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The Christian Delusion 6: The Bible and Modern Scholarship

01/10/2011

As chapter 6 rolls around, I’ve once again gotten my favorite chapter so far. This is a big blow to biblical inerrancy. Of course Catholics don’t adhere to sola scriptura, so there are other places to go. The contradictory Gospel accounts do destroy a very important part of Christian theology.

So according to the author, modern Biblical scholarship rules out inerrancy. The gospels invent the census and the slaughter of the male children by Herod in order to fulfill previous Biblical predictions, many old testament stories either lack evidence or are in contrast to modern archaeology, many of Paul’s letters are known forgeries. This seriously undermines the Bible as a source of finding God’s will, if such substantial parts are simply false. It also gives much, much higher plausibility to humans as the source of the writings. This is exactly what we would expect from human beings with theological beliefs to push forward, and a less than perfect understanding of history. God as an explanation is exceedingly unlikely, even laughable given the inconsistencies.

Kindle Notes:

Most Christians claim they have a reasoned faith. This faith claim is based on the Bible being the word of God in some meaningful sense. But modern scholarship has shown us that the canonical Bible: 1. is inconsistent with itself, 2. is not supported by archaeology, 3. contains fairy tales, 4. contains failed prophecies, and 5. contains many forgeries. Given all this, the Bible cannot be considered an inspired-“God breathed” -document. Rather it seems to be written by a superstitious people who were creating God in their image, as Ludwig Feuerbach charged. Therefore Christianity is not a reasoned faith. It cannot stand up to critical scrutiny (1848).

In Genesis 1:12 we read that the land had produced vegetation on the third day before the creation of Adam. Yet we read later in Genesis 2:5 that there was no vegetation until after Adam was created. In Genesis 1:20-25 we read that the animals were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation, all before Adam. Yet in Genesis 2:18-19 we’re told they were created after Adam, when seeking to find him a companion (1859).

The NIV translators changed the simple past (“formed”) into the perfect past (“had formed”). Translating it this way has the effect of obscuring the difficulty in this passage. By using the perfect past, the passage could now be read to mean that animals had already been created prior to Adam (1865).

God decreed that neither the Ammonites nor Moabites shall be welcomed “into the assembly of Yahweh; even to the tenth generation … forever” (Deuteronomy 2 3:3). Later we see Nehemiah (13:1-3) and Ezra (10:14-44) both deny mixed marriages because of this. Such racist viewpoints against foreigners stand in stark opposition to the story of Ruth though, who was a Moabite (Ruth 1:22) and married a Jew, Boaz. She became the great-grandmother of king David (Ruth 4:13-4:17). It seems that, depending on which prophet he is speaking to, God could either be a proponent of racial harmony or of racial hatred (1876).

“[A] man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28), and “[A] man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) (1887).

Scholars are questioning the whole paradigm of “biblical archaeology,” which starts with the assumption that the Bible is a reliable guide for field research (1891).

As the famed archaeologist Cyrus Gordon (1908-2001) showed us in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, the scholarly consensus holds that the Genesis story is dependent on the Gilgamesh epic.1 7 This consensus is reached mainly by considering the following facts: • Floods are a common occurrence in ancient Mesopotamia, while Israel is, in general, an arid land. We would expect stories of floods to be told by people who are familiar with floods. • The geographical setting of Noah’s story-having the ark rest on a mountain at the source of the Tigris and Euphrates-points toward Mesopotamia as its origin. • The Gilgamesh epic was very well known throughout the ancient Near East, a fragment was even found in ancient Israel. • Babylonia was the dominant civilization of that time, while Israel was a “backwater of sorts.” The general historical trend is for a dominant culture to influence a lesser one through its culture and myths (1908).

the stories in Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are also no longer considered historical by most scholars competent in the field.The reasons are compelling: • Genesis 11:26-28 says that Abraham came from “Ur of the Chaldees.” Estimates of Abraham’s lifetime fall anywhere between the twenty-third century BCE and the sixteenth century BCE, yet the Chaldeans as a people only came into existence around the eighth to seventh century BCE-long after the time of Abraham. • Genesis 26:1 relates a story about Isaac going to Gerar to meet with “Abimelech, king of the Philistines.” Archaeological finds tell us that there was no city of Gerar and no king of the Philistines to meet with Isaac during the historical period in which he would have lived. • Genesis 12:14-16, 24:10-11, and 37:25-28 include the use of domesticated camels in the story of Abraham and of Joseph. The archaeological evidence shows us that camels did not become domesticated until the eleventh century BCE, well after the time of Abraham and Joseph. Camels could not have been used during the time of the patriarchs. • Genesis 17: 9-11 tells of the covenant between God and Abraham, which was sealed by the act of circumcision. We know that circumcision was widely practiced in ancient times in the Fertile Crescent. In particular, the Egyptians and the Canaanites practiced the rite, the very people with whom Abraham would have had the most contact. How could the act of circumcision be “a sign of the covenant” between God and Abraham when everyone else was doing it? It was only during the time of the Babylonian captivity, during the sixth century, that this custom could have set the Jews apart. For the Babylonians of that time did not practice circumcision (1913).

the major elements of the Exodus tale (the Israelites living in Egypt for 430 years, the exodus of this large group out of Egypt into Canaan, and the intervening forty years of wandering in the Sinai Peninsula) are also myths, not history (1926).

Now, according to Exodus 12:40, the Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years. Yet for all this time, there is simply no literary and archaeological evidence outside the Hebrew Bible that records the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt (1943).

Surely more than a million people wandering around for forty years would have left some traces for archaeologists to find. Yet not a single piece of archeological evidence has been found. This is not for want of trying, either (1946).

Jericho was either uninhabited or a small village with just a few huts. There was certainly no fortified wall that could have dramatically came tumbling down!35 The same negative results greet excavations at Al (Joshua 8:21-29),36 Gibeon (Joshua 10:1-2),37 Lachish (10:32),38 and other cities.39 Indeed, according to archaeologists Bill Dever and Lawrence Stager, almost all of the roughly thirty cities Joshua was supposed to have conquered were either uninhabited at that time or destroyed by other means, or never even destroyed (1953).

Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) was conceived when his mother-to-be dreamed of a bolt of lightning-a symbol of Zeus-entering her womb. The Roman emperor Augustus Caesar (63 BCE-14 CE) was conceived when Apollo, in the form of a snake, had intercourse with Augustus’s mother, who was sleeping in the temple. Apollo was also implicated in the conception of the Greek philosopher Plato (ca. 427 BCE-ca. 347 BCE) and the Greek mathematician Pythagoras (sixth century BCE) (1984).

Herod was said to have ordered the slaughtering of all the male children “in Bethlehem and all the surrounding countryside” (Matthew 2:16). Herein lies a major problem: there is no other account of this massive slaughter in any other source-neither in the rest of the NT nor in any other secular records (2007).

invention of the Gospel of Matthew. According to the Gospel of Luke, and in contradiction to Matthew, it was the census called by Qpirinius that compelled Joseph and the pregnant Mary to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem (2024).

• Finally, the clincher. Both Matthew and Luke said Jesus was born during the time of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1, Luke 1:5). Herod’s date of death is unassailable-it was 4 BCE. The date of Quirinius’s census is also firmly established-6 CE (2036).

The first step is to claim that there was an earlier census under Quirinius that was done during the reign of Herod the Great. This means that Qpirinius was twice governor of Syria, once between 6 CE and 12 CE and another earlier tenure during the reign of Herod the Great (2040).

This argument is obsolete, as it has been proven false (2043).

The inscription found by Ramsey simply mentioned that Qpirinius was honored for his role in achieving a military victory. It was Ramsey who guessed that Qpirinius’s reward for his role was an earlier appointment, prior to 6 CE, as governor of Syria. Nothing in the inscription even suggests this (2044).

So we read of Qyirinius’s career spanning twenty years from 12 BCE to 6 CE, yet not once was he mentioned as taking over the governorship of Syria at any time during the reign of Herod.62 The conclusion is inescapable-Quirinius could not have been governor of Syria twice (2059).

We have all heard evangelical claims about fulfilled prophecies, especially messianic prophecies of the OT supposedly fulfilled in Jesus. Yet such a view is erroneous and involves interpreting passages as prophecy that are not prophetic at all, or reinterpreting prophetic passages that had nothing to do with the Messiah (2069).

More damning to the whole idea of prophecy in the Bible is the presence of prophecies we know to have failed. Here are just a few:69 • Isaiah 19:5-7 claims the river Nile will dry up. The passage was written almost three thousand years ago and was clearly meant for his time. Yet to this date, the Nile has yet to dry up (2077).

As a summary, the lines of evidence that point to the fact that these Epistles were not written by Paul but by someone else around 100 CE or later includes all of the following points: (2099).

It is now time to point out the elephant in the room, standing quietly by the corner: pseudepigraphs are forgeries! (2115).

The real Paul in 1 Thessalonians expected the world as we know it to end very soon, during his lifetime, as Loftus explains in chapter 12 of this book. Far from carrying the mantle of Paul, 2 Thessalonians substantially alters what the self-proclaimed apostle to the Gentiles taught. 2 Thessalonians warns its readers “not to be deceived” by a “letter as from us” which claims that the return of Christ is imminent (2:2-3). Since 1 Thessalonians 1:1 claims to be from Paul, 2 Thessalonians is in fact calling 1 Thessalonians a deceptive forgery (2123).

Let’s recap what modern scholars have found. The Bible is filled with so many diametrically opposite viewpoints that if they were present in a human being we would probably label that person bipolar or, even worse, schizophrenic. We have seen that the pillars of biblical archaeology-the Patriarchal Narratives, the Exodus, and the Conquest-events once thought to have been historical, are now shown to be made up almost completely of myths and legends. In the NT we find that critical historical research has relegated the nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke to the realm of myths, legends, and fairy tales. Prophecy, far from being strong evidence for the divine authority of the Bible, is actually an Achilles’ heel. The Bible contains prophecies that were faked (i.e., made after the fact) and prophecies that failed. We also find that the verse most often used by evangelicals to support their doctrine of biblical inerrancy, 2 Timothy 3:16, comes from the pen of a forger. The Bible cannot be considered inspired by God in any meaningful sense at all (2134).

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