Forty one years ago I left a theological seminary after completing three years of study. It was a non-denominational institution which for its day was somewhat fundamentalist in nature. Nothing like what we know today as fundamentalism, however. This term and what it represents has been highjacked by what used to be considered the lunatic fringe of Protestantism.
Over the intervening forty plus years I have continued to study theology and many of its complimentary areas of study, such as history, philosophy, and more. Instead of reading only prescribed works, such as the Bible, Biblical commentaries, and other apologist literature, I have expanded my study materials into more pragmatic and rationalist areas. Due to the inclusionary, rather than exclusionary, sources of study, I have greatly changed my thoughts and beliefs. Some who knew me back when might say I have fallen for delusions, lies, and misinterpretations. I would rather characterize my change of mind to objectivity and critical thinking, as exemplified by the more open minded inclusion of a wider range of thoughts and documentary evidence.
But against the charges of using spurious or specious materials to arrive at different conclusions, I will defend myself by saying that the one book that probably has moved me from dutiful supplicant to dedicated skeptic is the Bible itself.
Part of the fundamentalist mantra, and one that I heard all those years ago as well, is the repetitious drum beat of Biblical infallibility. The Bible cannot be wrong on anything since it was inspired by the god whose tales it tells. His inspiration even extended to every writer, editor, and translator of the sacred scriptures, so that no error could find its way into the book. Even the choosing of the books to include in the Bible was an act overseen by this god.
Now the one big problem with making claims like these, besides the tautological nature of such arguments in the first place, is that if even one error, one contradiction, one untenable absurdity is found anywhere within these scriptures, then the entirety of the claims of infallibility must fall under suspicion. I will just say that such errors do exist, in fact they are rather numerous within the scriptures, and from time to time I’m going to point out a few of the more egregious ones to anybody who cares to log in to see what I have to say on these points.
I have often been reminded in the last forty plus years of an old gentleman who used to work for my Dad. His name was Bill McGiffen, and when I knew him best he was probably nearly eighty years old. I was a teenager then so the age gap was huge. I worked side by side with Bill on several occasions in those days and I have to admit that he could outwork me, whether it was cutting weeds out of a fence row, putting in fence posts, shoveling out animal stalls, or anything else we did together.
Bill always wore tattered, torn, and hand patched bib overalls. In one pocket of those overalls he always carried a small Bible, and whenever we broke for lunch or to cool off in the shade of a tree, he’d pull that book out and read to himself from it.
One day I said to him, “You must be a very religious person as much as you read your Bible. Where do you go to church?”
He looked at me and said, “I don’t go to church. I’ve read this book all the way through dozens of times in my life, and the more I read it, the more I don’t believe a damn word in it.”
I was shocked. I had never heard one person in my life who claimed to not believe the Bible, and here was a man who read it incessantly, and he, of all people, didn’t believe any of it. I let that moment pass, but nearly fifty years later, I still remember that incident. In fact, it may have been the genesis of my own eventual study for the truth that has led to my own disbelief in this book that is otherwise nearly universally admired and whose teachings are adhered to by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Having set the stage, I will start by pointing out some contradictions from the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis. Now these examples are not all inclusive, but merely representative. To note every example of Biblical contradiction and to expound on each of them would take volumes, and others have already completed such studies and published many books on the topic.
Genesis tells us two contradictory stories of creation, but most believers in the Bible are unaware of this fact. In Genesis 1:20 & 21, “every living creature” is brought forth from the waters, including every winged fowl.” (A claim that today’s evolutionary life sciences would agree with, making me wonder if the writer of this passage was the first evolutionist.) But in 2:19 God brings forth “every beast of the field and every fowl of the air” from dry ground. Both passages cannot be correct, for they are contradictory, and exclusionary.
In Genesis 1:2, earth comes into existence on the first day, completely underwater. Only by the 3rd day were waters of the deep collected, and dry land formed. But in Genesis 2:4, 5, & 6, earth on the first day was dry land, unwatered.
The first story has trees made on the 3rd day and man formed 3 days later (1:12-13 and 26-31). In the second version man was made before trees (2:7, 9). If chapter 1 is true, then fowls were created before man. If chapter 2 is true, then they were created after man.
Version one teaches man was created after all beasts. The second is clear, Adam was created before beasts. (1:25,27 versus 2:7,19).
In version one, man and woman are created simultaneously (1:27) while in version two (2:7,20-22), man and woman are separate acts of creation.
Two contrary Genesis versions suggests at least two writers, both ignorant or unmindful of each other, and ignorant of the facts of nature and astronomy, not to mention the age of the earth.
Let any secular writer pen a book with so many contradictions, on science, geology, morals or anything, and the world would heap scorn upon the work and its author. Yet these words are infallible and divinely inspired, so they cannot be contradictory nor erroneous. If they were, then God either inspired these errors in order to confuse and confound mankind, or these words were not inspired by divine intervention and are not infallible. Either choice is untenable given the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient god.
Having digressed, let me continue with the task at hand. In Genesis 9:3: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat” for Noah. But Deuteronomy (14:7-21 gives a list of animals, birds and fish that must not be eaten.
In Exodus 33:20, says God, “Thou canst not see my face; for there shall be no man see me and live.” God must have been mistaken, or changed: For in Genesis 32:30 Jacob sees God “face to face” and lives. The same for Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 elders, who saw God, and ate and drank with him (Exodus 24:9-11). But not so, says First John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time.”
Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Gen.16:15 & 21:3) but Isaac was Abraham’s “only” son? (Gen. 22:2,12 & Heb. 11:17).
As “history,” the Bible is unique. In First Kings 16:6,8 the king of Israel, Baasha, dies, and is replaced by his son Elah during the 26th year of Asa’s (King of Judah) reign. But in Second Chronicles l6:1 we read that Baasha, king of Israel, goes against Judah during Asa’s 36th year.
A King dies, is buried, his son becomes King, but after a decade, the dead king leads a military adventure!
In truthful historical chronicles, dead kings stay dead, but in the Bible when a king dies, he’s merely planning to pick a fight!
This may be a good place to end. This post has gone way too long and there is so much more to cover on this topic. As I have time and the inclination to do so, I’ll post further examples if anyone is interested. I suppose I’ll do so even if no one is interested.