled with errors. If you can’t believe it about things susceptible to proof then you can’t trust it on those things not susceptible to proof.

Now how does one verify the accuracy of the Bible? Many things are clearly not open to normal rules of evidence. We can not test the claim that Jesus was born of a virgin or that he turned water into wine. Our only evidence for this is that the Bible claims it. We don’t have the wine on hand. We can’t engage in controlled experiments to verify the claims. The supernatural claims of the Bible are not themselves open to verification one way of the other. You either take the Bible as accurate or you don’t.

But if you take it as accurate you can’t have errors in it. It is not reliable then it is not reliable. Now most the religious claims of the Bible are of a supernatural kind. That is they are claims that go contrary to what we know about reality. People don’t die and come to life again. Virgins don’t suddenly become pregnant. People don’t walk on water. We have thousands of years of evidence verifying this. Of course the believers just say that Jesus was the exception because he was God -- another claim not open to evidence.

So one can say that the likelihood of these things being true is very low because we have no verifiable record to back them up. The Christian turns to the Bible to verify these claims. But if the Bible is wrong about simple things then the likelihood of it being wrong on such big claims grows. And there is a way of proving that the Bible is wrong about things which can not be verified.

The way of doing that is to see whether the Bible contradicts itself. If I had a holy book which I said was the inerrant word of God and it was filled with errors you’d dismiss my claims. For instance if it claimed that God made the world in 30 minutes in one place but in another said God did not make the world in 30 minutes then both can’t be true. For my holy book to claim both proves it has at least one error in it. Either the world was made in 30 minutes only or it wasn’t. If my book claims a contradiction then we know that one of the two claims has to be wrong.

Now no one witnessed what is called “the creation”. But if a holy books makes contradictory claims about that incident or process then we know it’s not reliable. So when it makes really big, supernatural claims we are more likely to dismiss them. And the problem for Christians is that the Bible is filled with such contradictions.

For instance we have Bible fanatics pushing for the teaching of creationism lite. But why believe the Bible on creation when it contradicts itself on that very topic. In Genesis chapter one it says that God made the “beasts” of the earth and then he created man. But in chapter two it says he made man first and then made the animals.

In the first creation account after animals were made God created man and woman together. But it doesn’t seem that way in the second account. Not only were the animals created after man but it appears that woman was then created even later. So you had man created and then he was lonely. God, apparently not knowing this wouldn’t work, decided to create animals to keep man company. Well that failed miserably so then, in a separate act of creation God supposedly created woman out of man’s rib.

Didn’t God know this animal thing wouldn’t work? In one chapter he apparently did but in another chapter he apparently didn’t.

Now if the creation account in the Bible contradicts itself then why is it an accurate source for information about the origins of life? Apparently Biblical creationism has some obvious problems to overcome. It gives differing and contradictory accounts. Either man was created before the animals or after them. It can’t be both at the same time.

Or take something like the crucifixion which is a central incident of the Christian faith. After all they say Jesus died for our sins and use bible passages to indicate that is true. But if the Gospels contradict each other about the crucifixion then it is the idea that God had “his only begotten son” tortured viciously to death in order to forgive sins a bit hard to accept?

Matthew described the last words of Christ as “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Luke seems to be working with a different script. He says the last words of Christ were “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” So Matthew had Jesus feeling forsake by God while Luke had Jesus placing himself into the hands of God. But John says that Matthew and Luke were both wrong. Instead he claims the last words of Christ were “It is finished” and “he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” Three differing accounts of the last words of Christ.

Now when Cher did several final concert tours she got severely criticised. After all only the final tour could be the final tour. You can’t have several final tours. Neither can you have numerous “last words”. Either they are the last words or they aren’t. And when you consider there are only four Gospels in the New Testament to end up with three contradictory accounts between the four of them proves a fairly high error rate.

It is possible that one of the Gospels got it right about the last words of Christ. But which one? How would a Christian know which one to believe. If Luke was right and John and Matthew were wrong then you’d have to be skeptical about other claims that Matthew and John made as well. Only one of these Gospels, at the most, could be correct. And it’s possible that all three got it wrong. But at the very least we know that two of them must have been wrong. So is the New Testament a reliable source on the crucifixion? Obviously not.

One Christian group tries to dismiss this problem saying: “This does not show a contradiction any more than two witnesses to an accident at an intersection will come up with two different scenarios of that accident, depending on where they stood. Neither witness would be incorrect, as they describe the event from a different perspective. Luke was not a witness to the event, and so is dependent on those who were there. John was a witness. What they are both relating, however, is that at the end Jesus gave himself up to death.”

But this justification for the conflicting accounts makes it sound like the Gospels are nothing more than various men writing fallible, very human accounts of what happened. But if this were the case and the men are fallible witnesses they could also be inventive witnesses or lying witnesses. This justification removes Divine Inspiration from the writing of the Bible. Now it is true that two fallible human witnesses may give two varying and conflicting accounts. That’s one reason you look for physical evidence in such cases. But two contradictory accounts can’t both be true. In fact we know that if they conflict one is definitely erroneous. And that doesn’t mean the first account is accurate either. They both can be wrong. But when you claim something is God’s Word that is a very different kind of claim.

I know how fallible eye witness accounts can be. People get them wrong all the time. But that is not the claim that Christians need to make about the Gospels. If the Gospels are merely the fallible writings of men then they are not the infallible word of God. Pick one or the other but I don’t think you can have it both ways.

What about the resurrection? That’s critical to Christian claims. Again we have four Gospels and again we have contradictory stories. Supposedly some believers of Christ came along and discovered that his tomb was empty. Who were they?

Matthew said it was “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Fair enough. We have two women who discover the empty tomb. Mark says it wasn’t quite that way at all. Yes, Mary Magdalene and Mary were there but so was Salome. It wasn’t two women who discovered the empty tomb it was three. John’s account said it was only Mary Magdalene by herself. One Gospel says the empty tomb was discovered by one woman, another Gospel says two women, another Gospel says three women.

So either one woman, two women or maybe three women allegedly discovered the empty tomb. Of course it could still be none of the above. We do know that at least two of the Gospels have to be wrong. But let’s overlook that for now. What did the woman/women discover when arriving on the scene?

Matthew tells us that the two women came upon an “angel of the Lord” who told them that Jesus was not there. He also tells us the angel was outside the tomb sitting on the stone that had blocked the entrance. Mark has a slightly different version. He descries “a young man... clothed in a long white garment” instead except he’s sitting inside the tomb not outside on the stone. Luke says there were “two men” who stood by the women “in shining garments.” John said that inside the tomb there were “two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."

Four Gospels and four different accounts. Now you can’t have one man there and two men there at the same time. So not only do we have a muddle of who discovered the empty tomb but not one Gospel corresponds with another on what they discovered when they got there. Either the angels/men were inside the tomb or outside the tomb. It’s one or the other. Either the man/angel was sitting on the stone outside or the slab inside. There was either one man/’angel or there were two men/angels. And again we can’t escape the possibility that not one of these accounts is factual. We know that at least three of them are false.

And how long was Jesus in the grave? Matthew says it was three days and three nights. But that’s not possible. Just take what you already know and see if that works. The church says Jesus was crucified on Good Friday in the afternoon. It also says he resurrected on Easter Sunday. Try to get three day AND three nights out of that time period.

We can be as generous as possible and still not come up with three days and three nights. Lets assume Jesus died in the afternoon before sunset and that the was very quickly placed in the tomb. And lets assume that the short time in the tomb before sunset counts as one full day. Then we have him there Friday night so that’s one night. All day Saturday would be our second day and Saturday night would be our second night. So far so good but here is where it gets sticky. That morning when the women/woman got there Jesus was already gone. Now if we assume that he “rose from the dead” before sunrise we end up with him being in the grave only two days and two nights. If we assume he rose from the dead after sunrise, and if we count that short period of time as a full day, we get our third day but we are still short on our third night.

You can’t get three days and three nights out the Gospel narrative no matter how generous you are. Matthew said that Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights yet that can’t be true if Christ was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Nor do the Gospels give a consistent account of the actual time that the woman/women went to the tomb. Matthew said it was “at dawn”. That’s rather nebulous and I’ll grant that “at dawn” could mean just before dawn or just after dawn. Mark says it was “just after sunrise”. So if you take Matthew to mean after sunrise then that corresponds with the Gospel of Mark. Luke was very nonspecific saying it “very early in the morning.” So I’ll grant a match there. But when we come to John we have a problem. John says it was early “white it was still dark”. Ooops. Two are nebulous and can either mean just before or shortly after sunrise. But one Gospel says after sunrise and the other says while still dark which is before sunrise.


Blogger Jonathan said...

wow.... where do I even begin?
Let's start with the Creation account. The text states in chapter 2 of Genesis (according to the NIV) that God "had formed" the animals - meaning that God could have formed them after He created Adam or before He created Adam. So that is not a contradiction. I'm pretty sure that if you went to the Hebrew on that one, you wouldn't come up with the contradiction you mentioned.
As for Eve being created after Adam, chapter one only states that they were made on the same day. It doesn't say when or how. Chapter 2 is merely going into more detail. It was, perhaps, in the mind of God to create both Adam and Eve, but He wanted to show Adam his need for community first. You may disagree with me on this, but you haven't proven that there is any contradiction here.

Moving on... when it comes to the crucifixion accounts, Jesus could have said many more things on the Cross that the Gospel writers didn't record. BIG DEAL. They're bringing out the points that they want to bring out and not bring out others that they feel less important to their account. In the last cry before he died, Jesus could have said, "Into your hands I commit my spirit" and "It is finished." So where is the contradiction?
I know you tried to dismiss this point, but they are witnesses of the same thing. One might have been standing farther away and could not hear as well. Another could have been close by and heard everything, or any other number of scenarios. That may seem far-fetched to you, I don't know. But even if it does, you haven't really proved your point.

And, on to the Resurrection. Again, you claim that there are three differing accounts, and I claim that they compliment each other. John does not say, "ONLY Mary Magdalene went to the tomb." The same goes for the other details. They are bringing out the points they want to bring out, and not bothering us with every last detail. Therefore, again, you have not proven anything.

Lastly, you talk about the three days and the sunrise. As far as the three days are concerned, according to the way the Jews calculated days then (at least I've heard), Friday night, into Saturday, and into Sunday morning would have been considered three days. So, you see, Matthew does not mean literally, "Three days and three nights in the tomb".
As for the sunrise, I don't even need to go to the text. If I'm standing on the beach on the east coast of the USA, at, say, 6:00AM at a certain time of the year, I will notice that the sun is up. However, if go just a little bit inland, say, behind a small hill or in a forested area, at the exact same time of day, I may consider it still dark. So, depending on where you are, it is still dark or the sun has risen.

Granted, these are not air-tight arguments. But, frankly, neither are yours. And I'm sure you have other "contradictions" that you could mention, but if they are of the caliber you have here, then, like I said, you still haven't proven anything.

As for miracles not happening, well, according to your own empirical reasoning, you can't prove that the miracles in the Gospels *didn't* happen, so we are at an impass there. And just because we don't normally see people rising from the dead doesn't mean that it is impossible. Yes, it takes faith to believe in miracles. But there is no logical, empirical experiment you can create to prove that they can't happen.
Aside from that, I *have* heard modern-day stories of dead people coming back to life.

My arguments probably don't change your mind one bit as your arguments have not changed mine. But I would like to go into why it's reasonable to believe in the Bible... or at least why I do.

I say look at Jesus' life and what came of it. He claimed to be God, but, from the eye-witness accounts and what came of His life, has He proven it? Well, if someone claimed to be God, in a highly religious Jewish environment, they would have been stoned to death and branded as a lunatic and blasphemer. And yet Jesus, though He was not quiet about His identity, gathered many disciples.
Now, if you don't believe in the resurection of Christ, then you have to account for the fact that 12 scared men, after their leader had been crucified as a criminal by the Roman authorities, and hated by the large mass of Jewish people they grew up with, then decided to spread the lie that He had somehow physically risen from the dead and was reigning with God and get away with it. And mind you, they were hunted down and slaughtered for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Were they absolutely insane? And if they were, then how did they manage to dupe *so many people* who then went on to become so numerous that Constantine, 300 years later, felt it a viable option to change the Roman religion to Christianity? And if Jesus had not risen from the dead, and these 12 men were indeed lying, why didn't the authorities at the time simply show Jesus' dead body? Or the tomb that still had a big rock in front of it? The truth is that, according to historical records, the authorities never showed the body because they couldn't find one either. They just said the disciples stole it - which is unlikely.
As C.S.Lewis puts it, either Jesus was a lunatic, a liar, or God Himself. And I believe He could not possibly have been a lunatic or a liar and pull of what He did.

So how does this connect with believing the Bible? I believe in the Bible because Jesus, who is God, did. In His life, He quoted even minute details of the Old Testament to settle disputes or arguments. He considered it infallible. And so I do, too, because I trust Him. Yes, this is not an empirical conclusion. It is a relational one. That, as well as other things I don't have time to go into, are enough for me to believe.

November 07, 2005

Blogger GodlessZone said...

As I said try to keep comments brief since the comments section is not built to take long posts. It clearly says in Genesis 1 that the animals were created on one day and man on a later day. In Genesis 2 it says man was created and then the animals were created to keep him company and then woman was created. Different order. Chapter one is very precise using the term ""on the second day" "on the third day" etc.

Your account of the last words of Christ implies the writers were just men recording what they though important and implies no role for divine inspiration. I would accept that. But I can tell you there can only be one set of last words. Yes, Jesus could have recited the entire book of Leviticus as well. But last words are last words. Surely if there was divine inspiration an all knowing god would have figured out that conflicting reports would cause confusion and resolved this in advance. Of course if the Bible is nothing but the writtings of human beings who make mistakes and have no central inspiration then such things would happen.

And your claim that one might have been standing farther away and couldn't hear as well is actually quite funny. I thought the Holy Spirit inspired these men and that this is the "word of God". You have it as nothing more than a glorified journalistic account subject to all the fallacies of individuals. So maybe the Monty Python skit is accurate all along. Maybe Jesus did say "Blessed are the cheese makers". And I have proven my point which is that the Bible is not the world of God. Not even you are willing to cliam that since you have ordinary men hearing different things or having trouble hearing at all. That is not god's word. That is man's word which is precisely my point.

As for the Hebrew days and nights that is precisely the method I used. The Hebrew day begain at sunrise. The Hebrew night at sunset. And I think it cheating to say that dying an hour or so before sunset qualifies one for being in the grave for a day but I granted that. So you still have a portion of Friday, all day Saturday and a sliver of Sunday. That may give you three days. But you only have Friday night and Saturday night no matter how you count it. Even the Hebrews couldn't create an extra night between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. You say "according to the way the Jews calculated days then (at least I've heard).l..l would have been considered three days." Gee, I thought I said I'd count that as three days and the problem was coming up with three nights. But reply to what I didn't say and ignore what I did.

You say I haven't proven anything. I have proven that this is the work of men not of divine inspiration. If this were god's word it really wouldn't matter if one of the gospel writers had a hearing problem since he wouldn't be writting his word but god's word. You also seem to think it is incumbent on me to prove that miracles didn't happen. Sorry, it's not. Those making the claim have to offer the evidence. That is why you are innocent until proven guilty. Prove to me you are not a genocidal manian? You can't. It would be up to me to offer proof you are. No one can prove that miracles "can't happen". What we can prove is that we have no evidence that any have happened. And hearing stories of dead people coming to life is not evidence it's rumours.

We don't know what Jesus claimed. We know what other people say he claimed. And since you yourself argued that one of the Gospel writers may have had a problem hearing things correctly we don't even have reliable accounts. And we have none that were written at the time Jesus was alive. The earliest gospel fragments we have are at least 100 years later. Jesus did not attract many disciples as you claim. Very few in fact. Most of the followers of Jesus were converts of Paul. it is absurd for you to say that the gospel accounts of the disciples proves that Jesus was resurrected becasue they were hunted down and slaughtered for their beliefs. People died to make communism a reality but that doesn't make it right. People died in support of Nazism but that didn't make Hitler right. People are willing to die for lots of things. A group of religious nutcases died flying planes into the Twin Towers. Does that make Allah to be the true god and Mohammed to be his prophet?

You ask why didn't the Romans bring out the body of Christ to prove he didn't resurrect. We don't know that the early Christians claimed he did. We do know that writtings from 100 years later claim that they did believe but nothing contemporary to the actual time in question. We have later accounts of what happened. My point is that the Gospel accounts are not reliable. So we don't know if the disciples really did claim a resurrection or not. We don't know what Jesus said or didn't say. We only know that later writings claim he said. You quote the silly CS Lewis quote that Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar or God and "he could not possibly have been a lunatic or a liar and pull off what he did." Why not? Mohammed was either a liar or a lunatic (if you believe Christianity) and he pulled off what he did.

Actually I don't think Jesus ever claimed to be God. Ithink those are Pauline interpretations that were added in later. The founder of Christianity was really Paul who created a gospel that gentiles could accept including god in the flesh, etc. James, the brother of Jesus, said Paul was preaching another gospel. He was.

It is absolutely silly for you to say you believe the Bible because "Jesus, who is God, didl." First, you have a circular argument. How do you know Jesus is God? Because you say the Bible teaches that. How do you the Bible is true? Because Jesus, who is God, supposedly said it was. Around and around you go. I believe it because it's true and it's true because I believe it. That's not an argument. Second Jesus didn't believe in the Bible you believe in. He didn't have it. All of the New Testament was written after his death --- all of it. When Jesus was walking around doing whatever he did there was NO New Testament to believe in.

November 07, 2005

Blogger Jonathan said...

I posted my response to your response on my site: so that I wouldn't take up any more room on your comment board. It's the one that says, "RE: Just one mistake and it's fallible comment".

November 07, 2005

Blogger Jonathan said...

Just wanted to say that I am sorry if, in my comments, I have come off like I have ill will towards you. I don't. Just wanted to say that.

November 07, 2005

Blogger GodlessZone said...

You remained polite and thus I have no reason to require an apology. You're fine.

November 07, 2005


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