Why you can’t trust the Bible (aka: Easter for the honest)

I grew up in a very Bible-based literalistic church. In fact, looking back on it now, I’d have to say my faith was balanced almost entirely on the concept of biblical inerrancy. I was taught that 1) the Bible was the inspired WORD OF GOD as dictated to it’s authors 2) It was the inerrant source of truth on all topics it spoke of and 3) any apparent contradictions or mistakes were due to human error in publication, translation or interpretation. Period.
If that sounds familiar to you, or even reassuring, I invite you to complete the following exercise. All you need is a copy of the Bible (KJV, NLT, NIV, NKVD, whatever) and a piece of paper and a writing implement. Or you can just print out this blog post and follow along.

We, or rather, you are going to do a little detective work. Easter has once again come and gone. If there is any holiday or event that is central and crucial to the Christian Church, it is Easter (we’ll leave it’s pagan origins alone for the time being). The death and resurrection of Jesus is covered by all four gospels equally, giving us four “eye-witness” accounts of the Easter story. You’re going to take a closer look at these and answer some specific questions about the resurrection only for me (and yourself)

Here’s what to do. On your paper make five columns :

Question: / Matthew’s answer (ch 28) / Mark’s answer (ch 16)/Luke’s answer (ch 24)/ John’s (ch 20) answer

Under the questions column, fill in the following rows

1. What time of day did the “witnesses” arrive at the tomb?

2. How many witnesses came to the tomb?

3. Who were they? (names if possible)

4. How many beings were there when the witnesses first arrived (human or otherwise?)

5. Did any beings appear during the time of the witnesses visit? If so, how many?

6. What position was the stone in when the witnesses got there?

7.Finally, where did the witnesses go after they discovered that there was nobody in the tomb? (name a specific place if possible)

8. Who did they talk to? (Names if possible)

9. Did anyone else visit the tomb after the witnesses testimony?

10) if so, who got there first?

Once you’ve finished this exercise, (if you’ve done it with any amount of integrity), I think you will notice something interesting.

We’ll talk about it a little later this week. Hope you had a happy and sexy Eostre!

(thanx to The Reasonable Doubts podcast for the inspiration for this little quiz)

p.s. anyone know how to integrate digg buttons into WordPress pages?

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17 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Religion

17 responses to “Why you can’t trust the Bible (aka: Easter for the honest)

  1. dezrah

    Here are two comments from Xanga-World:

    from egagnon

    “Hi Scott. Interesting quiz. While the answers to the quiz certainly highlight differences in the gospel accounts, I don’t feel that they automatically support a conclusion that the Bible can’t be trusted.

    Yes, the gospels give four accounts of Jesus’ death/resurrection, but not necessarily eye witness accounts. For example the Gospel of Luke makes it clear at its outset that his work is not an eye witness telling, but rather the results of its author researching the claims of the early Christians and presenting his findings to Theopolus (believed to be Luke’s publisher). The author of Mark’s gospel is believed by many scholars to have been a disciple of the apostle Peter, Thereby presenting the Gospel through Peter’s eyes.

    While the differences in the accounts present obvious challenges for those studying the Bible, the debate is nothing new, having been argued by scholars and critics for as long as the Bible has been in the hands of the public.

    Inerrancy and literalism (or how one might understand/interpret the Bible) is a different discussion altogether and perhaps it is closer to the argument that you’re presenting (not wanting to presume your argument, of course)? Along those lines, there are many non-literalist Christians (and many Jews and Muslims for that matter) who find the Bible trustworthy because of its central messages rather than how its authors might agree or disagree on times of day or how many people were standing around at a particular event.”

    …and from BBKinMaine

    “Let’s say that you, Amanda, and Zoe all attend the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving. You’re all standing fairly close together, watching the very same parade. However, you might be really noticing the clowns and the jugglers. Amanda might be focusing on the floats. And, Zoe is probably really watching the balloons. Afterward, you all write down your report on the parade. Because you were concentrating on a different part of the parade, your reports will all be different, even if they might contain some of the same facts. Different viewpoints — not less “true,” “correct,” or “factual” — just different. That’s what we see in the Gospels. You have to read them together, putting all the viewpoints together to see the “big picture” — more of the character and life of Jesus than we might have had with only one eye-witness account of his life. We get a fuller, more accurate picture of who Jesus is based on how people “saw” him. Just as each gospel writer gave a different account of the birth of Jesus, they each give a slightly different “bent” on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Or, they talk about his healing, or his miracles, or the “business” of each day, or whatever. All accurate from the perspective they have chosen. Luke was a doctor — his gospel tells more of the healing ministry of Jesus. And, so forth. Don’t try to “de-construct” Scripture to try to explain why it can’t possibly be “true.” Instead, try to put it all together and explain why it can’t possibly be “false,” “unreliable” and give cause for a choice to be an atheist.”

    • KING JAMES ONLY SELF-REFUTATION by steve finnell

      Those who claim that the King James Version of the Bible is the only accurate translation of God’s written word invalidate their position by not believing the accuracy of the King James Version itself.

      Example: Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.(KJV)

      Virtually all “King James Only” advocates assert that “for” in Acts 2:38 has been mistranslated and should have been translated as “because of”. For, has not been mistranslated, but the meaning of “for” has been denied in order to claim that water baptism is not essential in order to has sins forgiven.

      King James only advocates, by their own admission say Acts 2:38 has been mistranslated.

      There is not one translation of the Bible that translates the Greek word “eis” as, because of, in Acts 2:38. Sins are forgiven after water baptism, not before. Men are not baptized because their sins have already been forgiven.

      Is it plausible that God waited until 1611 to give men an accurate translation of His written word? Where in the Bible does God say that the only trustworthy translation of My word will be the 1611 version of the King James Bible?

      The original King James Version included the 14 apocryphal books. Do King James only advocates use the 14 apocryphal books for faith and practice? I doubt it.

      There are many trustworthy translations of God’s word. The KJV is just one of them.

      YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  2. dezrah

    and my reply to BBKinMaine:

    @BBKinMaine –
    I’m not trying to “de-construct” anything. I don’t think your parade analogy really holds. Yes, there are details in which our accounts would differ, but the major details should match up. For instance, I would remember the names and number of people who were there with me, whether or not there were angels there and so on. Besides that, we’re not talking about a parade. We’re talking about the most pivotal event in the Christian world view! One would think that if any part of the Bible was going to be internally consistent, God would make sure that it would be this.

    My main point is not to deny the truth of the event, rather to ask a few simple questions. If the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and no the work of fallible men, how can there be ANY mistakes or confusion? If it is the work of men, (even small parts of it) then how can we know which parts are divinely writ, and which are fabricated or confused? If there are different and logically inconsistent descriptions of the same event, which one should we take to be the “gospel truth” ? With what measure are we to decide.

    My point is NOT that biblical inconsistencies lead to atheism, (that’s quite a large leap), but that the problems with the Bible lead the truly honest student to one inescapable conclusion. Biblical Literalism is a dead end. It’s playing fast and loose with logic and theology, and is just as prone to the bias of the interpreter as any other attempts at making sense of the Bible. Therefore, it cannot be trusted.

  3. David B

    These differences are not small, like whether the Snoopy float came after or before the Linus float. And they can’t be reconciled into one story, like if Scott were watching the floats and Amanda was watching the jugglers. The stories contradict each other rather than complement each other. This doesn’t decimate Christianity, of course (as you already mentioned, Scott), but it does cast strong doubt on the idea of Biblical inerrancy. I think Bob Price does an excellent job of taking on the historicity of the resurrection; I don’t know if you heard it or not, Scott, but anyone interested can hear a one-hour interview with Dr Price on the issue at http://reasondriven.blogspot.com.

  4. From WOTM:

    “How many angels were at the tomb—one or two?”
    The question has arisen simply because Matthew and Mark mention one angel, whereas Luke and John refer to two. There is no conflict if there were two angels but Matthew and Mark quote the one who was a spokesperson.

    “There are contradictions in the resurrection accounts. Did Christ appear first to the women or to His disciples?”
    Both Matthew and Mark list women as the first to see the resurrected Christ. Mark says, “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene” (16:9). But Paul lists Peter (Cephas) as the first one to see Christ after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5). Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, and then to Peter. Paul was not giving a complete list, but only the important one for his purpose. Since only men’s testimony was considered legal or official in the first century, it is understandable that the apostle would not list the women as witnesses in his defense of the resurrection here. The order of the appearances of Christ is as follows:

    CHRIST’S RESURRECTION APPEARANCES

    APPEARED TO: REFERENCES:

    1. Mary John 20:10–18

    2. Mary and women Matthew 28:1–10

    3. Peter 1 Corinthians 15:5

    4. Two disciples Luke 24:13–35

    5. Ten apostles Luke 24:36–49; John 20:19–23

    6. Eleven apostles John 20:24–31

    7. Seven apostles John 21

    8. All apostles Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:14–18

    9. 500 brethren 1 Corinthians 15:6

    10. James 1 Corinthians 15:7

    11. All apostles Acts 1:4–8

    12. Paul Acts 9:1–9; 1 Corinthians 15:8

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  7. Neil

    I think it would be easy if skeptics just say they CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE in God or the bible, instead of wasting time trying to justify their true intents. I look at the same evidence( the bible), yet I BELIEVE IT. The Macy’s Parade analogy holds true in my eyes.What if everyone gave the same, exact eyewitness account? Is that realistic? I suck at remembering names, so the person who said that the eye witnesses would have at least remembered the names of those who were there, no necessarily true. I think it would be easier if skeptics would just get it off their chest and admit that THEY CHOOSE not to believe, or just call God a liar, because it is HE Who inspired the writings of the bible but the so-called “educated” of this world would like to think they can outsmart God. Wasn’t it the bible which declared, ” The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God?”. So please explain, anyone, if the bible is “made-up”, how in the world was it put together? Think about what it would take to “make-up” the bible???. And here we go, scrutinizing every little detail, instead of focusing on the true message behind it. Is it really that HARD to see how much God loves and cares for us, or are our hearts so hardened that we’re blinded in our own prejudices…

    • Timely comment. I guess a year late is better than never. 😉

      I think it would be easy if skeptics just say they CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE in God or the bible, instead of wasting time trying to justify their true intents.

      It would be easier, it just wouldn’t be true. Skeptics evaluate the evidence and base their opinions on the available facts. Their “true intent” is to find the truth, whatever it may be.

      . I look at the same evidence( the bible), yet I BELIEVE IT. The Macy’s Parade analogy holds true in my eyes. What if everyone gave the same, exact eyewitness account? Is that realistic?

      No, but neither is it realistic for witnesses of such a crucially important event to forget details such as who was there with them and whether or not there was an ANGEL waiting for them.

      I suck at remembering names, so the person who said that the eye witnesses would have at least remembered the names of those who were there, no necessarily true.

      You suck at remembering names, that doesn’t mean they did. This isn’t some random group of people. They were close friends, part of a tight-knit community. There’s sufficient reason to believe they would be able to remember who was there.

      Maybe they I think it would be easier if skeptics would just get it off their chest and admit that THEY CHOOSE not to believe, or just call God a liar, because it is HE Who inspired the writings of the bible but the so-called “educated” of this world would like to think they can outsmart God. Wasn’t it the bible which declared, ” The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God?”.

      So…if I believe the Bible isn’t true, why would I care if it called me names? Similarly, if I don’t believe in a god, then who am I calling a liar?

      So please explain, anyone, if the bible is “made-up”, how in the world was it put together? Think about what it would take to “make-up” the bible???.

      It would take writers and time. Do you believe the Qu’ran, Bhagavad Gita and/or Book of Mormon were divinely inspired? No? They are at least as complex and historical as the Christian Bible. In fact, two of them only claim one author, divinely inspired. The Bible is historically proven to be a hodge-podge of documents written by many different authors, in different languages over centuries then assembled by a committee that voted on which books to include and which to ignore.

      And here we go, scrutinizing every little detail, instead of focusing on the true message behind it. Is it really that HARD to see how much God loves and cares for us, or are our hearts so hardened that we’re blinded in our own prejudices…

      Yes, it’s crucially important to scrutinze the details when we’re deciding whether or not to stake our lives, our beliefs and our happiness on a document.

      One last question. You imply that I’m blinded by my prejudices. Did you give this excercise an honest try? Really? If you follow through with the investigation objectively, there is no way around the fact that the Bible varies significantly on crucially important details. Only the prejudices and pre-conditioning of dogmatic indocrination can shield you from the fact that the Bible has errors and is inconsistent. Does that mean you need to throw out your central beliefs? I dont know, I can’t answer that for you. But you do need to decide what’s more important, being honest with yourself or thinking that your pre-existing beliefs are right.

  8. Muhammad A. Al Akkas

    I agree with you that: “The Bible is historically proven to be a hodge-podge of documents written by many different authors, in different languages over centuries then assembled by a committee that voted on which books to include and which to ignore.” Not only that but also that it keeps being tampered with. Just compare Luke 22:70 – 23:4 of KJV with that of NKJV and you will see for yourself what I mean, please do that. Still, truth is to be found in the Bible even though, not everything that is in the Bible is true.
    The arguments so far, agree that the Bible is based on first or secondhand EYE-WITNESS reports and sometimes the author wrote only what he saw through his teacher’s or someone else’s eyes like you reported: “The author of Mark’s gospel is believed by many scholars to have been a disciple of the apostle Peter, Thereby presenting the Gospel through Peter’s eyes.”
    To me, this approach does not present “inspiration” or “revelation” of any sort. You see, for Muslims, for instance, a Hadeath is not authentic if the chain of qualified and trust worthy of narrators is not determined all the way back to Prophet Muhammad himself. If one or more of the narrators are douched or not know, the Hadeath is rejected and classified as “fabricated and untrue.” The authentication of every word in the Qur’an is perfect. Therefore we can only say that the Bible, at best, is no more than a set of reports about God or about Jesus or about stories that took place at the time of Jesus or the time of the prophets before Jesus. Hence, the Bible is not the word of God and only a very small portion of the New Testament is ascribed to Jesus!
    You also declared: “Do you believe the Qu’ran [Qur’an], Bhagavad Gita and/or Book of Mormon were divinely inspired? No? They are at least as complex and historical as the Christian Bible. In fact, two of them only claim one author, divinely inspired.” I would like to add that the Qur’an was not really inspired but dictated word for word onto Prophet Muhammad by the Almighty God through Arch Angel Gabriel; “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren [not from them but from their brethren; the Arabs!], like unto thee [Moses], and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” Deuteronomy 18:18.
    Sir William Muir, a very hostile critic of Islam, wrote: “Our authorities, all agree in ascribing to the youth of Muhammad a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the people of Makkah… The fair character and honorable bearing of the unobtrusive youth won the approbation of his fellow-citizens; and he received the title, by common consent, of Al-Ameen, the Trustworthy.” Therefore, MUHAMMAD was the honest, the truthful, the Spirit of Truth indeed.
    And in the New Testament, Jesus is reported to have said: “12”I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth [i.e. The Most Truthful, a nickname of Prophet Muhammad], comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” ” John 16:12-14. We indeed know the truth about Jesus, the Messiah from the Qur’an and the Hadeath (what Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, …) more than any other source.
    In the Bible we also read: “The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem sent some priests and Levites to John (the Baptist) to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ John did not refuse to answer, but spoke out openly and clearly, saying: ‘I am not the Messiah’ ‘Who are you then?’ they asked. ‘Are you Elijah?’ No, I am not’ John answered. ‘Are you the (that in KJV) Prophet?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied (John 1:19-21).
    The Jewish authorities, priests and Levites were expecting yet another prophet, who was not John the Baptist, nor the Christ nor the Elijah. That prophet will bring the full and perfect truth; as Paul said: “For our gift of knowledge and inspired messages are only partial; but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear (will be abrogated.)” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
    Edward Gibbon (Edward Gibbon and Simon Ocklay, History of the Saracen Empire, London 1870, p 54) , a notable man of letters, a renowned historian, an English Christian and a critic of Islam, wrote: “It is not the propagation but the permanency of his [MUHAMMAD’s] religion that deserves our wonder; the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Mecca and Medina is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries by the Indian, the African and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran [Qur’an]… The Mohametans [Muslims] have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man. ‘I believe in One God and Mahomet [MUHAMMAD] the Apostle of God’ is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honors of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.” Edward Gibbon, admiring The Noble Qur’an, also wrote: “There is no book in the world in which God has been made such a theme of discourse as in the holy Qur’an. It is impossible to conceive aught holier, nobler, purer, more sublime, more perfect, more supreme and more worthy of the Godhead than the God Whom Muhammad worshipped. The ideal cannot be improved upon: one attribute taken from it would mar its perfection, and not one could be added to it that would not be superfluous. Such is the lofty conception of Muhammad’s God as presented in the Qur’an. He has boldly and indelibly impressed the notion of the strictest monotheism upon the pages of history and towards this notion rational man cannot but drift surely if slowly.”
    Shouldn’t your friend believe in the Qur’an and in Muhammad the last and final prophet of the Almighty God to mankind?
    Muhammad A. Al Akkas
    Alakkassolutions@yahoo.com

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  11. Gary

    Higher Criticism is the greatest threat today to Christianity. It will decimate the Christian Faith. Here is an example of the disastrous consequences of introducing Higher Critical Thinking into Christian churches:

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/a-review-of-making-the-case-for-christianity-by-john-bombaro-and-other-lcms-lutheran-theologians-part-6/

    • If your faith is threatened by the idea of honest inquiry, that’s between you and your god. All I can say is that I spent most of my life in Evangelical circles and once I started asking critical questions, the entire house of cards fell.

      I have given up trying to convert or deconvert people. It is not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t believe. I will say that critical thinking is one of the greatest tools we have to cut through our self-deception and try to arrive at some measure of knowledge.

  12. It was enjoyable as well as a thought provoking read through this specific thread. Some excellent food for thought indeed.

    I am of the opinion that it is one of your better decisions to stop trying to deconvert others. You are right, it is not our place to tell others what they should or should not believe, Dezrah. Religion is extremely personal… Rather live and let live (cliche, sure, but a noble lil axiom to make our own and try to live up to 🙂 )

    A pity you never replied to Muhammad A. Al Akkas, unless you have done so privately. I enjoyed his post and thought it worthy of reply.

    BTW, I agree wholeheartedly with your experiment with the 5 columns! I have personally found that The Urantia Book account re that specific gospel narrative makes the most sense for me.

    Dezrah, God bless you on your personal path and quest. 👏

    • It always astonishes me when I get a response to this post. This blog has been inactive for years now. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. My thoughts on religion currently can be summed up:

      Religion is like a penis. Do whatever you want with it with other consenting adults, but please, don’t take it out in public, and don’t try and put it in my children. 🙂

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