What about the Bible Contradictions?

Yes the Bible has many problems in it, how should a faithful Christian scholar honestly address these issues?

This is a lecture on the Reliability of the Bible at Logos Church. It starts at 1:16

Your thoughts/questions/criticisms are welcome. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRgiPCe9NZU

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Mike

    Khaldoun, since you say you welcome criticism, I’m going share my thoughts. You are a very good speaker, but you made several errors in your presentation. First of all, Bart Ehrman didn’t abandon faith because he found errors in the Bible. He abandoned faith because of theodicy. In his work, he very explicitly says he remained a Christian despite finding errors in the Bible. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you unintentionally misrepresented him. Also, you were wrong about the name of his book. The name of Erhman’s book is “Forged” and not forgery.

    You stated that the gospels were eye-witness accounts. Outside of evangelical/fundamentalist apologists and scholars, the scholarly consensus says otherwise, and for good reason. The synoptic gospels and arguably John, are anonymous. We don’t know who wrote them. In the synoptics, do the authors ever identify themselves? Do they ever claim to be eyewitness accounts? Also, internal and external evidence sheds doubt that these are eyewitness accounts. By the way, these gospels were written in sophisticated Greek. Aramaic was the language of the historical Jesus and his contemporaries, who were most likely poor peasants. Perhaps it makes sense that these gospels contain contradictions BECAUSE they are not eyewitness accounts. Can some of these contradictions be reconciled? Sure, but not all of them, and it’s misleading to say they all can.

    As for the Bible being “inerrant in the original manuscripts properly interpreted”, yes, we have tons of manuscripts that may give us a good idea of what the original biblical books probably said, but how can you be sure considering we don’t have the original manuscripts? Even if we did, how does this show they are inerrant? Also, properly interpreted, according to WHOM? You? The Roman Catholic Church? The eastern Orthodox Church? Billy Graham? Contrary to the message of your presentation, there is no one, true, unified church or version of Christianity. Your version of Christianity is just one of thousands. On what authority, do you say you adhere to true Christianity? Various churches claim the Bible as their sole authority, yet the Christianities remain as divided as ever. The Christianities can’t even agree on what true christianity is or what various passages of the Bible means? Why should we listen to you over the representatives of the other Christianities? Also, would you be convinced if a muslim had the same attitude about the Koran? You’re guilty of the special pleading fallacy.

    Also, I see you affirm the Adam and Eve story as historical fact and not myth? What evidence do you have that this is historical fact? Is the “evidence” the Bible says it’s fact? Is that your “evidence”?

    You talk about confirmation bias, which is a valid point. At one time, I believed the Bible was inerrant, and I desperately tried to explain away all the errors and contradictions but the evidence against my belief was too much. So, I had to give up that belief kicking and screaming. Could it be that it is you who has the confirmation bias? I think it’s safe to say that you do. Why do you resort to such desperate and implausible explanations to explain away the errors in the Bible? You’ve implicitly said in the past that you interpret the facts through your cherished dogma instead of the other way around. So, I think it’s pretty clear that you desperately want everything in the Bible to be true, despite the facts that say otherwise. You say there is tons of archaeological evidence for the truth of the Bible. Have you come up with evidence that shows the exodus story is fact? Let me know if you do.

    As I said,I think you’re guilty of the special pleading fallacy. I doubt you would accept your own implausible and desperate explanations if they were coming from a muslim or an adherent of another religion. As I said, you are good speaker, but your presentation was very problematic and full of errors. That kind of presentation may be good at satisfying the already converted, but will have little chance of converting nonbelievers. I would say the same about the entire industry of Christian apologetics. If these are the best arguments you have, it’s no wonder evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity (notice I didn’t say Christianity) is dying out here in the West.

    Anyway, I understand you probably won’t publish this, and that’s your right. If you want to engage in conversation about this, I’m all for it, as I’ve become much more relaxed. If there is anything in here that you interpret as a personal attack, I apologize, as it was not intentional. Thanks.

    • Pauline Mccaig

      Hi Mike, I hope that you do not mind me butting in to your conversation with Khaldoun but I was interested in your response, and wanted to share my own perceptions. Our experiences appear to be quite different as I was brought up as what I think Khaldoun would describe as a ‘nominal’ Christian, and rejected that in my teens without too much emotional turmoil. Recently however I have been on a quest to discover what truth–if any–there might be in the Christian worldview, and have had a number of conversations with Khaldoun as part of that. Incidentally I do take your point about there being a variety of Christian perspectives, and it being more accurate maybe to talk about the Christianities, but for me that issue is less important than many another.

      One issue that does fascinate me though is the whole question of inerrancy, and what that means—hence this response! My understanding of what Khaldoun was saying was that IF we had the original manuscripts, AND they were properly interpreted, than his belief was that in such a circumstance we could be confident that we had access to God’s word. However given that, as you point out, we do not have the originals, and the interpretations of the copies we do have are often widely divergent, what I thought Khaldoun was suggesting was that we should research the issues for ourselve, using what resources we do have —textual, theological, rational, and emotional, to get as close to the truth as possible. I did not hear him saying that the version of Christianity he adhered to was the one true version—-did I mishear do you think?

      I suspect that you are probably more versed in biblical criticism than I am—I have not yet read Ehrman—albeit from what you say I think that I would be inclined to agree with him re. finding the issue of theodicy a much greater stumbling block to belief than errors in the biblical witness. I wonder, however, if you have come across Richard Bauckman’s book re. eyewitness testimony. I would be interested to hear your views on it if you have—-if you have a mind to respond to me that is?

      Pauline

      • Mike

        Hi Pauline, thank for your kind and thoughtful response. I’ll try to address the main points/questions of your post.

        You said, “One issue that does fascinate me though is the whole question of inerrancy, and what that means—hence this response! My understanding of what Khaldoun was saying was that IF we had the original manuscripts, AND they were properly interpreted, than his belief was that in such a circumstance we could be confident that we had access to God’s word. However given that, as you point out, we do not have the originals, and the interpretations of the copies we do have are often widely divergent, what I thought Khaldoun was suggesting was that we should research the issues for ourselve, using what resources we do have —textual, theological, rational, and emotional, to get as close to the truth as possible. I did not hear him saying that the version of Christianity he adhered to was the one true version—-did I mishear do you think?”

        I have a few things to say. In defense of the many new testament manuscripts available, to my knowledge, I don’t think think there is a whole lot of divergence. I think many of the differences are pretty minor. That’s why I said I think from them, we can get a decent idea of what the originals probably said. However, that doesn’t mean there are NO significant variants, and to give the impression that there are no significant variants is misleading. It’s been almost two weeks since I watched Khaldoun’s lecture. I seemed to remember him saying that having all these manuscripts is better than having the originals. Am I wrong about that? If I’m right about what he said, I find that position to be extremely problematic.

        But to respond to your main point, I’ll ask the same question I asked earlier. If we had the original manuscripts, what justification is there then for saying this is the inerrant word of God? I’ll ask another question I asked earlier. If it needs to be properly interpreted for it to be the word of God, who determines whether it is properly interpreted? You? Me? Khaldoun? The Roman Catholic Church? Eastern Orthodoxy? Do you see why this is problematic? No, Khaldoun didn’t explicitly say that he is an adherent of the one true Christianity, but in his presentation, he gave the misleading and overly simplistic impression that there was one unified, proper version of Christianity throughout the ages up to today. This simply isn’t true. The Christianities are and have been hopelessly divided. They can’t even agree on some of the most important matters of doctrine, such as how someone is saved. Khaldoun gives the impression, at least in many places, that he speaks for all Christianity or all the Christianities. He doesn’t. I’m not saying his intention is malicious. I just think it’s naive and over simplistic. I hope that provides clarification. If it doesn’t let me know, and I’d be happy to provide additional detail.

        As for last part of your post, you are referring to Richard Bauckham and his book, “Jesus and the eyewitnesses” right? I must confess that I haven’t read Richard’s book yet, although I would like to. I just haven’t gotten around to it. However, due to my previous background, I’ve been immersed in Christian apologetic and Christian apologetic arguments. I’ve read a lot in this area and still do currently. The apologetic arguments, at least most of them, I have found to be extremely underwhelming in trying to show that the canonical gospels are eyewitness accounts. Now, someone may legitimately say that I don’t find the arguments convincing because of confirmation bias. Well, in response to that, I will say that I previously believed that these were eyewitness accounts, so this wasn’t a belief that I wanted to give up. But, I should get around to reading Richard’s book. If you have and would like to share your thoughts, feel free to do so.

        • Pauline Mccaig

          Hi Mike
          Ditto—thank you for your kind and thoughtful response! It is probably worth pointing out that I am niether an apologist, nor a defender of inerrancy—in fact I have only recently reached a point in my life when I am prepared to even leave room for the belief that God—however portrayed–might exist at all. Yes I can see why the multiplicity of interpretations is problematic. In fact if you look at my previous comment on the thread re. morality you will see that is one of the points I raised with Khaldoun. Having said that it is not a major issue for me in that I tend to view all religious writings as human, and therefore fallible, attempts to understand the ‘divine’. I think that some get closer than others, in that they are more representative—in my opinion of course—of what I understand the life and teachings of Jesus to have been about, and the image he presented of his father. Those whose thoughts I respond to however are drawn from various branches of Christianity, and other faith traditions—I dont believe that anybody has a monopoly on truth!

          I did read the Bauckman book several years ago, but only have a hazy recollection of the detail of his arguments. He is on my list as well though as someone to return to—perhaps when I do, or you get round to him, we can return to this? In the meantime if you look at his website he does have a lecture in which he covers some of his main points.

          Good to ‘talk’ to you—I am very happy to continue if you have a mind to—-it might be interesting??

          Pauline

          • mike

            HI Pauline, I would totally be up for further discussion on all kinds of topics. Just to let you know a little more about myself, even though I don’t practice one of the conventional, traditional religions, I’m sympathetic to the need for spirituality and I consider myself a spiritual person. I’m not against religion per se, nor am I against Christianity per se. I acknowledge that there are good values in the Christian tradition along with other religious traditions. Some religious traditions have better values than others though, at least in my opinion. Even though I couldn’t consider myself a practicing Christian in any sense of the word today, I will always be thankful that Christianity gave me a more universal, humane, and empathetic view of humanity (for the most part) versus the religious and cultural tradition of my immediate family, which is a very supremacist and ethnocentric view of the world. Hopefully this little bit of info can help you see a little bit more about where I’m coming from. So, yeah, I’m totally up for further discussion.

            I’ll look for that Bauckham video that you mentioned.

  • socratricknight@gmail.com

    Mike and Pauline thanks for the critical comments and thoughts. I hope to get to them soon.
    KS

  • socratricknight@gmail.com

    Mike and Pauline
    I have many other priorities now–thus cannot respond personally. But I know someone who does it well. Daniel Wallace, http://www.dts.edu/about/faculty/dwallace/
    He is one of the foremost Biblical Scholars in the world working on the NT manuscripts in the original languages wrote an engaging article on this issue. Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament: Assessing the Logic of the Agnostic View Daniel B. Wallace Executive Director, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (csntm.org) This link to it is here
    http://bit.ly/1vB3oQB but do a search for it in the search box.
    You can also find audio interviews with him here: http://tinyurl.com/pe5sxnj
    I hope it helps!!
    KS

    • Mike

      OK, fair enough. Thanks for letting us know. I’ll check out those links.

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