1/01/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Ben Love ~
“One would go mad if one took the Bible seriously; but to take it seriously one must be already mad.”
I hear it so often in my dialogues with Christians that one almost has to wonder if it is a mantra of sorts. It’s a statement that is made repeatedly, with an air of absolute authority, as though the very words themselves, spoken in precisely this sequence, are a type of magical incantation that thoroughly refutes and defeats the doubting freethinkers who have the audacity to question that most sacred of texts: the Bible.
The statement is this:
“The Bible is the most reliable of ancient texts ever written.”
Boom, the statement has been made, and you, the freethinker, are apparently supposed to tuck your tail between your legs and retreat into a mental funk of defeat and shame. After all, you’ve just been served, boy. The believing Christian has just played what he thinks is his trump card... and what’s left for you to do but throw your hands up and surrender, right?
The Christians cling to this statement because without this belief in the Bible’s reliability, all the legs they have to stand on crumble with a tremendous crash. That said, I intend to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the Bible is not only thoroughly unreliable, it is unmistakably human, and thus, flawed (like everything else in the human realm).
One of the mainstays of Christian doctrine is that the Bible is the perfect, inspired word of God and is therefore infallible and inerrant. What this must imply, then, is that there cannot be a single factual error, internal contradiction or discrepancy, historical or scientific inaccuracy, or any kind of imaginable flaw in the Bible. Why not? Because if Christians are correct in asserting that God (Yahweh, the alleged flawless creator of the entire Universe) wrote the Bible through the humans that penned it, then he could not have been mistaken about scientific things. He could not, for instance, have thought the Earth was flat, because he had to have known he created it to be a sphere. Nor could he have “forgotten” things, since, as God, he must surely have a perfect memory, right? Nor could he have gotten his facts wrong, since if God can make blunders, well, you know the answer to that...
So the question is this: are there errors in the Bible? Are there contradictions? Are there discrepancies?
Yes. There are (as we will see in this article).
Christians will either deny this (the old burying your head in the sand approach) or they will bring out another patented answer: “Well, the flaws demonstrate the human side of the process. God inspired the message, but humans expressed it.”
Okay, well this creates more questions, the chief of which is this: “Where does the human element end and where does the God element begin?” If the Bible is a co-opt between God and the authors who penned it, what parts can we attribute to God and what parts can we attribute to humans? Who draws that line? I’m sure you can guess where the Christians draw it. They say that all factual errors (which are not supposed to exist in the first place) point to the human part. How convenient. But then one must wonder this: just what, exactly, do the terms infallible and inerrant mean? Christians have an answer for this too: “The Bible,” they say, “is inerrant when it comes to matters of faith and practice.” One must observe that such a statement is a concession of sorts. The statement implies what is unspoken: “Yes, we know the Bible is not fully inerrant, so we have to decide that only certain parts are.” And what parts do you think they choose? Exactly. The ones they want. Paul must have been meaning something “cultural,” they say, when he said women should basically shut their mouths in church, but they maintain he definitely meant what he said about homosexuality and divorce and any other topic that raises their red flags. Again, how convenient. And then they will go around saying, “Oh, you cannot pick and choose in the Bible, you must take all of it or none of it.”
One would have to assume that the Christian is hopelessly confused about the book that he claims is the answer for his entire life. On the one hand, he is bound by his own faith to believe and proclaim that the Bible is his inerrant, God-inspired authority, but on the other hand, he has to concede that this applies only to matters of “faith and practice” (and what are those, I wonder?), and then with his mutant third hand he has to admonish others not to pick and choose (even though he himself knows this is exactly what he does). What a dreadful state of affairs to find oneself in!
Here is a worthy question: if God was setting about to pen his divine letter to the human race, knowing that people would be scrutinizing it for thousands of years to come, knowing that this is his moment to impart his ultimate message to humanity, then wouldn’t he, as a timeless God, make statements that were timeless, statements that humans of all centuries and eras can use and apply to their lives? If so (and I think this is a fair expectation of a timeless God who is supposedly communicating once and for all to his creations), then why does the Bible reflect the language, customs, mores, socialities (yes, I made that word up---but it works), and scientific wherewithal of the times in which it was written? Shouldn’t the Bible be culturally neutral, since all cultures over all generations are supposed to benefit from it? Shouldn’t the Bible be historically sound (since if we cannot trust God to know human history we cannot trust him for anything)? Shouldn’t the Bible point toward scientific truths and not away from them?
To me, these are fair and important questions. But if you’re part of the throng that populates the Christian realm, you’re not really allowed to ask them. And even if you are allowed to ask them, you certainly have to contrive answers that conform to what you’re already supposed to believe about this book. All kinds of mental somersaults have to be done to reconcile personal experience to the pages of scripture (and by doing so, even the Christian unknowingly admits to himself that he does not truly believe this book is the word of God) so that the believer’s faith is preserved, unbroken by the stark and obvious truths that are being so cleverly covered up by these psychological gymnastics. It’s not a pretty thing to say about someone, and I don’t say it lightly, but the plain truth of the matter is that the Bible contradicts itself so apparently and so finally that the only way to not see this is to blind oneself through the expectations and pressures of faith.
Each and every damning piece of evidence I’m about to share is thoroughly known to the Christian. Don’t ever think they are not aware of this information. They are. But when this information is presented, the old standard defenses are brought out:
“Oh, that’s just a metaphor.” In other words, “The text here doesn’t really mean what it says, it means what we mean.” It is interesting to see this play out in dialogues with Christians because, strangely enough, what they usually believe this “metaphor” refers to is something that lines up perfectly with what they already want it to mean.
“You have to take that in context.” To which I reply, “Oh really? What exactly is the context? Were you there 2,000 years ago when this was being written? Do you know Paul personally? Do you know all the nuances and behind the scenes motives that went into whatever he or the other writers were penning at the time? Who gets to decide the context?” They do, of course...the Christians. It’s amazing that “context” is never an issue until you stumble across something that blatantly doesn’t jive with the rest.
“That was just a copy-writing error, like a typo.” Oh really? Hmm…interesting. So, what you’re really saying here is that God saw fit to guide the writing process with absolute perfection but he did not see fit guard the translating process with absolute perfection (we must also assume that a perfect God is capable of typos). Seems logical to assume that if God was going to inspire the authors, he’d probably inspire the translating scribes, too; otherwise his perfect word loses perfection as the centuries wear on.
And my personal favorite:
“I cannot make sense out of this error, but God knows what he’s doing; I’ll just trust him and use that as my defense.” Whatever else this statement might be, one thing it is not is a sufficient answer. This is just retreating to the old standby: “God moves in mysterious ways,” which is really just a Band-Aid answer to a question that either does not have a real answer or does have an answer but it is an answer we don’t like. I mean, really, if God decided to impart a message to humanity through this book, but when humans read certain parts of it they cannot understand it and then have to shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, God knows what this means even if I do not,” then what was the point of God saying it to us in the first place? What good is a communicated message if that message cannot be properly understood?
There are other defenses I encounter as well, but these four are really the bread and butter of their rebuttals. Perhaps you, like me, do not find any of these adequate responses to what is otherwise very damning evidence. And speaking of that damning evidence, let’s finally get to it.
We will discuss three areas of unreliability:
A. Factual or Historical Error
B. Internal Discrepancy or Contradiction
C. The Fingerprint of Human Imperfection
If you are unfamiliar with these terms, you will soon become very acquainted with them.
Now then, let us take them one at a time.
A. Factual or Historical Error
This aspect of biblical unreliability should be fairly straightforward. What we are observing here are particulars within the pages of the Bible that are presented as fact when we know empirically, historically, or scientifically that such cannot be the case.
For instance, the Bible makes mention of the enslaved Hebrews making a grand exodus from Egypt (see the book of Exodus), and yet no record of anything even resembling this is to be found in any of the documented engravings the Egyptians chronicled for posterity. Now just think about this for a moment. If the biblical story is true, then we must allow that certain events most definitely took place. Among these events are the following astonishing claims: 1) Egypt lost its entire workforce overnight; 2) a horde of Hebrews plundered Egypt as they left; 3) the Red Sea was parted for the Hebrews to cross safely, and 4) the whole of the Egyptian army was lost when the sea closed again. Here we have four purported and rather fantastical events which are not borne out in the historical or archaeological record whatsoever. Outside of the story’s presentation in the Bible, there is not a single mention of this event in any known Egyptian engraving, nor is there a single confirmation of this event (the loss of a workforce, the plundering of a civilization’s coffers, the devastation of an entire army in a tidal wave) in any archaeological source currently known. Something of this magnitude would have shown up by now. The fact that it has not is strong indication that this story is spurious. And yet it presented in the Bible as a fact.
Similarly, the Bible asserts that there was a flood in our primordial past, a flood that wiped out every living thing on Earth (do not forget, also, that the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian story that predates the Bible, tells that same flood story—does this mean we must consider the Epic of Gilgamesh the word of God as well?). The flood was, according to the book of Genesis, high enough to cover the tallest mountains on Earth. In other words, the flood was truly global. If someone could have observed the Earth from space at this time, all he or she would have seen was a completely blue planet—a planet with no land, only water. Think about that for a moment. Think of the amount of water necessary to accomplish this, and now ask yourself: where did all of this water go? Moreover, if such an event had occurred, would geologists be able to find physical evidence of it? One would think so. There should theoretically be a measureable stratum of silt in the sedimentary layers of rock, occurring at precisely the right level all over the planet. Is there? No, there is not. Thus, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to substantiate the Bible’s claims of a worldwide flood, and yet this event, like the exodus, is presented as an historical fact.
The Bible is actually quite unsound historically (try telling that to a Christian, though, and he will cover his ears and start humming). Now, this is not to assert that there is no archaeological confirmation for anything in the Bible. There is. Plenty, in fact, For instance, we know the Bible is telling truth about Conquest of Canaan, the reigns of Kings David and Solomon (among others), the Babylonian exile, and the historical existence of figures like John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, Pontius Pilate, and others. We can even surmise a loose idea of an historical Jesus of Nazareth. However, there are certain elements within the Bible that are blatantly absent from the historical record—and these elements are among the more crucial aspects of biblical teaching. For example, we have no contemporary documentation of Jesus’s life, ministry, miracles, or resurrection. The first mention of these fantastical events does not show up until the writings of Paul, at least two decades after they took place (and the four Gospels were written even later than that). In other words, no one who was there witnessing these alleged events wrote a single word about it at the time. Likewise, Jesus himself, as far as we know through the historical record, never penned a single word about his message, his claims, his origins, his objective, or his reasons for it.
Similarly, nothing shows up in the historical record whatsoever about King Herod’s supposed slaughter of the innocents (see Matthew 2). This is interesting because the historian Josephus, who wrote in great painstaking detail about the actions of Herod, makes no mention of this otherwise ghastly and very reportable event. Likewise, the Roman census, which was necessary to get the baby Jesus into Bethlehem for his birth, thus fulfilling a prophecy (see Luke 2), is curiously absent from the documents of the Romans, who otherwise kept extremely detailed records. (Moreover, one would wonder why a census would involve travelling to where you were born. Wouldn’t a census be about knowing who lived where at the present time? Ah, but see, the writers had to get a boy from Nazareth into Bethlehem to fulfill a prophecy. What clever yet blatantly obvious contriving!)
There are scientific issues as well. Granted, the writers of the Bible lived in a much more primitive time than we do, but they also supposedly had access to the mind of God, making them, in a sense, privy to much more than even we ought to be. And yet there are glaring scientific errors in the Bible. The Bible claims, for instance, that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds (Mark 4:31), when we know it is not. In fact, the one making this statement in Mark is Jesus himself, the ostensible Son of God (and therefore God--the creator—himself). Yet he apparently doesn’t know he created a seed smaller than the mustard seed. Now, is this a small, minor detail? Yes it is, almost not even worth mentioning. And yet…and yet…we must ask ourselves what does inerrant mean? What makes something truly infallible? Does inerrant apply only to the big stuff but not the small stuff? If so, wouldn’t the more accurate description of the Bible therefore be partially inerrant? Well, guess what, if something isn’t fully inerrant that means it is, well, errant. There is no in between; something is either inerrant or it is not. And if one part can be errant, so can another part. In fact, the whole argument for perfection collapses at this point.
Furthermore, Bible asserts that the stars are tiny objects in the sky that will fall to Earth when Jesus returns (Mark 13:25), but we know that the stars are giant balls of energy spinning around billions of miles away. There is no chance of them “falling to Earth.” Also, the Bible calls the Moon a source of light (Isaiah 13:10), when the Moon is only reflecting the light of the Sun, the true source of light (one would think God should know that). The Bible refers to insects as having four legs (Leviticus 11:21-22), but, well, we all know they have six. Moreover, the Bible seems to portray the Earth as flat (Job 11:9 and 38:13), as stationary (Psalm 93:1), and having been made at the same time as space, or the “heavens” (Genesis 1:1). We know scientifically that none of these are true. How confused is God about the things he himself has created? Yes, these are small specifics, but have you ever heard the expression, “the devil is in the detail?” Well, there is a reason that expression exists.
There are many more errors we could discuss, but the bottom line is that one error is, itself, enough. Yes, even one error, tiny, miniscule, and barely perceptible, is still enough to invalidate the doctrine of inerrancy. What cannot be denied is that the Bible contains factual errors, of an historical and/or scientific nature. And yet Christians will claim the creator of everything is the one who inspired this work. Either he himself is imperfect (thus negating his status as “God”) or the Bible is not the work of this God. In light of the preceding evidence, you cannot have both.
B. Internal Discrepancy or Contradiction
This has to do with the many instances where one aspect of the Bible blatantly contradicts another aspect. For example, if I publish an historical account of the Black Death and within the pages of my account I assert in one place that the plague reached England in the summer of 1348 but assert in another place that it reached England in the winter of 1349, we have an internal discrepancy on our hands. Why is it internal? Because the same source contains within its pages two conflicting assertions. Which is correct? The reader would, in actuality, be justified in assuming both dates are wrong since I have clearly shown myself to be unreliable. And if I’m wrong in this instance, the entire credibility of the work crumbles, because where a writer is wrong once he is apt to be wrong again…and again…
Now, before we delve into these discrepancies and contradictions, we must first touch on how the Christian responds to them. He states that minor discrepancies in any story add weight to its authenticity. He is, to some degree, correct. After all, if twenty people purportedly saw a robbery take place, and all twenty people told the exact same story with all the exact same details, it would look too suspicious, as though the witnesses were all coached to say the same things. This subtracts from the story’s authenticity. If, however, the accounts of each witness differ slightly, this would add to the authenticity, because different people remember different things, and different people at any scene focus on different things. So, yes, on the whole, the Christian is correct in asserting that minor discrepancies add weight. However, it must be noted that most of the discrepancies and contradictions found within the pages of the Bible are anything but minor. Many of them are hopelessly irreconcilable, and many more pose severe doctrinal paradoxes. The nature of these contradictions casts serious doubt on the claim of a perfect God’s involvement in the writing of these scriptures. Moreover, it stands to reason that if something is demonstrated to be internally contradictory, it cannot be considered inerrant or reliable.
Below is a list of only six biblical contradictions (there are many, many more; an unabridged, exhaustive list can be found here).
1. An all-powerful God is thwarted by man-made chariots. “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). This passage, along with others (such as Matthew 19:26), is one that Christian theists use to build the case for God’s omnipotence. Nothing is impossible for him, they assert; and theoretically, they should be correct. After all, if God is the creator of the Universe, then any material, tangible thing existing within that Universe is subject to his power. Apparently, however, this does not extend to man-made chariots wrought from iron, as seen in this passage: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron,” (Judges 1:19). This definitely constitutes an internal discrepancy. On the one hand, we have God portrayed as all-powerful being, the supreme ruler and creator of all that is, and on the other hand we see God thwarted by simple cast-iron plates on the sides of man-made chariots—and both passages come from the same book that Christians contend is 1) absolutely perfect, and 2) inspired by God. Now, you might say, “Well, it was the humans that were unable to triumph against the chariots.” This would be a satisfactory response if the passage did not begin by making the point that God was with the warriors. If God was with them and they still could not prevail against iron chariots, then having God with you obviously only goes so far and therefore doesn’t mean much.
2. God requests his people to break his own commandment. “You shall not murder,”(Exodus 20:13). This is one of the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses and thus to the Hebrews. It turns out, however, that God didn’t actually mean what he said here, or if he did, he had provisions in mind for how this commandment could be ignored, because, a few books later, we have this golden nugget: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys,’” (1 Samuel 15:2-3). So, what are we to make of this? Apparently, the entity known as “Yahweh,” or the God of the Old Testament, doesn’t want his people to kill other humans unless he himself specifically says it is okay. The implication here is that as long as it serves God’s divine plan his own commandments can be ignored. Does this not make Yahweh a murderer, the instigator of genocide? He even instructs the Hebrews to kill the Amalekite babies. This poses an interesting question: is sin not sin if it is God himself requesting it? If God asked you to sleep with your neighbor’s wife, would that suddenly not be adultery? At any rate, here we have an example of God specifically telling people not to commit murder, and then, later on, he specifically tells them to do just that. If this is not an irresolvable contradiction, nothing is.
3. First, God cannot change his mind; then, he can. “I the Lord do not change,”(Malachi 3:6). That’s pretty straightforward. Consider this passage also: “I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent,” (Ezekiel 24:14). It would seem that God, once he has decided on a course of action, does not waver or waffle. And yet, contrast those passages with this one: “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them,’” (Genesis 6:6-7—also see Jonah 3:10). Here again we have another internal contradiction. One passage says God cannot change (and this would therefore have to include his mind), and then in another passage we see that he can change his mind (i.e., creating humans and then wishing he hadn’t). Once again, we have one allegedly inerrant book containing two conflicting teachings that cannot be reconciled, and yet the proponents of inerrancy want to conveniently have it both ways.
4. God is the God of both peace and war. “Now the God of peace be with you all,”(Romans 15:33). This is only once instance in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, where God is described as being peaceable. Similarly, Jesus, who was ostensibly God in the flesh, makes this explicit statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” And yet we see a different image portrayed here: “The Lord is a man of war,” (Exodus 15:3). Likewise, Jesus makes statement in Matthew 10:34 which seems contrary to what he said in John: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Which is it? Has Jesus come to bring peace (John 14:27) or a sword (Matthew 10:34)? Also, Simon Peter makes this statement in the book of Acts: “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,” (Acts 10:36). Again, which is it? Has Jesus come to bring harmony or dissent? Is God a God of war or peace? It seems the Bible cannot make up its mind.
5. God is practiced at the art of deception. “The Lord detests lying lips,” (Proverbs 12:22). This seems clear enough. Also, let us not forget that one of the Ten Commandments is to not give false witness (or lie). So, it would seem quite obvious from these and other passages of the Bible the lying constitutes a sin. And yet God himself is not above lying, as we see in this passage: “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,” (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Now, if lying were a sin, one would think God could not lie. If he can lie, he is capable of sin. If he is capable of sin, he is not God anyway. What other conclusion can be drawn from this verse in 2 Thessalonians? God is clearly taking part in a deception here, and no matter which way you slice it, that is the same as lying. So, here again, we have another blatant contradiction that cannot be reconciled. Here again we see the Bible purporting one thing in one place and obviously controverting it in other place. This is the very definition of an internal contradiction.
Here is a worthy question: if God was setting about to pen his divine letter to the human race, knowing that people would be scrutinizing it for thousands of years to come, knowing that this is his moment to impart his ultimate message to humanity, then wouldn’t he, as a timeless God, make statements that were timeless, statements that humans of all centuries and eras can use and apply to their lives?6. The elusive hour of Jesus’s crucifixion. This is one of those instances where Christians will use the “discrepancies add weight to authenticity” argument. However, certain aspects of the Jesus story, one would think, should be memorable. For instance, the writers of the Gospels cannot even agree on which day Jesus was crucified. Is this important? It is. This is far from a minor detail. When it comes to Christian doctrine, the crucifixion is second only to the resurrection in terms of importance, and yet the Bible cannot make up its mind about when it actually occurred. If it didn’t claim any particular day, we wouldn’t have a problem. But as it is, we have three separate days being submitted as the correct day. Our inerrant Bible, inspired by a perfect God, is presumably not privy to hard facts. Similarly, we cannot pinpoint the hour of Jesus’s crucifixion. Again, if the writers had said nothing, no discrepancy would exist and the integrity of the Bible wouldn’t be in question. But Mark says it was at the “third hour,” (Mark 15:25), while John has it at the “sixth hour,” (John 19:14-15). A minor detail? I think not. Certain things are just memorable. People who were present for the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001 will have that experience burned into their memory. They may not be able to give you a precise time, but then can certainly tell you whether it was morning, night, etc. And anyone who was alive to hear about the murder of Kennedy knows it occurred on a Friday. We who were alive to watch the events of September 11 will always remember it happened on a Tuesday. The nature of these events burns the particulars into our memory. And yet the Bible would have us believe that the writers of the Gospels, who apparently either knew Jesus or were close to those who did, cannot even tell us on what day he was crucified or at what hour it happened.
Again, there are many, many more contradictions we could observe, but even one of these is enough to seriously undermine if not demolish the doctrine of inerrancy. In any case, it seems impossible at this point to describe the Bible as reliable.
C. The Fingerprint of Human Imperfection
Christian doctrine asserts that the writing of the Bible was a co-opt between God and humanity. I will again ask this question: where does the God element end and where does the human element begin? The Christian draws this line exactly where he wants to draw it: any possible imperfection points to the human element. But this begs a few questions. How involved was God? Where was he involved? To what extent? This is murky water, because it is impossible to know for sure. This is why the Christian can conveniently draw that line where he needs to in order to keep his doctrine intact.
In any case, the fingerprint of human imperfection is very hard to miss in the pages of the Bible. For instance, one might wonder why the Ten Commandments (which are very close references to a much older set of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi—causing one to wonder if Hammurabi had his own mountaintop/bush-burning experience) show no signs of being timeless statements but rather reflect the mindset of the day they were written. The tenth commandment, for example, refers to wives as the property of their husbands. Well, how do you feel about that, ladies? Are you property? Wouldn’t a timeless God have made a timeless statement, rather than one that reflected the custom of that day? It is also interesting that the Ten Commandments do not mention much of what is relevant today. No remark is made, for instance, regarding incest, molestation, rape, homosexuality, abortion, or any of the issues about which humans presumably need God to be clear. So here is God’s big chance to set humans straight once and for all about how to live in a way that pleases him, and the best he can come up with is a partial plagiarism from Hammurabi that reflects only the era in which it was originally written and fails to pass for a timeless set of statements. How curious.
Another interesting indication of human imperfection within the pages of the Bible has to do with various aspects of the message of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. If Christian doctrine is correct, the man Jesus was the living embodiment of an eternal, all-knowing deity—the supreme rule and creator. This would mean that Jesus, as the most unique human being ever to walk this planet, would have had access to infinite knowledge of societal welfares that transcended the era in which he lived. In other words, Jesus would have been privy to that which is best for all humanity, anytime, anywhere—not just that which was good for the humans living in Palestine in the first century, or even that which was customary for the humans living anywhere in the world in the first century. Thus, just as in the case of the Ten Commandments, one would expect Jesus to make statements that were timeless. Did he do so? He did not. He made statements that were very much in keeping with the customs of his day (and in so doing, he himself casts doubtful light upon the issue of his own divinity.) For instance, rather than condemn slavery (which was very much a part of the societal customs of his day), Jesus essentially condones it by using it as a parable in Luke 12:47-48. Now, assuming that Jesus really was God, he surely must have known that slave-owners throughout the next 2,000 years would be pointing to this passage and using it as justification for their deeds, arguing from the text that even Jesus himself tolerates the brutal treatment of slaves and the very institution of slavery itself. So either Jesus is God and he does condone slavery (and had no personal qualms about making these statements in full knowledge of how they would be used in the future), or Jesus is not God, wasn’t timeless, and was merely limited to the ethics of his own era. The former would not be palatable to other areas of Christian ethics, rendering the latter as the only reasonable explanation. Thus, the Bible itself reveals its own imperfections and in so doing circumvents its own alleged divine origins.
Similarly, Jesus has a chance, when asked, to make timeless statements about marriage and, again, fails to do so. In both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, Jesus essentially affirms the male-dominated mindset of his day by ruling that the only way a woman can leave her husband is if he cheats on her (and even then, she is supposed to live the rest of her life alone—if she remarries, she has committed adultery). It doesn’t seem that Jesus considers physical and psychological abuse to be suitable grounds for divorce. In other words, ladies, if you are married to a monster that beats you and mentally harms you and/or your children, Jesus would have you remain in that situation. How many women throughout the centuries have willingly endured unspeakable torments simply because they didn’t believe their God allowed them to leave their husbands? Here again, Jesus, as one who allegedly had access to infinite knowledge, could have spared humanity so much grief by speaking timeless statements rather than time-specific statements—statements that reflected his time, in other words. After all, humanity has now evolved to the point of knowing that it is inhumane and even cruel to ask any human being to remain in a situation that causes constant harm and physical suffering, such as an abusive relationship. But Jesus, the Son of God—God in the flesh, apparently!—did not know this. Once again, the Bible fails to live up to its own claims.
There are more examples we could review, but the bottom line is that if the Bible is perfect, reliable, infallible, and inerrant, one should be able to look within its pages and find the truest answer for moral living. Instead, what one finds are allusions to the customs that reflect the era in which these documents were originally written. Therefore, if God “divinely inspired” this book, as Christian doctrine asserts, why do we see nothing but the fingerprint of human imperfection? Where is the fingerprint of divine perfection? It is, as it has always been, missing. Why? Because the “God” professed in the pages of this book does not exist and never has.
What is the honest inquisitor to make of all these errors, imperfections, and contradictions? Again, what exactly does inerrant mean? Take, for instance, the issue with where Jesus’ alleged ascension took place. The writers of the Gospels cannot make up their minds! Are we to assume that God, the true author behind the authors, forgot? Was God confused? Again, I will keep asking: where does the God element end and where does the human element begin? See, the problem with claiming that something is inerrant when it is clearly not (and anyone can see that it is not) is that you then have account for your claim. The Christian will look at the info I have just articulated and then reach down within himself and pull out any number of contrived, manipulated mental somersaults to answer them, so much so, that one has to wonder if even he himself gets tired of making excuses for believing in something that is clearly bunk.
So we must ask the question once and for all: is the Bible perfect or isn’t it? The evidence would seem to indicate that it is not perfect. If it is not perfect, it is not perfectly reliable. And if it is not perfectly reliable, just how reliable is it? Mostly reliable? Partially reliable? Reliable depending upon where you stand? Reliable depending on who is asking? None of these are valid because you cannot measure “reliable.” Either something is reliable, or it isn’t.
Therefore, what exactly is the evidence that the Bible is the most reliable of ancient documents ever written? I have demonstrated here that it is historically and scientifically unsound, that it contains factual errors, scientific errors, internal contradictions, propagandized biases, discrepancies, and time-specific statements when it should have timeless statements. So, if you’re a Christian who defends the Bible, my question to you is this: what exactly is your definition of reliable? Whatever it is, the Bible cannot qualify.