You are hereTruth / Disproving of the validity of the Bible

Disproving of the validity of the Bible


By Nanook - Posted on 20 October 2010

Nanook is talking with Father Vincent.

Stability in philosophy

If philosophical concepts can be asymmetric, maybe the elements that make them asymmetric can also exist in groups. Someone should be looking into this. I call it the concept of philosophical STABILITY.”

"STABILITY? You mean as in stable, or unchanging?”

“Precisely! That is, the concept of PHILOSOPHIC STABILITY is a way to look at collections of logical elements, that, when taken together, form a stable system.”

"By ‘stable system’, you mean that one definition supports another, which supports others in a way that there is philosophical consistency between all of them, right?”

“Precisely! But note, the term ‘stable’ does not mean that the system has to describe a universal TRUTH, as in being consistent with reality. All it has to do is form internal consistency among the parts. This opens up a whole new way of dealing with the principle of RELATIVE philosophical concepts.”

"So, can you give me an example of an interesting stable system that challenges truth?”

Infallibility of the Pope

“Sure, I’m sure you’ve heard that the Pope is Infallible, right?”

"Sure!”

“OK. So how can that be? Historical records very clearly show that the Pope, in the middle ages, declared that the earth was the center of the universe. We now pretty universally agree that the earth orbits around the sun and the sun around the center of the galaxy. So, how can a Pope who says the earth is the center of the universe, be infallible?”

"Yeah. I always wondered about that. I guess it’s just one more MYSTERY OF FAITH.”

“Ah yes! The old MYSTERY OF FAITH DEFENSE. I think now’s the time to talk about that some. What do you mean by that?”

"It’s always been a real problem for me. Essentially, whenever the Church or any religious teacher can’t provide a logical explanation for something, they tell you ‘it’s a mystery of faith’. That essentially means, we are just supposed to believe what they say based on the requirement of obedience to the Church - no questions asked. We are supposed to believe it based on FAITH.”

"And what’s wrong with that?”

"There’s a lot wrong with it. First off, because there is no logical foundation behind the issue, you are essentially just memorizing one explanation at a time. That turns into a crisis when different things you are told conflict with each other. And, when you are told something is a mystery of faith, it is usually because there is a logical conflict in the explanation.

An example is the Trinity. We are told God is three parts in one. But human language has specific meanings for the word parts, and one thing that is a whole. So, we have to ignore accepted definitions and repeat just what they tell us. The next day, another teacher might have a different explanation. If you put both answers down on a test, you start a fight and get disciplined for embarrassing a religious teacher.”

"I can see you were a handful in school. Yes, that’s one of the problems. You are not allowed to use accepted logical rules to explain a mystery of faith. So, every mystery of faith either ends up on an island of PHILOSOPHICAL STABILITY by itself or just floats around as a single unrelated concept. And even when the issue at hand is a worldly, observable, verifiable, material issue, we can be told we must accept an explanation totally contrary to observation based on a supernatural explanation.”

"Sure. Holy communion, for example.”

"Precisely! The host is no longer bread. It’s the body and blood of Christ. And what’s the larger issue with that?”

"I guess, the larger issue is, if that is an acceptable policy, then we can no longer rely on ANYTHING we see in front of us to be what it appears.”

“Precisely! The whole problem of evolution and the geological fossils for example. It essentially throws us into a world of superstition, mysticism and magic where the only TRUE source of knowledge is the Church hierarchy. Do you see the implications of that?”

"I guess, it means we have to go to them for every question we have in life.”

"Precisely! The implication is POWER. The implication is CONTROL over people.

**Single Sentence Logic

And this bring us right back to the issue of the infallibility of the Pope. Surprisingly, the infallibility of the Pope can be very easily proven as an island of logic. But first you have to recognize the interference of SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC.”

"Ah HA! There is that phrase again: Single Sentence Logic. Ben told me to ask you about that.”

“I’m sure he told you, at least, that SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC is any idea that sounds good as a single sentence statement, but when examined as part of a larger system or process, the logic of the single sentence is incomplete. It’s the same as tunnel vision or NARROW MINDED THINKING.”

"Yes. That part he did tell me.”

“And did he tell you how humans learn language? That we learn by memorizing words as sounds and groups of sounds as PHRASES. But, ironically, we learn by initially memorizing the sounds and phrases without the need to associate them with a logical explanation.”

"Right. And he gave me the example of how kids learn word sounds, and then word phrases, and can then call people names before they even understand what they are saying. And how logical thinking only enters the picture when kids reach the ‘age of reason’.

“Ben is a thorough learner, that’s for sure. OK. I will come back to this later, but you already know enough to finish our discussion about the Pope.

The ‘Single Sentence Logic’ that misleads everyone about the Pope is the statement that ‘the Pope is infallible’. That statement is not wrong. It is simply incomplete. Church doctrine specifically states that: the Pope is infallible when he speaks ‘excathedra’ on a principle of FAITH AND MORALS. So, how does this work?

The important words here are ‘faith and morals’. These relate to SIN. And sin relates to going to heaven. In the Bible, beginning with Matthew chapter 16, verse 18, Jesus says, ‘thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church. WHATEVER YOU BIND ON EARTH WILL BE BOUND IN HEAVEN, AND WHATEVER YOU LOOSE ON EARTH WILL BE LOOSED IN HEAVEN.’ Do you see the profound impact of that statement?”

" Ugh? Yes? No? I mean, I thought this was the passage that gave priests the power to hear confessions and forgive sins. I guess that’s pretty profound. But you seem to be implying it’s a bigger deal than that?”

“Right. I am. Think about it. Think about just what power this passage gives to the Pope, given that the Pope has this power passed down from St. Peter, the ‘rock’ upon which the church was built. What if the passage was not just talking about individual priests, but about the Pope as the LEADER of all priests. What if the Pope can decide what all the priests have to do. What if the Pope can decide what sins the priest can forgive and what they can’t.”

"OK. So?”

“So? If that is the case, then the Pope has essentially been given the ability to define SIN.”

"Whoa! “

“Whoa is right. The PROFOUND element of this concept is that, through this passage in the Bible, and through Jesus, God essentially passed the power to determine the rules for getting into heaven to the Pope. So, the Pope is, in fact, INFALLIBLE determining what is a sin, and what isn’t a sin. He’s infallible because, according to this passage, he has been given the power to set the universal rules for sin. And God, according to the Bible, AGREED to follow those rules! The Pope is then INFALLIBLE because he cannot make a mistake here. What he says, goes! And this applies to ALL PEOPLE ON EARTH.”

"Hmmm . . . ! Wow. This is amazing. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. It’s also mind boggling if you think about it. GOD . . . I mean, THE GOD . . . I mean, THE REAL, REAL, REAL GOD of the whole universe gave up his authority to the Pope to decide who gets into heaven! ! ! ! ! ! ! Wow. It’s sort of like the Pharos. I mean, they thought they were gods. But in this case, the Pope doesn’t have to be a god. He still get’s God’s authority, at least about going to heaven. I mean, he can’t control the weather and stuff. But, wow!”

“Wow is right! Pretty powerful stuff. This is probably an example of the ULTIMATE arrogance: humans take over the authority to rule the universe from God.”

"Hmmm. . . I think I need a stiff drink!”

"Ha! OK. One lump or two?”

"I hate to say it, but I’m getting attached to coffee the Navy way. Black and bitter for me.”

There were times when I didn’t even know if my mind belonged to me any more. So many new things were hitting me so fast, its as if my brain split in two. Only one of them was awake at a time. I’d flip into a world of new things or I’d flip into the world of old things. Both of these brains knew that there was another brain, but they really couldn’t comprehend how the other brain could believe what it believed. Boy, that cup of hot coffee really hit the spot. Just a small sip. Let my mind spin. Just a small sip.

“Now, if you remember, we got into this point because of the concept of PHILOSOPHICAL STABILITY. The concept of infallibility in this example is not absolute for all things. It’s not overall infallibility. It is limited infallibility. And the infallibility occurs because a rule enforcer gives authority to a separate rule maker to create the rules that the enforcer will follow.”

"Isn’t this the same for the Dali Lama and Jewish Rabbis?”

“No. Not at all. The word “Rabbi” means teacher. In both cases, the Dali Lama and Jewish Rabbis are teachers. They are trying to understand how the world works and what their holy books say. But neither one of them claims to tell God what he is supposed to do.”

"I’m still trying to fully grasp this. This is pretty powerful stuff.”

“A broad set of examples of stable philosophical systems are the religious philosophies in general. Each of the great world religions presents a complete set of logical observations that each support one another to form a stable system.

In dealing with the concept of rewards and punishments, for example, Catholics believe in Sin. They also believe that God tallies the sins a person commits in their lives and doesn’t atone for. He then punishes people’s souls for those sins either in purgatory or hell. Buddhists also believe in a form of sin. But it’s more like the traditional Hebrew meaning of sin which was “to miss the mark”. And they don’t have a parallel to hell. They believe that any evil that people do must be balanced by good. They believe in a process called KARMA that helps people get to this balance. Also, they believe a person doesn’t have to complete the balance in one lifetime. If they don’t bring evil into harmony with good during their lifetime, they will be reincarnated with another life to try again. They believe people can be reincarnated 1000 times or more to get it right.

The point is, while very different, if you study each of these systems, you see that they are logically consistent within themselves.”

"OK. I can understand that. They are philosophically stable.”

“Precisely! But think about the new and profound way of dealing with logic that this opens up. Do you see it?”

"Well, no, I don’t think so.”

“When people talk about logic, they are usually presuming TRUTH on a universal scale. That is, logic is usually presumed to be a way of truthful thinking, right?”

"Sure. I mean, if I say to someone ‘be logical’, I’m assuming I’m asking them to make sense. Actually, I expect they are telling the truth.”

“Right. But, if we now allow sets of ‘logical elements’ to exist, that are ‘logical’ only because they are consistent as part of a specific collection of statements, then it opens up a way to understand how a system of logical statements, that may in fact not each be universally true, can still make sense as a group. Does that make sense to you?”

"Let’s see. I think you are saying there are some statements that by themselves might not be completely truthful in a broad sense. Like the Pope being infallible. I guess that’s the tie to Single Sentence Logic. If a person’s state of mind is thinking about all kinds of situations, then saying the Pope is infallible doesn’t fit their model. So they think the statement is wrong. But if they understand the Catholic context, then they should see how the statement is consistent, and I guess ‘true’ in that context.”

“Precisely! ”

"PRECISELY? But hang on. This really opens up Pandora’s Box. Catholics believe in purgatory and hell. We believe in sin, confession and that people have only one life. When we describe all of these things, our quote ‘logic’ ties together. We think we are talking logically. We think we know truth. But when a Buddhist person talks about karma and reincarnation, their logic also ties together in its own context.”

“Precisely! So? Why is this a problem?”

"WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM??? How many universes are there? When we die, only one thing is going to happen! The big question is, WHAT? Are we going to heaven? Or are we coming back over and over again?”

The inerrancy of the Bible

Since we don’t have any CURRENT versions of material proof about what God wants us to do, with the possible exception of the Pope, maybe we can fall back on some material proof from the PAST. Can you think of anything like that?”

"Hmmm… I don’t think so. Wait. Sure! EASY! THE BIBLE.”

"Very good! Very good! And why do you say that?”

"Duh? Because the Bible is the WORD OF GOD! OF COURSE! That’s the answer. The Bible is a supernatural communication to us and it has everything we need in it.”

"Excellent! BUT??? ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE OF THAT????”

. . . . . .

. . . . . .

"Unbelievable! YES! I am absolutely, positively sure of that!”

. . . . . . .

Father just sat there smiling at me.

“Ugh? But? Why am I also absolutely, positively sure that I’ve just fallen into a huge trap? I can just see Ben walking in here right now and stuffing a bunch of boots down my throat.”

“Nanook. I think you’d better lie down. I don’t think sitting down will be a safe enough place for you. Oh how I wish you were right about the Bible. But I’m afraid it just isn’t so.”

"Father. I’m sorry. My head is spinning with all this new information. I can already see how huge the force of denial is in me. Didn’t we just go through the whole problem of the 10 commandments and how messed up they were.”

“Hang in there Nanook. I can really feel the pain you are going through. But we have a long way to go. You need to see the much bigger story about just how extensively the Bible is messed up. There are many major holes throughout the whole Bible. In fact, there are so many, to have a reasonable discussion about them, we need to break them down into categories:

1. The Bible is logically faulty throughout.

2. The Bible is internally inconsistent.

3. The words of the original Bible are not even completely known.

4. Many of the words in the Bible have now been proven to be erroneous.

5. There is not even one definitive Bible.

**Logical faults

So. Let’s start by looking at some logical faults. I define a logical fault as something that happens in a Bible story that is not possible based on what society would expect from our human experience in the world.

Genesis – first creation story – logical faults

These faults begin right at the beginning, in Genesis. Just think about the whole creation process. God is sitting around bored for 100 billion years. He then decides to create the universe. Let me read from Genesis:

”1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.”

“So, the first thing God does is create heaven and earth. It says ‘the earth was without form’. Any problem with that?”

"Huh? No, I guess?”

"No problem, huh? How do we have a material object, i.e. the earth, that doesn’t have a form? I mean, is it a flat plate; a pyramid; a sphere? How can it not have any form? Genesis would have saved humanity a lot of grief if it had said, ‘the earth was a very large sphere that was covered with water.”

"OK. So the words are not necessarily precise. To say the earth was without form, Genesis probably meant that there were no mountain ranges or land masses.”

"OK. I’ll buy that. But in two verses, we’ve already started down a very slippery slope of inaccuracies. Also in verse 2, it says that ‘darkness was upon the face of the deep. So, where did this darkness come from? When did He create that?”

"Actually, from physics we know that darkness is not something all on its own. Darkness is actually a space that has no light in it. ZERO. So, it actually didn’t have to be created. It’s not actually a thing. It was there because light hadn’t been created yet.”

“Very clever save. But at the end of verse 4, it says, ‘God divided the light from the darkness.’ Do you think who ever wrote that statement knew what you know about the physics of light? If they did, wouldn’t they say something like, ‘God created light and gathered it into bottles called stars and suns from which it could come forth and shine all over the place.’ “

"I see what you mean. To someone who doesn’t know about physics, they don’t know that when the sky appears bright during the day, it is light from the sun scattered by air in the atmosphere.”

“Precisely! And someone who didn’t know about the physics of light would think that the light of day is actually a glow. That would allow the glow of light to be mixed with the darkness, like twilight. That would allow them to be separated into day and night. The problem is, it doesn’t match the physics of light that we now know.”

"But this first verse was written over 4000 years ago. They didn’t even know about atoms then.”

"Whoa now! Remember, these words aren’t the words of people, no matter when they were written. These are supposed to be THE WORDS of God. Surely God knows everything about physics.”

"OK! OK! So, in 4 verses, you’ve already created more questions for me than the whole time I’ve studied the Bible.”

"Did you actually STUDY the Bible?”

"Well, I guess a true answer would be no. A better answer would be I just read it and listened to priests and nuns read it and tell me what it meant.”

"Very honest answer. So, let’s keep going. In verse 5 it says, ‘And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.’ Any problems with this?”

"OK. Let me be a bit more critical here. To call the light ‘Day’ is pretty misleading from what we now know. I mean, now we know the earth is a sphere that rotates in space. We know that, quote, ‘day’ is just the period of time that a particular place on earth is in the direct radiation from the sun. We also have light at night from the moon and stars. We can also make light using electricity. And we know that light comes from other sources like flames and lightning. To call darkness ‘Night’ is a stretch. We get darkness every time we close a closet door. So, these words are surely not what we understand the related concepts to be today. Poetically, or metaphorically, I can see what they might have meant to primitive people. But they surely aren’t accurate now.”

“Precisely! From a logical standpoint, they don’t match the reality that we have come to know if they are to be taken literally.”

"But maybe the words were written for people who were a lot more primitive than we are?”

“Sorry. Not acceptable. There is no where in the Bible or current religious thinking that says the Bible doesn’t apply to people today.”

"Hmmm... I see what you mean.”

“How about verse 3. In verse 3, on the first day, he creates light, right?”

"Right.”

“Then it says He sees ‘that it was good’. So, how does he judge that light is good?”

"What???”

“How could God make a judgment about good if he hadn’t created good and evil yet?”

"Hmmm… Tricky!!! This seems like a very serious question. My first thought was that to JUDGE that something was good, there would already have to be evil around. The obvious question would then be when did God create good and evil. But more important, when did He create EVIL. And why would he do that? But, the exact words don’t say he made a judgment. They say, ‘God saw the light, that it was good.’ So, maybe there was no evil yet. That’s actually a neat thought. I mean, if I created the universe, I’d sure leave evil out of it.”

"Fair enough, but does that solve the problem I raised?”

"Hmmm... I see what you’re getting at. As long as we accept that evil exists now, then it had to get created at some time or other. The question is when. And maybe the bigger question is still WHY?”

"Precisely! And then a whole string of additional questions come up. If God knows all things and is all powerful, then why did God have any question about whether light would be good or not? Did God need practice? Was this an experiment? The point is, if you take the verses of Genesis one by one, and hold to the premise that the words are to be interpreted LITERALLY, you come up with all kind of logical contractions based on our current knowledge of the world. Lets look at a few more.

In verse 6, a new feature is created called the ‘firmament”. It divides waters below it from waters above it. And the firmament was called ‘Heaven’. Right?”

"Sure.”

“So now we have some big new problems arise. Genesis says God ‘created the heaven’ in verse 1. But it also says He created the firmament in verse 6 which ‘was called Heaven’ in verse 8. Are there now two heavens? Is there a ‘heaven’ from verse 1 and a different ‘Heaven’ in verse 8? And somehow there is water both below and above this firmament.”

"That’s simple, though. The water above the firmament could be clouds.”

“OK. That would explain where rain comes from. But, that would mean heaven is pretty close to earth, right, in addition to being pretty wet?”

"Huh??? Oh Yeah? The firmament was called ‘Heaven’.”

“Don’t worry about this. Eventually this whole premise falls apart too.

Once the firmament shows up, God decides to put, quote, ‘LIGHTS’ in the firmament. These also appear to be different lights than the light of verse 3, which, apparently, is still around. These new lights are not only there to produce what we call light. They are also there to divide the day from the night and to mark the seasons, days and years. Among these were two great lights, ‘the greater light to rule the day; the lesser light to rule the night’. What do you think about that?”

“ Well, anyone with any astronomy background at all knows that while the sun always produces what we call day, the moon doesn’t actually track what we call night. The moon moves across the sky uniformly throughout the month being visible for equal times during the day and night. It’s just not as easy to see during the day. So, it hardly acts as a marker.”

“Precisely! But then, if the Sun and moon and stars have been placed IN the firmament, the firmament can’t be the space between the earth and the clouds, can it? It must be the whole visible universe. If that is so, then what we mean by the upper level of water can’t be the clouds. The upper level of water is above the firmament. It’s beyond the stars. So that water is still a mystery.

Verse 9 says that God gathered the waters under the heaven into one place that he calls Seas and let dry land appear. Doesn’t this conveniently leave some things out? What about lakes, swamps, rivers, the arctic ice pack etc. Did you notice that?”

"NO! But, actually, aren’t all bodies of water connected? Lakes, swamps and rivers are connected to the sea, right?”

“That is true. But are they called ‘Seas’?”

"Hmmm... .? And, actually, there are lakes like the Great Salt Lake that don’t run into the ocean. ”

Mystery of Faith

Going back to the question about evil, did you ever question why God put the apple tree in the Garden of Eden to begin with?”

"Yea. I’ve always wondered about that. I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Didn’t he already know what was going to happen? Wasn’t everything that was going to happen already in his plan?”

"I see we’re back to the question about freewill again.”

“Correct. And that question hasn’t gone away. It was the basis for the separation of a number of Christian communities from the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church doesn’t have a very good explanation for it either. They essential leave people hung using the MYSTERY OF FAITH defense.”

"You said that we would eventually have to talk about this. Maybe now’s the time.”

"Yes, I think this is a good time.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement ‘Mystery of Faith’ before. What do you think when you hear it?”

"Most of the time I think it’s a cop-out. I mean, most of the time I think they just don’t know what they’re talking about and just want to put us all off.”

"I agree. I think this is usually the case. But there are interesting philosophical implications with this concept. Let’s say that there were some principles that were beyond human comprehension: like the Immaculate Conception or the Trinity. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to call them mysteries of faith?”

"Hmmm… Sure, I guess if they were really beyond human comprehension. There can always be things that humans can’t comprehend.”

The Trinity – mystery of faith

"And that’s what makes this so complicated. There could easily be things beyond comprehension. But that then raises the big problem of trying to determine if what we are told is actually TRUE.

Let’s consider the Trinity, for example. We are told that God has three parts: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But these three parts are not three separate Gods. They are one in the same God. So, why is this a problem? It’s a problem because we have expectations from human language and experience to judge how real world elements interact. The challenge with this concept is that a number of situations in the Bible that are supposed to explain the Trinity don’t easily fit our concepts of both ‘one-ness’ and ‘separate-ness’ at the same time.

For example, it would be easy to understand how God could appear in multiple forms to different people. Some time he would appear as an old man; another time as a young man, another time as a ghost or a dove or whatever. I think humans can accept that because we so often change our own appearance with clothes and disguises. The problem occurs because, in some Bible passages, each of these appearances talks as if they are separate entities. Let me read one of these. In Matthew, chapter 3, Jesus was just baptized by John the Baptist. It says:

“And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

This is a confusing image because, apparently, God appears in three different forms at the same time. Why would God need to do that? Secondly, the voice, presumably from God the Father, says, ‘this is My beloved Son.’ It’s as if one entity is referring to another and declaring their relationship. The meaning of the word ‘Son’ is well known. So, this does not fit a unified being very well. If God were a unified being, we might expect Him to say something like, ‘behold the dove and young man. These are ways that I might appear to you.’ The implication is that God could appear in as many forms as He wanted to in as many places as he wanted to, all at the same time. This would be easy to understand. So, why the necessity of only 3? And why the wording that implies they are separate?

In Luke, chapter 1, we read:

“And the angel answered and said to her [Mary], ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.’ “

"Again, the language suggests very separate parts. It says, ‘the power of the Most High will OVERSHADOW you’ and ‘the holy offspring shall be CALLED the Son of God.’ These terms are very different from terms we might use to describe a unified being. We might expect the angel to say, for example, ‘the essence of the Most High will enter you’ and ‘the holy offspring will be the essence of God who shall walk the earth in the form of a man.’

Now let me read from Matthew again, chapter 27:

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The problem, again, arises in the wording. How does a being talk about itself like that? How can God, in the appearance of the Son, yell out that he himself, in the appearance of the Father, had forsaken him? It’s like you saying to your mouth that it had forsaken you because you said something stupid.”

"Well, actually, I have said that a few times.”

"Sure, but did you really mean it? Remember, we’re talking about the Word of God here, an infinitely intelligent being, as recorded in a book that people are using to guide their journey to heaven.”

"Of course not.”

"And that’s the problem with these verses in the Bible. They don’t make sense when compared to human experience.”

"OK. I see that. But if they are talking about principles beyond human comprehension, then maybe they can’t make sense.”

"That would be a good explanation if there were no way to explain them. But I just gave you statements that are alternative ways to explain them. They are perfectly understandable and convey all the concepts that a unified being with multiple appearances would be expected to have. Why didn’t the Bible do that?”

"I guess I don’t know.”

"Well, what if, the principle of the Trinity is not true?”

"I don’t see how that can be. I mean, isn’t the Trinity a fundamental principle of Christianity?”

"A fundamental principle of Catholicism, yes, but not of Christianity. Remember, we aren’t alone in the world. There are many Christian groups that don’t believe it; the Unitarians being a prime example.”

"Well, I didn’t know that.”

"But that’s where I started this part of our discussion. How do we verify that any of the principles we are TOLD to accept are actually true?”

"By the Bible, of course.”

"But I just gave you multiple verses from the Bible that contradict the principle of the Trinity. And furthermore, there is no specific statement in the Bible that says God is three parts in one. There are just scattered statements. Some refer to there being only one God. Others talk about various appearances of people or animals being ONE with God. But there are so many ways to interpret those statements.”

"I guess, like you said, if this was such an important issue, we should expect the Bible to be more clear on it.”

"Correct. So there are some major philosophical problems with the notion we call ‘Mystery of Faith’. Let me summarize these. If something is, quote, ‘beyond human reason’, then, by definition, it can NEVER be explained to us. So we then have to ask, ‘why do we even have to know about it?’ If we can’t understand it, why do we even have to deal with it?”

"Supposedly because it does affect our lives somehow.”

“Right. But here we have the problem of the ‘supernatural’ again. If something is beyond human reason, then it must deal with elements that are not part of our world. If they were part of the real world, then we should be able to understand them and test them.”

"I can see that. Even if we couldn’t grasp the whole principle, the parts that relate to the real world we should be able to handle.”

“Correct. And those parts, we should expect, would be presented and discussed in a clear way in the Bible. We don’t find that. Instead, what we are told to believe is a process that can explain or justify ANYTHING on the basis that man cannot understand it. A process that can EXPLAIN anything, with no real proof, on a basis that it CAN’T be explained, effectively explains NOTHING.”

"Hmmm... I think I see where this is leading.”

“Let’s see if you’re right. A second and bigger problem is how often church leaders use the MYSTERY OF FAITH defense. They do it when they are trying to get their parishioners to do something the parishioners don’t want to do. At that point, it becomes a pure POWER tool.”

"Do you think that happens often?”

"It happens every time a religious leader tells us we have to believe his interpretation of scripture when he can’t give us a sound explanation. It happens every time we challenge a principle of the church and we are told we must be obedient to the authority of the church. In short, it happens all the time.”

"I guess this was your original point. How do we judge which of the mysteries of faith we are told to accept are true. I’d like to fall back on the Bible. But this discussion has made that kind of doubtful. ”

God’s integrity and the tree

"Precisely! Think about all the logical problems I already showed you. There are dozens already in just the first book of Genesis. And they continue in droves in the following books. Consider Genesis 3, verse 2:

“3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

. . . . .

3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”

"This group of verses has caused endless controversy for very many reasons. For example, note that God told Adam if he ate from the tree, he would surely die. Along comes the serpent, who we are told must be the Devil. He tells Eve that God’s statement is not true. She trusts the serpent and eats fruit from the tree. Surprisingly, she doesn’t die. She gives some to Adam. He eats it and doesn’t die either. In fact, they gain the new capability of knowing the difference between good and evil.

Then in verse 3:22, after they ate the apple, God even admits that Adam and Eve might not die, because they might find another magic tree in the garden.

God also makes another startling admission: that the result of eating from the tree was to make man, quote, ‘as one of us’. Do you see the problem here?”

"Hmmm... I guess I see a lot of problems. First, why would God lie to them? Why did he tell them that if they ate of the tree, they would die. Maybe the meaning of the word ‘die’ is not what we expect. Maybe God had planned for Adam and Eve to live forever. But that isn’t the case because in 3:22 God says, ‘lest he put forth his hand . . . and live for ever’. That means, he was destined to die eventually anyway.

But now that they ate from the tree, they would die eventually because God would push them out of the Garden of Eden. But that’s a different thing altogether. What God should have told them, to be truthful, is something like, ‘if you eat of the tree, I will see to it that you eventually die.’ That way they know dying is not going to happen immediately from eating the fruit.

But, second, and more disturbing to me is why God would punish Adam and Eve for learning about good and evil. It even says that when Adam learned about good and evil, ‘the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil’. If knowing good and evil made them more God like, why wasn’t this GOOD? Weren’t there already other God-like creatures around? I mean, like angels. So, why didn’t God just accept man as a new angel?

And THIRD, what is this use of the plural word ‘US’: ‘the man is become as one of US’? Who is God talking to? Are there other Gods there? The plural tense agrees with the earlier statement in verse 3:5 that ‘ye shall be as gods’ which confirms the serpent’s use of the plural. So what is meant by man becoming one of US? I see your point. There are a lot of logical problems here.”

“’Problems’ is an understatement. What about the whole issue of Original Sin? If Adam and Eve didn’t know good and evil before they ate from the tree, how could they be held accountable for eating from the tree to begin with? The cart is before the horse here.

God’s two different characters

Let me continue. In Genesis 1, verse 31, it says,”

“And God saw EVERY THING that he had made, and, behold, IT WAS VERY GOOD. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

But by Genesis 6, the story becomes very different. Starting with Genesis 6 verse 5 we read,

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART WAS ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; FOR IT REPENTETH ME THAT I HAVE MADE THEM.”

“What do you think about this statement?”

"I’ve read both of these passages before, but never side by side. Since we’re talking about how things might be inconsistent, I think these verses create quite a problem. I mean, God is supposed to know all things. So how can he create the whole universe and all the animals and plants and give them life, and see that they were VERY GOOD, and then, only a few generations later, be surprised that ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil’? And wasn’t the result of eating the apple to allow Adam and Eve to know the difference between good and evil? So, if they then knew the difference, why would they choose evil? What good was the ‘new knowledge’ of knowing good and evil?

Also, sure, we know about Eve eating the apple and God saying he would curse all the generations of men because of that, but in this last verse, because MAN had become evil, God was also going to destroy all the beasts and creeping things and fowls. They have no souls. They have no free will and can’t commit sin. I surely don’t understand this.

And then it says ‘it repenteth me that I have made them.’ Repent, to me, means to have made a mistake, to have done something wrong. I don’t understand how God, who knows all things, could make a mistake. I don’t understand how he can exhibit these kind of human emotions.”

"Correct. And your last point about God having human emotions is very important. It is behind one of the biggest debates in Christianity. The God of the Old Testament is consistently a God of vengeance, war, fire, killing, jealousy and anger. The God presented by the New Testament, in the form of Jesus, is a God of Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and gentleness. This is a major inconsistency, both in that God has these human emotions, and also that they are so radically different in the Old and New Testament.”

"I guess this is why the Catholic Church rejects the Old Testament.”

“But they don’t! The Church picks and chooses many things from the Old Testament, like the 10 Commandments. They are just inconsistent, but won’t admit it. But the disparity of God’s attitude isn’t only confined to the Old Testament. It continues right into the New Testament itself in the Apocalypse. In that book, the God of the Old Testament returns and unleashes His anger again and destroys most of mankind.”

"I guess I never thought about it this way. I don’t know what to say. It’s so mind boggling.”

The problem of good and evil

"Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the issue of ‘good and evil’. According to Genesis 3:22, eating the ‘fruit’ gave man the knowledge of good and evil. Then why, later on, did Moses have to go up on Mount Sinai and get the 10 Commandments?”

"Ha! I see your point. Logically, the 10 Commandments episode says that man still didn’t really know what God considered evil. So it had to be spelled out.”

"Precisely! And in many hundreds of details, not just the 10 Commandments.”

"OK. So, I can understand that. What happened in Eden was just a general opening of man’s eyes to the concept of good and evil. It wasn’t the details.”

"And that’s what many theologians would also say. HOWEVER, you just can’t throw out an explanation without addressing it’s consequences. And what you just said has a LOT of consequences.

To begin with, do you have any idea about the time sequence of the events between Eden and the 10 Commandments?”

"Ugh??? Actually, not really.”

"Fair enough. And most Christians don’t either. People who have studied the timing would offer the following: Garden of Eden – 4004 B.C.; Noah’s flood – 2348 B.C.; Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt – 1490 B.C. That put’s the 10 Commandments at around 1490 B.C. The consequences of this timeline are that the descendents of Adam were left without a detailed description of what God actually defined as evil for at least 2514 years! Yet during that time, God wiped out the human race and all the creatures because they were doing evil. Don’t we have a ‘cart before the horse’ problem again?”

"Wow! I see what you mean. To be logically sound, God would have needed to sit Adam down in the Garden and give him the rules right then and there. Otherwise, how could they and 2500 years of humans be held responsible?”

"Precisely! So, the timing of the 10 Commandments is totally illogical. And as we discussed yesterday, the whole story of the 10 Commandments is totally a mish-mash and totally different from what people do currently even when they quote the Commandments. Big questions, huh?

Why are there no signs that Redemption worked

Let me read a discussion of another implication of Original Sin from a book by Richard Dawkins called The God Delusion. Page 252.”

“God incarnated himself as a man, Jesus, in order that he should be tortured and executed in atonement for the hereditary sin of Adam. Ever since Paul expounded this repellent doctrine, Jesus has been worshipped as the redeemer of all our sins. Not just the past sin of Adam: future sins as well, whether future people decided to commit them or not!"

“This opens a huge can of worms. If Jesus’ death and resurrection redeemed all our sins, then why haven’t the repercussions of Adam’s sin gone away? …why didn’t the pain of childbirth go away? Why didn’t sickness and slavery to the earth, go away? Why didn’t the repercussions laid on Adam and all generations to follow, for Adam’s sin go away? Why did NOTHING tangible happen?”

"Wow! This is a very profound and disturbing summary. I guess I’ve been one of those people who just ran all the gospels together and figured everything in there was part of the same story.”

**Internal inconsistencies

Let’s continue now down a second line of exploration. That is, INCONSISTENCIES. I would define inconsistencies as logical faults that are clear in very simple ways based on conflicting words. For logical faults, we had to interpret human behavior. We had to show that things the Bible said happened weren’t likely based on social and physical principles. With inconsistencies, the conflicts are specific. For example, one verse says two people were present, while another verse, talking about the same event, says there were three people present. Let’s now ask ourselves whether there are passages in the Bible that directly contradict each other. What do you think?”

"I don’t know. I’ve never come across any. But, I’m very quickly finding out that I didn’t read the Bible with a very critical eye. I mean, to miss the whole issue that it took Moses 3 tries to get the 10 commandments is a pretty big thing to overlook. And, I guess, that might be a good example of an internal inconsistency. Specifically where God said He would exactly repeat the earlier statement of the commandments to Moses, and then presents a very different list.”

“Yes. That’s a good example.

Genesis - Male and female - inconsistency

Some very serious issues like that arise in Genesis verses 26, 27 and 31. Those verses read:

“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

“Do you remember these verses?”

"Sure.”

“So, if we read verse 27 carefully, doesn’t it say that God created both male and female, in his own image, on the SIXTH day?”

"Sure.”

“Sure? I thought God created MAN in his own image and then created Eve from man’s rib?”

"Hmmm... That’s what I remember too. I don’t know what’s going on here.”

“I’ll explain this in a second. But notice, there is also now some confusion about the cast of characters. In verse 26, God says, ‘let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness, and let THEM have dominion… ‘ So, why all of a sudden does God have others involved helping him do the creating? When he makes MAN, why is man referred to as THEM? Why are the pronouns plural?”

"I could go back to my defense that the Bible is only a story. But that’s not consistent with the words coming directly from God. This is all pretty disturbing to me.”

“Precisely! Think back to earlier verses. I mean, verse 1 starts out, ‘In the beginning, God created . . .’ and then the key events are listed. God creates the earth, the heavens, the sun and stars, the animals and plants. So, who ever wrote those lines knew about singular words. Then, in verse 26, out of nowhere, we are reading about a whole new group of supernatural beings. When were they created? Why does God refer to them as being like himself?

Genesis – second creation story

After verse 26, we move into a new chapter: Genesis chapter 2. The first three verses tell us how God finished his work of creation, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished . . And on the seventh day God ended his work . . and he rested. Do you agree?’

"Right now, I’M NOT AGREEING WITH ANYTHING ANY MORE!”

“OK. Fair enough. But we need to keep going. As we continue, a new problem arises. With Genesis 2, verse 4, it seems as if a whole different version of the creation story is being told. In this version, God is referred to as the ‘LORD God’ and everything was created in ‘THE DAY’ that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. In this version, man is created in verse 7, from the dust of the ground, and his female partner from a rib taken from the man. This is where we get the story about Eve coming from Adam’s rib.”

"Sure. I remember that.”

“But think about it. What you remember is the commonly told story, which is actually pieces of two stories merged together. The problem with that is, when the second story is compared with the first version starting with Genesis 1:1, we have clear timing problems about what happens when.”

"WHAT! You mean there are actually two different stories about the creation? This is as bad as the 10 Commandments. How come nobody ever pointed this out to me?”

“You should keep asking that question.

Two versions of human and animal creation order

In Genesis 1, verse 20-26, it says,

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. . . And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. . .

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. . .

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle . .”

In Genesis 1, verse 27, it says,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; MALE AND FEMALE created he them.”

But then in Genesis 2, we get a very different story. Genesis 2 verse 7 says,

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

In Genesis 2, verse 19, twelve verses later, it says,

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.”

“Do you see the problem?”

"Sure. In Genesis 1, the animals and birds are created first; man comes second. In Genesis 2, man comes first.”

“Correct. In Genesis 1, the trees come one day before man. In Genesis 2 they come after. In Genesis 1, it says man and woman were created at the same time, without specifying any difference. In Genesis 2 we get the story of Adams rib, with the trees being created AFTER Adam between Adams creation and Eve’s creation. In Genesis 1, creation takes 6 days. Genesis 2 starts by telling about the 7th day when God rested as if Genesis 1 was not a completed book. But after 4 verses, Genesis 2 starts retelling the details of creation all over again saying that all of creation happened in only ONE day.”

"Father. This is very disturbing to me. I mean, when I’ve heard that there were inconsistencies in the bible, I thought it meant things like a tall man being called ‘tall’ in one verse and maybe ‘big’ in another verse. But what you are pointing out is nothing that simple.”

“I know. I know. I feel sorry for you. I’m sure you keep asking yourself how you could have missed all of this. It’s so easy to see once it is pointed out to you. Let’s keep going.

Cain’s wife

In Genesis chapter 4, Eve bears two children: Cain and Abel. How many people are on earth at that point?”

"What? How many? Why do I think I’m being set up. OK. Simple: 4 - Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel.”

"Good. Eventually, Cain becomes jealous of Abel and kills him, right? So how many people then?”

"Why do I think I’m being set up? OK. I’ll bite. Now there are 3.”

"Very good. So let me read a few more verses:

“Genesis 4:16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

4:17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

4:18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.”

"Do you see any problems here?”

"Well, not right off?”

"After Cain killed Abel, you said there were 3 people on earth, right? Then in verse 17, it says, ‘And Cain knew his WIFE’. Where did she come from?”

". . . . . .

Oh Wow! This is a big problem.

. . . . . . .

I guess we really have to do some reading between the lines here.”

"Exactly! Were there other humans around that the Bible didn’t mention? Another Garden of Eden somewhere? This isn’t about the need to interpret a word. It isn’t about being told something like, Adam and Eve had ‘many’ children, but we aren’t told how many there were. This is about counting – basic numbers.

One possible explanation often given is that Adam and Eve had more kids. But if there were more kids, why doesn’t the Bible mention them? It was very careful to list every one of Cain’s and Enoch’s children.”

"No clue.”

“Well, in fact, the Bible does have something to say about Adam and Eve having more kids. Let me read:

“Genesis 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, [said she], hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”

“So, Eve did have another kid. And this she considered a replacement for Abel. That implies no other kids in between. But it was a boy. And this doesn’t happen until verse 25. So, we still haven’t explained where Cain got his wife.”

Cain builds a city

In the meantime, back in verse 17, Cain and his wife have a SON named Enoch. How many people at that point?”

"OK. At that point they we’re up to 5.”

“Verse 17 says Cain built a CITY and named it after Enoch. How many people were there to live in this city?”

"OK. I can see a bunch of problems. You can hardly claim to build a, quote, ‘city’ with 5 people. And, from a logical standpoint, with just a few generations passing from the creation of Adam, there wouldn’t have been enough time to develop the tools or technology to build a city. Given the description of the Garden of Eden, they’d be lucky to be living in a cave wearing their fig leaves. And if Enoch had a kid, where did his wife come from?”

“Precisely! You don’t have to think hard to see that. The problem is, big jumps in technology and population happen so often in the Bible in contradiction to the number of people named.

So, have I convinced you? These aren’t small problems. These aren’t slight differences in how we interpret words. The Bible story is full of major logical inconsistencies.”

"OK. I’m going to have to think about this. I’ve got a lot of cards in my house of beliefs. If we keep going down the path you’re taking me, I’m going to be living in a cave with Enoch.”

Two versions of Noah’s Ark

“Let’s jump now to the story of Noah. In Genesis 6, verse 19 it says, ‘And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.’ Do you remember this?”

"Sure.”

“But in Genesis 7, verse 2 it says, ‘Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.’ Do you remember this?”

"Huh??? NO! I don’t remember any of that.”

“Precisely! It is common practice to only talk about one of the stories, even though the Bible says that Noah did what he was commanded in both stories.”

"OK. It’s one thing to have a difference in God’s attitude from one time period to another. I think you might establish a reason for that. But these are straight numeric errors. Here we go again with what appears to be two separate stories about the same event. And, again, the facts aren’t the same. For example, in the second story, it says ‘thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female.’ How many animals of each kind does that mean? It must mean 14. That is, seven pair. Because if only seven individuals were taken, they all couldn’t be complete male-female pairs. But if that is so, then the unclean animals would have to be taken by fours. That has to be so because it also says, and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. The ‘two’ here meaning two pairs. So in this story, there are at least 4 of every animal.”

“Is there any question now that believing the Bible is the literal word of God leads to serious problems?”

"Right! Which story in the Bible am I supposed to believe?”

“Precisely! Biblical scholars are pretty sure that there were two different stories about Noah’s flood that just got merged together. But that’s not acceptable if they are both the word of God.

Similar numeric errors occur related to the story of the Tower of Babel. Genesis 10 tells us that there were MANY languages on the earth, ‘By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one AFTER HIS TONGUE, after their families, in their nations.’ But Genesis 11 says, ‘And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.’ “

New testament

"Wow. I never realized that there were so many straight out contradictions. But maybe, this is just a problem with the Old Testament.”

“That’s a good point. Especially since Christians conveniently want to distance themselves from the Old Testament. Except, of course, for specific things they want to selectively hang on to like Genesis, Noah’s flood and the 10 Commandments.

So, let’s look at some things in the New Testament. Would you agree that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the key writings there?”

"Sure.”

“OK. And would you agree that they should have observed events about the same way when they were with Jesus?”

"Well if by the same way you mean, when they were all there at the same time, right? I’m sure you don’t mean that they all were always together.”

“That’s correct. I mean, given a situation where they all say they were together, they should record their observations in a similar way.”

"Sure. I agree. Especially, again, if what was being written was the ‘Word of God’, and God is making sure what they were writing was actually what happened.”

“Precisely! But that’s not what we find.

In Matthew 1, verse 16 it says, ‘And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.’ But in Luke 3, verse 23, it says, ‘And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.’ “

"OK. So the two gospels give Joseph different fathers. Maybe they were talking about the same person but each knew him by a different name from their background traditions.”

“Matthew 1:17 says, ‘So all the generations . . .from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.’ How many generations is that?”

"OK. OK. Fourteen plus fourteen is 28.”

“There is a more detailed chronology in Luke 3. The problem is, it adds up to 43 generations.”

"Alright – another counting error.”

“Matthew 1:20 talks about the angel that came to tell about Christ’s birth. He says, ‘behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto HIM in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.’

This is the event the Church calls the Annunciation, right? Now think closely, according to this story, when did the Annunciation occur? Before or after Jesus was conceived?”

"Hmmm... This puts the Annunciation after the conception of Jesus. The angel said ‘that WHICH IS CONCEIVED in her’, which means Jesus was already conceived.”

“The same incident is described in Luke. But it’s not the same. In Luke 1 it says, ‘And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. . . And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.’ So, according to this story, when was the Annunciation?”

"Well, if the angel said ‘thou SHALT conceive’, he was talking about the conception happening in the future. This means the Annunciation occurred before Jesus was conceived. Wow, so which was it?”

“Precisely! And there is also another problem with the two stories. Who did the angel talk to?”

"Hmmm... Oh Wow! I can’t believe this. In Matthew, the angel spoke to Joseph; in Luke, the angel spoke to Mary.”

“Precisely! Not even the same person. So maybe, were there two Annunciations? The Annunciation is a big deal in the Catholic Church. Which one are we celebrating?

"But more important to me, is the question of accuracy. If the Bible is literal truth, then how can there be two different stories?”

“Precisely! Let me read from Dawkins again. Page 92.”

“There are still some people who are persuaded by scriptural evidence to believe in God. A common argument, attributed among others to C. S. Lewis (who should have known better), states that, since Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, he must have been either right or else insane or a liar: 'Mad, Bad or God'… The historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal. But even if that evidence were good, the trilemma on offer would be ludicrously inadequate. A fourth possibility, almost too obvious to need mentioning, is that Jesus was honestly mistaken. Plenty of people are. In any case, as I said, there is no good historical evidence that he ever thought he was divine.
The fact that something is written down is persuasive to people not used to asking questions like: 'Who wrote it, and when?' 'How did they know what to write?' 'Did they, in their time, really mean what we, in our time, understand them to be saying?' 'Were they unbiased observers, or did they have an agenda that coloured their writing?' Ever since the nineteenth century, scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus' life. All were then copied and recopied… by fallible scribes who, in any case, had their own religious agendas.
A good example of the colouring by religious agendas is the whole heart-warming legend of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, followed by Herod's massacre of the innocents. When the gospels were written, many years after Jesus' death, nobody knew where he was born. But an Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5: 2) had led Jews to expect that the long-awaited Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
In the light of this prophecy, John's gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem. Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’ But some said, ‘Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?'
Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently, by deciding that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem after all. But they get him there by different routes. Matthew has Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along, moving to Nazareth only long after the birth of Jesus, on their return from Egypt where they fled from King Herod and the massacre of the innocents. Luke, by contrast, acknowledges that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born. So how to get them to Bethlehem at the crucial moment, in order to fulfill the prophecy? Luke says that, in the time when Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria, Caesar Augustus decreed a census for taxation purposes, and everybody had to go 'to his own city'. Joseph was 'of the house and lineage of David' and therefore he had to go to 'the city of David, which is called Bethlehem'. That must have seemed like a good solution. Except that historically it is complete nonsense, as A. N. Wilson … and Robin Lane Fox … (among others) have pointed out. David, if he existed, lived nearly a thousand years before Mary and Joseph. Why on earth would the Romans have required Joseph to go to the city where a remote ancestor had lived a millennium earlier? It is as though I were required to specify, say, Ashby-de-Ia-Zouch as my home town on a census form, if it happened that I could trace my ancestry back to the Seigneur de Dakeyne, who came over with William the Conqueror and settled there.
Moreover, Luke screws up his dating by tactlessly mentioning events that historians are capable of independently checking. There was indeed a census under Governor Quirinius - a local census, not one decreed by Caesar Augustus for the Empire as a whole - but it happened too late: in AD 6, long after Herod's death. Lane Fox concludes that 'Luke's story is historically impossible and internally incoherent', but he sympathizes with Luke's plight and his desire to fulfill the prophecy of Micah.
In [an issue of ] Free Inquiry, Tom Flynn, the Editor of that excellent magazine, assembled a collection of articles documenting the contradictions and gaping holes in the well-loved Christmas story.
Flynn himself lists the many contradictions between Matthew and Luke, the only two evangelists who treat the birth of Jesus at all. Robert Gillooly shows how all the essential features of the Jesus legend, including the star in the east, the virgin birth, the veneration of the baby by kings, the miracles, the execution, the resurrection and the ascension are borrowed - every last one of them - from other religions already in existence in the Mediterranean and Near East region. Flynn suggests that Matthew's desire to fulfill messianic prophecies (descent from David, birth in Bethlehem) for the benefit of Jewish readers came into headlong collision with Luke's desire to adapt Christianity for the Gentiles, and hence to press the familiar hot buttons of pagan Hellenistic religions (virgin birth, worship by kings, etc.). The resulting contradictions are glaring, but consistently overlooked by the faithful.
Shouldn't a literalist worry about the fact that Matthew traces Joseph's descent from King David via twenty-eight intermediate generations, while Luke has forty-one generations? Worse, there is almost no overlap in the names on the two lists! In any case, if Jesus really was born of a virgin, Joseph's ancestry is irrelevant and cannot be used to fulfill, on Jesus' behalf, the Old Testament prophecy that the Messiah should be descended from David."

"This is incredible! He’s saying that, just in the story of Jesus’ birth, there are all these discrepancies?”

“And, I’m sure, already, you can expect that there are many more discrepancies throughout the whole New Testament. Here is another example. Matthew 10:34 says, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came NOT TO SEND PEACE, but a sword.’ This is supported by Luke 12:49, where he said Jesus said, ‘I am come to send fire on the earth.’ But in John 16 we read, ‘These things I have spoken unto you, that in me YE MIGHT HAVE PEACE.’ “

"OK! OK! I don’t know how to deal with all of this. Why didn’t anyone in the Church say anything about all of this? I mean, why didn’t they at least point it out and explain it?”

“Nanook. The world is NOT telling you the whole story. The most respected and relied on institutions in our society are LYING to us to promote their own interests. You have to open your eyes to this.

Let me read some things to you from a very profound and remarkable book: Misquoting Jesus by Burt Ehrman. I’d really recommend that you get this book and read it for yourself. I think it is one of the most important books that has ever been written on the subject of the Bible. Here is what Ehrman has to say about the New Testament. Page 212.”

“… all these authors passed along the traditions they inherited in DIFFERENT words. Matthew, in fact, is not exactly like Mark; Mark is not the same as Luke; or Luke as John; or John as Paul; or Paul as James. Just as scribes modified the words of the tradition, by sometimes putting these words ‘in other words,’ so too had the authors of the New Testament itself, telling their stories, giving their instructions, and recording their recollections by using their own words (not just the words they had heard), words that they came up with to pass along their message in ways that seemed most appropriate for the audience and the time and place for which they were writing.
As I pointed out earlier in this book, it has been clear to most scholars since the nineteenth century that Mark was the first Gospel written, and that Matthew and Luke both used Mark as one of the sources for their stories about Jesus. On the one hand, there's nothing particularly radical about this claim. Authors have to get their stories somewhere, and Luke himself indicates that he had read and used earlier accounts in coming up with his own (1:1-4). On the other hand, this means that it is possible to compare what Mark says with what Matthew and/or Luke say, in any story shared between them; and by doing so, one can see how Mark was changed by these later authors.
… Engaging in this different kind of detective work can also be interesting and enlightening. For these later authors sometimes borrowed Mark's sentences wholesale, but on other occasions they changed what he had to say, sometimes radically…
Mark, for example, portrays Jesus as in deep agony in the face of death, telling his disciples that his soul was "sorrowful unto death," falling on his face in prayer, and beseeching God three times to take away the cup of his suffering; on his way to be crucified he is silent the entire time, and he says nothing on the cross when mocked by everyone, including both robbers, until the very end when he calls out in anguish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He then utters a loud cry and dies.
Luke had this version of the story available to him, but he modified it significantly. He removed Mark's comment that Jesus was highly distraught, as well as Jesus’ own comment that he was sorrowful unto death. Rather than falling on his face, Jesus simply kneels, and instead of pleading three times to have the cup removed, he asks only once, prefacing his prayer with "if it be your will." He is not at all silent on the way to his crucifixion but speaks to a group of weeping women, telling them to grieve not for him but for the fate to befall themselves. While being crucified he is not silent but asks God to forgive those responsible, "for they don't know what they're doing." While on the cross he is not silent: when one of the robbers mocks him (not both, as in Mark), the other asks for his help, and Jesus replies in full assurance of what was happening, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." And at the end, rather than asking God why he had been forsaken - there is no cry of dereliction here - he instead prays in full confidence of God's support and care: "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit."
Luke has changed the account, and if we wish to understand what Luke wanted to emphasize, we need to take his changes seriously. People don't take his changes seriously, I came to see, when they pretend that Luke is saying the same thing as Mark. Mark wanted to emphasize the utter forsakenness and near-despair of Jesus in the face of death. Interpreters differ in their explanations of why this is what Mark wanted to emphasize; one interpretation is that Mark wanted to stress that God works in highly mysterious ways, and that seemingly inexplicable suffering (Jesus at the end seems to be in the throes of doubt: "Why have you forsaken me?") can in fact be the way of redemption. Luke wanted to teach a different lesson. For him, Jesus was not in despair. He was calm and in control, knowing what was happening to him, why it was happening, and what would occur later ("today you will be with me in paradise"). Again interpreters are divided on why Luke portrayed Jesus this way in the face of death, but it may be that Luke wanted to give an example to persecuted Christians about how they themselves should face death, in full assurance that God is on their side despite their torments ("into your hands I commend my spirit").
The point is that Luke changed the tradition he inherited. Readers completely misinterpret Luke if they fail to realize this - as happens, for example, when they assume that Mark and Luke are in fact saying the same thing about Jesus. If they are not saying the same thing, it is not legitimate to assume they are - for example, by taking what Mark says, and taking what Luke says, then taking what Matthew and John say and melding them all together, so that Jesus says and does ALL the things that each of the Gospel writers indicates. Anyone who interprets the Gospels this way is not letting each author have his own say; anyone who does this is not reading what the author wrote in order to understand his message; anyone who does this is not reading the Gospels themselves - he or she is making up a NEW Gospel consisting of the four in the New Testament, a new Gospel that is not like any of the ones that have come down to us.
The idea that Luke changed the text before him - in this case the Gospel of Mark - does not put him in a unique situation among the early Christian authors. This, in fact, is what all the writers of the New Testament did …
John's Gospel is quite different from each of the other three (he never has Jesus tell a parable, for example, or cast out a demon; and in his account, unlike theirs, Jesus gives long discourses about his identity and does ‘signs’ in order to prove that what he says about himself is true.
The message of Paul is both like and unlike what we find in the Gospels (he doesn't say much about Jesus’ words or deeds, for example, but focuses on what for Paul were the critical issues, that Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead). The message of James differs from the message of Paul; the message of Paul differs from the message of Acts; the message of the Revelation of John differs from the message of the Gospel of John; and so forth. Each of these authors . . . had a different message . . ."

"OK. I understand all of this. He is saying that the discrepancies between the Bible stories are as clear as day. But people refuse to acknowledge them. We are all living in denial.”

“Precisely! There is nothing hard to see in his explanations.

Technical Faults

**We don’t even have the original words ( no one was there to hear them )

OK. Time to shift gears. Let’s now talk about a whole new class of problems with the Bible. These are usually described as technical faults. Technical faults are things like composition, spelling and grammar errors as opposed to the logical faults which are related to interpreting the meaning of the words. So, sure, we may be having a hard time understanding what the words of the Bible are trying to say to us, BUT, what if the words we are reading, themselves, aren’t even the real words?”

"What?”

“I said, what if the words we are reading aren’t even the real words? It’s pretty important that they be the real words, right?”

"Absolutely. I mean the Bible is always relied on to be the WORD OF GOD. If the words, for some reason, aren’t the true words of God, then the whole basis of relying on them to understand what God want’s of us, would be thrown out the window.”

“Precisely! So, let’s go right back to the first chapter of Genesis. Verse 3 says, ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.’ Do you remember that?”

"Sure.”

“So, who was there to hear God say that?”

"What?????”

“Who was there to hear God speak?”

"Hmmm... Well, obviously, no one was there.”

“So, this opens up a big problem doesn’t it? Some human person eventually had to write the book of Genesis. This had to happen long after the events in Genesis happened because Adam wasn’t even created at the beginning. How did the person who wrote the book of Genesis know what God said?”

"I guess we have to assume that God eventually picked out someone to write the books and inspired them with the words.”

Sacred dictation

“Correct. But what you called INSPIRATION had to be a lot more than just inspiration. It had to be more like SACRED DICTATION, right? Many of the words that we are told either God said or Jesus said, could not actually have been heard and written down by the person doing the writing. Many of the words could not even have been heard by any person at all.”

"This is a big issue, isn’t it? I mean, when we talk about the Bible being the Word of God. Somehow the words of Genesis had to get into someone’s head so they could write them down. And to be accurate, as you said, it had to be pretty close to sacred dictation.”

“Precisely! Because if it wasn’t that way, then how are the descriptions of events in the Bible to be interpreted? Were they just made up stories? Did the events that are described in the Bible actually ever happen? For example, was there actually a ‘first day of creation’? Was it actually one day long? Or was this just a story, like a fable? A good example of this is Noah’s Flood. Do you believe that there was actually a great flood that destroyed almost all life on earth 4000 years ago?”

"Sure I believe it. It’s in the Bible.”

“What if I told you that the same story can be found in writings from Sumeria around 1600 B.C.”

"So, are you saying other’s copied it from the Bible?”

“No. Why would I think that? When do you think the book of Genesis was written?”

"Hmmm... I actually have no clue?

It appears that it happened the other way around. The flood story from Sumeria can be traced, historically, to have reappeared in multiple places. Each time, it was described to involve different gods and include other different events local to the area that the story was written in.”

"Yeah? So? Are you saying it appears that the Bible was just one more stop on the journey of many old tales?”

“That’s what recent research about many of the stories in the Bible has concluded. For example, we are given long dialogs about what Noah said. But the context makes it clear there couldn’t have been anyone there to hear what Noah and God said, who would later write down what they heard. In fact, the flood story wasn’t put into writing for maybe a thousand years after it was supposed to happen. The Noah’s flood story has been dated to around 2350 BC. The book of Genesis, is believed to have been written by Moses, which would put its writing at around 1200 BC, about 400 years after the Sumerian story.”

"Hmmm... I never thought of it that way. When the Bible says, “And God said, let there be light”, I just thought God’s actual words somehow got put into writing. Sort of like what we read in a book of fiction. But, it’s now so obvious that no one could actually know what God said or even if God said anything? Now you’re saying the same logic applies to Noah and Adam and the serpent etcetera.”

“Precisely! At the same time, we also have a lot of other writings that talk about the same events that also claim to have been from someone who was there and heard very different words. But of course, the writers couldn’t have been there either. So, what’s really going on? Let’s just stay with the multiple stories IN the Bible itself. If God dictated the words of the Bible to each of the writers, how can there be so many different versions?”

"Duh???????”

OK. Let’s just talk about the New Testament for a moment. Where do you think the writings for the New Testament came from?”

"Well, let’s take the gospels as an example. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were Apostles. When Jesus died, the Apostles probably sat down and wrote about their experiences with Him. Those writings became the gospels.”

"Good. I’m sure that is what most people believe as well.”

"Oh man! Here it comes again. Why do I think that was a set up question?”

"Nanook. I hope you take a lot of your new understanding away with you from the things we talk about. But among the most important is for you to understand how our society and its leaders have so profoundly LIED to you; how profoundly you have been brainwashed with misinformation. What you have been told, by the Church, by Hollywood, by the media, by our political leaders, by your school teachers, so much of it is completely untrue! These teachings have come about over time for many reasons. And governing systems such as governments and religions quickly grab on to them to keep the average person like you and me under their control. What you have been led to believe about the Bible is one of these LIES. And since, I realize, the Bible is your last ditch hope for truth, hearing that it might not be what you think it is, is going to be very, very tough. It’s going to be extremely hard for you to stay open minded and objective. I’m so sorry about that.”

"I’ll say. What an understatement.”

“I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. And believe me, my sympathy is real. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there.”

"Is that really so?”

“Unfortunately, yes. And unfortunately, I’m still there. This is not an easy journey. I wish I was at the end so I could just tell you how it’s all going to turn out. But I’m not at the end. Sometime I feel like I’m still just at the beginning.”

"Wow. But actually, I guess I’m not really surprised at this point. Just the discussion about the Bible’s logical problems already set me up to expect there would be other types of problems.”

“Do you think we should keep going?”

". . . . . . . . . . Sure.”

"OK. Then let’s start again using Burt Ehrman’s book.

The point we are discussing is questioning the source of the New Testament. The first thing Burt discusses is the history of what happened between the time Jesus died and when the first collection of New Testament writings was put together. Let me read a few selections. He uses the abbreviation NT for New Testament. Page 4.”

“… we don’t actually have the original writings of the NT. What we have are copies, made years later…None of the copies is completely accurate, since the scribes who produced them … changed them … "

"Are you saying that we don’t have the original scrolls or however they were written?”

“That’s right. There are thousands of documents that remain from that time period, but the original gospels are not among them. But from other information that is available, biblical scholars now strongly agree that none of the gospels in the New Testament, that are named after the Apostles, were written by any actual disciple of Jesus nor anyone who was even an eyewitness to his life. The gospel of John even appears to have been written by multiple authors.”

"WHAT! So are you saying that when we read the gospel of Mark, it wasn’t even written by Mark?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Scholars believe that the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were just selected to title those gospels. The gospels were actually written by others long after the Apostles were dead and gone. Let me continue. Page 10.”

“Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of copies of copies … until centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another in many THOUSANDS of places …. We don’t even know how many differences there are …. There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the NT."

“Do you understand this part? Do you understand the significance of what he just said?”

"Yeah! I do. He’s saying we don’t have any of the originals. All we have are copies. And these are from centuries after the originals were written. But what really stands out for me is that the copies are not identical. He says there are THOUSANDS of differences. If that’s so, then which version has been presented to us in the Bibles we are reading? And who chose those specific versions?”

“Correct. In fact, as I will read later, he tells us that he estimates from 200,000 to 400,000 differences have been discovered!”

"Whoa! What did you say? Did you say 200 to 400 THOUSAND differences? This is crazy! I mean, if there were 10 or 100 or even a thousand differences, then we might expect theologians to resolve them. But hundreds of thousands is a whole different matter. Furthermore, we’re talking about the, quote ‘WORD OF GOD’ here. We’re talking about the ONE, the UNIQUE, the ONLY, the quote, ‘WORD OF GOD’. Were not talking about 500 radio stations giving us their interpretations of some historical event. When I’m reading the Bible, I expect it to be 100% perfect.”

"I agree with you. And that is the implication that has been passed on to you by our culture. You have been brainwashed to believe that ‘THE BIBLE’, i.e. ANY one you are holding in you hand, is the INFALLIBLE WORD OF GOD, which you are to interpret LITERALLY, WORD FOR WORD, to guide you on your journey to heaven. But now, Dr. Ehrman tells us it absolutely can’t be so. Why? Because, even if the original words were directly inspired by God, and thereby were the true WORDS OF GOD, the process of getting the original words to us has been a nightmare of errors, and the original material has long since been lost. Let me continue. Page 45.”

**Many words are now known to be erroneous ( copy errors and changes – 1)

“…The only way to copy a book in the ancient world was to do it by hand ...

… We know that this process could be maddeningly slow and inaccurate .. [where the copies could] end up quite different from the original.

… outside the Christian communities, in the Roman world at large, texts were typically copied … by professional scribes ( that is, they had little vested interest in what the words said.) … the Christians copying the texts were the ones who wanted the texts…”

“That is, the Christian communities had a vested interest in using the texts to promote their own views of what the texts said.”

“… mistakes were commonly made in transcriptions …

…heretics sometimes modified the texts they copied in order to make them stand in closer conformity with their own views...
…Changes of this kind ... are very common."

"So, let’s talk about this. Do you understand what he is getting at here?”

"I think so. There were no printing presses at the time. So, to pass on anything that resembled the New Testament to a lot of people, a lot of steps would have been needed. First, many copies of all the original writings would need to be prepared. That is, the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, plus the writings of Paul, James, Peter etc. would have to be copied many times. These would have to be copied by hand, probably in many different locations. They would then have to be sent to organizations that would assemble them into reference books. Those books would then have to be copied over and over again. He says, in making the copies, many errors were introduced because those making the copies weren’t professionals. But he also introduces a very interesting complication. He says that there were heretics who also made copies and purposely introduced changes to what the original writings said. That’s a very scary thought.”

"But he says more than that. Let me read on. Page 152.”

“We know a good deal about Christianity during the second and third centuries. … the time, say, between the completion of the writing of the NT books and the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine… These two centuries were particularly rich in theological diversity among early Christians. In fact, the theological diversity was so extensive that groups calling themselves Christian adhered to beliefs and practices that most Christians today would insist were not Christian at all.
In the second and third centuries there were, of course, Christians who believed that there was only one God, the Creator of all there is. Other people who called themselves Christian, however, insisted that there were two different gods-one of the Old Testament (a God of wrath) and one of the New Testament (a God of love and mercy). These were not simply two different facets of the same God: they were actually two different gods. Strikingly, the groups that made these claims-including the followers of Marcion, . . . insisted that their views were the true teachings of Jesus and his apostles. Other groups, for example, of Gnostic Christians, insisted that there were not just two gods, but twelve. Others said thirty. Others still said 365. All these groups claimed to be Christian, insisting that their views were true and had been taught by Jesus and his followers."

"Do you see the new issue?”

"Actually no.”

"Remember you pointed out how heretics also introduced changes?”

"Sure.”

"But this new material I read to you tells us that there were many different groups that called themselves Christians. His point is that even different Christian groups had reasons to doctor the writings to fit their particular beliefs. We can’t blame all the changes on heretics.”

"Wow! I never heard about all these variations in Christianity in the early days. I guess that really raises a lot of questions. Each of these groups claimed to be interpreting what Jesus said. How could that be if they had the original writings of the Apostles or at least the early copies?”

Selective assembly of the Bible - 1

"Good question. Let’s go back to Dr. Ehrman.”

“Why didn't these other groups simply read their New Testaments to see that their views were wrong? It is because there WAS no New Testament.
…To be sure, all the books of the New Testament had been written by this time, but there were lots of other books as well, also claiming to be by Jesus’ own apostles - other gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses having very different perspectives from those found in the books that eventually came to be called the New Testament. The New Testament itself emerged out of these conflicts over God (or the gods), as one group of believers acquired more converts than all the others and decided which books should be included in the canon of scripture."

“Any idea who this group was that emerged and organized the writings?”

"Sure. It was the beginnings of the modern day Catholic Church as we know it under Emperor Constantine.”

“Correct. Let’s read on.”

“…During the second and third centuries, however, there was no agreed-upon canon, and no agreed-upon theology. Instead, there was a wide range of diversity: diverse groups asserting diverse theologies based on diverse written texts, all claiming to be written by apostles of Jesus.
Some of these Christian groups insisted that God had created this world; others maintained that the true God had not created this world (which is, after all, an evil place), but that it was the result of a cosmic disaster. Some of these groups insisted that the Jewish scriptures were given by the one true God; others claimed that the Jewish scriptures belong to the inferior God of the Jews, who was not the one true God. Some of these groups insisted that Jesus Christ was the one Son of God who was both completely human and completely divine; other groups insisted that Christ was completely human and not at all divine; others maintained that he was completely divine and not at all human; and yet others asserted that Jesus Christ was two things -a divine being (Christ) and a human being (Jesus). Some of these groups believed that Christ's death brought about the salvation of the world; others maintained that Christ's death had nothing to do with the salvation of this world; yet other groups insisted that Christ had never actually died.
Each and everyone of these viewpoints - and many others besides - were topics of constant discussion, dialogue, and debate in the early centuries of the church, while Christians of various persuasions tried to convince others of the truth of their own claims. Only one group eventually ‘won out’ in these debates.
It was this group that decided what the Christian creeds would be: the creeds would affirm that there is only one God, the Creator; that Jesus his Son is both human and divine; and that salvation came by his death and resurrection. This was also the group that decided which books would be included in the canon of scripture. By the end of the fourth century, most Christians agreed that the canon was to include the four Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, and a group of other letters such as I John and I Peter, along with the Apocalypse of John. And who had been copying these texts? Christians from the congregations themselves, Christians who were intimately aware of and even involved in the debates over the identity of God, the status of the Jewish scriptures, the nature of Christ, and the effects of his death."

"Wow! This is unbelievable. How come I was never taught any of this?”

"Because you were raised Catholic. Why would the Catholic Church want to open your eyes to all these questions? In their view, all views other than their own are heresies. All you need to do is do what the Church tells you to do. End of story.”

"But it’s not the end of the story. I mean, from what we’ve talked about so far, just the 10 commandments and finding a basis of TRUTH upon which the Catholic Church can base its teachings, we haven’t even got the story outlined yet.”

"That’s correct. And when you add in the Protestant Revolution, Islam, Mormons and modern Christians, the story really get’s bizarre.”

"What do you mean by that?”

"Well, I just read to you some material that explained how only one out of hundreds of early Christian sects became dominant in the fourth century and formed the early Catholic Church. They did that by converting the Emperor of Rome to their cause who used the strength of the Roman Army to force this view on everyone else. And he didn’t do that just by making threats. The Roman army destroyed temples and statues of so called ‘pagans’ throughout the Roman empire. And it should be clear to you that the term ‘pagan’ was applied to any religious sect that did not agree with the dominant sect.”

"Whoa! What was left? I mean, the entire Roman religious foundation was built on the Gods we now call ‘Roman mythology’.”

“Precisely! There wasn’t much that could be kept. As part of this domination, the controlling Christian group selected only a few of the gospels that existed to form the New Testament around their particular set of beliefs. By the way, there are now over 100 gospels that have been found. While the New Testament only has gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, most of the other apostles also wrote gospels. Jesus’ mother Mary wrote a gospel as well as Mary Magdalene.”

"I never heard any of this.”

“Then, in addition to selecting only 4 gospels, there is substantial proof that the Church rewrote those gospels to fit their ideas. Ehrman describes how the story of the woman caught in adultery – John 7:33 – 8:12 - has been shown to be a late insertion. That is, it was not even written by the person who wrote the gospel of John. Ehrman discusses how the last twelve verses of Mark have been shown to be additions. We’re talking about whole verses, not just a word or two. It appears that without them, the Gospel ends too abruptly, leaving too many disturbing questions. So scribes added them. But there is also evidence that the Gospel was purposely intended to end abruptly, to emphasize that the Apostles never witnessed the resurrection and were doubtful to the end. There is also evidence that early manuscripts were missing a last page. Ehrman discusses that the previous examples are just 2 of THOUSANDS of suspected additions, some very long. So, how can the words of the Bible be interpreted “literally” if they are KNOWN, NOT to be the original words of the apostles?”

"I never heard any of this.”

“Now lets jump ahead to the Protestant Reformation and the modern explosion of new Christian groups who say they base their beliefs on a literal interpretation of the Bible, which they believe is the literal WORD OF GOD. Do you see any problems with this?”

"I see a lot of problems with this.

First the religious group that got control of the Bible in the fourth century seems to have screened out a lot of information. There were 12 apostles for sure. Plus you said that the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene also wrote gospels. I think you said we have now found over 100 gospels so far. So we’ve lost more than ninety six percent of the story. This had to be very significant material. So, why would this information be screened out? Simple. It had to be saying things that didn’t agree with the material that was kept. And if those gospels were also witness to what Jesus said, then we surely don’t have the whole story.

Second, this group surely selected material which aligned with their particular view. But if the group was dependent on support from a Roman Emperor, the group’s view was probably strongly influenced in favor of the fourth century political situation. Politics can sure change a lot in 300 years. So, the message a politically driven group was trying to cement in people’s minds using the parables that Jesus spoke may have been very different from the message that Jesus was actually trying to convey 300 years earlier.

Third, evidently, even the existing gospel words weren’t a perfect fit, so some of the words were changed to get a better political fit. Not only that, when changing words wasn’t sufficient, new words, and even many verses were added. Is that what you said?”

“Correct. Not in so many words, but that’s essentially the point.”

“Then, although you haven’t talked about the rest of the history yet, there still had to be a lot of hand copying to get from the fourth century to the printing press. More copies, more errors, more changes. Then along came the Protestant Reformation. People didn’t like the, quote, ‘words’ that the Catholic Church dictated. So they inserted their own beliefs, and presumably, created their own versions of the Bible to favor those beliefs.

So, how after all these changes, are we still supposed to believe that the New Testament presents us with the original words of Jesus? How can it give us an accurate description of what Jesus did that we are supposed to use to determine how to conduct our life?”

"Exactly! You are now starting to understand the problem. Most Christians today think that the New Testament simply appeared on the scene one day, soon after the death of Jesus, written by the Apostles who’s names are used in the Bible. They must have some fantasy in their mind about how this happened that is something like Moses getting the 10 commandments. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first time the 27 books of the New Testament came together as a collection was in 367 AD under the direction of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. But even that didn’t settle the matter. Debates continued for centuries.

Let’s continue reading from Ehrman’s book. He presents some specifics to give you an idea of how significant the selections and modifications were in determining the basis of modern Christian beliefs. Page 135.”

“Scholars have long recognized that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, and that both Matthew and Luke used Mark’s account as a source for their own stories of Jesus …. It is striking that Matthew and Luke are almost word for word the same as Mark in the leper’s request and in Jesus’ response in verses 40-41. Which word, then, do they use to describe Jesus’ resurrection? Does he become compassionate or angry? Oddly enough, Matthew and Luke both omit the word altogether…What if both Mathew and Luke read in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus became angry? Would they have been inclined to eliminate that emotion? There are, in fact, other occasions on which Jesus becomes angry in Mark. In each instance, Matthew and Luke have modified the accounts.
…Why would Luke have gone to such lengths to eliminate Mark's portrayal of an anguished Jesus if in fact Jesus' anguish were the point of his story?
…It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of these changes that Luke made in his source (Mark) for understanding our textual problem. At no point in Luke's Passion narrative does Jesus lose control; never is he in deep and debilitating anguish over his fate. He is in charge of his own destiny, knowing what he must do and what will happen to him once he does it. This is a man who is at peace with himself and tranquil in the face of death.
What, then, shall we say about our disputed verses? These are the only verses in the entire Gospel of Luke that undermine this clear portrayal. Only here does Jesus agonize over his coming fate; only here does he appear out of control, unable to bear the burden of his destiny. Why would Luke have totally eliminated all remnants of Jesus' agony elsewhere if he meant to emphasize it in yet stronger terms here? Why remove compatible material from his source, both before and after the verses in question? It appears that the account of Jesus' "bloody sweat," not found in our earliest and best manuscripts, is not original to Luke but is a scribal addition to the Gospel.
…The group that established itself as "orthodox" (meaning that it held what it considered to be the "right belief') then determined what future Christian generations would believe and read as scripture."

"This is getting pretty scary to me. I mean, this is pretty serious stuff. I mean, you’re not just talking about a difference between whether Jesus entered a garden in the afternoon or the evening. You’re talking about the major beliefs of our religion!

“Of course! That’s the point. That’s what the early Christian groups were fighting about. These are not just little things.”

“And the examples in the last paragraph you read are perfect illustrations of how important every single word is.

Just image that a person could travel in time. If you were presented with the material that is collected in the Old Testament related to the Ten Commandments around the time they were written on the stone tablets, you’d believe that God is pretty strict about getting those commandments right. And as it says in the First Commandment, HE is the Lord God. This ‘HE’ is the being that appeared to Moses on top of the mountain. But if I remember right, He could not show his face to anyone or they would be destroyed.”

“Correct. The Old Testament goes into great detail about that. Let me read a little of that.”

“19:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.

19:10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

19:11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.

19:12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, [that ye] go [not] up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:

19:13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether [it be] beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.”

“Does any of this suggest that God might also walk around in a white gown wearing sandals and speaking in a soft voice?

“I completely understand what you’re getting at. So, going back to my image, after being a witness to the delivery of the Ten Commandments, assume you could magically move forward in time. Then in the fourth century, this new book comes out that says there is really only one Lord. And that Lord is Jesus Christ. I can see how the early Christians, who only had knowledge of the Old Testament up to that time would balk at this new claim. The God of the commandments appeared with all the might of an erupting volcano. He had to take special precautions to drape Himself in thick clouds so the people could get close enough to Him to hear him talk to Moses. The kind of God based on fire, thunder and earthquakes was still present in their world. When the ground shook and split open, the event was called “an act of God”. These kind of events are still called acts of God today. But the Lord of this new book walked around in the form of a very common human that displayed such physical weakness that He could be carried away, beaten and crucified by the Romans.

In an earlier paragraph, Ehrman talked about the Christians in the first centuries, who had better access to the information of the time than we do. He said that they were not sure, even then, what Jesus had told them. Some believed there was only one god; others believed in two: one for the Old Testament – one for the New Testament. Some people believed in 12 or even 365 gods or whatever. But today, we are supposed to accept without question, the newest Bible version, even though the answer to these questions are still confusing.”

“So, do you?”

“What??? Believe in the Bible? Of course I do. Hmmm?? What am I talking about? I mean, I have to accept the Bible. I think??? But now, based on what you said, the whole concept is clearly disturbing. And based on the first commandment, I think you have to get this exactly right or your toast!”

“PRECISELY!”

Father V just leaned back and smiled.

“Let me get you a warm up for that coffee.”

While he was doing that, he charted out a new angle to the problem.

Copy errors and changes - 2

“So far, I have been reading about intentional changes to the writings related to theological and probably political issues. These were made mostly during the second and third centuries. But there is a whole different class of errors. That is what might be called ‘technical errors’. That means, while the copies were being made, the scribes just made writing errors.”

"Sure. I can understand how that would happen. But they must have been small, right?”

Father V just smiled.

"I mean, they couldn’t cause much change in the overall meaning, right? And most of those should have been easy to spot later on – I mean like misspelled words and such. And how many could there really be? A couple of hundred maybe?”

“Again, I don’t think most people, including me, have any idea how big a problem we are facing. Sure, in a lot of cases, a misspelling is exactly what happened. And it was easily discovered and fixed. But your guess of a couple of hundred errors is way wrong. The current estimate is that there were over 200,000 errors introduced during the copying from the fourth century originals.”

"Oh yeah. I remember you saying that. That’s unbelievable.”

“Correct. There are more known errors in the New Testament than there are words. And the question then is, what is the probability that each of those errors will be corrected to the right original word or phrase. Sure, if you misspell Jerusalem like ‘Jeruslem’ or ‘Jerusaalm’, then the fix is pretty obvious. But what if you misspell the word ‘dust’ wrong in a verse like the Genesis paragraph ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’ What if you spell it: ‘dest’; ‘unto dest shalt thou return’. Then, add to that, that the manuscript is in pretty bad shape so you can hardly read any of the letters.”

"Hmmm... “

“Not so easy huh? Was the original word possibly ‘death’? ‘Unto death shalt thou return.’ Could be. How about ‘destiny’? ‘Unto destiny shalt thou return.’ But this is an easy example. What about logical transpositions. For example the word ‘two’ is replaced with ‘three’ or ‘red’ is replaced by ‘green’. As the next scribe down the line, how would errors like that be detected.

From what Ehrman says, the number of such errors is not insignificant at all. Let me read about some of these. Page 83.”

“… almost no one recognized the enormity of the problem of textual variation until the ground breaking publication in 1707 of one of the classics in the field … This was an edition of the Greek NT by John Mill, fellow of Queens College, Oxford. Mill had invested thirty years of work amassing the materials for his edition. The text that he printed was simply the 1550 edition of Stephasius .. [ but] he indicated places of variation …. To the shock and disarray of many of his readers, Mill’s apparatus isolated some THIRTY THOUSAND places of variation… Mill was not exhaustive in his presentation… He had, in fact, found far more than 30,000 places …. Leaving out variations such as word order.
Page 88: Mill based his critique on 100 manuscripts and other commentary. We now have more than 5700 Greek manuscripts and 10,000 Latin Vulgate, plus other languages. The result is an estimated 200K - 400K variants ( there are too many to do an accurate count. i.e. more variants than words in the NT )
Page 113: [Here’s] an example from Johann Wettstein in an old manuscript. He found the characters theta and sigma with a line in the theta ( ΘΣ ) , which is often used as an abbreviation for God. But he noticed that the line was a different color than the letters. He guessed it was added later. Why? Looking more closely, he noticed that the bar in the letter theta was a bleed through from the proceeding page. So theta sigma was probably originally omicron sigma ( ΟΣ ) which means “who”. That manuscript made this confusion repeatedly which greatly changed the meaning of many verses. For example 1Tim 3:16 which usually reads “Christ WHO was made manifest in the flesh” which would mean simply human, was changed to “Christ, who is GOD made manifest in the flesh."

"But Father, don’t you think most of the errors have been fixed?”

Problem of translation from Hebrew and Greek to Latin, then to German, then to English

“I don’t think so. Did you note I introduced a new factor with the last example?”

"Do you mean the problem of translation, in addition to errors?”

“Correct. This adds a whole new problem. Getting accuracy in the process of translation is very complex. All you have to do is picture someone trying to translate a document, which is in poor condition, with errors in it, who is just a novice translator. Here is just a simple comment about this from Ehrman. Page 6.”

“… the experiences of learning Greek became a bit troubling… I came to see early on that the full meaning and nuances of the Greek text of the NT could only be grasped when read and studied in the original language. ( The same applies to Hebrew for the Old Testament. )

...what good does it do to say that the words are inspired by God if most people have absolutely no access to those words, but only to more or less clumsy renderings of these words into a language such as English…”

“Do you understand his point? Do you agree with it?”

"I think so. I studied Latin and Spanish in school. If the translations were just simple statements, then I can see a pretty straight forward process. But when a language uses idioms, which most languages do, the translator has to go through multiple steps.

First, he has to figure out what the basic words are.

Second, he needs to understand what those words mean as an idiom. That means he has to understand the history of the times and how people used the words at the time when they were written. He also has to know the context that they were used in. Then he can translate the words into exact meanings. This of course is a major hassle if the time the material was written was not precisely known. If that is the case, then the word usage over the whole possible range of time that the material could have been written has to be considered. It is also important to know exactly where the material was written. The usage of words changes drastically from place to place. In addition, the context of the writing is critical.

Third, the translator also has a choice of using simple language or idioms to express what they think the meaning is. If the translators used current idioms of their own, a reader has to know that and take into account the history, time and location that the translator worked in.

For example, the Bible repeatedly uses the phrase, ‘and he knew his wife.’ For the longest time, that was really confusing for me. I kept asking myself, ‘well, duh? How could a man not know who his own wife was? Was this related to arranged marriages? Did they keep the identity of wives secret in those days and eventually a man found out who his wife was? While this is a pretty simple example, I’m sure there are many that are more complicated. After getting confused with the “knew his wife’ phrase, other passages also confused me, like when they said we were supposed to ‘know’ the Lord. Or like in Exodus where God is afraid that the people will go whoring after their gods.”

“Funny examples. But, it’s a pretty accurate example of how mixed up idioms can get. The original in Greek might have said, ‘a man had marital relations with his wife’, which was translated into Latin in the form, ‘a man lay with his wife’, which was translated into German as, ‘Adam slept with his wife’, which was translated into Old English as, ‘the man had connection with Eve his wife’, which now appears as, ‘Adam knew Eve’ in the King James Version. This particular idiom seems to stay consistently accurate even with all these variations because the context of the sentence is clear. After these acts, Eve bore a child. But when the contextual support is not there, then the idioms can run wild.”

"I can understand that.”

“Let me read something about this from Ehrman Page 208.”

“The Bible is, by all counts, the most significant book in the history of Western civilization. And how do you think we have access to the Bible? Hardly any of us actually read it in the original language, and even among those of us who do, there are very few who ever look at a manuscript - let alone a group of manuscripts. How then do we know what was originally in the Bible? A few people have gone to the trouble of learning the ancient languages (Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, etc.) and have spent their professional lives examining our manuscripts, deciding what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote. In other words, someone has gone to the trouble of doing textual criticism, reconstructing the "original" text based on the wide array of manuscripts that differ from one another in thousands of places. Then someone else has taken that reconstructed Greek text, in which textual decisions have been made (what was the original form of Mark 1:2? of Matt. 24:36? of John 1:18? of Luke 22:43-44? and so on), and translated it into English. What you read is that English translation - and not just you, but millions of people like you. How do these millions of people know what is in the New Testament? They "know" because scholars with unknown names, identities, backgrounds, qualifications, predilections, theologies, and personal opinions have told them what is in the New Testament."

"And, as we have seen, what we have been told varies all over the place. Let me bring out one more very significant issue with the translation problem. Hebrew, as a written language, is NOT very precise. The words, sentences and punctuation can almost be compared to abbreviations. So, any translations from Hebrew to modern languages always requires a huge amount of interpretation. The value is totally dependent on the translators viewpoint about what was actually going on in the community where the text was written.”

"You mean, it’s like trying to read a doctor’s note?”

“Well stated!

**There are many Bible versions

So let’s assume then that you somehow get by all of these problems. There is still the problem of choosing WHICH BIBLE YOU WILL USE? How do you answer that?”

"What do you mean, which Bible? The King James Bible, of course.”

"OH NOOOO! Come on Nanook. You should have gotten that question right. Catholics are not allowed to read the King James version. Roman Catholics are only allowed to read the Douay-Rheims Bible.”

"What?????? What do you mean Douay-Rheims Bible?”

"So, do you think that there is only one Bible out there to read?”

"What? Of course! I mean, how could it make sense for people to talk about following a LITERAL INTERPRETATION of, quote, ‘THE BIBLE’, if there is more that one to choose from?”

"Remember I told you that you should lie down for this discussion. Are you lying down? There are almost 7000 current versions of the Bible!”

"WHAT?????? But. . . But… I mean. . . . didn’t all of this stop when the printing press was invented?”

"Not by a long shot. There are a lot of people out there who have a vested interest that the HOLY WORD supports their personal beliefs. Let me continue what I was just reading from Ehrman where it talks about the King James Bible.”

"How do these millions of people know what is in the New Testament? They "know" because scholars with unknown names, identities, backgrounds, qualifications, predilections, theologies, and personal opinions have told them what is in the New Testament. But what if the translators have translated the wrong text? It has happened before. The KING JAMES VERSION is filled with places in which the translators rendered a Greek text derived ultimately from the Erasmus' edition, which was based on A SINGLE TWELFTH-CENTURY MANUSCRIPT that is one of the WORST OF THE MANUSCRIPTS THAT WE NOW HAVE AVAILABLE TO US! It's no wonder that modern translations often differ from the King James, and no wonder that some Bible-believing Christians prefer to pretend there's never been a problem, since God inspired the King James Bible instead of the original Greek! (As the old saw goes, If the King James was good enough for Saint Paul, it's good enough for me.)

Reality is never that neat, however, and in this case we need to face up to the facts. The King James was not given by God but was a translation by a group of scholars in the early seventeenth century who based their rendition on a faulty Greek text. Later translators based their translations on Greek texts that were better, but not perfect. Even the translation you hold in your hands is affected by these textual problems we have been discussing, whether you are a reader of the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New King James, the Jerusalem Bible, the Good News Bible, or something else. They are all based on texts that have been changed in places. And there are some places in which modern translations continue to transmit what is probably not the original text . . . There are some places where we don't even know what the original text was.”

"OK. Now I totally give up. If all of these Bibles are different, then it’s clear to me that the, quote, ‘Word of God’, has just been turned into a sales document for whatever religious group is selling it.”

“And in many cases, that’s exactly what has happened.”

Literal Interpretation defenses

“But let me go at this from a different direction. I’m surely not an expert on this. So it would be easy for me to be misled. I’m sure a lot of believers must have been challenged with all the problems you presented. What do they say to defend themselves?”

“Good question. The literal interpretation of the Bible is generally defended using the following arguments:

1. The Bible is a unique document. It is different from every other book in the world. Its authors were directly inspired by God at the time that they were writing their particular parts. Therefore, the Bible is inerrant. That is, when its 66 books were originally written, God prevented the authors from making any errors. God actually put the words in the writers hands. Therefore, the Bible is the "Word of God."

2. The official canon of the Christian Scriptures, that is, the New Testament, was finalized by church leaders during the 4th century. Under God's inspiration, they separated the canonical books from the many heretical works which were then in circulation. For example, they chose exactly four Gospels from among the many that were in use within the early Christian movement. This selection process was God inspired, and therefore inerrant and infallible. They rejected the rest, which were all false writings inspired by the Devil.

3. Since God is perfect, Biblical text must be accurate, whether it is discussing science, history, theology, morality, or any other topic. Because God is perfect, the Bible must be internally absolutely consistent.

4. The Bible is as valid today as it was at the time of Moses because God is unchangeable.

5. All passages in the Bible are equally valid as a spiritual guide. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

6. Most English versions of the Bible are reliable translations. This is particularly true of the King James Version.

7. Literally hundreds of apparent contradictions exist in the Bible. However, almost all can be harmonized with a little thought. A few unimportant contradictions remain and can be attributed to copyist errors. However, they have had no significant impact on modern-day religious doctrines because God has watched over the errors. A few discrepancies exist that cannot be harmonized with our currently available knowledge. However, an explanation does exist, and will be discovered some day.

8. Unsaved individuals cannot achieve a deep understanding of the Bible. However, when the person repents their sins and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them and leads them to properly comprehend the text. As Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14 writes: "...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

So, let’s go over these one at a time and see what we think.

1. The Bible is a unique document?

"OK. Let me take this one. The problem with this argument is that the Bible is NOT a unique document. We have many versions today and they are very different in important respects. They all can’t be the ‘one truth’. Furthermore, maybe none of them are accurate because there has not been even one reliable path from the original writings to today’s writings.”

"Precisely! Number 2.?

"I guess a person could stand by this argument if they were Roman Catholic and restricted themselves to reading only the, what did you call it, the Douay-Reims Bible. But that surely leaves a lot of Christians out of the picture. And, ironically, I think that Catholics don’t really try to interpret the words of the Bible literally. So, the irony is that those people who do claim to interpret the Bible literally, because it is supposed to be the original word of God, are really working from a book that was kluged together by the 4th century Catholic Church around Catholic beliefs. Yet these people, somehow, now reject the Catholic Church.”

"Precisely! And they reject the Church, specifically because it holds beliefs that they don’t agree with.”

"Hmmm... But maybe the other versions have put together material that the Catholic Church left out? Maybe that was the true material.”

"Not based on what Ehrman says. The various Bibles are not being created from material that predates the 4th century Catholic book. They are selectively choosing from among the variations that have emerged between then and now.”

"Meaning, they take a copying error and decide they like that better and call it the original Word of God.”

"Precisely. Number 3:

3. Since God is perfect, Biblical text must be accurate, whether it is discussing science, history, theology, morality, or any other topic. Because God is perfect, the Bible must be internally absolutely consistent.”

" It’s a trick answer. It starts out, ‘since God is perfect’. Is that what you mean? ”

"That’s what the answer is relying on. That you won’t see that hidden assumption. But logical people do challenge it. Why? Because the assumption of ONE God, and a PERFECT GOD are inconsistent with things we observe in the world. For example, the Bible describes how God repented that He ever made man to begin with.”

“You pretty much showed that logically, God can’t be perfect. And we surely don’t see signs of supernatural perfection in our material life.”

“Precisely! Using the logic of this answer, if any holy book says it has an all perfect god, we’d have to believe it. You can’t use what a book says to justify what the book says. And how do we justify the claim that there is only ONE God?”

Monotheism

" Come on, Father. You’ve got to leave me at least one fundamental belief to hang on to.”

“Don’t you remember my example about the wording of the first commandment implying other gods?”

“Sure. I remember. And you also talked about the problem related to the Trinity.”

“What society isn’t facing up to is that, for humans, a ‘one God’ concept is too boring. It won’t get people excited. To attract members, a religion needs variety. That’s what made the Greek and Roman religions so interesting. The Christian Churches knew that from the beginning. So, while claiming to believe in only one God, they really pushed variety to the limit. Let me read about this from Dawkins.”

“The Trinity is joined by Mary, 'Queen of Heaven', a goddess in all but name, who surely runs God himself a close second as a target of prayers. The pantheon is further swollen by an army of saints, whose intercessory power makes them, if not demigods, well worth approaching on their own specialist subjects. The Catholic Community Forum helpfully lists 5,120 saints, together with their areas of expertise, which include abdominal pains, abuse victims, anorexia, arms dealers, blacksmiths, broken bones, bomb technicians and bowel disorders, to venture no further than the Bs. And we mustn't forget the four Choirs of Angelic Hosts, arrayed in nine orders: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, powers, Principalities, Archangels (heads of all hosts), and just plain old Angels, including our closest friends, the ever-watchful Guardian Angels.”

“Comments?”

"Well, first off, I never knew there were five thousand saints. But adding in all the angels, assuming there is one for each of us humans, we’re talking about BILLIONS of beings.”

"And, you are talking about SUPERNATURAL beings, correct?”

"Hmmm… I never quite thought about it that way?”

“And, Dawkins only listed the GOOD ones here. What about Satan and all the fallen angels?”

“Hmmm… We call Satan a fallen ANGEL. But by all accounts, Satan is a fantastically powerful creature. To hear the preachers on TV talk about the condition of morality in our world, you’d pretty much conclude that Satan has already won his battle with God.”

“Maybe he has? The Book of Revelation says that only 144,000 humans will go to heaven.”

“WHAT???? The Bible says that? 144,000! That’s a very sobering fact if it’s so. If Satan is supernatural, and super powerful, and rules hell as his own domain, in parallel with heaven, and will win the souls of all but 144,000 humans, which means he’s won the souls of almost everyone who ever lived, to me, Satan has actually been the winner. If that’s the case, Satan seems exactly like a god. ”

“The ‘heavens’ seem to be a pretty busy place for sure. But the issue isn’t the number of supernatural beings, it’s the roles that the Church gives them. Praying to these creatures, we are told, ACCOMPLISHES something. Do you see the implications?”

"Sure! I see what you mean. If we believe in prayer, we essentially believe that we can actually get SUPERNATURAL BEINGS to do something WE want.”

"Precisely! But the implications are much greater than that. First off, how are these, quote, ‘supernatural beings’ not gods?”

"Well . . . . . ???”

“Do you see the point. The term ‘god’, as most people understand it, just means a supernatural being with supernatural powers. Most of the people in the world accept that. So the Church can argue all they want that there is only ‘one God’. But to LOGICALLY do so, they have to give up all these other supernatural beings. And sure, they may claim that the other beings don’t even come close in power to God. But that doesn’t matter. They are outside our world, have supernatural powers, and are immortal.

Then add in the whole logic behind praying to these other beings. Why even do it? Can’t God get the message directly? So, how then does praying to the Virgin Mary, for example, NOT constitute putting another god before the ONE and only TRUE GOD?”

"I see your point. The Church says you can’t ADORE the saints. Adoration is reserved for God. You VENERATE a saint. But, a person praying to a saint does it because they think they can get a better deal going through someone besides God Himself.”

“Precisely! And call it veneration or anything you want, it’s still an attempt at communication. Christians have slid WAY DOWN the slippery slope on this one.”

“So, coming back to our point, that’s why the third answer to the literal interpretation of the Bible fails. The assumptions that ‘there is only one God’ and that God ‘is Perfect’ can’t be justified, even based on statements in the Bible itself.”

“But even if all the statements about God in a specific Bible said He was the only one, we couldn’t use those statements to prove that Bible is true. If you did, it would mean you’d have to accept similar statements in any book that said it was a true book, which would include all the other Christian Bibles and holy books from the other religions.”

"Wow! OK. I got it. But, what if, for some other reason, we believe that God is perfect. Then doesn’t the rest of this answer hold?”

"No. Belief is NOT sufficient. You would have to be able to PROVE perfection.

4. The Bible is as valid today as it was at the time of Moses because God is unchangeable.”

"We just showed that God is NOT unchangeable.”

"Precisely! And what amazes me is how people deny that. Have you ever thought about all those other requirements God placed on the people when he was writing out the commandments. If the Bible is as valid today as it was at the time of Moses, then why aren’t people following those requirements? Are we in for another FLOOD!”

"And what was a good example for that?”

"Just look at a few verses right where Moses came down with the two stone tablets:

“Exodus 35:1 And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These [are] the words which the LORD hath commanded, that [ye] should do them.

35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be PUT TO DEATH.

35:3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.”

"There, that ought to be enough. So, how is the modern race of man doing with these?”

"OK. OK. I get your point. Sure, we go to church on Sunday. But we hardly go around putting people to death who work on the Sabbath.”

"OK. But keep going.”

"You said, we can’t kindle a fire on the Sabbath. I’m sure we don’t listen to that, especially in Connecticut during the winter. But, come on, I mean, a rule like this couldn’t actually apply to people up north, right? These were rules for people in the desert, right?”

"Nanook. You are starting to do what the people in the Bible did at that time. They found all kind of excuses why God’s requirements shouldn’t apply to them. But, doesn’t God know all things? Doesn’t He understand the ramifications of a law if the geography or weather are different? What about looking into the future and seeing His religion spread around the world? So why doesn’t the Bible ever say anything about that? Why doesn’t it say something like, and God said, ‘the following rules apply only to my people here at the base of the mountain and only for 40 years.’ But there is nothing like that anywhere in the Bible. He could have said, ‘ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day, unless the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a scale that will be invented in the year 1706 or something, which is a date scheme that will be adopted after my next coming.’ But such a statement never appears.

So, how are you going to interpret the answer? Is the Bible valid today or not?”

"I guess I don’t know. Maybe these things in the Old Testament don’t count?”

"You mean, THESE THINGS like the 10 Commandments and the beginning of the world as described in Genesis or Noah’s flood?”

"Well, not those things. But all the other things?”

"NANOOK???? Are you listening to yourself?”

"Yeah! Yeah! I know; I know: SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC!”

"GREAT ANSWER! Hang in there. Only 4 more answers to go.

5. All passages in the Bible are equally valid as a spiritual guide. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

"This is pretty much like the last answer. Sure, people say that we should follow all the words of the Bible, but they don’t actually do it. They just pick and choose what they want to do.”

"Correct.

6. Most English versions of the Bible are reliable translations. This is particularly true of the King James Version.”

"Evidently, who ever said this didn’t read Professor Ehrman’s book.”

"Exactly.

7. Literally hundreds of apparent contradictions exist in the Bible. However, almost all can be harmonized with a little thought, etc.”

"This excuse just ignores the facts. You can’t have one passage in the Bible say that Noah brought the animals into the Ark in pairs, 2 by 2, and then have another passage say they were brought in 7 pairs at a time, and then say there are no discrepancies. This cannot be harmonized with just ‘a little thought’. “

"And what about the last sentence? That an explanation will be discovered some day?”

"Actually, I’ve heard that explanation before. At first it made sense to me. I mean, humans are not perfect. We still have a lot to learn. So, I’m sure we will learn new things as we go along. But there’s another way to look at this that makes it an unacceptable answer. I need a guidepost for my salvation NOW! If the discrepancies are related to issues that are vital to making the right moral decisions, then I need to understand that NOW! I’m not just saying this in a selfish way. What I’m trying to say is that if God has provided us with the Bible to guide us to salvation, then it ALWAYS has to be adequate to get us there. If it isn’t, then, by default, everyone living during the time when humans don’t have the ability to understand it are being denied the purpose of freewill, right? I mean, freewill assumes we have adequate information to make correct decisions, right?”

"Excellent critique! I completely agree. You’ve summarized this so well.”

"And, I guess that means that the Bible always needed to be correct. If not, the people living at the time when they had no Bible or had an incorrect Bible are not getting a fair chance to get to heaven.”

"Precisely! OK. Let’s keep going. The next explanation will continue to keep you thinking along these lines.

8. Unsaved individuals cannot achieve a deep understanding of the Bible. However, when the person repents their sins and trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them and leads them to properly comprehend the text... etc."

"Well first off, I don’t believe this. I’ve done that. I’ve repented my sins and trusted Jesus. But I still had all kind of questions about things in the Bible that didn’t make sense. And, the idea that the Holy Spirit has to come down and dwell inside someone for them to comprehend the Bible is absolutely circular logic. This explanation essentially says, you have to understand sin and repent it first before the Holy Spirit will come down to help you. But how does a person understand sin, before the Holy Spirit comes down, if the book they have to guide them has been written to appear confusing to them before He comes down? “

"Precisely! And that’s what’s wrong with this explanation. It’s totally circular in reasoning. You know what that means, right?”

"Sure. It means that the answer is just a repeat of the question, but in disguise; or a definition just uses the word it is supposed to define over again.”

Bible – characteristics – understandable, consistent, brilliant

"Precisely! What this explanation essentially says is to know the Bible, you need to know the Bible.

So. Does that answer your question about what other’s might say to defend the Bible?”

"Sure. Pretty amazing. So much nonsense.”

“Good. But there are some MUCH more SINISTER concepts buried in this last explanation that I’d like to point out. Supposedly, the Bible has been given to us to guide us to salvation. Logically, that would put substantial RESPONSIBILITY on the Bible to have some specific characteristics, don’t you agree? What might they be?”

"Well, it ought to be readable by everyone. That means, it ought to have been created in multiple languages. It ought to be understandable. That is, at least, it should be consistent throughout and we should understand what it is telling us to do. We might not agree with it, but at least we would know the rules. And, if it was truly inspired by God, I think it would have to be brilliant. It’s consistency ought to be perfect. And it ought to make statements that only God could know. Knowing about the Fahrenheit scale, way ahead of it’s time, would be a good example. ”

"Precisely! But we don’t see that. Instead we have multiple versions that are different, passages that conflict, and passages even the brightest theologians don’t understand. And there are so many of these and they are so critical that hundreds of groups of people have divided themselves from each other to violently defend what they think the Bible says. If that is the case, WHERE DOES THIS EXPLANATION PLACE BIBLE RESPONSIBILITY?”

"WOW! Now I see what you were hinting at about sinister. Explanation number eight puts all the responsibility on humans instead of on the Bible. It essentially says, if humans can’t see through all this confusion, it’s their own fault! Talk about circular reasoning. A person is confused about salvation. They are told this is because of their ignorance. They ask where to turn. They are told to read the Bible. When the Bible proves to be confusing for them, they are told it’s because of their ignorance.”

"Precisely! This last explanation about the apparent conflicts in the Bible essentially says, ‘if you see conflicts, it’s because you are defective.’ But the solution it suggests is that you take some specific steps, i.e. repenting your sins, to solve this. Reading between the lines, we can uncover the SINISTER assumption: if you don’t get a resolution to your confusion, then you haven’t repented enough. The fault is yours!”

"Which is, of course, circular logic."

Turning to leaders for guidance

“Let’s continue to follow that reasoning a little more and additional intrigue will unfold. Given that the Bible appears as only confusion to someone, what can they do?”

“They have to turn elsewhere for guidance.”

“And where might that be?”

"Well it could be another book. But that’s stupid. I mean, the Bible is a book that’s supposed to be the Word of God. But you can’t understand it. So how is some earthling’s book even going to stand a chance? Where else would someone turn for knowledge? Hmmm??? It must be another person. You’d turn to another person. YOU’D TURN TO A RELIGIOUS LEADER.”

"Precisely! WHICH ONE?”

"WHAT???? Come on, Father! Give me a break. This is dumping me out of the pan and into the fire.”

"You’re OK Nanook. And your suspicion is exactly right. Turning to a person, in the absence of written TRUTH, isn’t a very good solution. All it does is push the search for the truth one step farther away. Where do these religious leaders go to find truth? In their Bibles, of course. But, OF COURSE, they can’t teach you how to understand the words. The secret is that they are CLOSER to God. So only THEY can understand them. But THEN, of course, they WILL TELL YOU HOW TO ACT, so that you will do what God wants. Do you see the huge problem that creates?”

"No. Not exactly. I mean, that’s what I thought religious leaders were supposed to do.”

"Sure, they are. And if all religious leaders told the same story, listening to them might make sense. But they don’t. So you then have to make a choice: who is right; who are you going to listen to? But you don’t have adequate tools to make that choice either. Figuring out who is right is essentially the same as figuring out who is telling the TRUTH, which was the reason you wanted to rely on the Bible in the first place. It’s circular logic all over again. So what actually happens? People get swept into one religion or another by circumstances. Each religion has its leaders. Those leaders tell their ‘FOLLOWERS’ how to act. But then, a new motivator enters the picture. The SEVEN DEADLY SINS!”

"WHAT???? How did we get back there?”

“Simple. People are human. The Seven Deadly Sins describe how humans behave when they become zealous about things. Religious leaders are nothing if they are not zealous people. So, shift your thinking now. You have just been selected to lead a new religion. What would be your goals?”

"Hmmm... Well, first off, I’d want to understand what I’m talking about.”

"Sure. But let’s assume that you already thought you knew what you were talking about. That’s why you were selected to be the leader.”

"OK. The next thing is I’d want my religion to grow.”

"PRECISELY! And that’s the lynch pin in the process. Growing a human organization requires persuasion. It becomes politics, and ultimately leads to POWER. Understanding this last element, POWER, finally explains the real hidden assumption behind explanation number eight. When a preacher tells you that you can’t trust your own judgment reading what is supposed to be the Word of God, but you have to place your trust in HIM instead rather than God’s Words, you can bet the driver is POWER.”

"Whoa! Whoa! This sounds very scary to me.”

"It ought to sound very scary to everyone.

Enough! Notice. We still don’t have an answer to our basic question: where do we go to find TRUTH. Let’s summarize the most serious issues with the idea of the Bible being literal truth.

First, in order to believe and act on every word in the Bible as it is stated, you have to give up logic. You have to do that because the Bible is internally inconsistent. So you must believe that the number 2 in some places is the same as the number 7 in other places; that the 10 Commandments listed in one place are the same as the 10 Commandments listed elsewhere even though the statements of those Commandments are very different; and that there are only 10 Commandments when the Bible lists out dozens of chapters of commandments.

Second, you have to give up looking around you at the world and believing what you see. You have to give up trying to understand the material world. You have to do that because things like lake sediment deposits, which appear to be deposited by rivers on an annual basis, and can be counted back for hundreds of thousands of years, according to the Bible, were actually created in one day, when God created the earth. Skeletons of dinosaurs, buried in those deposits 65,000 layers deep, were put there by God during that one day of creation as an amusement for us. The light of day and the darkness of night are not actually due to the sun and earth’s shadow, because, according to the Bible, light was created 3 days before the sun and stars. Night and day occur because God divided the light and darkness. You can’t believe in lakes or rivers because the Bible says, God said, ‘let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto ONE place, and let the dry [land] appear:, and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas. ‘Seas’ is a Word from God. You aren’t allowed to change that.

Third, since you can’t rely on logic or your senses or the material world, you need to only trust the spiritual and supernatural world. You might get messages from angels. But since you still need to know what to do in life, you have to believe the statements of religious preachers. But you have to, somehow, automatically, know which ones are the right ones. You have to believe things that you can’t see rather than things you can because ‘blessed are those who believe, but have not seen.”

"We have to give up logic? We can’t trust what we see? We have to believe supernatural messages? That sort of sounds like how we describe insane people.”

“It does indeed!

Ways to protect the Bible

So, here’s a question for you. If we are expected to believe that God inspired the words of the Bible, don’t you think God could have just as easily found a way to preserve those words?”

"Preserve them? Sure. Simple. He could have written them on a huge stone wall. Or he could have produced a book made of archival parchment with the words written in indelible ink. Why not? He could have written the words as carbon deposits on pages of pure diamond. Or he could have created a magic vase that had Bible scrolls in it, just like the magic salt box that caused the sea to be salty. As soon as someone took a Bible out of it, another Bible would appear in its place.”

“Spoken like a good technologist. If I gave you half an hour, even you, a first year college student, could give me a hundred good solutions. BUT, we don’t have anything like that at all, do we? Instead we have this nightmare of paper errors.

Lack of historic evidence

In recent years, a lot of discoveries of old documents have been made. We now have a lot of historical records of world events that happened during the period that the Bible covers. Let me read about this from a book by Victor Stenger called God, the failed Hypothesis. Page 188; a chapter titled ‘Not Even Remotely Historic’.”

“If the most important stories found in the Old and New Testaments are even remotely historic, then scientific evidence should exist for an escape of large numbers of Jews from Egypt in the thirteenth century BCE and forty years of wandering in the desert. It does not. Physical evidence should exist for great battles as the Israelites captured the land of Canaan, after returning to Canaan. It does not. Physical evidence should exist for a Golden Age in a combined kingdom of Israel and Judea around 1000 BCE and the Temple of Solomon. It does not.

Historical evidence should also exist for the extraordinary events reported to have occurred at the time of Jesus' birth. It does not. Historical evidence should exist for the extraordinary events reported to have occurred at the time of Jesus' death. It does not. From the absence of evidence that should exist in the scientific and historical record, we can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that these extraordinary events did not take place as the Bible describes. The Bible reads as an assembly of myths fashioned by ancient authors who had no concept of historical accuracy. Its description of the world reflects the scientific and historical knowledge of the age in which the manuscripts were composed."

"This is very fascinating. I never realized archeologists had uncovered all that information. Or failed to uncover it, as he says.”