The Bible must be held to a different standard than an ordinary book, the gospels being eyewitness accounts is wishful thinking, and the Bible’s successful prophecies are imaginary.
(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)
Challenge to the Christian: You can’t trust the Bible because it was written by humans.
Christian response #1: Why then trust any book written by a human or even any statement from a human, including yours? The question should be, is it true?
We’re at the tenth reply in this series, and this is the fourth attempt to dodge a challenge by disqualifying it. Oh well, let’s play along. This version should be unobjectionable: “The Bible’s claims are extraordinary, far more so than those of an ordinary history book. How can these claims be supported when the Bible was only written by humans?”
Sure, a nonfiction book isn’t perfect, but science has a secret weapon: crowdsourcing. The argument and the evidence are presented, and then other scientists are encouraged to find errors. That’s also how it works in other legitimate scholarly disciplines like history. Science has no concept of faith, but the Bible does—big difference.
Christian apologists point to the accurate history in the Bible, such as the names of places, people, or tribes. But then archaeologists used clues in the Iliad to find Troy. Does that mean that the Iliad’s supernatural tales are true? Accurate place names are merely a requirement to get to the starting line; you don’t get bonus points for them.
The elephant in the room is that the Bible was supposedly inspired by God. With this claim, the expectations are much, much higher. If God took the trouble to inspire it, you’d think he would take the trouble to protect it. The Bible should be the world’s most reliable book, but it’s not even close.
The Bible holds God’s message, but you wouldn’t know it given its contradictions and errors. [Click to tweet]
Christian response #2: The gospels claim to be reliable eyewitness accounts. Test this claim, and you’ll find that it holds up.
Reliable eyewitness accounts? Nope. We don’t even know who wrote the gospels, because they don’t tell us. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are just names assigned by tradition. No New Testament gospel has the equivalent of “I Thomas, an Israelite, write you this account,” which is how one of the noncanonical gospels begins.
This response claims that the gospels are reliable eyewitness accounts. The author is eager to have us take that next little step and conclude that the gospels are accurate, so therefore the Bible’s supernatural tales are true. But it’s not a little step. I could write a pile of nonsense and end it with, “I saw this myself!” That doesn’t turn nonsense into fact. Even if the gospels did claim to be eyewitness accounts—even if they were eyewitness accounts—we’d have a long way to go before story becomes history.
Christianity is old, but don’t think venerable and respected; think clouded by time. We have much more data with which to criticize a supernatural claim in yesterday’s news than 2000-year-old miracle claims for which evidence has vanished. Christians will tell us that they don’t have a chemist’s analysis of the wine Jesus made from water or security cam video of Jesus’s tomb, but that’s their problem, not ours. For claims as remarkable as Christianity’s, we need far more evidence than old stories.
The gospels aren’t reliable eyewitness accounts, and they don’t claim to be. Their names are just tradition, and the authors are unknown. [Click to tweet]
Christian response #3: The Bible records dozens of prophecies plus their accurate fulfillment.
The Bible’s most well-known “prophecies” fail.
- Isaiah 7: Matthew says that Jesus’s virgin birth “took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet,” a reference to the Immanuel story in Isaiah 7. But all you have to do is read the three verses about Immanuel to see that his biography is no match with that of Jesus.
- Isaiah 52–3: The story of the Suffering Servant matches Jesus only if you carefully select the verses to consider. Ask modern Jews: it’s their holy book, and they’ll tell you that the Suffering Servant actually represents Israel, not any man.
- Psalm 22: This also matches Jesus only by careful picking and choosing.
- Daniel: This book claims to have been written in the 600s BCE. But it’s much more likely to have been written in about 167 BCE because its “predictions” are accurate up to this point and nonsensical after.
Read a summary of successful Bible prophecies, and they sound impressive. But read a skeptical critique to get the other side of the story. [Click to tweet]
(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)
For further reading:
- The Ridiculous Argument from Accurate Names
- Why the Gospel of Mark Is Likely NOT an Eyewitness Account
- Virgin Birth of Jesus: Fact or Fiction?
- Isaiah 53: Another Failed Prophecy Claim
- Failed Prophecy: Psalm 22
- Liars for Jesus: Does Daniel Predict the Future?
is a miraculous fulfillment
of a prophecy called a recipe.
— commenter RichardSRussell
Image from Paweł Czerwiński, CC license