The best apologist argument criticizing my list of bible contradictions guts the Christian bible

Of all the criticisms I’ve received of my ongoing campaign to expose bible contradictions, one in particular is quite a powerful argument. The argument is essentially this: The bible was originally written as an inerrant document with no contradictions whatsoever. As the bible was translated and revised over the years, human error caused the errancy of the bible to become apparent. The original god-inspired documents — I repeat — are claimed as perfect. And like I said, this is a very powerful argument because I’m basing my contradiction campaign on modern translations and interpretations of the bible (I mostly use the Catholic texts). But, unfortunately for apologists, so powerful is this argument that it essentially guts Christianity. Within the framework of this argument, whatever damage exists to my arguments can be equally applied to the bible.

The claim that the bible was originally a god-inspired inerrant text is an unsupportable claim. We don’t even have the original documents, a fact that is central to the argument criticizing my list of bible contradictions.

The oldest intact copy of the bible is the Codex Sinaiticus, a Greek text that dates to ca. 350 CE. We have much older fragments here and there of various verses, but those too are in Greek or some other translation. Patrick D. Miller, the Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, dates the oldest parts of the bible (Deuteronomy) to around the 7th and 8th century BCE. That’s a giant gap — at least 1,000 years from authorship to print. The newest parts of the bible were written between 70 CE and 300 CE. There exists no intact original document (or even anything in the original language) of any book of the bible.

In other words, no one knows what the original texts looked like. Not a single sentence in the entire bible, no matter what version you look at, and no matter how old your copy is, is in its original form. It has suffered from decades, centuries, or even a millennium or more of mistranslation, copy error, and human revision.

To say that these flaws in our current forms of the bible explain why contradictions exist is the same as saying, “Our faith is subject to obvious biblical flaws.” If this is your argument, then you build your faith on texts that you acknowledge do no reflect the inerrant word of god. You acknowledge that you put your faith in a text plagued by human error and that you are literally not following the original meaning of those texts.

This argument razes our modern conceptualization of Christianity, and it also acknowledges that the original conceptualization of Christianity is unknown, lost, and divorced from what is practiced today. In regards to my campaign to expose bible contradictions, I’ll take the hit if it also guts our modern bibles.

(Of course, even if this argument were an adequate criticism of my campaign to expose bible contradictions [it’s not], then I’ve really lost nothing. I’ve always argued the bible is manmade. I’m just exposing primitive man’s inability to coherently compile a document).

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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40 Responses to The best apologist argument criticizing my list of bible contradictions guts the Christian bible

  1. I think the argument you speak of is similar to arguments based on referring back to the original Hebrew or Greek. For example, suppose I were a theist arguing that the current Bible verse is not accurate because the Hebrew could mean something different.

    So, the argument that translations have caused errors in a divinely error-free document relies on the assumptions that there are: (1) a different translation possible of a given verse or verses; (2) the original intent of the given verse or verses is known; and (3) that original intent is indicative of God’s Will(TM & patent pending). Proving item 1 seems to be the interest I come across in my travels of Christian blogs, and items 2 and 3 are conveniently discarded.

    Couldn’t another refutation of the position you present and similar translation based positions simply be a requirement to address all three elements?

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      Hmm. I never thought about it that way before. I like the three prong approach. Looking back at my post I can sort of see some of it in there, but I prefer your design better than mine. I’d say go with it! I’d love to read more on this if you ever decide to write about it in a post.

  2. BJ says:

    Since commenting from my phone while on the road, I’ll be brief. I appreciate the effort and the research you have put into this series. If you help some people step away from a near idolatry to the Bible than your work is not in vain. My prayer is that as you search the scriptures to expose the contradictions that you will be caught up by the greater story of love and redemption laced throughout the book.
    Personally I hold the Bible to be authoritative and infallible but shy away from inerrant simply because the common understanding of that trips people up when they face the apparent and real contradictions you are so diligently bringing to light. A Muslim friend once said in a similar discussion: “if most Christians hold such grander claims for their sacred scriptures then why is it they seem to know those scriptures on average far less than the average Jew and Muslim?” His question was both valid and unanswerable. Perhaps if more of us who claimed to be Christians put more effort into living out the scriptures rather than making untenable claims about them perhaps this world would be a better place.
    Please know that although I don’t agree with much you write I do appreciate the effort and passion in which it is written.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      I must say I always find it interesting who subscribes and reads my blog. I incorrectly assumed you were a non-believer, which was dumb of me considering my demographics. More than half of my readers are religious, most of those Christian. I’m glad to see so many religious people open minded enough to subscribe and/or read an atheist blog. Thanks for your comments!

  3. I have responded to countless “contradictions” presented by the atheist and proven that they are all frauds.

    The atheist in this post hallucinates an absurd alternate reality and then argues against his own hallucination.

    This is yet another example of the atheist arguing with himself and losing while claiming victory.

    The reality is that modern science has proven that atheism is dead.

    Hallucinating the atheist version of the Bible and then arguing against that hallucination is no answer to what modern science has proved.

  4. ubi dubium says:

    As an extension of the problem of not having an accurate copy of the original, we can extend the issue to “Why would an all-powerful god allow this state of affairs to come about?”

    If a written text is the preferred way that a god wants to communicate with us, and it’s important that we understand it correctly in order to have correct beliefs, why haven’t any of the original texts survived? It would seem a trivial matter for a god to make sure we had one authoritative version. An even better miracle would be to create a book that could be magically read and understood by anyone, without need of a translator. The absence of anything like this points either to a god who does not primarily communicate through a text, or more likely, to a god who isn’t there.

    • UBI,

      Christianity was going strong centuries before the Bible was compiled and published by the Catholic Church.

      It is a misconception that God prefers to transmit his message through the Bible.

      Christianity is a living faith and is transmitted through tradition and Christians themselves.

      The meaning of the Bible is, “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”

      That’s what Jesus taught anyway.

  5. The assumption that “proving” that the Bible contradicts itself “guts” Christianity may be worth a closer look. I’ve heard that the whole idea of an “infallible” Bible is a fairly new development in Christianity. Not sure if that’s true, but that’s what I’ve heard. It seems to me that it might be possible to remain a Christian without believing the Bible is infallible. At least that’s the route I’m trying to take, personally.

    • M,

      Both the Protestants and the Catholics teach that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

      Consequently, the atheist is bound to ruthlessly attack it because it encourages faith in God and his Word.

      • Sounds like you missed my point. Sure they teach that. It’s not relevant to the question of whether or not I personally have to give up Christianity because I see contradictions in the Bible. Also, it doesn’t address the question of whether or not Christianity has always thought the Bible is infallible. I’d like to know the truth about that. Wouldn’t you?

        You know, some people just want to win arguments more than anything else. I’m not one of those. This idea that you’re devoted to “ruthlessly attacking” something is a little frightening. I kind of think the world has enough violence and hatred already. If I were to become an atheist, would I have a duty to ruthlessly attack something? Not sure I want to go there anytime soon. Good luck.

      • M,

        Inerrant means infallible.

        And there are no contradictions in the Bible.

        The mistake is applying modern worldview to a unique worldview from antiquity.

        Most atheist contradictions concern quality control.

        That is, one verse in the Bible says that a temple construct measured 3 cubits and another verse says it measures 2.

        Other problems atheists have with the Bible concern family trees that are different from one verse or book to another.

        The major problem that atheists have with the Bible, however, is the problem of evil.

        Atheists, who are responsible for the greatest mass murders in human history, are generally completely blind to the darker part of human nature.

        They think that evil, when subjected to an atheist teach-in, will become good.

        They don’t understand the lesson of history, that evil must be exterminated from the face of the Earth.

      • “Evil must be exterminated.” Wow.

        I read some atheist today who was saying that he gets death threats from Christians. I thought he was lying. Now I think maybe he was telling the truth.

        Here’s the text that makes me want to call myself a Christian, even though I’m not a fundamentalist anymore: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Remember who said that?

      • M.

        Your average atheist is not evil, but misguided.

        Examples of evil are the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

        Jihadists are also evil.

        The reason they must be exterminated is because they are genocidal and not open to peaceful coexistence.

      • So in your view of Christianity, let me get this straight, you honestly believe that God wants you to kill the Jihadists? Am I understanding you right?

      • M,

        What I mean is that diplomacy never works with genocidal maniacs and that the use of lethal force in self defense is ethical.

      • albinogoth says:

        Neither Nazi Germany nor Imperial Japan were atheistic. Unless you are expanding the definition of atheist to mean anyone who doesn’t agree with you, in which case just call them heathens.

      • Goth,

        Atheism is not necessarily a prerequisite for genocide.

        Nevertheless, worldwide, all Communists are atheists.

        And as I’ve already stated, atheists are responsible for the greatest mass murders in history.

      • albinogoth says:

        You said nazi Germany and imperial Japan were atheistic. Instead of correcting yourself you change topic. Interesting. Dishonest fish like yourself always try to wriggle out of culpability.

      • Goth,

        I am not aware of making the claim that the Nazi’s and Imperial Japanese were atheists.

        Are you able to show me arguing with myself and losing?

      • albinogoth says:

        Ah, I see I misread what you wrote. What you wrote was actually worse. Some atheists can be mislead but nazis, judaists, etc are just evil and must be exterminated.

        Oddly enough, that sentiment was exactly what made the nazis evil.

        It’s also what makes your fable of a god evil when he commands whole cities wiped out. I’m glad our country isn’t based on Christianity and trigger happy, self righteous exterminators like yourself.

        Now we just need to keep you out of power.

        Evil ideas need to be fought. That’s not the same as exterminating the people are tricked by them.

      • Goth,

        The entire death toll of World War II was 64,000,000.

        The death toll of the atheist Communists in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China was 100,000,000.

        So you can see that the Nazis and Imperial Japanese pale in comparison to the atheists.

        And the stark evil of the atheist Communists becomes even more stark when considering the fact that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were fighting for what most wars are fought for:

        Wealth and Empire.

        The atheist regimes slaughtered their own people simply to impose their will upon their less powerful compatriots.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        SOM’s argument is correlation = causation.

      • Zehn,

        My argument is based on the facts.

        Stalin and Mao being the all-powerful tyrants of their domains used mass murder as a tool of statecraft.

        To do that they established their own morals.

        Only atheists, or people like them, establish their own morals.

        The Nazis knew they were committing evil because they intentionally covered up their crimes.

        The Imperial Japanese were primitive, sadistic, psychopathic bullies who rampaged and pillaged throughout Asia guided by their maniacal Bushido Code which is 100% chauvinistic like iSLAM.

        That is, truth, justice and equality are only awarded to people just like them. The rest get annihilated or enslaved.

        But left alone, without the influence of religion, the atheist regime always turns on its own while also striving for wealth and empire.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        Yeah, like I said. Correlation = causation. I got it. I don’t need a tl;dr diatribe with non sequiturs and straw men. My patience can only handle one fallacy at a time.

      • Zehn,

        Vladimir Lenin said, “Atheism is necessary for the atheist program.”

        Atheism is absolutely necessary for a regime which uses genocide as a tool of statecraft.

        Your statement that correlation =/ causation is just butt ignorance.

      • Zehn,

        “Atheism necessary for the COMMUNIST program.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        Like I said, I got it. You’re a fan of correlation = causation. I’m not arguing with you. I don’t see why you’d think I’m telling you you’re wrong. I’m merely acknowledging that you made an argument.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        For all those interested in my most previous comment to SOM, I wasn’t accepting that view. I was merely summing up SOM’s argument within a ladder of abstraction.

      • Zehn,

        The only reason you can only acknowledge that I made an argument is because you have no argument yourself.

        Atheists never have arguments, so that is not surprising.

        But responding to the facts of history with a lame doodle disguised as a math equation just demonstrates the emptiness of the atheist position all the more.

      • albinogoth says:

        Conflation of a regime that happens to be atheist says nothing of atheism. This is a simple fact – you know they worshipped the state, yet you try to make it a problem for atheism.

        What a fool! A dangerous fool who wishes to exterminate people.

        When will you change your mind about atheists in general and support our extermination?

        You are an evil man, worshipping an evil god. Yet I would never support your extermination. You’re just misguided.

      • Goth,

        I’m not conflating anything and the Communist mass murdering regimes are atheist by design as proven by my quote of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the first atheist, Communist regime.

        All Communist regimes brutally oppress religion and use mass murder as a tool of statecraft.

        Almost all atheists believe in Marxism and have a thought process that is so uniform as to appear like a mass produced.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      Hey M. Talmage Moorehead,

      I hate wordpress for making it difficult to tell who’s replying to whom. Are you quoting my use of the word “proving”? I ask because you also quoted my use of the word “guts.” Unless in jest I tend to refrain from using that word. It has precise mathematical/mechanical meanings, and we can never prove anything in science outside of those contexts. So I’m assuming you’re replying to SOM???

      In any case it’s not super important. I have no criticism or commentary to retort with. It’s just my brain just paused for a moment to try to understand.

      • You know, I’m not sure who’s who in this thread now. I probably shouldn’t have commented in the first place. I’m going to get the atheists and the fundamentalist Christians mad at me.

        Sorry if anything I said was stupid or upsetting.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        Oh don’t worry. I’m a huge supporter of free speech. You are welcome to say anything you want. I was just curious because I couldn’t tell who you were talking to. WordPress should use the Youtube reply format, which tells everyone who you’re replying to.

  6. charles says:

    M. Talmage Moorehead: You said nothing stupid or upsetting. You actually posted intelligent, reasonable comments. What you brought up is an idea I that I had not thought about when I was a believer. I was entrenched in the doctrine of inerrancy, and always assumed that was what was always believed. I haven’t researched this much, but I have read lately that there were a variety of opinions about the nature of Scripture among the early Christians. I don’t recall where I read that, though.

  7. charles says:

    The qualifier “in the originals” is, I think, fairly common in statements of faith regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. That does not mean that all of the translated Bible is equally errant, though. Many (most?) passages do not vary among the manuscripts in existence. Where there are passages that do vary, modern translations go back to the earliest manuscripts and use reasoning based on translation principles (there are various schools of thought), and knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. So its not as bad as many make it out to be… It is certainly not like a long game of telephone where each translation is more corrupt than the last.

    But the fact that we do not have the originals is a great point. We do have some idea of what was before the earliest manuscripts based on quotations of Scripture by earlier Christian writers. But we cannot be sure what was in the originals.

    As a Christian, I believed, as a matter of faith, that the doctrine contained in the Bible was true and internally consistent, and that the errors were not significant. I no longer believe that, based on reason. I think critics of Christianity make a mistake if painting the reliability of the text out to be far worse than it is. I think that there is good reason to believe that the text of the Bible we have now is pretty close to the originals (I plan on doing more reading about this to find out if that is a reasonable view to hold). For me, the issue is not textual reliability, but the contents of the text. Once I took off my god-goggles, it did not look as wonderful as it did before.

    Looking at contradictions is a big part of that. I could rationalize away contradictions in numbers and chronology of events by saying that ancient writers were not concerned with those things. But contradictions in doctrine are harder to get around. Election or free will? The sorts of things God commands in the OT vs. the sorts of things God commands in the NT. The promises about prayer vs. my experience of the irrelevance of prayer. Those are the sorts of contradictions / inconsistencies that bother me.

    • Charles,

      Prayer is what human beings do.

      Homo Orate, man who prays, prays 24/7, 365.25.

      But because man of all creatures, is born and lives completely unaware of is nature (unless taught by religion), “we know not ought how we should pray.”

      Jesus, Son of God, gave us the Lord’s Prayer, which is a complete, perfect prayer.

      But in order to benefit from prayer, the man must pursue excellence in prayer (virtue).

      So just as we learn music, we cannot become better without practice and experience of music on our instrument of choice.

      Your confession that you found prayer to be irrelevant is the same as a child banging on a piano and then giving up because all the banging just produced noise.

      You need to be taught how to pray by someone who knows how and then you need to practice, practice, practice for the rest of your life.

      I was trained to pray by various Catholic priests who pray for a living.

  8. Pingback: Lost in Translations | Amusing Nonsense

  9. The bible is a fallible human’s interpretation of God/history/etc. Christians who claim it to be infallible seem to crave something in religion that doesn’t exist in mainstream Christianity: authority. Seems to me, they lack something or someone authoritative like the Catholic Pope or the Mormon Prophet who claims to be God’s spokesman. Since mainstream Christianity lacks an authoritative claim, they nonsensically claim “the word of God” to be their powerful lightning rod.

    I love how this article explains if you claim this to be holy but know there are contradictions, then your holiness is incomplete. However, I prefer to embrace the contradictions because I believe God deals with humans, and we are all pretty messed up.

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