Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (2 of 4)

Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions (2 of 4) October 22, 2018

What are your favorite Bible contradictions? These can be two sets of verses that are contradictory, or the clash can be the Bible vs. reality. And these aren’t just trivial contradictions where “It’s a typo—big deal” would be an answer. These seem to strike at foundational Christian claims.

Let’s continue (part 1 is here).

6. Faith saves (or do works save?)

Protestant Christianity often emphasizes that faith alone (sola fide) justifies God’s forgiveness. Many verses support this.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8–9).

We maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28).

That seems clear enough until we find the opposite claim elsewhere in the Bible. The clearest example to me is the Parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25, but there’s more.

Will [God] not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Proverbs 24:12)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? (James 2:14).

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (Matthew 16:27).

The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (Revelation 20:12).

For something so important as getting into heaven and avoiding hell, the New Testament is surprisingly unclear.

Addendum: Or maybe it’s repentance that saves . . . or maybe baptism?

What if it’s repentance?

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19).

Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

Or baptism? It was so essential a ritual that Jesus did it.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).

7. The different genealogies of Jesus

The Messiah had to be of the line of David (Jeremiah 33:15–17; Isaiah 9:7), so two gospels provide genealogies of Jesus to validate this requirement. The problem is that we only need to go back one generation, to Joseph’s father, to find a problem.

Jacob [was] the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:16).

Jesus . . . was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli (Luke 3:23).

There is just one unique male biological line that would terminate in Joseph, so at least one of these genealogies is wrong. And it’s hard to imagine that an ordinary Joe like Joseph would have a reliable record of his genealogy going back generations. Worse, Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, so his genealogy is irrelevant. If being in the line of David is a requirement, then having a god for a father makes you ineligible.

The most common rebuttal is to say that the Luke genealogy is for Mary, but the text makes clear that it’s for Joseph. Anyway, why would you provide the genealogy of the parent from whom descent from David wouldn’t count? We’re seeing the incompatible clash of two ideas: Jesus inherits David’s throne and Jesus was the son of God.

8. Does God prevent harm to good Christians?

In response to a church shooting, where good Christians were doubtless praying to God but still got shot, Christian apologist Greg Koukl pushed back against the idea that anyone should be surprised (I responded here). In fact, he assures us, Jesus promised persecution.

Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13)

Koukl said, “There is . . . no rationale, no line of thinking that if God does exist that only good things happen to people, particularly people who believe in God, especially Christians.”

In fact, the Good Book says precisely that:

No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble (Proverbs 12:21).

If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalm 91:5–10)

When Christians desperately praying for their lives in a church are gunned down, atheists are right to point out that this makes one question God’s existence.

9. When is the End?

A 2013 poll found that 41 percent of U.S. adults think that we’re now living in the end times. But ask for the precise date, and the standard response is to point to this verse:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32; see also Matthew 24:36).

Harold Camping was hilariously wrong about his prediction of the Rapture® on May 21, 2011 (here, here), and fellow Christians pointed to that verse. But Brother Camping had a comeback with this passage:

You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.  You are all children of the light and children of the day. (1 Thessalonians 5:1–5)

Some people won’t know, the children of darkness. But the enlightened ones will know. (Or not, if Jesus was correctly quoted.)

10. Jesus finds a new home for Mary. But why?

While on the cross, Jesus was concerned about his mother and made provisions for her to be taken care of after he was gone.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Woman, he is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “She is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26–7)

That’s a nice gesture, but why was it necessary? Mary had other sons. Tradition holds that James, the leader of the church and supposed author of the epistle of James, was the brother of Jesus. And then we have this:

Isn’t [Jesus] the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? (Matthew 13:55)

Mary had lots of sons who could support her.

Continue with part 3.

If horses had gods, they’d look like horses.
— Xenophanes


Image via Cristian Newman, CC license

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  • ephemerol

    I’ve heard this comeback too: “Maybe not the day or the hour, but we can know the year, the month, and the week!”

    • Jim Jones

      It’ll be the day and hour that Trump stops lying.

      • Jim Baerg

        So the day & hour that Trump dies.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Unless he goes into a coma first.

  • Greg G.

    gJohn refers to Jesus’ mother a couple of times but never mentions her by name. John only gives the name of four women, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Martha the sister of Mary of Bethany, and Mary, wife of Clopas and the sister of Jesus’ mother. John doesn’t seem to know the name of Jesus mother but he doesn’t think it is Mary. In the closest parallel to Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 (the only place in Mark where Jesus’ mother’s name is given) is John 6:42 but it gives only Joseph’s name.

    • Interesting. I assumed that Mary as the mother of Jesus was as widely held a concept within the gospels as anything.

      • Greg G.

        Only in the Synoptics. Jesus’ mother is mentioned in the Wedding at Cana (2:3-5) and the Crucifixion (19:25-27) stories in gJohn.

        ETA She is mentioned in John 6:42 but is not in the scene.

    • Kevin K

      To be fair, Joseph doesn’t play a major role in the bible, either. He’s sort of a stick figure who takes his pregnant wife to Bethlehem in one tale (Why?), to Egypt in another … and then disappears.

      • Carol Lynn

        Because the people who wrote the gospels had absolutely no clue how a census works *and* they needed the messiah to be born in Jerusalem for some prophetic reason. They even thought that none of their followers would have a clue how a census worked.

        • Greg G.

          I think Luke just detested Matthew’s nativity story with God saving Jesus but allowing other babies to be killed in his place. He just turned to the beginning of Antiquities of the Jews 18 and found an event to use. There were a lot of people taking vacation when the census was being taken in their area so that they wouldn’t be counted and the region would be taxed less. It would be a little more believable if Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for that reason.

  • Jim Jones
    • Ironically enough, it looks like hearing the Gospel is best way to increase your chances of ending up in Hell – but what does it says about the usefulness of Churches and preachers? LOL.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble 

    Unless God makes a bet with Satan again.

  • Michael Neville

    Mary had lots of sons who could support her.

    There’s the Catholic tradition that Mary remained virginal her entire life and so Jesus couldn’t have had any siblings.

    • The crazy part that few talk about in my mind was the church’s problem of Mary’s sin. She couldn’t be sinless if she was conceived the yucky natural way, so they invented the Immaculate Conception (of Mary, not of Jesus as people often think). There you go–problem solved, with the wave of a wand.

      (Ignoring, of course, that magic means that Mary could come out sinless, but don’t you have to go back to Mary’s mother, and so on, back along the female line to Eve? And if not, then why bother with an Immaculate Conception for Mary??)

      • Otto

        I believe that all goes back to when Christians were arguing about whether Jesus was always God, or later became God. If Jesus was always God he had to be born without original sin, which means they needed a work around for Mary not passing down that to him.

        • Greg G.

          But if Mary didn’t inherit sin from her mother, why would she have to be different than her mother?

        • Otto

          Because her mother had the sin, Mary needed to not have the sin, so God scrubbed it at her birth. He used the Holy Tide Pod of Antioch.

        • Count to three before throwing!

        • Greg G.

          One, two, five!

        • TheBookOfDavid

          Things would have worked out much smoother and the world would have been spared the second wettest storm from the standpoint of water, if only Eve had taken the Holy Tidepod Challenge.

        • Greg G.

          Ah, yes, the Holy Tide Pod of Antioch leaves everything immaculate.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          And for some reason couldn’t add the free from original sin part to the already miraculous nature of Jesus’s birth.

      • Yep, more often than not Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Jesus’ Virginal Conception and Birth are confused a bit by Christians.

        Truth be told, however, the Immaculate Conception things has more to do with Mary’s subjection to the Original Sin than with her conception – as a Catholic, nobody has ever told me she was conceived in any different manner than the “natural one”, LOL.

        In fact, the dogma states that Mary, unlike all of us, was never given that “natural” stain which comes from Adam and Eve’s sin: which not only was somewhat endorsed by popular piety (how could the Holy Mother be a vile sinner just like them?)…

        …but also warranted as scientific advances progressed: in Antiquity, women were believed to be simply wombs to welcome the man’s seed – and since Jesus’s real father was thought to be God, whether Joseph and Mary were sharing our fallen nature or not was irrelevant.

        But as soon as scientists began hinting that mothers do provide their own traits to children as well, the sinlessness of Mary became a must-have, and so the Pope declared the dogma in 1854.

        • I didn’t know why the Immaculate Conception was a later add-on, but that makes sense. Thanks.

        • For my part, I can’t complain – everyone loves an extra holiday 😀

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      Which is just silly. Why wouldn’t Mary and Joseph have had sex?

      • epicurus

        Is the answer Jesus?

      • Michael Neville

        Because Paul was anti-sex and so railed against it. Read 1st Corinthians to see him denounce all sexuality except between husband and wife and then say that the only reason to get married is to have legitimate sex but he’d rather people stayed single.

        The Christian Church has feared and hated sex ever since and praised virginity. Mary, as the Mother o’ Gawd®, is the ultimate virgin. Some medieval scholastics took this to such an extreme that they claimed that when she was impregnated with Jesus that the Holy Jism entered through her ear.

    • RichardSRussell

      Maybe she became a born-again virgin after every roll in the hay. Miracles, you know.

      • Greg G.

        Jesus healed her hymen on the way out.

  • epeeist

    Not quite a biblical contradiction, but my sense of schadenfreude is tickled by the fact that a number of the “Dead Sea scroll fragments” obtained illegally by Hobby Lobby have turned out to be fakes.

    • Greg G.

      I was amused by that, too, for some reason.

    • Liars for Jesus®.

  • Also, when point #8 is addressed, apologists will often claim that God does answer all prayers, but often his response in “no”.

    However, if we look at Matthew 18:19; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13; John 15:7; John 15:16; John 16:23–24, etc., this argument is easily refuted: unless we want to believe that none of those shooting victims had enough faith, of course.

    • Len

      The problem with that response is that god doesn’t answer “no”. An answer of “no” would at least be an answer from an all-loving, all-caring god. But there’s no actual answer, just silence. It’s almost as if god wasn’t there at all.

      • I think what they mean by “no” is things going the opposite way you wished – for example, a loved one dying after you’ve prayed for them to recover.

        • Len

          I understand what they mean (I used to say the same when I was a believer) but it’s still no real answer. A loving, caring parent would say “here’s the Mercedes Benz you asked for” or “here – now you can watch your favourite TV shows in colour” or even “enjoy your night on the town – on me!”. But no – nothing. And if the answer is no, then a loving, caring parent would bring it gently, not silently.

    • Tommy
  • Halbe

    Regarding #6: Most Christians say that it is faith that brings salvation, and that works are a result of faith. Repentance is required in order to truly accept Jesus, and baptism is publicly showing that you truly believe. So, repentance and baptism are required in order to truly have faith, works are a result of true faith. Yes, it’s convoluted, but what isn’t in Christianity?

    • Greg G.

      I say that James is a response to Galatians and Romans addresses some points in James because they disagreed.

      For example, James 2:8-11 says Galatians 5:14 is a good start but you still have to follow the law or you will become a murderer.

      Romans (I’ll cite chapter and verse later) quotes Leviticus 19:18 verbatim as it is in James, and points out that love will keep you from murdering and stealing.

    • Rudy R

      Most Christians say that it is faith that brings salvation, and that works are a result of faith.

      And you know this how?

      • Halbe

        Just take a look at RCC doctrine.

        • Rudy R

          Evangelicals believe in faith alone. Your responses are a built on the No true Scotsman fallacy.

        • Halbe

          No more than yours. Evangelicals are a small part of Christianity, they just make a lot of noise.

        • Tommy

          Irrelevant. Their influence is significant.

        • Halbe

          Their influence is significant in the US, outside not so much. And there is a very big world outside of the US. And their outsized influence in the US still does not mean that their doctrinal stances should be taken as the norm.

        • Tommy

          Evangelical influence is global and significant especially in foreign policy and Israel.

        • Halbe

          So what? Biblical inerrancy is still a (small) minority doctrine within Christianity. Not sure what US politics have to do with that.

        • Tommy

          Take a look at non-RCC doctines.

        • Halbe

          Yes, like those of the Eastern Orthodox church, and progressive Protestantism.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          How many Catholics do you think are well versed in RCC doctrine?

        • Halbe

          And? They still don’t hold the position that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          How do you know?

        • Halbe

          See my response to Greg G elsewhere in this thread.

    • Greg G.

      Another case is Galatians 3:6 where Paul quotes from Genesis 6:15, on Abraham’s justification, that Abraham was justified by faith.

      James 2:21-23 argues that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered Isaac on the altar and quotes Genesis 6:15 a little differently than in Galatians.

      But in Romans 4:1-3, Paul counters while quoting Genesis 6:15 verbatim as James did, and in Romans 4:10-12, he points out that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, which was before the altar incident. Paul took out James’ argument that Abraham was justified by works and the importance of circumcision with one stone.

  • Halbe

    Regarding #8: Many Christians claim that these verses primarily address the afterlife, not the insignificant few years spent on this earth. You can pray yourself into a nice heavenly apartment with a balcony view of hell, where unspeakable harm is inflicted on the wicked.

    • They might well imagine that this is about the afterlife, but these are OT verses. There was no concept of hell then.

      • Halbe

        I never claimed their arguments are good…

      • There supposedly was Sheol, where everyone ended up, the kind of generic afterlife present in Bronze Age Greece (read the Odyssey), Sumerians, etc.

        • Greg G.

          One man’s Sheol is another man’s Hades.

  • Halbe

    Regarding #7, 9 and 10: i would agree with most Christians that say that these are details that have no theological or doctrinal relevance. According to Christian lore the Bible was written by fallible men, who where divinely inspired to get God’s important message across, but who sometimes slip up on less important details.

    • Greg G.

      But other Christian lore says the Bible is inerrant.

      • Halbe

        That is a minority position within Christianity, found only within fundamentalist protestant denominations.

        • Greg G.

          There are few positions that are not minority positions in Christianity.

        • The problem is that they may be a (maybe not so) minority, but are quite vocal.I’m here after among other reasons pastors spewing so much BS attempting to reconcile the Bible with what says modern science -this in a Catholic country where the Church would never dare to say i public at least what follows-, ranging from telling both evolution and the Big Bang are beliefs and things are like happened in the Bible (including “the Sun turning off six seconds after Jesus’ death) to epic fails product of being totally clueless abot science and talking about concepts too big to them (as in BS about a “quantum scientists have discovered a portal to a dark Universe using the heavy quark that vindicates the Bible”)

    • Rudy R

      Which leads to another contradiction. Either the Bible is the inerrant word of god or written by fallible men.

      • Halbe

        Yes, some Christians claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. And these Christians have a problem. However, most Christians don’t.

        • Rudy R

          And you know this how?

        • Halbe

          The RCC, representing ~1.3 billion Christians, do not hold the view that the Bible is inerrant. Neither does progressive Protestantism. Nor the Eastern Orthodox Church.

        • Rudy R

          And we know that every Catholic abides by Catholic dogma, especially the 24 percent of women who procure abortions and 50% approve of the death penalty. And I wouldn’t label Evangelicals as some Christians.

        • Halbe

          Indeed, there are quite a lot of Evangelical Christians. Still no more than ~10% of all people that call themselves Christians.

        • Greg G.

          How many people that call themselves Christians have actually read the Bible? How many Catholics understand what the RCC professes?

          Many get a warm, fuzzy feeling when they hear “the Bible is inerrant” and decide that sounds about right. The Bible is a EULA to them. They just scroll to the bottom and click “I agree”.

        • Halbe

          Sure. And?

        • Greg G.

          I think you are underestimating how many Christians think the Bible is inerrant. I have met a lot of Catholics who say that, many that believe the Garden of Eden story, too. I get that IRL without initiating the conversation,too.

        • Halbe

          I see your point. I would say however that these Christians readily change their minds after some of these (minor) contradictions are pointed out to them, like “but I did not mean inerrant into the small details”. It is not a doctrinal stance to these Christians, it is just a lack of Bible knowledge. The doctrinal stance of Biblical inerrancy really is a (small) minority position.

        • Tommy

          Argumentum ad populum again.

        • Halbe

          Do you even know what “argumentum ad populum” means? I cannot see any way to apply it to my comment. I don’t even make a logical argument, I am just stating fact. Very hard to find logical fallacies in statements of fact.

        • Tommy

          All over this section you’ve done little more than appeal to numbers and percentages of Catholics VS Evangelicals to allude to the fact that since Evangelicals are a minority worldwide, therefore their influence is not significant.

        • Halbe

          I did nothing of a kind. I only mentioned the fact that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is a minority position within Christianity. Which is a very relevant fact in this discussion.

        • Tommy

          And what was the relevance of that fact?

        • Halbe

          You deny that that fact is relevant to the discussion about Rudy R’s original point, and my original reply? Really?

        • Lark62

          An awful lot of Christians will say the bible is inerrant and it gets some things wrong. And they will say these in the same freakin sentence.

          They will also rell you the bible establishes absolute morality for all times and all places, but some moral guidance in the bible is not really moral guidance and doesn’t apply.

          Cognitive dissonance is about the only universal absolute among christians.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          If you’re not trying to claim that a minority position is insignificant, why bring it up?

        • Halbe

          Not sure why you insist in reading things in my comments that I did not say. At all. This is the original discussion:

          Rudy R Halbe • 5 hours ago
          Which leads to another contradiction. Either the Bible is the inerrant word of god or written by fallible men.

          Halbe Rudy R • 5 hours ago
          Yes, some Christians claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. And these Christians have a problem. However, most Christians don’t.

          There is nothing in there about (in)significance one way or another. It is just a statement of fact, which is relevant to this discussion.

        • Tommy

          Argumentum ad populum.

        • Halbe

          Statement of fact. Your fallacious flaunting with logical fallacies is duly noted and dismissed.

        • Tommy

          Your inability to realize that ‘arguments’ and ‘statement of facts’ are not mutually exclusive has been duly noted.

        • Halbe

          Just so that you don’t make a fool of yourself again when trying to impress people with your logical fallacy shtick: An argumentum ad populum would be “Most Chrisitans do not believe in Biblical inerrancy, so Biblical inerrancy is wrong”. But that is of course not what I said. At all.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Church dogma may say that. The 1.3 billion Catholics do not all believe that.

        • Max Doubt

          “Yes, some Christians claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.”

          And they imagine they’re just as correct in their understanding as those who don’t make that claim.

          “And these Christians have a problem.”

          Yes, the exact same problem as those who don’t make that claim.

          “However, most Christians don’t.”

          Yet there they are, whether taking their bible as inerrant or otherwise, each as true a Christian as the other. From out here, outside the imaginations of people who believe some, most, or all of the Christian bible is true, they’re all just telling us how they imagine it. None of them can demonstrate that the tales are true. In that regard, all Christians have that same problem.

        • Halbe

          I agree. However, the problems facing the “inerrant Bible” Christians are different from those facing the “inspired by God Bible” Christians, and again different from the problems facing the “Bible is an inspiring collection of myth and legend” Christians.

        • epicurus

          Yeah, I left Christianity after I lost belief that the Bible was inerrant. Over the years I’ve talked to and read many (Protestant) Christians who think inerrancy is silly, but not a reason to leave, because the Bible is still inspired. But when I try to get a working definition of what they mean and don’t mean by that, and if the whole book is, and how do we tell if it isn’t, or what parts are not, I usually don’t get much of an answer, other than following Jesus. But of course our only info about Jesus comes from the Bible. Kind of circular reasoning.

        • Halbe

          Yes! It’s a bit damned if you do damned if you don’t thing with Biblical inerrancy. Most Christians just have a cafeteria mentality regarding the Bible, which is more or less the only way to reconcile the Bible with modern life.

        • Rudy R

          The problem exists with the Christians who don’t believe in inerrancy as well. How do they distinguish between fact and fiction?

        • Halbe

          Of course. You get rid of one problem, and you get another (even bigger?) problem in return.

      • james warren

        Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and unbelievers are ALL “fallible men.”

    • eric

      According to Gallup, in 2017 24% of Americans believed the Bible was the ‘actual Word of God, to be taken literally’. See here. The point of that article is to show it’s the lowest it’s ever been, but given that only about 75% of the US population is Christian, that still works out to ~32% of U.S. Christians. Your defense of the rationality of Christian theology depends on discounting the beliefs of a third of all US Christians. That’s not the sign of a clear or rational set of beliefs, that you have to throw out a third of your community in order to maintain the rationality of it.

      Second, as you implicitly admit, 8 has doctrinal relevance. An internal contradiction in even one or a few points of doctrinal relevance is a theological problem.

      Third, I’d argue that #9 is very doctrinally important, since the Thessalonians verse contradicts Romans 1:18 (the infamous ‘there are no real atheists’ section). Thessalonians claims there are people in darkness, who will be surprised by Christ’s second coming. But Romans says nobody is really in darkness – everyone, literally everyone, knows the truth of Christianity, and any claim otherwise is a lie. If Thessalonians is correct and many people are ‘in darkness’ about Christianity, then it is evil of God to allow such people to go to hell for nonbelief. If Thessalonians is correct, then he’s damning people to hell for ignorance rather than rejection. The Romans verse – in all its obviously empirically wrong glory – was necessary to make hell moral; but Thesssalonians contradicts it. That’s a pretty big doctrinal issue, wouldn’t you say?

      I’ll end on a positive note; I agree with you that #10 isn’t a “contradiction” issue. It’s IMO easy to think of legitimate – though often depressing – reasons why a person would ask a friend to help their mom vs a sibling. None of you have siblings that are too poor, too busy, or too incompetent to take care of your elderly mom? I’ve seen that lots of times. I’ve seen that in my own extended family, even.

      • Halbe

        Americans are only ~5% of the world’s population, and only ~10% of all Christians live in the US, so I am not sure why you bring up these statistics.

        I agree with you other points.

        • Tommy

          So what if they are?

        • Halbe

          I don’t know. Maybe that statistics about US Christians say nothing about the 90% of the Christians outside the US?

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Is it shocking that a blog by an American deals more with American Christianity than with Christianity in the rest of the world?

        • Tommy

          Why should it?

        • Halbe

          Indeed. So why mention the statistics at all?

        • eric

          You’re still wrong. Here is what the second Vatican Counsel, Dei verbum, under Pope Paul VI, 1965 has to say about the bible being accurate. I’m including a lot of extra text before the money quotes so you can’t accuse me of missing the context, but I’ve put the key quotes in bold:

          “11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in
          Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the
          Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see
          John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both
          the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred
          and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they
          have God as their author
          and have been handed on as such to the Church
          herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by
          Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in
          them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing
          everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

          Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred
          writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the
          books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and
          without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the
          sake of salvation.
          Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use
          for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and
          discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient
          and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).


          So, the RCC does not accept that contradictions in scripture are merely the result of human error. The pope himself declared that God put those words (and only those words) on the page because he wanted us to read them.

          So, are you now going to tell me that the Pope doesn’t speak for the vast majority of Christians, who know better?

        • Halbe

          Interesting! No wonder the RCC doesn’t want their flock to actually read the Bible 🙂

        • Michael Neville

          This is a misconception. When I was a Catholic groping my way towards atheism I was urged by priests and monks to read the Bible.

        • Halbe

          But then of course there is this:

          “When a synod of bishops devoted to “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” met under Pope Benedict XVI’s direction in 2008, its working paper included the statement, “[T]he following can be said with certainty . . . with regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to ‘that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation’ (DV 11).” The use of the word only seems to put a limitation on the scope of Scripture’s inerrancy, an incorrect limitation in the eyes of many. At the conclusion of the synod, the bishops asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to clarify the teaching of Dei Verbum 11. A CDF response is yet to come.”

        • eric

          So, the RCC changed its mind (though they wouldn’t call it that…probably ‘refinement’ or something) about inerrancy. And simultaneously (though maybe inadvertently) throws large portions of scripture under the bus since it’s now tacitly agreed that any contradictory statements aren’t necessary for salvation.

          But you still have a problem.

          The contradictory quotes in #6 are important to salvation because they discuss entry requirements. So neither can be in error. Oops.

          The contradictory quotes in #7 are important to salvation because the messiah must be from David’s line, and if there is a question about Jesus’ genealogy, then the Christian claim that he’s the messiah is equally in question. So neither contradictory genealogy can be in error. Oops.

          The contradictory quotes in #8 are important to salvation because if God prevents harm coming to his true followers, then people who come to harm aren’t doing what they need to do to be saved. OTOH if that quote is wrong, harm is not an indicator of salvatory status. This is really important for a Christian to know: is that first quote true? If so, then getting a cut finger means they have to change something about their belief in order to be saved. But since both quotes tell us something about our salvatory status, both must be inerrant. Oops.

          The contradictory quotes in #9 are important to salvation because they claim the way we can tell real Christians from fakes is ‘surprise’ about the end times. But another part of the bible says everyone will be surprised. So everyone’s in darkness. Therefore everyone’s going to hell. But yet a third part of the bible says nobody is in darkness (so…everyone should have knowledge of when the end will come?), but claims a lot of those people who know and believe in God are going to hell anyway. Yet all three claims must be accurate, since they all tell us something about who is saved and whether one can judge whether they are themselves saved. Oops.

          All of which is to point out that ‘important to salvation’ is itself a category that includes many contradictions…and is a category which is open to interpretation by Christians themselves. It does the RCC no good to defend ‘inerrancy only in scripture important to salvation’ when you’ve got Ken Ham or William Lane Craig claiming literally every word in the bible is critical to the question of salvation.

          The RCC’s “defense” of biblical errors is kind of like a rock n’roll fan telling someone not to judge the genre on the crappy songs it’s produced, because it’s the genre’s best that really show what it is. Well not only is that a self-serving argument to begin with, but it doesn’t practically work as a criteria because ‘best’ is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Analogously, telling people only some bits of the Bible represent God’s teaching is a self-serving argument, and telling them only the bits important to salvation are inerrant doesn’t practically work as a criteria since different Christians have different notions of what counts as ‘important to salvation.’ Sure, there could be some subset of biblical statements that are theologically true, and which God knows to be theologically true. But the RCC here hasn’t given any cogent or practical guidance on how humans can figure out which ones those are.

        • Halbe

          I agree that throwing Biblical inerrancy out of the window introduces a lot of new problems. And I fully agree about #6 and #8. #7, #9 and #10 however can easily be explained away as “not important for salvation” imo.

    • The authors slipped up on unimportant details, but they just know that they didn’t slip up on the important points? Sounds like faith to me.

      • Halbe

        Yes, denying Biblical inerrancy and still maintaining that the Bible is the basis for your religious faith requires a lot of faith.

  • Some claim they were Joseph’s sons by a previous wife. Nonetheless they might have supported her.

    • Kevin K

      Why “previous”? Polygamy was certainly practiced by his forebears. Mary was probably his side chick.

      • Yes, but apparently not by that point (the Romans banned this).

        • Greg G.

          I have never seen this before.

          In Asia, a man having multiple wives is a long tradition. The men had the power. After WWII, when the French returned to Vietnam, the banned polygamy, but grandfathered in existing polygamous marriages. It did not end it though, but it did flip the power to the women as the man had to keep both happy.

          I understand it became more popular after the war because the casualties upset the gender balance.

        • What, you’ve never seen polygamy banned? That happened in the US too, against the Mormons.

        • Greg G.

          No, that the Romans banned it in Judea and Galilee. The Romans banned a lot of things, like stoning children, but I have never seen anything about marriage laws.

        • The Code of Justinian 5.5.2 forbids it for anyone under Roman rule. Not that no one might have done this in secret.

        • Greg G.

          Code of Justinian, Latin Codex Justinianus, formally Corpus Juris Civilis (“Body of Civil Law”), the collections of laws and legal interpretations developed under the sponsorship of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I from 529 to 565 CE.

          That is more than 500 years too late for Joseph and his forebears.

        • epicurus

          500 years, that would be like us trying to maintain that LGBTQ people would not be discriminated against by law in 1500 because of current 21st century laws.

        • epicurus

          Actually, more like someone 2000 years from now saying that in 1500 AD it would have been a certain way because of laws in 2018.

        • The code collected laws from centuries earlier.

        • Tommy

          But there was no ban on polygamy centuries earlier. That’s the point.

        • How do you know? I can’t find the exact date for this, but Augustus made laws about marriage, and that was before Jesus.

        • Greg G.


          Shortly after Justinian became emperor in 527, he decided the empire’s legal system needed repair. There existed three codices of imperial laws and other individual laws, many of which conflicted or were out of date. The Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus were unofficial compilations. (The term “Codex” refers to the physical aspect of the works, being in book form, rather than on papyrus rolls. The transition to the codex occurred around AD 300.)[2] The Codex Theodosianus was an official compilation ordered by Theodosius II.

          From the mouseovers:

          The Codex Gregorianus is the title of a collection of constitutions of Roman emperors over a century and a half from the 130s to 290s AD. It is believed to have been produced around 291-4

          The Codex Hermogenianus is the title of a collection of constitutions of the Roman emperors of the first tetrarchy, mostly from the years 293–94.

          The Codex Theodosianus was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Theodosius II and his co-emperor Valentinian III on 26 March 429

          From , Page 5

          X. MARRIAGE
          Roman citizens are bound together in lawful matrimony when they are united according to law, the males having attained the age of puberty, and the females a marriageable age, whether they are fathers or sons of a family;

          I went through the full text link but I didn’t find anything that banned polygamy nor regulated it in any of the marriage laws. Unfortunately I can’t do a text search on that page.

        • Hmm, that section doesn’t match the citation I read elsewhere. So it may be I’m wrong about this. Also, not all of these laws were strictly engorced. The Jews had mostly abandoned polygamy after the 2nd century AD I’ve read, and before it was largely done by the rich men.

        • epicurus

          Justinian was a long time after Jesus. Is there anything from preChristian Rome about this?

        • He was collecting all Roman laws up to then. Many predated Jesus by centuries.

        • epicurus

          Fair enough, but we don’t know which ones, as far as I’m aware. I just don’t think we can assume every law under a Christian emperor had always been in effect, going all the way back to pre christian pagan Rome.

        • That’s true, but Augustus had laws passed on this.

        • Kevin K

          That would apply only to Roman citizens, wouldn’t it? I don’t think the Romans cared to interfere with the local customs to that degree.

        • Usually they were a bit tolerant, but not on this apparently. The Code of Justinian 5.5.2 forbids it for anyone under their rule.

        • Michael Neville

          Justinian ruled the Byzantine Empire from 529 to 565 CE. That’s somewhat later than the era of Joseph and Mary.

        • I know. The Code codified laws that were already on place.

  • George Johnson

    Regarding Item 6 on the routes to salvation… The Skeptics Annotated Bible lists no less than 189 different recipes for salvation

    • I found that at this page. You’re right–it’s quite a list.

    • james warren

      Salvation is about transformation in THIS life.

      Even in the New Testament the primary meaning of the word “salvation” is transformation in this life.
      You can easily see this in the roots of the English word salvation, which comes from “salve”– a healing ointment.
      Salvation is about healing.

      We all grow up wounded, and salvation is about the healing of the roots of existence.

      It means nothing about an afterlife.

    • disqus_luyO9fNlwT already

  • Jay Has

    Here is a quite interestingly funny forum conversation, attempting to explain the divinity of Jesus and how it can coincide with his earthly existence from a Catholic website. The questioner does not seem to feel good about the answers given, can you blame them?

    • Otto

      My favorite is when someone argues that Jesus was ’emptied’ of his divine knowledge and partook in all things human…except for the sin part…lol.

      The sin is part of what makes us human. Convoluted Catholic claptrap.

      • Jay Has

        It’s so asinine that it’s comical.