Seven Problems with Inerrancy (Leaving Evangelicalism, #2)

Seven Problems with Inerrancy (Leaving Evangelicalism, #2) May 7, 2015

This is the second post of a series I will be writing over the next few months in which I reflect on my theological journey through Evangelicalism and “out the other side.” 


Is the Bible completely and utterly and absolutely true? Is it completely and utterly true about everything (or even everything about which it speaks)? Can we take the Bible’s words and lay them up against what we know about history, and biology, and cosmology, and sexuality, and the size of mustard seeds in ancient Palestine? Is the Bible completely and utterly true when it says that God created everything in six days (and if it’s a “day,” then it must mean a 24 hour period, right?).  And, when “truth” and “truthfulness” is used in the Bible, did they mean the same thing as Evangelicals mean by it?

Did Elisha’s ax-head really float (2 Kings 6)

Was Jonah really swallowed by a big fish and spat out 3 days later?

Did God really (I mean, really ) command Moses to kill all the Midianite men and non-virgin women, but to keep the virgins alive for the soldiers (Num. 31)? In other words, did God command genocide, slavery, and sex trafficking?

What do we do with all the violence, slavery, rape, and sexism in the Bible (see, for example, Phyllis 3281031630_27d142be0aTrible’s Texts of Terror)?

Did all those miracles really happen the way the Bible says they did?

Jesus really rise from the dead?

The questions are piling up. So why not more?

What does “true” mean? Propositionally (or “informationally”) true? Symbolically true? Mythically true? Theologically true? Relationally or existentially true? Or is “truth” just not the best word to use in every case and place regarding the Bible’s content? Does truth in the Bible mean something more like “faithfulness” than factual precision? (probably so).

When I applied for my first tenure track job at an evangelical seminary, I was asked this question about my view of the Bible: Is there any qualitative difference between the significance of whether or not the ax-head floated or whether Jesus really rose from the dead? My interviewer was getting at the so-called problem of the “slippery slope.” That is, if you say that one episode or story in the Bible did not really happen precisely in the way that it happened, then you are left in an epistemological lurch, because you have no solid ground upon which to affirm that some things really happened and that other things did not. I think my interviewer wanted me to say that there is no qualitative difference in terms of the truth of the matter: because every word in the Bible is absolutely true.

I don’t think my answered please him (though it pleased enough others in the room that I got through). There’s a big difference. One is an ancient story, possibly miraculous or possibly mythical; either way, it has no direct bearing on our lives or our faith. The other is about the ground of our hope in the resurrection of the living Christ. That Christ lives and acts redemptively today through the power of the resurrection, and gives us hope that we too will live again, matters deeply, personally, spiritually, and existentially. The biblical testimonies to the resurrection are pointers to that reality. They are pointers to the living Christ, who is the theological and hermeneutical centerpiece of the Christian canon. Like John the Baptist, they point the finger to Jesus; so the Bible creates an occasion for us to narratively engage the story of Jesus–but it is the living Jesus that is the goal. And God is the real authority; the Bible is a derivative authority. (This latter point, by the way, I adopted from N.T. Wright).

6672197399_7e073faa40The definition of inerrancy which I used for many years as an evangelical is one I learned from my doctoral adviser: The Bible is literally true in all that it literarily affirms. In other words, we can assume its truth, but this is far from yet saying what it is true about. To get there, you have to undertake a complicated theological, hermeneutical, and interdisciplinary process which attends to all kinds of ways of knowing and all sorts of inputs of information (including, in my view, contemporary understandings of biology, cosmology, sexuality, ethics, etc.). This “intentional view” of inerrancy–that the Bible’s truth is related to the communicative intentions of the author (and must incorporate the limitations of the authors’ culture) is hardly distinguishable from the concept of infallibility (the Bible doesn’t fail to do that which it intends to do). It is so indistinguishable, in my view, that it’s probably not worth keeping the term inerrancy. Let’s just give that to the literalists and the fundamentalists, and call it a day.

Inerrancy is tied to the notion of “plenary verbal inspiration”: Every word in the Bible is “breathed-out” by God and is therefore guarded by the Holy Spirit from the possibility of error. Evangelicals acknowledge that readers will err when they interpret. But, when everything is finally known, we will all see that the Bible’s words are completely immune from human error and that any assumed errors were just misunderstandings on our part. There are errors in the copies of the manuscripts, however (and we don’t have the pristine originals). But we’ve mostly remedied those errors (presumably) through careful textual replication. By the way, the “original manuscripts” concession has been dubbed, by a well-known Evangelical professor no less, the “run-to-the-round-room-they-can’t-corner-us-there” tactic.

And now, let’s jump into the problems with inerrancy:

(1) there are so many definitions of inerrancy that is has become a mostly meaningless word (perhaps like “evangelicalism” itself. As I suggested above, the positive impulse behind the term is better served by words like: “true, trustworthy, effectual, powerful,” and–perhaps most importantly–inspired. 

(2) It is mainly a political and “power” word, a shibboleth useful for maintaining boundaries and for gatekeeping who is in and who is out. We see this time and again.  We see the power-play, shibboleth narrative played out time and again in Christian denominations, colleges, seminaries, churches, etc. Often the conflict is over interpretations of Scripture, but very often the issue is directed back to assumptions about “inerrancy”–and to the way that is defined by those in power).

(3) The more literalist and propositionalist definitions of inerrancy just don’t square with the diversity, humanity (culturally embedded), and limitations of the text. They also make strong assumptions that the Bible itself proclaims its own “inerrant” nature. Upon closer inspection, it simply does not. Even the most widely used texts, like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, simply do not prove the more propositionalist (literalist) versions of the Evangelical position.

(4) The doctrine of inerrancy too greatly neglects the role of tradition and the “church catholic” in the formation of the canon. This is another way of saying that inerrancy undermines the humanity of the Bible. The portrait which emerges from “plenary verbal inspiration” is too often that of an impeccable, immune from human (fallible) input, book that just sort of drops out of the sky–rather than a collection of books that came to be stamped as authoritative over time through a rather messy process. And I haven’t even broached the issue of the contested canon between Protestants and Catholics!

(5) The doctrine of inerrancy is simply too modernistic and “objectivist” in orientation. As Donald Bloesch puts it, “”I am not comfortable with the term inerrancy when applied to Scripture because it has been co-opted by a rationalistic, empiricistic mentality that reduces truth to facticity.” In other words, inerrancy is bound up with a particular kind of epistemology: one which cannot account for the richness of truth and ways of knowing. Perhaps we should be looking to the Bible to do things other than (or at the very least, much more than, give us propositional doctrines, “rules for living,” even “theologies” of God that preclude mystery and that are very often bogged down by the humanity reflected by the biblical authors (i.e. Patriarchy).

(6) The doctrine of inerrancy is based on an epistemologically certainty that is simply untenable. It assumes that in the divine revelation given in Scripture, we have a kind of immediate access to the pure truth of God, shining through. But this is to neglect, as Gabriel Fackre points out in The Doctrine of Revelation, the “already and not yet” tension that the Bible itself teaches: “To hold that the original writings of Scripture in all the parts and on all their subject matter are so superintended by the Holy Spirit as to constitute them with an unqualified inerrancy is to confuse the present Dawn with the final Day” (170). This is why many Evangelicals reject the use of many higher critical methodologies: they have confused the “Dawn” with the “Day,” and are therefore looking to the Bible to give the the “Day,” right now.

(7) The doctrine of inerrancy too often accepts the biblical texts as they are rather than seeking to discern what they might be pointing us toward. If we were to only read the Bible literally (via the literalist doctrine of inerrancy), might have a difficult time denouncing some abhorrent things that the Bible does not denounce. War, violence, slavery, violent patriarchy, etc.). We need to think with–to theologize with and alongside the text. But we must also be willing to go beyond the confines or limits of a literalist, wooden reading of the text, as the Spirit leads us. To say this another way: a preoccupation with inerrancy can get in the way of justice and abundant life. What would Jesus want? 

On top of it all, or perhaps underneath it all, is the sticky problem that the Bible just does contain “errors,” of various sorts. Rather than ignore these historical, chronological, scientific, moral problems, let’s take them up into a larger vision of God’s revelation, God’s truth, God’s salvation in Christ and the Spirit.

The Christian canon is an irreplaceable document for Christians and for the church. And it is, in my view, the inspired Word of God that can leads us into the knowledge of God. But it facilitates that relational knowledge of God. And God is the authority–not the Bible. Kierkegaard suggested that perhaps there are errors in the Bible (errors of history or grammar, etc.) that were intentionally allowed by God to keep us from putting our faith in the Bible, and allow us to put our faith in God.

Now there’s an intriguing thought.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Antique Holy Bible, printed in 1885, with metal clasps, and leather binding, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href=”″>P16-512 titre 1</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>

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  • Wolf

    Excellently put!

  • Animal

    I loved the last thought. There is something about relishing in the mysteries of faith and simply being okay with it. The Greek Orthodox church as I understand it does not hold to the inerrancy of scripture, but do believe it is inspired of God. Partly because they too hold tightly to the mysteries of Christ and not feeling like they must know everything.

    The doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture (a fairly new doctrine) was formed as a reaction to what was once a liberal reading and understanding of scripture in the late 19th/early 20th century. Ironically, this doctrine was never, until recently, a core fundamental belief or litmus test for orthodox faith.

    When I was asked to sign on the dotted line in agreement with a faith statement of a conservative evangelical missions organization about the inerrancy of scripture, I did so with some reluctance. At the time, I was still uncertain about what I believed about that. Now, some five years later I have come to the conclusion that while the Bible is indeed inspired by God, it was also written by fallible men. Many things are inspired by God, but does not necessitate the need for it to be infallible. Plus, (ready for a cliffhanger?) I am not so certain that Paul’s writings completely compliment or line up with the teachings of Christ.

  • Rust Cohle

    And even Jesus himself was often unethical in both his teachings and behaviors.

    Avolos, H. (2015) The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd.

  • Nimblewill

    We often think that God tells us to do things that we go out and do and are completely wrong in doing them.

  • I agree this is very important, but I’m not sure I missed out on it!

    “If we were to only read the Bible literally (via the literalist doctrine of inerrancy), might have a difficult time denouncing some abhorrent things that the Bible does not denounce. War, violence, slavery, violent patriarchy, etc.). We need to think with–to theologize with and alongside the text. But we must also be willing to go beyond the confines or limits of a literalist, wooden reading of the text, as the Spirit leads us. To say this another way: a preoccupation with inerrancy can get in the way of justice and abundant life. What would Jesus want?”

  • I agree that we need to “go beyond the Bible” to be as ethical as we ought / need to be…but I also think we can use the Bible to go beyond it (as some have said, “going beyond the Bible, biblically!”)

  • Yes, this is an oft-neglected truth: that “inerrancy” as a doctrine, wedded as it often is to modernist epistemology, is a rather new concept. I also agree with you about Paul / Christ. I like the metaphor of the Bible as a “library” of books/texts, rather than a single, unified book (which of course is not just a metaphor!)

  • Alan Christensen

    I’ve long thought that inerrantists read an awful lot into the word theopneustos in II Tim. 3:16; why does it convey plenary-verbal inspiration? Who says it doesn’t mean something like when a movie is “inspired by” a true story?
    I also like your point about the humanness of the Bible. When we insist that all Scripture speaks with one voice (=God’s voice), it just doesn’t strike me as true to what’s in the Bible: a dialogue among many voices over the centuries, one of which I certainly believe is God’s voice.

  • Your final point echoes what I’ve been thinking for quite some time. It’s almost as if the Bible was meant to be unreliable (easily interpreted in many opposing ways) so we’d have to turn to the Being behind the stories in order to find sanity.

  • Alan Christensen

    It’s like St. Paul said: If the axe head didn’t float, our faith is in vain!

  • yes 🙂

  • Kierkegaard really turned the light on with that one. But you can see that idea in various forms throughout church history. It’s a much more realistic (and spiritual) approach than inerrancy / plenary verbal inspiration

  • and “theopneustos” means “breathed out,” but somehow it was taken to mean “breathed in” (inspired).

  • Thanks. I found your summary helpful as I thought about psychological reasons for the literal beliefs held by scholars. I shared your story with some comments on my fb page.

  • ShoeBootMan

    Kyle, I appreciate your thoughts here. Some of the very texts you raise here I raised in my last book The Bible As Improv (Zondervan). I think one of the most important contributions to this conversation is the realization of the cultural evolutionary position of those penning the text. The brilliant Jean Gebser has laid out for us in his Archaic-Magic-Mythic-Rationalist-Pluralist-Integral framework when various civilizations roughly reached these stages of evolutionary development. Their world views were obviously entirely (not sort of) shaped by their historical location. The writer of Joshua did not under inspiration correct for a heliocentric cosmology in Joshua 7. Now this might not seem like a big insight and many say this is what we talk about when we use the term accomodationism in hermenutics. That is to miss a far more nuanced understanding. Scot McKnight and I, one of my mentors at Trinity in the mid ’80’s, have had some spirited conversation on this topic. The desire by him and others to create an a priori framework more hospitable to faith (see his response to this very post you wrote) and that excludes some of the very concerns that even a sympathetic reading of scripture entails will be a growing problem for the Christian church in my opinion. I have said for a long time that issues we are facing as the church in our culture are not fundamentally about specific issues of exegesis (a down in the weeds details approach) (Romans 1 and the gay issue for instance) but more about the 50,000 foot approach around how a text like the Bible exercises authority. How does a text written in a magic and mythic culture (to use Gebser’s categories) relate to a rationalist-pluralist-integral culture. When you plow into cultural location this is a very nuanced question far more delicate than I think modern writers are treating it.

  • Thanks for the comment, Ron (I looked up your book!). I like the “bible as improv” analogy. I’ve used N.T. Wright’s “fifth act” model of scriptural authority for many years in teaching, and I think that it offers a good way to think about scripture constructively (and improvisationally). I understand McKnight’s (and others) reasons for wanting to make bibliology and hermeneutics hospitable to faith. I’m certainly in favor of sustaining faith. But as you mention, it requires coming face to face with the hard reality of the text, too. And facing the cultural difference straightforwardly, as you mention. I like Scot’s question, and I will give it some thought before responding.

  • Thanks, Geoff.. I’ve been (slowly) reading Robert Burton’s _On Being Certain: Believing You are Right Even When You’re Not_. Certainty seems to be a natural human emotion, and something that religion often seems to offer. Inerrancy is a pipeline to certainty, and a hard habit to break.

  • XTheist

    There’s a big difference. One is an ancient story, possibly miraculous or possibly mythical; either way, it has no direct bearing on our lives or our faith. The other is about the ground of our hope in the resurrection of the living Christ. That Christ lives and acts redemptively today through the power of the resurrection, and gives us hope that we too will live again, matters deeply, personally, spiritually, and existentially.

    I find this to be a rather surprising and refreshing admission. You are basically conceding that your belief in the resurrection of Christ rests on an argument from consequence. Allow me to quote a comment I made a month ago on a blog post about the zombie outbreak mentioned in Matthew’s gospel. I apologize for the length and tone, but I find that in my comment I am basically describing your position laid out here.

    Yet another nail in the coffin of those Christians who deem themselves of a higher intellectual caliber than fundamentalists for having rejected a literal reading of the creation and flood narratives.

    There is just no compelling case to be made for rejecting a literal reading of these stories and accepting the ressurection narrative as fact, other than an argument from consequence.

    If the flood narrative, creation narrative or this story about zombies are false, it is of nearly no theological consequence to the believer. But if the ressurection story is false, that means there’s no afterlife, we won’t see our dearly departed loves ones again, there’s no ultimate purpose to our existence, the universe will eventually go out like a candle with no wick left and all of the struggles and triumphs of humanity will be ultimately forgotten when there are no brains left to remember them.

    And no, I don’t think I’m putting words in the mouths of believers when I assert that this is ultimately why otherwise reasonable Christians still cling to the ressurection and even some less savory things like Paul’s opinion of homosexuals. I can remember thinking of how scary a world without God would be, and I’ve even had family members bring up the whole nihilism and heat death stuff as if it’s a reason not to be an atheist.

    So despite what many will say about how they don’t have to compromise their intellect in order to be a Christian, or how faith and reason go hand in hand, I don’t think they’re being completely forthright, and this is the perfect example why.
    A story about zombies can be casually brushed away as set dressing because its truth or falsity is of no consequence to the believer. The ressurection cannot be brushed away because its truth or falsity has enormous implications for the believer, and all this talk of multiple attestation is a poor attempt to rationalize the double standard of dismissing zombie outbreak as metaphor and embracing zombie Jesus as truest of truths.

    These zombies supposedly appeared to many, but you won’t hear anyone trumpeting that verse as proof of itself like they do with the “500 witnesses” verse about Jesus. Face it believers, you believe because you find the alternative unpalatable.

  • ShoeBootMan

    Kyle thanks for the response. I too want to sustain faith absolutely! But since we can’t do any reading of texts without a priori’s in play I think I want to make sure we allow the text to breath within it’s own ecosystem with as little harm as possible. Of course we all think our presuppositions are justified somehow. So of course that is precisely where one of the big issues sits. Thanks for taking the time to respond

  • Yeah, that’s a really interesting comparison: zombies to Jesus’ resurrection. I’m going to think about this some more, but my first reply is simply to acknowledge the pragmatic (existential, psychological) dimension of epistemology (and of religious belief). I’m drawn to William James and Kierkegaard for the pragmatist approach. I’m actually OK with saying that I believe the resurrection to be true because I need it (in a manner of speaking) to be true, and that need is partly there because I have oriented my life around that belief. But to describe their power is not necessarily to defeat (disprove) the content of the beliefs themselves.

  • Hominid

    It’s pathetically humorous when the credulous argue over competing superstitions as though they were actual.

  • Tim Haskins

    Of course, when one rejects inerrancy, then one becomes god.
    For it is obvious that when the Bible is not with error, then man inevitably becomes the ultimate arbiter of truth.

  • Kintillius

    This is why I choose to read the 1984 edition of the NIV; it came out before the 2011 “gender-neutral” edition of the NIV.

  • Horace Mann

    In the seven points, replace “inerrancy” with “marriage” – the arguments made are familiar bludgeons…

  • Kintillius

    I remember reading a personal testimony by a man who was a missionary to Japan. He wrote that he had doubts about whether everything written in the Bible was true or not. He began by doubting the parting of the Red Sea, then he began to doubt other events in the Bible. Finally, he came to the point where he questioned whether Jesus really did rise from the dead. This man wrote that he struggled with Jesus’ resurrection for three days, and finally concluded that not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but that the entire Bible is in fact true. This testimony certainly does illustrate that the “slippery slope” concern is a valid one.

    Why do I believe the Bible is completely true? Because of Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus really did rise from the dead (and there are definitely good reasons to believe he did) we can believe the Bible is completely true, and stake our lives – both now and in eternity upon God’s Word. And so I do affirm that God really did part the Red Sea, that God really did make an ax head float, that Jonah really was swallowed by a great fish, and all the other stories of the Bible.

  • Jennifer P

    >>Is the Bible completely and utterly true when it says that God created everything in six days (and if it’s a “day,” then it must mean a 24 hour period, right?)<<

    Yes, the Bible is utterly true when it says that God created everything in six days. But nowhere does the Bible say that each of the days was 24 hours. God rested on the seventh day (Gen 2:1,2). Is God still resting?

    The point is that "day" as used in Genesis could legitimately be either a 24 hour period or a long time. Think of the old guy who says: "In my day we didn't have television." He wasn't using "day" to mean one, 24 hour period.

    After the author's misunderstanding of Genesis I took the rest of what he wrote with a huge grain of salt. His argument against inerrancy is against only one under understanding of inerrancy, one that is not the mainstream understanding of inerrancy in most Christian denominations.

  • Tim Knowles

    And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day (Gen. 1:5)
    Sounds a lot like a description of our 24 hour day to me… 🙂

  • FA Miniter

    Have you noted that the creation story in Gen. 1:1 et seq. (the creation by El) disagrees with the creation story in Gen 2:4 et seq. (the creation by Yahweh)? They disagree as to the order of events and as to the manner of creation of, and the relationship of, male and female humans.

  • FA Miniter

    There are two stories of the flood intertwined. One (the El story) has the animals taken on the arc two by two. The other (the Yahweh story) has seven pairs of clean animals and two pairs of unclean animals. Contradiction.

  • Tim Knowles

    “And God is the authority–not the Bible.”
    > A distinction without a difference.
    “Kierkegaard suggested that perhaps there are errors in the Bible (errors of history or grammar, etc.) that were intentionally allowed by God to keep us from putting our faith in the Bible, and allow us to put our faith in God.”
    > Or perhaps it is man’s understanding that is “intentionally allowed” to be in error? (Gasp!)

  • Tim Knowles


  • Tim Knowles

    There is no disagreement between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
    For example, if the garage calls me and says my car maintenance is done, then when I get there the tech says that he did the oil change and tire rotation, I don’t assume a disagreement between the two ‘accounts’…

  • XTheist

    I don’t believe our existence is meaningless. No cosmic ultimate meaning ≠ no meaning whatsoever.

  • People who understand evolution tend to see meaning and purpose as evolved capacities of human beings, not as absent from the universe. Sort of like love.

  • FL-Chris

    A great pastor once encouraged me to study scripture with a mind not like reading a history but looking for the wisdom God is providing and how I can apply it to my own life. I think the bible is God’s infallible wisdom. It is for us to become wise. On that it never fails if we are open to the spirit.

  • FA Miniter

    Do you mean you think there were two floods and Noah dealt with them both?

  • FA Miniter

    Totally irrelevant. The contradictions abound.

    For instance, Gen 1 has water everywhere and it is necessary for El to put some of it to be put up in the sky – beyond a vault – to allow land to emerge. In Gen 2:5, however, Yahweh had not caused it to rain upon the earth. The two stories come from very different traditions and geographic sources.

    Also, for instance, In Gen 1, El creates man and woman simultaneously and equally. Yahweh, however, in Gen 2 creates woman as an afterthought and only as a helpmeet.

    They are even different gods with different names. The name issue was only recognized after the 1928 discovery of the Ugaritic Texts.

  • Letting go of verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy is what finally enabled me to believe the Gospel accounts.

    I spent most of my working career in occupations related to law enforcement which gave me a practical education in how what’s in people’s heads gets committed to paper. The Gospel accounts differ significantly from each other at the detail level. If I think about this in terms of how I record, collate, and transmit first-hand information this is exactly what I would expect to find. Agreement at the detail level is an evidence of collusion among the observers of an event.

    I am trying to a bit careful in reading back my handling of written materials back into the first and second centuries. The compilers of the Gospel accounts didn’t think the same way I do, which is a product of a literary mind made possible by spaces between words, the codex, and the printing press.

    I am not a theologian and I don’t exactly know where I am on all this yet. But in my opinion, evangelicals sacrifice their best witness to the historicity of Gospel materials by insisting that the texts mesh, and engaging in gymnastics to avoid the fact that they don’t.

  • cken

    And since a day is as a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years is but a day, then we can state conclusively those 6 days were 6000 years. Or do both the Bible and science agree that in the larger scheme of things there is no such thing as time, that time is but an eternal now. Clearly this is a theological conundrum where all that is important is what you choose to believe.

  • cken

    The problem is if you take the Bible literally as the inerrant Holy word of God there are too many things you have to make excuses for rather than understanding the spiritual meaning the author intended to convey. The Bible contains much truth and great wisdom, but some of it is an allegorical mystery wrapped in an enigma. Like in Genesis where clearly Adam and Eve were not the only or the first man and women on earth, but they are symbolic.

  • G.L. Snowden, Jr.

    Christians have their work cut out for them – especially with issues like inerrancy. We no longer have the luxury of simply repeating the mantras of the past, and pretending as if we can’t see the legitimate and reasonable challenges to those mantras. Engaging the text, testing and “proving” or “disproving” what may or may not be true – seems most appropriate. Doubts can inspire significant study, which are likely to reveal where (and in what) an individual’s faith truly lies. Blind belief is by no means a biblical doctrine.

  • Darby C. Reger

    Study the Bible to find out what a day usually means when the terms ‘day’ and night’ are part of the context. Too many people talking about what they don’t understand – if you want to be a teacher, remember what the Bible says about teachers.

  • FA Miniter

    The fact that the two creation accounts feature different gods does not seem a contradiction to you?
    I would suggest that the concepts of before and after involve a contradiction. The same event cannot happen both before and after. In Gen. 1:24 El creates the animals – before he creates man in 1:26. In Gen. 2:7 Yahweh creates man. A good time later, in Gen. 2:19, Yahweh creates the animals. Indeed, in Gen. 2, Eve does not get created with Adam, but only after all the beasts, while in Gen. 1, male and female are created together. In Gen. 1, plant life is created on the third day, while in Gen. 2, plants are not made until verse 9, two verses after Adam is formed.
    Then there are the two accounts of the flood. The Yahweh version has Noah taking on 7 pairs of clean animals and 1 pair of unclean animals (Gen. 7:2) while the El version has Noah taking on only 1 pair of all animals (Gen. 7:15). Surely, one pair vs. seven pair is a contradiction.
    By the way, I rather think I have taken more courses in logic and the philosophy of mathematics than most people.
    The reason for the contradictions is that two basic texts have been stitched together to form the current Book of Genesis. One is the Book of J (for the German for Yahweh), the other is the E Text, where god is called El or Elohim or El Shaddai. These texts were cobbled together in the 6th Century bce and edited once at least by the P (priestly) writer, who also tried to create transitions to smooth out the text. Sometime after that, the text was further subjected to severe editing by the unknown person referred to as the Great Redactor. This editor changed the text from one of a monolatristic

    view of god to a monotheistic view.

  • FA Miniter

    Really? Was this before or after the Milky Way galaxy was formed? You do understand that from the reference point of earth, night and day only have meaning once planet Earth has been formed out of dust swirling around the star we call Sun?
    OK, so let’s assume that Elohim was only concerned with planet Earth and not with the rest of the universe. And now go on to Day 2. Do you understand what is going on there? From Gen. 1:2 we have reference to the Deep, which means the ocean waters, and they are everywhere. So on the second day, Elohim divides the waters. Some of the waters he places above a firmament. In other words, he took some of the waters which were drowning the earth and placed them in the sky above a dome. (You will find reference to this in Psalms 104:3.) Now, do you really believe that Earth is surrounded by a dome, within which the sun, moon, planets and stars move within prescribed spheres and outside of which there is a realm of water surrounding everything?
    This geocentric, nay anthropocentric, view of the world has long, long since shown to be mere primitive imaginings.

  • FA Miniter

    I prefer the analysis of hundreds of scholars who agree on the fact that the J and E texts come from different sources, even different cultures to some extent, than yours, which blindly ignores nearly two centuries of documentary interpretation.

  • FA Miniter

    Joseph Campbell has put it well in his four volume work, The Masks of God. He said that insisting on the historicity and literalism of myths is tantamount to ignoring the true value of the story.

  • FA Miniter

    My view is not just the view of “dead German theologians”. If you would take the time to examine current research, you will find that it is the prevailing view. Read Karen Armstrong or Richard Wright or Joseph Campbell, just to name a few.

    There are many, many reasons why the Torah could not have been written by Moses. I will touch on a few.. First of all, as I said before, the main texts of Genesis come from two different sources and cultures. Second, the later writers, the P source, for instance, use words that were not in existence even at the time of the earlier writings, which are dated to 900 – 700 BCE for the E source, and slightly earlier for the J source. Third, it is clear now that Deuteronomy originated during the Babylonian Captivity. Fourth, Moses could not have described his own death and then kept writing. Fifth, there is an open question about the historicity of Moses himself. His name is a Jewish word given to him by an Egyptian princess making a pun in Hebrew???? Not likely. Second, there is no evidence whatsoever of Judaeans being present in Egypt at any time, and only scant evidence for Canaanites (who were the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom later conquered by the Judaeans) having been subjected to slavery in Egypt.

  • FA Miniter

    I also note that you never responded to the contradictions that I cited.

  • FA Miniter

    I also point out that Christianity maintained for a very long time that the earth was the center of the universe, that the universe had seven levels and that the stars were all equally distant from earth, and that beyond that a “firmament” kept the waters at bay.

  • FA Miniter

    What you don’t have is an open mind.

    And, no, the Ugaritic texts support my proposition. El was the creator god there and had 70 children, one of whom was Yahweh. El and Baal became the favored local gods of what was later the Northern Kingdom. Yahweh was championed further south in Judea. It is clear that the El text originated in the north, while the Yahweh text originated in the south. It was very likely a political move to unite the realms that led to the program to cobble the somewhat similar texts together. The scribe or scribes were not asked to edit inconsistencies, just cut and paste.

    And, no, the multi-source thesis has never been refuted. Denied, yes, by true believers, but that is not the same thing at all.

  • FA Miniter

    Then you did not read what I wrote.

  • Nick G

    pragmatic (existential, psychological) dimension of epistemology (and of religious belief)

    Or “wishful thinking” as it’s less pompously called.

  • Nick G

    Christian creativity in coming up with excuses for the errors, contradictions and downright nastiness in the Bible is truly impressive.

  • Not sure if anyone is still following this, but here is a question: At the end of Warfield and Hodge’s short article “Inspiration” they made the bold claim that no one had proved an error in the Bible. They than gave a list of criteria that would have to be met before proving an error in the Bible. I know going that route can get into really nitty-gritty and boring details. But I was wondering if anyone ever officially responded to them and “proved an error based on their list of criteria”? I tried google searching but could not find anything, anyways if anyone knows of people who took up their challenge and responded to them let me know… thanks!

  • Nick G

    Why should anyone do so? The same criteria should be used as one would use for any other text. Anything else is special pleading.