Mapping Bible Contradictions

Via Gizmodo, I was reminded of a web site that was created recently, BibViz, attempting to map the Bible's contradictions. While it tends to circulate among atheists, and to meet with adamant denials from conservatives, liberal Christians were among the first to point these sorts of things out – and even before us, there were people like St. Augustine, who was not exactly a liberal, talking of the Bible's absurdities.

Click through to explore the contradictions – and if they are new or shocking to you, that just shows that you have not been reading the Bible particularly carefully or seriously or attentively.

 

  • useful in parts

    are these contradictions if you take the bible as literal truth or are they contradictions because different people interpret different bits of the bible as different writing styles? ( e.g. history; poetry)

    • spinkham

      Both. See http://errancy.org/ for a smaller list of more serious ones, with citations and attempted rebuttals. My favorite: http://errancy.org/judas.html

      Of course, you can always say any contradictions are figurative, but if you’re being that selective there’s really no way left to say where the authoritative message is.

      • Chris Crawford

        Thanks for sharing that site! I wish I’d known about it a few months ago – was looking for “strong” contradictions and walked through a dozen sites finding nothing I could use.

  • quickshot

    I also saw this on Gizmodo: I can’t believe they covered it. Either Christians are a minority on Giz or they are too ADD to stop and complain about it.

  • DamienLi

    It makes for a nice graph, but I don’t like how their approach to identifying contradictions seems to be taking lots of individual verses out of context and trying to interpret them in the least charitable way possible. I mean, how do you end up saying that “brethren, covet to prophecy” and “thou shalt not covet” are contradictory? The Greek is not even the same. Or that Jonah 1:15 and 2:3 are contradictory. Sometimes, if feels like a mirror image of how conservatives mistreat scripture (wooden literalism, being more interested in being proven right than in reading the passage fairly).

    That being said, I really like the idea of making people more aware that there are different perspectives and contradictions in the Bible. I just wish people held their arguments to the same standards as they hold their opponents’.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Yes, I think that the entire approach, seeking gotcha moments by piling up alleged discrepancies, is inherently problematic. And I agree that the Golden Rule should apply: treat the claims of others the way you want yours to be treated, and subject your own claims to the same scrutiny that you apply to others.

    • Bear

      People do hold their arguments to the same standards as they hold their opponents’. Those standards are called “science,” and anyone who holds their own claims up to the candlelight of science has to be prepared to accept scientific refute if our knowledge about the claim changes based on evidence. That is a healthy, organic process that is indeed welcome to (educated) opinions. Without contrary opinions, we would miss concrete facts that eventually unite us once the evidence becomes clear.

      My primary concern as it pertains to ancient religious texts is that there is so much we don’t know and that we are forced to assume as it pertains to context, authors, sources—evidence. Faith is an unacceptable way to fill the gaps.

    • paulalovescats

      Yes, I see what you mean. Jonah 2:3 is just saying the ocean was all around him. It didn’t necessarily mean the storm was still raging.

  • No_one_significant

    Some of these are really lame. Check this one out:
    http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/bethsaida.html
    Where did Jesus heal the blind man?
    Mark 8:22-26 = Bethsaida
    John 8:59-9:6 = Jerusalem

    They’re two different episodes with few if any similarities.

  • http://theaspirationalagnostic.wordpress.com/ Eva

    Sheesh. That’s all I have to say.

  • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

    Hello,

    whilst it obvious there are quite a few contradictions in the Bible, I believe some of the alleged ones could be reasonably harmonized (I’m trying to be fair to conservative scholars).

    I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among people having left Evangelicalism behind and the way they consider MORAL contradictions.

    Those having only had a moderately bad experience (like Bart Ehrman or Thom Stark) become liberal Christians or agnostics and (rightly) point out the Bible fails to deliver us a coherent picture of God’s moral character, that God is at times both portrayed in an ugly and beautiful manner.

    Those having been abused by fundamentalism become militant, angry atheists who are generally very reluctant to recognize this fact. They prefer to say that the Bible gives us an (almost) perfectly consistent picture of a bloodthirsty genocidal deity, that this is the only message we can take from the pages of Scripture.

    I think this is related to their need of having a Feindbild, a German word meaning an “enemy image” they can hate.

    Would you agree with my observation, James?

    Lovely greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Andrew Dowling

      I would agree with that. Conservative fundamentalism not only produces the most hateful Christians but also the most hateful atheists.

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        Yep, and they end up hating all supernatural beliefs altogether, which they consider to be almost as damaging as Christian fundamentalism. They constantly advocate ridiculing those not having a materialist worldview.

        It is sad they fail to realize they’re still fundamentalists in their very nature.

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

          I agree that the diagram is nonsense, designed to mislead and pander to biases.

          I agree that many atheists lack any kind of theological understanding beyond the evangelicalism of the religious right.

          But ‘hating all supernatural beliefs’ seems to me to be a really really sensible thing for anyone. Given that supernatural claims are trivial for anyone to make, are commonly used to bolster power or authority, yet no supernatural phenomenon has ever been demonstrated to be more that wishful thinking or deceit. So, as worldwide deceit that cons people out of vast amounts of money, time, and in some cases, life, supernaturalism is an important target of our ire. Supernaturalism isn’t ‘almost as damaging as Christian fundamentalism’, it is the underlying con that allows Christian fundamentalism to abuse its adherents and spread its toxicity socially and politically.

          • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

            Hello Ian.

            What about all these supernatural beliefs which are by no means detrimental to the individual?

            What about the supernaturalisms which are utterly opposed to any kind of abusive theology and aim at completely destroying the religious right?

            Moreover, I disagree with the reasoning “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence”, as I explain here:

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/does-the-absence-of-evidence-mean-evidence-of-absence/

            Greetings from continental Europe.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

            • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

              What about them? Are they any more demonstrable than any other?

              Absence of expected evidence is evidence of absence. In fact, it is often the only thing that is evidence of absence. The only other class of evidence for absence is positive evidence from an excluded middle, which has limits of its own. Establishing that something did not happen is important in all kinds of ways, and – as long as you don’t make clear that you’re talking about somebody’s cherished supernatural beliefs – almost everyone regularly makes reliable judgements based on the absence of evidence. For some reason, when you point out the total lack of evidence that claimed supernatural phenomena are more than wishful thinking and deceit, the special pleading comes out and everyone runs for epistemological minimalism. Then when that threat is gone, they come back out and function in a normal way again.

              There are plenty of supernaturalisms that have nothing to do with the religious right: ghosts, alien abductions, faeries, magic spells, auras. They have their own cost in finances, time and health.

              • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

                “Absence of EXPECTED evidence is evidence of absence”

                Of course I agree with that.

                But if you don’t expect anything you should remain agnostic, unless you’ve independent grounds for rejecting the supernatural claims in question.

                I’m not committing any kind of special pleading in that respect but think in every other area like that.

                Concerning “ghosts, alien abductions, faeries, magic spells, auras”: whilst I’m convinced that these phenomenons are never what believers think them to be, I consider it very likely that, in SOME cases, the traditional debunking explanations are equally wrong. Yet, this conclusion has never cost me anything in terms of “finances, time and health”.

                Greetings from continental Europe.

                Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

                http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

                • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

                  I’m glad they haven’t cost you anything. The billions of dollars spent on such things each year suggest that the same thing can’t be said for everyone.

      • http://proecclesia.net/ Garet Robinson

        I would take deep exception to this point. Though I am not a fundamentalist (of course one man’s liberal is another’s fundamentalist) many folks I know who self-identify as fundamentalists are earnest, Jesus loving people. I disagree with many aspects of their belief, but it does not permit me to malign the group as a whole as hateful.

        • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

          I think you may need to read more carefully, or be aware of this logical fallacy.

          Andrew didn’t say that the whole group is hateful, much less that every member of the group is hateful. He said it produces the most hateful Christians. That’s also my experience, though I know a lot of fundamentalists who are wonderful people.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Yes, it seems to me that it is only those who have been taught to approach the Bible in a particular way, and that it contains no contradictions, who will even find an undertaking like this interesting, much less important.

  • http://proecclesia.net/ Garet Robinson

    This chart has been floating around for awhile it is highly disengenious.

    First published by Sam Harris it isn’t a list of contradictions, but is actually a picture of internal referencing. It was referenced by Fast Company over here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1701846/infographic-day-what-bible-got-wrong

    However, Sam stole the graphic from a Chris Harrison who first posted it here: http://www.chrisharrison.net/index.php/Visualizations/BibleViz

    Sam’s entire project here is corrupt and erroneous. There is no way around it.

    First of all, Sam only uses the 1611 KJV because he says the other versions have been “white washed” by scholarship. This is a bad argument for no other reason than he would never hold science to this kind of dubious standard. As we all know scholarship has helped clarify the biblical text since 1611, not obscure it.

    Secondly, almost all of these contradictions that Sam lists are easily explained and illuminated.

    I think it’s sad that this kind of chart continues to be propagated in many circles. There are a number of clear indications that the chart doesn’t actually reference contradictions. The lines underneath the crossreference arcs represent the the chapters of the Bible and their verse lengths.

    Anyways, I hope this helps and clarifies the chart.

    • Nick Gotts

      The linked webpage contains the following text:

      This website aspires to be a beautiful and interactive resource for skeptics and believers alike to explore some of the more negative aspects of holy books. It was heavily inspired by the Reason Project’s poster of biblical contradictions, which in turn was inspired by Chris Harrison’s Bible Visualizations.

      Many of the contradictions above stem from a literal interpretation of the stories in the Bible. Some verses may be mistranslations, allegories, exaggerations, etc and can be interpreted in the context of the society in which they were written, rewritten, or otherwise modified over time. Considering that 46% of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis (and probably other portions of the Bible) and the fact that many sects disagree on which parts to take literally, it seems reasonable to include these contradictions based on literal interpretation.

      Note that Chris Harrison is explicitly credited as an inspiration (and indeed, there is a link to his work); and the inclusion of contradictions that may be easily resolved is admitted and explained. So, who’s being “highly disingenuous” here?

      • http://proecclesia.net/ Garet Robinson

        Thanks for the reply Nick, you’ll notice that my specific critiques extend to the original appropriation of Harrison’s chart by Sam Harris. Only after Harris was called out by those doing the full research did he add the attribution. You’ll note the original Fast Company story does not add any attribution. In the history of this chart the line of credibility is certainly questionable.

        Also, the bulk contradictions within the chart are able to explained when one a) uses contemporary translations and b) takes time to accurately trace their underlying issues and interpretive decisions. The chart linked here leverages Harris’ atheistic critique that only uses the KJV 1611. Do you believe that this is the best translation to use for these purposes?

        The bibviz.com is a skeptics website that only links to New Atheist texts. Wouldn’t it be more intellectually credible if it also linked to sites and texts that helpfully showed how most of these so-called contradictions are, in fact, not contradictions at all?

        Thanks again for the reply.


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