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Getting On : Faith

Biblical inerrancy or errancy

from jpmagero - Thursday, September 19, 2002
accessed 2227 times

I got this content from an interesting site with a lot of information on religions.

[excerpts from]

Proving biblical inerrancy or errancy appears to be impossible. Ultimately, these beliefs must be accepted on faith. However, if proofs are not available, at least we might be able to derive some indicators of inerrancy or errancy. The most promising route may be to study trends and topics seen throughout the Bible.
We examine ten themes. Eight seem to indicate (but not prove) that the Bible is errant. Two are inconclusive. None seem to support inerrancy at this time. The themes listed below are described very briefly, and in general terms.

Indicator 1: Cosmological evidence

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant. Its description of the world, the solar system and the rest of universe is accurate. The Bible would refer to the earth and planets as spheres, revolving around the sun, with a moon revolving around the earth, and stars at extreme distances from the earth and sun.

Possibility 2
The Bible is errant. Biblical authors would have picked up the cosmologies from surrounding Pagan cultures. The Babylonians and other Pagans believed that the earth was more or less flat with mountains around the edges that held up the rigid dome of the sky. The sky was relatively close to the earth - close enough so that the Tower of Babel was a threat to God's isolation. There were vents in the sky that could be opened. Through them water could be poured to produce rain. At the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, fire and brimstone (molten sulfur) were said to have been poured. There were also drains in the earth that allowed water to flow under the earth into a large cavern, called Sheol, where the dead lived in a sort of shadow existence. The sun, moon, planets and stars all were pushed by angels along the underside of the dome once a day.

What the Bible Actually Says
The books of the Bible reflect the second scenario. None of the factors in the first possibility are seen in the Bible.

One can argue from archeological evidence that the Bible authors picked up primitive, pre-scientific Pagan ideas about the nature of the universe from surrounding cultures. This indicates (but does not prove) that the Bible is errant. It is always possible to explain the cosmology of the Bible writers as being purely symbolic in nature.

Indicator 2: Archeological evidence

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant. The Hebrew scriptures accurately describe the cultures surrounding the ancient Israelite tribes.

Possibility 2
The Bible is errant. The Hebrew Scriptures contain many errors about the surrounding cultures, as events, personalities and cultures were forgotten before being written down.

What the Bible Actually Says
At the time that the Bible was written, the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures seem to have known little or nothing about Palestine as it existed during the second millennium . (Religious liberals estimate that the first text in the Hebrew Scriptures was written circa 900 BCE). The Bible refers to the presence of the Philistines in Palestine; but that society did not arrive in the area until long after the second millennium.
The Scriptures speak of events at Beersheva and other towns which did not exist until much later than those events.
There was no mention of the strong Egyptian presence in Palestine at that time. The books of the Bible reflect the second scenario.

One can argue from archeological evidence that the Bible authors had very little knowledge of the cultures present in Palestine during the second millennium BCE. This is a very strong indicator (but not an absolute proof) that the Bible is errant.

Indicator 3: Christian beliefs over time

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant and was created under the inspiration of God, so that He could communicate his will to humanity. Since God has infinite intelligence, He would have made certain that:
-The Bible promotes a positive set of morals.
-No internal conflicts existed in its writings.
-The Bible's teachings are clear and unambiguous.
-The Bible's teachings are sufficient for today.
Christians who lived in any century would be able to discover God's will on any moral issue by consulting the Bible. Thus Christians' concept of right and wrong would be constant with time; Christians in the 3rd century CE and the 20th century CE would hold the same beliefs about a variety of moral questions, ranging from abortion access to equal rights for gays and lesbians, to the death penalty, physician assisted suicide, etc. Beliefs about the nature of God, the nature of Jesus, criteria for salvation, Heaven and Hell, etc. would also be constant over time.

Possibility 2
The Bible is a collection of books written by fallible human authors, each intended to promote the personal beliefs of its writers. Thus, it would contain ambiguous passages. Since it was written over a period of many centuries of religious change, various of its passages would strongly conflict with others. Thus, Christians of all eras would reach different ethical and moral conclusions from the Bible. They would also derive different religious beliefs about the nature of God, Jesus, salvation, Heaven, Hell, etc.

What History Shows
Christians' belief about slavery have reversed during the past two millennia. Slavery was condoned, regulated and approved by the writers of the Bible. The Pentateuch contains rules from God concerning the regulation of slavery, including under what conditions a slave owner could be prosecuted if he beat his slave to death. In his book Philemon, Paul wrote to a slave owner about one of his slaves. Paul had every opportunity to condemn slavery as immoral, and to ask the slave owner to free his slave. But he apparently believed that slavery was an acceptable institution. With the exception of Christian Reconstructionists, slavery has been rejected by essentially all Christians today.
Beating children with a rod is condoned and recommended in the Bible. But an increasing percentage of Christian parents have abandoned this method of discipline. Various denominations promote spanking, and cite passages in Proverbs about child discipline. Other Christian groups recommend child discipline without violence, and consider beating a child with a rod to be child abuse. They base their decision on the Golden Rule, on non-violent teachings of Jesus. and on the findings of sociologists that disciplining children through physical violence results in lower IQs, and higher rates of adult depression, violence, and criminal behavior.
Beliefs about government structure have also changed greatly. The Bible promotes dictatorial monarchies and the divine right of kings. When a delegation of Jewish leaders approached Moses with the request for some elements of democracy, God killed them and their families. Most Christians now promote democracy, in which power is shared by the people. They also value human rights, and oppose (for example) burning some prostitutes alive as is specified in the Bible.
The Hebrew Scriptures frequently promote the genocide of others who hold different religious beliefs. Some Christian fanatics in Bosnia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Northern Ireland and elsewhere have followed these teachings and engaged in mass murder and genocide. Most contemporary Christians promote religious freedom so that others can follow other religions without oppression.
Christian beliefs about God, Jesus, salvation, heaven, hell, and many dozens of other theological topics have changed over the past two millennia. For example the nature of Hell as taught by most conservative Christians has changed over the past century from a place of unbearable and eternal torture without any hope of mercy, to a place where one is simply isolated from God.

Many of the positive changes in Christian moral positions over the past two millennia have required that we abandon some specific Biblical teachings as being contrary to the will of God. It seems unreasonable that if God intended the Bible to be a guide in all matters, that it would promote a standard of ethics that is profoundly immoral when compared to today's religious and secular moral systems. This indicates, but does not prove, that the Bible is not inerrant.

Indicator 4: Christian beliefs at the present time

Possibility 1
As in the previous example, the Bible is clear, unambiguous, and consistent. Devout, thoughtful, serious Christians would be able to discover God's will on any moral question by consulting the Bible. Thus beliefs about theological and moral questions would be similar among all denominations. Devout, intelligent, serious, careful Southern Baptist students of the Bible would reach the same conclusions as would similar students from the United Church of Christ or the United Church of Canada. A consensus would be simple to reach among all Christians on the nature of God, heaven, hell, and perhaps thousands of other theological matters. Christians would agree on all of the important ethical questions of today: access to abortion, access to physician assisted suicide, the death penalty, equal rights for homosexuals, roles of women in the family, church and society, etc.
-Possibility 2 The Bible is a collection of books written by human authors over a long time period. Each writer promoted his own religious beliefs. Thus, the Bible contains many conflicting passages and concepts. Conservative, mainline and liberal Christians are able to support their very different beliefs on theological and moral questions with Bible quotations.

What History Shows
There is currently very little agreement among the worlds 35,000 or so Christian groups about the Bible's message:
-Christian faith groups differ on all key moral questions: from abortion to the role of women.
-Many different Christian denominations hold varying ideas about religious rituals, the nature of God, heaven, hell, salvation, etc.
An interesting example are two active Evangelical Christian agencies which deal with gender roles:
-The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womenhood promotes promotes Biblical manhood, which they interpret as requiring inequality in the authority of men and women. They are seen as having different roles to play. 3
-Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) believes "that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all racial and ethnic groups and all economic classes..."
Both agencies quote at great length from the Bible to justify their conflicting positions. They sincerely believe that their view is correct and biblically based.

One can argue from the lack of a consensus within Christendom that the Bible's message cannot be unambiguously determined on many topics. The Bible's clearly teaches conflicting views on many vital matters. It seems unreasonable that if an all-knowing God intended the Bible to be a guide in all matters, that sincere Christians today would come to such opposite decisions over what is right and wrong. This indicates, but does not prove, that the Bible is not inerrant.

Indicator 5: The personality of God as described in the Bible

Possibility 1
One of the generally accepted attributes of God is that he is not subject to change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Thus, if the Bible is inerrant, then the authors' description of God would also be consistent, from Genesis through to Revelation.

Possibility 2
The Bible is not inerrant. Various authors promoted their concept of God. God is described differently throughout the Bible.

What the Bible Shows
In the Pentateuch, Jehovah is frequently described as an angry deity who committed genocides and mass murder. He killed people for trivial reasons (e.g. Onan for practicing birth control; Lot's wife for looking the wrong way). He exterminated all of the men, women, girls, boys, infants and newborns in Sodom and Gomorra because the men were inhospitable towards strangers. He killed all of humanity in a great flood, saving only six people: Noah and his family. He hardened the heart of the Pharaoh of Egypt, thus necessitating great loss of life before the Hebrews were released from bondage. The Gnostic Christians, one of the three main movements in the early Christian Church, considered Jehovah to be an evil deity, called the Demiurge.
In the Gospels, Jesus often refers to God as Abba, which is probably closest to the English word "papa." Jesus stresses God's love for humanity, his concern for justice and his readiness to support and encourage each believer. He urged individuals to develop a close, intimate, loving relationship with God through private prayer.
In Revelation, God is once more described as a vengeful deity who inflicts massive worldwide death and destruction on men, women, boys, girls, infants and newborns. Martin Luther felt that Revelation should be tossed out of the Bible for this reason. He included it in an appendix to his German translation of the Bible.

One can argue from the lack of consistency in the Biblical authors' concept of God that they are portraying very different and mutually exclusive concepts of God. Again, this is not a proof of Biblical errancy, but is a significant indicator.

Indicator 6: Jesus' status as described in the Bible

Possibility 1
One of the fundamental dogmas of the Christian religion is the Incarnation -- that Jesus is the Son of God. The recognition of Jesus as God's son would have occurred at a specific time in Jesus' life. If the Bible is inerrant, then various New Testament writings would agree on when this time happened.
Possibility 2
The Bible is not inerrant. Various authors promoted their understanding of when Jesus became the son of God, as taught by the religious group to which they belonged.
What the Bible Shows
By arranging the books of the New Testament in chronological order, we find the following:
Romans: This was probably written by St. Paul circa 55-59 CE. In Romans 1:3-4, Paul writes: "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Paul believed that Jesus became the Son of God at his resurrection, circa 30 CE
Mark: This was the first gospel to be written, circa 70 CE. It describes Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist as the time when he became the Son of God. The current wording of Mark 1:10-11 says: "...he saw...the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.' " The original words attributed to God in this passage were partly suppressed during ancient times. Judging by the writings of early Christian authors, the original words stated definitively that his transition to Son of God happened at the time of baptism. The words were edited out of Mark perhaps decades after the Gospel was written, probably because they contradicted the theological belief of the time.
Matthew was written in the early to mid 80's CE. It contains a birth narrative which implies that Jesus was conceived during an interaction between the Holy Sprit and Mary. Jesus is described as becoming the Son of God at his birth, circa 6 BCE.
Luke was probably written about 90 CE. Luke 1:35 described that "the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." Again, the transition occurred at birth.
Acts was probably written in the 90's CE by an unknown author -- the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. He writes in Acts 13:33 that Jesus became the son of God when God raised Jesus from the dead.
John was probably written after the Christians were expelled from the Synagogues circa 90 CE. It may have been cited in some writings by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch circa 115 CE. So about 100 CE may be an accurate date. The author(s) of John state that Jesus (the Word) existed with God "in the beginning." i.e. before creation.

The time when Jesus was considered to have become the Son of God thus changed from:
after his death in the earliest Christian writings, to
at or before the creation of the universe in the last Gospel to be written.
We are obviously seeing a gradual development in Christian theology from the writings of Paul (55 CE and later) to the writings of the author(s) of the Gospel of John (circa 100 CE). The lack of consistency indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.

Indicator 7: The nature of the afterlife as described in the Bible

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to describe accurately the destination of persons who have died. Each of the authors of the Bible described heaven and hell (and who would go where) in a consistent manner.

Possibility 2
The Bible is not inerrant. The oldest passages in the Hebrew Scriptures would represent beliefs about the afterlife which are similar to what the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and similar surrounding Pagan societies believed at the time. Biblical authors who wrote after the invasion of Palestine by the Greeks in 332 BCE would incorporate Greek pagan beliefs about the afterlife. Various authors from the Christian Scriptures would describe beliefs about the afterlife that their own Christian groups taught, and which were similar to the other 23 or so Jewish religious groups in Palestine during the first and second centuries CE, when the Christian Scriptures were written.

What the Bible Shows
In ancient Hebrew scripture writings: The authors described the dead as leading a shadowy existence in a great cavern under the earth, called Sheol. This was similar to the beliefs of the surrounding Pagan cultures. Everyone went to Sheol, regardless of whether they had led a good or an evil life while on earth. All were isolated from God.
After the Greek invasion: Greek Pagan ideas began to be incorporated into those Hebrew Scriptures that were written after 332 BCE. The authors talked about resurrection and eternal rewards for people who had followed the Law and been kind to their fellow humans. Evil people would be punished.
Paul wrote about a heaven for those who had been saved by trusting and believing in Christ's resurrection. He was apparently unaware of Hell; he believed that the unbelievers and those who had committed certain prohibited acts would be simply annihilated at death and exist no more. "The wages of sin are death", not everlasting punishment.
The Synoptic gospels: The authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke described Jesus as telling of a glorious eternal rest in heaven for those who behave kindly towards the poor and needy. The writers talked about a Hell of eternal punishment: fire, worms, thirst for those who did not support needy fellow humans. This forms one of the main themes of the Gospel of Matthew. Again, salvation is based on works.
John: The author of the gospel of John described a glorious heaven as a reward for those who believed that Jesus is the Son of God. He seems to have rejected the concept of Hell entirely. People who did not believe in the Incarnation simply died and were annihilated.

The writers of the Bible have entirely different concepts of the afterlife. The most ancient passages talk about a depressing location where all people lead the same, shadowy life. The authors who wrote after the Greek invasion described various concepts of rewards or punishment. They differ as to whether evil people will simply be destroyed at death or will be eternally punished in Hell. They differ as to whether people are selected for an eternal life in heaven on the basis of their belief in Jesus' divinity, or their belief in Jesus' resurrection, or their good deeds while on earth. The Bible is hopelessly inconsistent on all aspects of the afterlife. Biblical authors are largely reflecting beliefs absorbed from surrounding tribes or invading armies. This indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.

Indicator 8: Criteria for salvation

One's eventual destination or state after death is arguably the most important topic covered in the Bible. After all, even a century of living on earth is a drop in the bucket compared to all of eternity. If the Bible is inspired by God, then one would expect that the criteria by which ones is routed to either Heaven or Hell would be clearly and unambiguously described.

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to describe accurately and unambiguously the precise criteria by which an individual's final location or state will be after death.

Possibility 2
The Bible is not inerrant. Authors would disagree as to whether one's final destination was determined by good and bad works, by specific beliefs, on the basis of a religious ritual, on the basis of other criteria, or by some combination of the above.
What the Bible Shows
In ancient Hebrew Scriptures: The authors stated that everyone would go to the same place after death: Sheol. They would be isolated from God. It would not matter whether one had led a good or an evil life while on earth.
More modern Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Daniel): People who had followed the Mosaic Law and been kind to their fellow humans would enjoy rewards after death. Evil people would be punished. So, one would expect that individuals guilty of mass murder or genocide would go to Hell. If a person had led a life of self-sacrifice and service to others, like Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, they would go to Heaven.
Paul wrote that those who believed in Christ's resurrection would go to Heaven.
The Synoptic gospels: The authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke taught that salvation is based on a person's good and bad works.
John: The author(s) of the gospel of John taught that the criteria was based on belief: those who believed that Jesus is the Son of God would go to Heaven.
Numerous other locations in the Christian Scriptures described how one is saved by baptism.

The writers of the Bible have entirely different concepts of what one must do in order to be routed to Heaven after death. The Bible is inconsistent on whether the decision is made on the basis of good works, specific beliefs, baptism, avoiding certain behaviors, or some combination of the preceding. This lack of consistency indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.

Indicator 9: The causes of mental illness

Mental illness is caused by emotional disturbances, chemical imbalances in the brain, and other natural factors. Mental health specialists (other than those who are also Evangelical Christians) abandoned the concepts of demonic possession and exorcism many generations ago. Jesus is recorded as having encountered and healed many individuals with mental or emotional problems. See: Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 9:32-33, Matthew 15:22-28, Matthew 17:14-18, Luke 4:33-36.

Possibility 1
The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Gospels to accurately describe the nature of mental illnesses in the above passages. The Bible would not contain references to demonic possession.

Possibility 2
The Bible is not inerrant. The authors would have interpreted the cause of mental illness in accordance with what they knew about 1st century medicine. At that time, mental illnesses were believed to have been caused by demonic possession.

What the Bible Shows
In the gospels, particularly Matthew and Luke, Jesus is described as expelling demons in order to cure the mentally ill people that he encountered.

The Gospel writers were mistaken about the causes of mental illness. This indicates, but does not prove, that their writings contain errors.

Final Conclusion
Although it appears to be impossible to absolutely prove the errancy or inerrancy of the Bible, there appear to be at least nine strong indicators that it is errant in at least some places.

The following indicators are inconclusive and support neither inerrancy nor errancy.

Indicator 1: Presence of accurate prophecies

Possibility 1
The Bible is God's word. It was either directly written by God using human authors, or written by humans under the inspiration of God. Either way, God prevented the authors from making errors; this would include incorrectly predicting events that will happen in the future, and their outcomes. Any prophecy that appears in the Bible would thus be certain to come true, either in our past or sometime in our future.

Possibility 2
The Bible was written by fallible humans without direct inspiration from God. Thus, the Bible would contain errors, including errors in foretelling the future. The authors might make some lucky guesses so that some of the prophecies in the Bible would come true. But, not knowing the future precisely, most of their predictions would be in error.

What the Bible Actually Says
Various modern-day writers have counted many hundreds of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) alone. But there is no consensus about what percentage have come true. Conservative Christians generally state that all of the 200 or so prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that foretold the life of Jesus Christ came true; they had a 100% accuracy. Hundreds of other prophecies not related to Jesus have already come true. But at lest one skeptic believes that not one "real" prediction has conclusively come true. He has very stringent rules for what defines a "real" prophecy.

Until we are able to sort out this contradiction, we will have to refrain from accepting the accuracy of Bible prophecy as an indicator of either errancy or inerrancy.

Indicator 2: Presence of Bible codes

Possibility 1
The Bible was written by God (or written by human authors who were directly inspired by God). God might have inserted Bible codes into the text as a sign of his presence.

Possibility 2
The Bible was not written or inspired by God and no such codes were inserted. Alternately, God may have influenced the writing but had decided to not leave signs of his existence.

What research shows
Michael Drosnin, in his book "The Bible Code," described remarkable findings of equidistant letter sequence (ELS) codes buried in the book of Genesis. These codes formed words that made a number of predictions, from political assassinations in the recent past to devastating earthquakes in the near future. The book reached the #3 spot on the New York Times best-seller list. By 1999-OCT, 9 similar books had been written to promote the idea of hidden codes. Statisticians were at a loss to explain the findings. But further research indicated that codes are found with equal frequency in Genesis, Tolstoy's "War and Peace," or in any sufficiently long text. Drosnin stated to a reporter "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in 'Moby Dick', I will believe them." Shlomo Sternberg took him up on his offer; he found 13. Possibility 2 is the correct option.

If codes had been found uniquely in Genesis, then one might conclude that they were placed there by God. The task of inserting ELS coding would be beyond the ability of humans because only God could predict the future with the necessary degree of accuracy. If God were so intimately involved in the creation of Genesis, then one might assume that he would preserve the human authors from error. But the codes seen in Genesis occur in any sufficiently large text. So, either God does not exist, or he decided to not leave coded messages in the text. This test is inconclusive.

Reader's comments on this article

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from JohnnieWalker
Thursday, September 26, 2002 - 06:57

Warning: The following is lengthy and is actually only addressed to JP. Read at your own risk.

This is very good—a very logical (although I cannot go so far as to say ‘factual’) way of looking at the Bible. I like the way that this was presented and I agree that the result of this array of statements is inconclusive as to the validity of the Bible and the whole matter must be taken by faith.

I do, however, object to some of the evidence presented that, according to the article, indicates that the Bible is errant. I’ll go through these indicators point by point. There are far too many generalizing statements and lumping of several issues into one pot to be able to conclude that the author(s) of this article did proper research. The lack of references and hard evidence makes this obvious. If I had the time, I would love to address each of the flaws in this article. Unfortunately, time is not so generous with me at the moment, so for now I’ll have to resort to patching up the larger holes only.

Many of the statements in the above article are based on the premise that every word written in the Bible is supposed to have come directly from the mouth of God—or at least inspired by Him/Her—and as such, should not be errant. This is not the case. Most of what is written in the Bible is either history or poetry—obviously written by man.

Here I would add that I have not yet seen any evidence (although I may find some as I further research the subject) that the portions of history that the Bible contains were written by renowned historians. Rather, they were commentaries on what were apparently important events at that time. Just because they may seem trivial to us now, doesn’t mean that they were trivial 3,000 or 4,000 years ago.

Indicator 1: Cosmological evidence

Possibility 2 is not entirely accurate. Although in many cases the Bible’s description of the solar system, the weather, etc. is inaccurate, in other cases, it is astoundingly accurate. Job 26:7 is just one example of this.

* [ As a side note, one verse which many Christians, the Family included, like to use to prove the Bible’s authenticity is Isa 40:22 (It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…). They say that because the earth is referred to as a circle (‘chwug’ in Hebrew) it means that is a reference to the earth being a sphere (‘duwr’ in Hebrew)—something that was only discovered thousands of years later. What they conveniently “forget” to mention is that the second part of the verse says “that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in”. This sounds a bit more like the “dome of the sky” referred to in Possibility 2. What do you get at the bottom of a dome? A circle, that’s what. ]

As far as angels pushing around the sun, planets and stars or the drains leading to Sheol: I find none of that in the Bibles that I have (KJV, NKJV, NIV, TLB, American Standard). I could imagine this being said in a poetical sense (i.e. Proverbs, Songs of Solomon, etc.) but I have yet to find the passage that describes the universe in this fashion. It would have been nice if the author(s) of this article included the references to the Biblical passages they were referring to.

The subject of the Tower of Babel was addressed earlier on this site. My comment on this can be found there.

On a slightly different subject that is still related to this one: I was talking to my 2-year-old daughter the other night, trying to explain to her about how bacteria form cavities and that we brush our teeth to kill the bacteria. She doesn’t have much of an idea about microscopic life forms let alone the chemicals that kill them. So I tried my best to explain it to her in words that she would understand. The end result is that the course of events as I explained them to her were not entirely accurate, but I was satisfied to leave it at that, knowing that she would understand the full process once she was older and her vocabulary more developed.

My reason for presenting this example: Could it be that if God spoke to man 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, that He/She would use terminology that His/Her small-minded creations would be able to understand?

Indicator 2: Archeological evidence

The article makes the statement, “Beersheva and other towns […] did not exist until much later than those events”. How can they know for certain on what date a town like Beersheba came into existence? Towns are not built in a short amount of time. A small camp usually grows slowly and eventually develops into a village, town or city. References to Beersheba can be found in the Bible anywhere from Genesis through to Amos. What events and what time frame is this article’s statement supposed to be in reference to?

According to Gen 21:31 Abraham called a place in the wilderness of Paran where he dug a well “Beersheba”. Later, his son Isaac pitched a tent there, also dug a well (not necessarily on the same spot where Abraham dug his) and called the same place “Shebah” (Gen 26:33). Apparently, this place was probably nothing more than a small camp, thus not worthy of mentioning in other historical documents of that time. It is well possible that this mobile camp came to rest near its current location and was addressed as Beersheba long before attaining the status of “town”. This is just my guess.

The article states, “the first text in the Hebrew Scriptures was written circa 900 BCE”. I think any Orthodox Jew would be highly offended if you insisted that the Pentateuch was written around the same time as The Odyssey.

Regarding the Philistines: If the Bible has accurate accounts of civilizations such as the Phoenicians (called Sidonians and related to the Canaanites), Hittites, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc. then I don’t know how logical it is to base a claim that the Bible might be errant on an apparent discrepancy in what we know of the Philistines 3,000 years later. Might it be that the error lies with our knowledge of that civilization and the time period it existed in?

The article states that there was a “strong Egyptian presence in Palestine at that time”. I find that the Bible mentions Egyptians in or around that area and strong relations between the Jews and Egyptians in several books. According to Ezra 9:1 there was concern over the “holy seed” of the Jews being mingled with that of other nations including Egypt. Egypt was an ally of Israel (II Ki 7:6 & Lam.5:6). There were also many Jews that lived in Egypt (Jer 44:1). And lastly, for those who want God’s take on history, He/She says in Eze 30:23 “I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries”.

As I mentioned earlier, the historical parts of the Bible were most likely not written by men who were renowned historians in their time. News travelled far slower back then than it does today so I don’t think it is realistic to expect the same level of comprehensive coverage from biblical accounts that we expect from modern-day accounts.

The historical accounts of the Bible are focused on the events taking place in Palestine. To expect them to make utterly clear that there was a strong Egyptian presence in Palestine would be equal to expecting German historians to make mention in each of their writings that there is a strong American presence in Germany. American historians (no doubt, like the Egyptians) would, on the other hand, almost find it necessary to expound on their nation’s international strongholds. Again, this is a personal take on the issue and is based only on preliminary research on my part.

As for the archaeological evidence, one can equally argue the Bible’s inerrancy based on the findings of many archaeologists.

Indicator 3: Christian beliefs over time

Again, these statements are based on the premises that 1) the entire Bible was written or inspired by God and 2) if God did write or inspire something it would be limited to the 66 books found in the Protestant Bible.

First of all, the Bible is not only revered by Christians. A large part of the Old Testament is also considered to be sacred writing by the Jews. If this were meant to be in reference to Christianity only, then one would have to limit this argument to the writings contained in the New Testament.

Second, if God’s plan were laid out so specifically that all generations could interpret it equally, it would 1) negate the individuality with which He/She created humans and 2) obliterate the grounds for any other religions or religion altogether, for that matter, because it would be an indisputable fact, thereby giving humans no opportunity to develop the ability to have faith that God created them with.

Third, one cannot place the blame on the Bible nor declare it fallible because of man’s knack for interpreting something to fit his own ideas and adding his own comments to it. If Christianity has opposing views to the Bible (New Testament) on issues such as child discipline, gay and lesbian rights, etc. could it be that Christianity at large is veering from the path it was originally set on, and not the other way around?

Fourth, if the Bible were indeed as contemporary for all ages as its critics would have it be, then I am certain those same critics would be outraged by the fact that it was not a dynamic religion and adaptable for each era. They would soon label it a “cookie-cutter” religion that left none of the choice-making up to the individual.

As for slavery, this is an entire subject in itself. But suffice it to say, that what the Bible terms slavery we would most likely term “job security” today and thus it was not considered a cruel and inhumane practice by Paul and his contemporaries. Furthermore, in his letter to Philemon, Paul says about Onesimus (a slave who Paul converted while in prison and who apparently ran away from his master, Philemon): “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?” (Phile 1:15-16). Paul is telling Philemon, “When he comes back, don’t treat him like a slave, treat him like your own brother.” So why would the writer of this article say “Paul had every opportunity to condemn slavery as immoral, and to ask the slave owner to free his slave.” Naturally, Paul couldn’t intervene with Roman laws and regulations for releasing slaves, but he could and did ask a fellow brother in the Lord to no longer treat Onesimus as servant or slave but as a brother.

On a side note, I find it odd that sociologists claim that corporal punishment results in lower IQs. If it was blows to the head, then I can understand that. But how does a swat on the wrist, leg or buttocks produce a lower IQ? Psychological trauma, perhaps—but lower IQs? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pro-corporal punishment kind of guy. But I would be interested to see the hard data on this—actual research and references to research.

Indicator 4: Christian beliefs at the present time

If two people who read a book as simple as “The Little Prince” can come to two mutually opposing conclusions about its intended message, then why such an outrage about the Bible being interpreted differently? Mind you, it is not only the Bible that lends itself to varying interpretations. The Qur'an, the Veda, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Talmud have each produced numerous religious factions as well.

I find it curious that the person writing this article criticizes the fact that the Bible can be twisted to conform to a persons opinion and yet takes obvious advantage of it, using and quoting only the portions of the Bible that conform (or can be made to conform) to his or her obvious slant.

Indicator 5: The personality of God as described in the Bible

Whoever wrote this must have only skimmed the Bible. According to the Bible God had planned to destroy Sodom and Gomorra for very different reasons long before the two men even set foot in the cities. And the flood spared eight people, not six. Aside from God’s vengeful nature there is a strong vein of God’s love and mercy running through the entire Old Testament, from Abraham to King David right down through to the opening words of the last book of the Old Testament.

I find it odd that Martin Luther would make such a statement about a book that contains a description of God’s final gift (New Jerusalem) to those who have chosen to worship Him/Her. But considering what I have read of Luther’s stance on many other issues (including Jews) I am not one to be quick to take his views on scripture as unbiased.

Indicator 6: Jesus' status as described in the Bible

Who cares when Jesus’ disciples claim that He became the Son of God? What matters is that Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God. He is quoted as calling God his Father as early as age 12 (Luke 2:49). Certainly then, He must have known of His own divinity as a young boy.

All this indicator shows is that Jesus’ small-minded disciples either described &/or viewed the issue in different ways. This happens with followers of all known religions and is not limited to Christianity only.

Indicator 7: The nature of the afterlife as described in the Bible

From the descriptions of people who have had NDEs, it is my personal belief that the description of Heaven as given in the final books of the Bible is correct.

Yes, there is an obvious change in descriptions of the afterlife in the Bible. But from what does the writer of this article gather that the afterlife is not dynamic? If drastic changes are possible within our 4 dimensions, then why should they not be so in the afterlife?

From what I gather, yes, people who died in the years before Christ were removed from God. This is why according to the Bible, God sent a human representation of Himself/Herself who would be able to bridge the gulf between God and man. This is why Jesus went into hell (“she’ole” in Hebrew) and “preached unto the spirits in prison” (Mat 12:40 & I Pet 3:19) and why God has “prepared […] a city” (Heb. 11:16) for those who meet the requirements for entering it.

I know this is getting into theological terrain here. But this part of the discussion is about what the Bible supposedly says about the afterlife and therefore I have given biblical references as a basis for the reason why I believe this indicator to be inaccurate.

Indicator 8: Criteria for salvation

Again, if the Bible were to describe only one correct path to God and eternal life, its critics would still cry foul because it was too stringent and allowed no room for individuality.

Indicator 9: The causes of mental illness

The Gospels also quote many of the people who were allegedly possessed by demons as identifying Jesus as the Son of God. How could mentally ill persons at separate occasions and locations have had a common knowledge of this?

Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m sick of having every rock, tree and dirty look labelled ‘demon’ or ‘hitch-hiking spirit’, and I personally believe that mental illness is a real thing—not just demon possession. I recently did a small amount of reading on the subject and it seems to me from what I’ve read that even the medical establishment is not in agreement with itself as to the cause, effect and relationship of mental illness. So apparently, it is a very complicated subject and one for which I wouldn’t rule out spiritual influence just because it doesn’t suit my tastes.

Indicator 1: Presence of accurate prophecies

Are ‘they’ saying that they will not accept that the OT prophecies have been fulfilled because of one unnamed man’s “stringent rules for what defines a ‘real’ prophecy”? First the writer(s) say(s), “Hundreds of other prophecies not related to Jesus have already come true.” Then ‘they’ turn around and say, “There’s at least one sceptic, so until we are able to sort out this contradiction (How do they intend to do that?), we will have to refrain from accepting the accuracy of Bible prophecy as an indicator of either errancy or inerrancy." If Bible prophecy is accurate, as is repeatedly admitted by the writer(s), why discard it because one man has his doubts about it? Does this one man expect black and white prophecies in a grayscale world?

Indicator 2: Presence of Bible codes

This point was of particular interest to me as I have read and own a copy of “The Bible Code”. Unfortunately, I am in the middle of a major move and the book is at this very moment stacked neatly on top of my polka-dotted boxers down at the bottom of one of the 32 suitcases in my bedroom. I am kidding. I actually have no idea where it’s packed. – But I can assure you that my wife does. :)

From what I remember of it, the statistical possibilities are not necessarily low for such an occurrence. It depends on the word you are looking for. A short word would naturally have a greater chance of being found in the body of text than a word of, say, 10 letters. What made the code particularly notable was not that almost any significant word (regardless of character length) entered into the search engine could be found, but that once it was found, a form of crossword puzzle was revealed, with complete words, dates or phrases being found nearby. The fact that the coded text often coincides with the normal text it straddles further lowers the probability factor.

This code was found not only in the Book of Genesis, as the article states, but in the entire Pentateuch.

That references, however vague, to the assassination of a prime minister can be found encoded in “Moby Dick” is not improbable. What I find more impressive is that when the names of 40 randomly selected Jewish scientists and professors were entered into the code search engine the results produced not only each person’s name, but also their year of birth coded along with it. I’d like to see “Moby Dick” do that.

JP, you said in a comment below that because the books were tampered with, that “God’s hand” could not have written the first books. Yes, some of the books of the Bible were tampered with. But if there is any book or set of books that can be trusted to be at least 99% identical to the original, it would be the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). The meticulousness and rigidity with which those books were hand copied left no room for the slightest error. This is why I said that if the code is real, it would add an interesting twist to the story. The author of the code knew that, similar to computer programming code, if one letter went missing the code would be broken. Thus its author (mortal or divine) saw fit to command that every copy be identical to the original. If the code was put in there by man then I wonder if its author had foresight sufficient enough to assure that the original text was preserved until technology was advanced enough to discover the code. If not, why would the author spend what must have been decades on inserting such a complex code, only to have it lie dormant for thousands of years and eventually be lost due to common ignorance of its existence?

If Shlomo Sternberg did manage to disprove the code by producing the same results with “Moby Dick” why was this not publicised as much as the discovery of the Bible code? Why didn’t agnostics the world over harp on this? Has anyone else on MovingOn heard of this? I’d like to research this further and find out exactly what Mr. Sternberg found in the “Moby Dick” code.

In reading this article, I find that it is very easy to present something if it sounds good and is what people want to hear, without needing much proof or reference for it. Take, for example, the following news clip:


Legend of Noah’s Ark Disproved
May 16, 2002
(AP - LANSING, MICHIGAN) After detailed examination of infrared photographs taken by the French SPOT satellite, experts have concluded that the legends of an ark sitting at the top of Mount Ararat are false. “The highly magnified images”, said Prof. Robert Wendell Jr., head of the Michigan State University Bio-Tech Research Unit, “clearly show that the largest biological mass above 14,000 ft. is no larger than an average log.”

Mount Ararat, in Turkey’s eastern highlands, rises in two peaks; the highest, Great Ararat, is 16,854 ft and is perpetually snow covered. Passages in the book of Genesis tell how Noah’s ark, a large wooden ship filled with animals and a crew of 8, landed on Mount Ararat after the deluge.

The multispectral SPOT images, originally taken to determine subterranean organic content, have aided researchers in detecting the presence of natural resources in the areas surrounding the Black Sea. After initial studies were completed in early 1997, the photographs were granted to the Bio-Tech Research Unit at the Michigan State University where they remain accessible to the public.

Prof. Steven Mahlstein has concluded a twelve-year study in the field of Natural Resources. His independent examination of the photographs led him to report findings similar to those of Prof. Wendell. In a press conference held at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing on Tuesday, Prof. Mahlstein stated, “My studies have undeniably revealed that the legends of Noah’s ark as contained in the Bible are nothing but folklore.” Prof. Mahlstein admitted that if the ark did exist, it would be in advanced stages of disintegration and possibly broken into several large sections. He added, “Regardless of the detriment these findings will no doubt have on many religions worldwide, I cannot deny the overwhelming evidence I find that no organic object of any substantial size is within 6,000 ft. of Mount Ararat’s summit.”

[end of news clip]

When most people read something like this, they will accept it as a fact, no questions asked. I, for one, have gullibly swallowed too much crap that was fed to me as a youth to now turn around and accept the baseless hogwash someone else sends my way simply because it opposes what I held to be true while in The Family.

If a matter that challenges my beliefs interests me enough, I will research it and tear down or build on my own beliefs accordingly. Thus, when I read a news article such as the one above, I ask myself questions like, “How can I further research this myself?”, “Why were no concrete references made?”, “Are there other sources that back up this claim?”, “How do I know for certain that the writer of this article didn’t embellish the facts or make the whole thing up?”.

Thankfully, with this article I know the answers to each of the above listed questions … because I fabricated the entire article myself. Not a word of it is true.

Alright, go ahead and shoot me for trying to mess with your head. But now you see how easy it is to present as factual something that has absolutely no basis and how easy it could be for some people to fall for it. Sure the odd reference or two will have to be left out lest anyone research it further and discover the hoax. But if it’s what people want to hear, they will believe it without needing proof. I’m not saying that this is how you would react to it. I’m just talking about people in general.

I realize that my “news” article is on the extreme side. The real inaccuracies, however, are far subtler.

So while I agree with the structure and outcome of the article you posted, JP, I believe that if the writer(s) had done a little research the outcome would have been more balanced. It is obvious that the persons behind this article do not believe in God or the Bible; in fact, it appears they have a strong bias against both. In my opinion, the writers only stated that all indicators are inconclusive in an attempt to feign objectivity.

OK, I’ve rambled enough. Go ahead and rest your sore eyes. I’m certain I succeeded in boring you long ago and I apologize for that.

Take care,

(reply to this comment)
From Andrew J.
Thursday, September 26, 2002, 08:14

This thread is in The Trailer Park 
from pharmaboy
Saturday, September 21, 2002 - 04:24

Finally I have something to show christians when they throw bible verses at me. thanks JP!!
(reply to this comment)
from Anthony
Friday, September 20, 2002 - 15:19

This article is a good thing, thanks JP.


(reply to this comment)
from jpmagero
Friday, September 20, 2002 - 13:29

This last point is important, because some have rightly stated that the bible has been tampared with and that the meaning has been changed to suit the human writers intentions/purposes. If this is case, then it cannot be "god's hand" wrote the first books and inserted the codes. The whole idea of the codes is that they were written by god himself since no man could have come up with then. But if the bible was tampered with and changed from it's autograph version, this can no longer be so.
(reply to this comment)
from JoeH
Friday, September 20, 2002 - 13:17

I love it. It's so simple and clear.
(reply to this comment)

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