By Dr. BillingsEVA >I noticed you included a series of Bible passages which appeared to indicate >to you apparant discrepancies in Old and New Testament Scriptures. >Unfortunatly, I am neither a Bible nor an ancient history scholar, so I am >not qualified to clarify these excerpts individually. I can only offer my own >humble evaluation as to why these apparant discrepancies exist and yet not >invalidate the authenticity of the Bible as a viable historical document. >I will ask you, if you would please, to lay outside your personal views >regarding the existence of God, and to examine the Bible from the perspective >of an historical document.
I don't believe in a god or gods in general, but I don't argue that such beings don't exist, simply because of the fact that aside from being redundant, there is nothing inherently illogical about a general god or gods existing. I do argue that specific gods with certain attributes don't exist, such as omnimax Gods or Yahweh in the Bible, because they contain attributes that contradict either the nature of the universe, themselves, or deeds ascribed to them in holy books, like the Bible and Yahweh.
As to the Bible as history, I accept some parts as having some historical validity, such as parts of the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There are bits and pieces here and there throughout the entire Bible that I accept as historically valid, but these books contain the majority of it.
I hold all of the Bible to the standard of ordinary claims: ordinary claims require only ordinary proof, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. When the Bible tells me a man named David was king of Israel or that a man named Jesus taught in Galilee, I can buy that based upon the scanty evidence, namely the biblical account. When it tells me Jesus rose from the grave however, I need extraordinary proof. Is that what you want to know?EVA >As I am sure you are aware, The Bible, although theological in nature, is >also an historical account of events which transpired in a nation of people, >the Jews.
It is intended as such, and sometimes it is, but there are parts which contradict more reliable history and archaeology, and which are probably not correct. I suppose I would call it a historical account, but not an entirely accurate one.
As I mentioned, I hold its ordinary claims and its extraordinary claims to different standards, as would with any source.EVA >To put the Bible to the credibility test as an historical document, one must >utilize the same criteria assessed to all historical documents.
Exactly, and when we look at Roman documents about Julius Caesar, we reject the extraordinary claims as valid. Claims that he healed the sick and performed other miracles are rejected as historically valid. That is precisely how I treat the Bible.EVA >Is there reliable evidence to determine whether or not these were actual >events, or a series of fabrications? One would then investigate the eye- >witness accounts, verify the credibility of the eye-witnesses, cross-reference >with other (in this case non religious) historical documents of the same era, >and research the available archeological discoveries to determine if the >available physical evidence substantiates the historical documentation. >I don't believe, based on the above criteria, that any ancient historian will >concur with you that the historical events documented in the Bible are a >collection of fabrications.
I didn't argue that all events documented are fabrications. I argue that there is no evidence to support the extraordinary claims as true.
I can find you many historians that reject the extraordinary claims in the Bible.EVA >There is adequate archeological evidence alone to support it's validity.
There is no archaeological evidence to support the extraordinary claims in question. The fact that some ordinary claims that I didn't even question in the first place have been supported doesn't mean that all of the Bible is supported!
Here is some of the archaeological evidence that supports claims of the Bible: The Moabite Stone, which confirms the existence of king Mesha in II Kings 3 and 4. The Black Obelisk, which supports the actual existence of Jehu. The discovery of coins from ancient Israel that refer to the House of David, which some claims supports the existence of David, etc.
But the fact that the Bible is correct when it says Jehu was an actual character doesn't mean that the other parts of the Bible are true, or even the accounts of Jehu! It confirms only that Jehu was actually a human being.
Let me give you this scenario: I have a story written in the nineteenth century I claim is inerrant in every detail. The story is set in Lincoln County, New Mexico, in the 1870's. It says the Sheriff's name is Brady. It says the governor's name is Lew Wallace. It says the president's name is Hayes. It says there is an outlaw running around called Billy the Kid. It goes into great detail about the Indians inhabiting the area at the time, and it is all true. All of these claims are supported as historically true.
However, the story also claims that the main character was abducted by aliens and taken back into time where the character was actually Jesus Christ. The apparent miracles and resurrection were the result of alien technology.
Do you believe it? Why not, history and archaeology supports many of the claims in the story, and using your reasoning, this must be support for the validity of the entire book!
Obviously, such logic is flawed. The fact that some parts are supported by archaeology does not support the validity of the rest of the book, especially the extraordinary claims. Many fiction books are set in historical settings, and get many details correct.
What of those archaeological finds that have contradicted the Bible? Here is an excerpt from an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, "Joseph A. Callaway 1920-1988." Nov/Dec 1988, p. 24, emphasis added:
"The evidence from Ai was mainly negative. There was a great walled city there beginning about 5,000 B.C., more than 1,800 years before Israel's emergence in Canaan. But this city was destroyed about 2,400 B.C., after which the site was abandoned. Despite extensive excavation, no evidence of a Late Bronze Age (1,500-1,200 B.C.) Canaanite city was found. In short, there was no Canaanite city here for Joshua to conquer. Archaeology has wiped out the historical credibility of the conquest of Ai as reported in Joshua 7-8. The Joint Expedition to Ai worked nine seasons between 1964 and 1976...only to eliminate the historical underpinning of the Ai account in the Bible."
The archaeologist heading this nine-year expedition was the subject of the article, Joseph A. Callaway, a conservative Baptist professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The same results were found in Kathleen Kenyon's excavation of Jericho. Her conclusion was that the walls of Jericho were destroyed around 2,300 B.C., over a thousand years before Israel arrived in Canaan.
Each claim of the Bible must stand on its own, verification of one doesn't offer support for all of its claims.EVA >The same results There are also additional reliable (non Biblical) ancient >writings which corroborate it, for example Josephus, a first century >historian,
The fact that you cite Josephus shows that either you are simply parroting apologist propaganda and haven't studied the matter yourself, or you are being misleading. I doubt the latter, so I'll assume the former. The Josephus account has been so thoroughly exposed that even few Christians believe it is authentic.
This has been known for centuries for a variety of reasons. Number one, techniques of textual analysis indicate it is a fraud. It completely disrupts the discourse. Go get your copy of Josephus and turn to the passage in question, found in book 18, chapter 3, section 3. Look at it in context, and see if this reference fits to you.
Immediately before it we read Josephus telling of a rebellion of the Jews due to disgust of the actions of Pilate, and the suppression they were undergoing at his hand. Then you have the statements of Jesus, which are made up in five sentences. Then it goes immediately to say: "Also about this time another misfortune befell the Jews," and we are then told of their expulsion from Rome. Unless Jesus is a "misfortune," that passage wasn't in there when Josephus wrote it. It doesn't make any sense, and completely disrupts the narrative. If you are familiar with Josephus' work, you know he was an excellent author who always provided a logical connection in his writings. He wasn't careless enough to write so sloppy.
Furthermore, Josephus dedicated pages and pages to petty robbers and other messiah claimants, and devotes forty chapters to one king! And we are to believe that a man who he believed to be "a doer of wonderful works" and who "appeared to [his disciples] alive again on the third day [after he'd been dead]" was dismissed with five sentences, as an afterthought sloppily placed between unconnected accounts? How ridiculous.
The main reason the authenticity is doubted however hasn't even been addressed. That is the fact that, despite the fact that Josephus' works had been around for centuries, and despite the fact that early church fathers routinely quoted him to support their Christian position (Justin against Trypho, Origen against Celsus, etc.), not a single one ever referred to this passage. I'd think it would have supported their position quite a bit, why would they fail to quote it? It is absurd to think they would ignore it.
Origen goes so far to explicitly say in his work Contra Celsum, Volume I, page 47, that Josephus, who did mention John the Baptist, "did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah."
This passage doesn't appear in Josephus accounts until after Eusebius published his works, The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in 320 C.E.. Eusebius is in fact the first one to "cite" it, and he is the same thoroughly and admittedly dishonest historian who wrote in his works Praeparatio Evangelica, Chapter 31, book 12: "I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of our religion."
Hardly a reliable source of information!
Also, the passage isn't referenced. Get your copy of Josephus, and turn to the back. You will notice he is very meticulous about giving references to his sources of information. Notice this passage isn't referenced. It is out of character for Josephus not to support his claims with a reference.
Furthermore, we can't ignore the obvious: Josephus was a devout Jew, and explicitly states as much time and time again throughout his works. Is it reasonable to believe that a devout Jew would write that he believed Jesus was "the Christ," that he was more than a man, but divine?
If Josephus really wrote this passage, it is ridiculous to think he was a Jew. Whoever wrote this passage believed Jesus was the Messiah and a deity, it has Christian written all over it!
There is more than enough reason to suspect that this passage in Josephus was a forgery.
Besides, even if we grant the passage as true and ignore all reasons to suspect it is not, Josephus wrote many decades after Jesus lived, and he never provides a reference, so we have no reason to believe that he isn't simply reporting legend that was circulating. So Josephus says as much, what does that prove? He wasn't there to see it, and provides no reference to his source. Considering how long after Jesus' death he wrote, it would be unlikely to think that any surviving eyewitnesses would have been around.
Here is what Joseph McCabe said about it on page 35 in his book Did Jesus Ever Live?:
"The passage is so obviously spurious that it is astonishing to find a single theologian left in our time who accepts it. Most of the passage is rank blasphemy from the Jewish perspective."
Many fundamentalist Christian scholars have even admitted as much, such as Karl Credner, Emil Schurer, Bernard G. Weiss, and Adolf Julicher. All admit that the passage is a later interpolation.EVA >Tacitus, a Roman historian, and the biography of Zoroaster (written in the >first century as well).
First of all, even if this passage is legitimate, it supports only the notion that Jesus was an actual person, something I don't even dispute. This kind of support does not support extraordinary claims. I'm sure you don't dispute the fact that Billy the Kid was a real person, and there is abundant evidence that he was, but does that support the legends about him? The Indians had legends that he could turn into animals and disappear from capture. It was once reported that he made a shot from 1000 yards away! There are dozens of legends about Billy the Kid that range from false to improbable to completely extraordinary.
Do you believe the legends simply because the subject was known to be a historical person? The same is true of Julius Ceasar. Roman records claim he could perform miracles, does the fact that other records corroborate the existence of Julius support the claims he performed miracles?
Secondly, Tacitus nowhere in the account supports extraordinary claims of Jesus. Tacitus simply reports about his followers, Christians, and then states that their leader "Christus" was put to death. That is hardly support that he was a deity or that he rose from the dead. I already accept that the story of Jesus is probably based upon an actual person who was probably put to death by the Roman government for insurrection. This passage, if genuine, only reinforces what I already accept as possible, it doesn't add support for the supernatural claims!
Also, like Josephus, Tacitus was not a contemporary writer. It is claimed he wrote this in 117 C.E., long after Jesus' death. He was not an eyewitness, and everybody who might have been would be dead by this time. It is only hearsay.
Lastly, many suspect that this wasn't an authentic passage either, that like Josephus, this passage is a Christian interpolation.
Number one, it isn't cited until the fifteenth century! That is an awful long time after it was allegedly written, curious it was overlooked so long. How convenient that there is no way to verify its legitimacy, since it wasn't known to exist for almost 1,400 years after it was written! For this reason alone, there is no valid reason to accept its legitimacy.
Furthermore, the text refers to the "great multitude" of Christians, and the time he refers to is 64 C.E.! This is right after the time that Paul was writing his epistles, and before the gospels were even written. Two-hundred years later, there were only a few thousand Christians. So even if it was spreading like wildfire, it couldn't have been the case that there was a "great multitude" of Christians in 64 C.E., particularly in Rome! Christianity simply hadn't spread that rapidly by that time.
This passage also claims that these Christians were burned at the stake, but this was not a form of punishment inflicted in Rome at the time of Nero. This reference supports later stories of Christian martyrs, not the historical reality of Rome.
Furthermore, like Josephus' alleged passage, this passage of Tacitus is never quoted by the early church fathers, who also were familiar with Tacitus' work, and often cited him. Particularly Tertullian, who cites him often, but who, like all other church fathers, never cites this passage.
Isn't it odd that as passionately as they argued and as bad as they wanted to make their case, they didn't quote all of these wonderful passages that would have supported them? Even Eusebius, who reports to cite "all" of the evidence for Christianity obtained from Jewish and Pagan sources, makes no mention of Tacitus or this passage. I find that curious.EVA >But as you have indicated specific discrepancies, may I asert a logical >explanation for how they may occurred? >If you are knowledgeable of ancient history, especially that of the Jews, >theirs was an oral culture. Books, or actually, scrolls of papyrus, were >extremely rare.
I'm very familiar with the Bible and its history. Jewish history is a particularly strong interest of mine.EVA >Therefore education, learning, worship and teaching in their community >was all done by word of mouth. In essence, everything was committed to >memory. As the Jews placed an exceedingly high priority on preserving >their culture, history and religion, memorization was critical. Logically, >one could see where apparent discrepancies would occur by the time >their history was actually recorded, allowing for inevitable human error.
So you don't deny the contradictions, but only excuse them as being human error. If they are human error, then I see no reason to doubt that the unverifiable claims of the supernatural are not also human error. If we can't trust the text not to contradict itself, I see no reason to trust it in matters that are unsubstantiated, such as the supernatural claims. Particularly those parts that contradict logic.
The point was, which you have implicitly conceded, there are errors in the Bible.EVA >Remember, we are discussing a nation of people committing their history >to memory, even in light of the fact that such a high priority was placed >on it. >Also, recall the Bible is not one Book, but a collection of books, with >several authors. If scriptural accounts were too consistent, that in >itself would invalidate them as independent "witnesses".
LOL, you are arguing that if these books was completely consistent that would be a bad thing somehow?
If it was consistent, it would be more reliable. There is no reason to believe that any of these people were actually "witnesses" of what they write about. There is much textual evidence that I'd love to cover if you don't mind a tangent that suggest that many of the books were not written during the time of the events they report or by the people claimed to have written them. They are all anonymous and no copies survive from the era they are alleged to be written, save only in the case of Paul, who wasn't a witness to any OT events or the life of Jesus. Paul's epistles are evidence for his beliefs only.EVA >People would then say we really only have one testimony that everyone >else is merely parroting.
I've never seen a Christian argue that too much consistency is a bad thing in a book that is claimed by many to be inerrant.
The fact is, as you concede, there are inconsistencies, and these inconsistencies support my original claims: the fact that the Bible says something doesn't make it true.EVA Also, it is fair to take into account that the Scriptures were not merely in Hebrew, but were translated into other languages, (such as Greek) so coping errors and misinterpretations due to language differences were inevitable (recall Greek, unlike English, is an inflected language).
This excuse is valid only if we beg the question of inerrant originals. To claim a copying error requires knowledge that there were no errors in the originals. Since no originals exists, that is a far-fetched and unwarranted assumption which simply begs the question.
Furthermore, it isn't very reasonable to suspect that a being would inspire a book to ensure reliability and then not follow up in the same manner during copying and translation. Why go through the trouble if he knows it will be corrupted without his intervention in the future?
This doesn't erase the fact that there are inconsistencies in the Bible.EVA >Another problem could have simply been an inability to read the text, as >these scriptures were written on papyrus scrolls, which have the tendency >to easily fade and deteriorate.
Again, this assumes inerrant originals, an unwarranted assumption.EVA >From an historical viewpoint, if there are discrepancies in the Bible, >it does not invalidate the fact that these events actually transpired.
No, but it does invalidate it as an inerrant account, and it shows it has unreliable characteristics, which a contradiction would indicate by definition.There is no evidence that the supernatural events reported in the Bible are accurate. If you claim these events that I question actually occurred, you have the burden of proof to show as much.EVA >No historian disregards an historical text based on secondary discrepancies.
There is no evidence that these are only "secondary" discrepancies. As to the practices of historians, it is the practice of historians to reject extraordinary claims. Do you not realize that a great deal of history from 1,000 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E. is taken from Herodotus? This is the same author that makes many extraordinary claims, like his claim that flying, fire-breathing serpents lived in Egypt at this time, but you don't see that in your History of Civilization books in college now do you? Historians may not reject a document because of discrepancies, and that is indeed the case, but they also don't accept extraordinary claims as valid history, unless of course they have a religious agenda.If you are going to rely on the techniques of historians, you are going to have to be consistent.EVA >Let me give you a secular example. There are two narratives of Hannibal >crossing the Alps to attack Rome, and they're incompatible and >irreconcilable in detail. Yet no historian disputes the fact that Hannibal >did mount such a campaign.
That is because it is an ordinary claim, requiring only ordinary proof. Furthermore, they would be quick to admit that only one account can be true, and the other must be false.
That is all I'm pointing out, some of the contradicting aspects of the Bible must be false. If two accounts contradict, only one can be correct.
Lastly, historians might agree that Hannibal actually crossed the Alps, but they would not attest that all the details in these contradictory accounts are true.
I'll grant that general claims in the Bible of ordinary magnitude are correct, e.g., a man named Jesus, David, etc. existed, unless evidence indicates otherwise. That doesn't lead to the conclusion that one must accept the details of the accounts as well.EVA >If you were to discredit the Bible for discrepancies, that you would >have to literally throw out all ancient historical documents based >upon this criteria.
And I would "throw out all ancient historical documents" that make extraordinary claims that have no supporting evidence. You are confusing the ordinary with the extraordinary, and accepting evidence for one as evidence for the other.EVA Secondly, you brought up a point that the Bible is merely copies of copies of copies, and therefore, not reliable. Actually, the Bible has this in its favor. Compared with other ancient writings, it is unprecedented the multiplicity of copies which have survived.
The high number of copies of a manuscript do not lead to the conclusion that the manuscripts report the truth, only that it is popular. That is a non sequitur.EVA >The more you have copies that agree with each other, especially if they >emerge from different geographical areas, the more you can cross-check >them to figure out what the original document was like. In addition to >Greek manuscripts, we also have translations of the gospels into other >languages at a relatively early time---into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic.
And this isn't evidence that the reports are true, only that they are popular.EVA >Consider Tacitus, the Roman historian who wrote "The Annals of Imperial >Rome" about ll6. His first six books exist today in only one manuscript, >and it was copied about A.D. 850.
Funny how that copy was missing the reference you refer to.EVA >Books 11-16 are in another copy dating back to the eleventh century, and >books 7-10 are lost. Here is evidence of accepted historical documents, >which were copied a considerable time after the original and are singular >copies.
And that in no way indicates that the biblical accounts are completely true, particularly in regards to supernatural claims.EVA >Since practically all of ancient history is copies of copies, if you use >this criteria to discredit the validity of the Bible, you would then have >to disregard ALL ancient copies as being reliable.
Huh? I never argued that copies weren't reliable because they are copies, only that the number of copies of a document doesn't correlate with the accuracy of that document.EVA >One additional point. Every historian is especially skeptical of >historical accounts which are completely free of contradictions, simply >because fabricated accounts tend to be fully consistent and harmonized. >Ask any lawyer or police officer how they feel about eye-witnesses whose >accounts are completely in synch, without a discrepancy in detail.
LOL, that is completely false. Cases have been thrown out of court because of contradictory testimony. Why do you think the police separate people arrested together to question them?
They want to find contradictions in their accounts, and such contradictions in these accounts lead the police to question the validity of the accounts, it leads them to the conclusion that somebody is lying or mistaken, it doesn't make them think the report is more reliable! All one has to do is watch Cops on the Fox station to see this is the case! Almost nightly a car is searched because the two or more separated suspects in the car couldn't provide consistent accounts of where they were going and/or what they are doing. Such contradictions lead them to believe the stories aren't true, not that they are true!
Why do you think that police and attorneys try to find discrepancies in testimony?
You amaze me Eva, I never thought I'd see somebody argue that consistency leads to unreliability and vice-versa.EVA >They will tell you that they immediately suspect corroboration.
Speaking as somebody who has been involved with the police as a teenager, I can tell you first hand that this isn't true. Inconsistencies suggest to the police that something is fabricated, not the opposite! I've had my car searched when I was in high school because my story didn't match my friends. We were sitting in a park smoking a joint. When the cops pulled up, they separated us. We weren't prepared, so we didn't have an excuse prepared. As you can guess, it was improbable that we'd fabricate the same story, and we did not. Our inconsistencies raised their suspicious, it didn't belay them!
Besides, if we are going to hold the Bible to standards we hold humans to, we must reject its extraordinary claims. You would reject my claims if I made them, so why not be consistent? Would you believe me if I told you I died three days ago and then rose from the dead via supernatural means, and that I was a deity?EVA >In closing, I am a bit curious. How were you aware of the Scriptures >that you forwarded to me? Have you read the Bible in its entirety?
I've only been studying it for about fifteen years or more. I used to want to be a minister. It was studying the Bible that made me question my faith. I continue to study the Bible (and related material) almost daily to this day. I have over twenty translations, so I'm prepared to discuss any translation you prefer, based on whatever source text you'd like, from the Septuagint to the Masoretic.EVA >I am aware that there are atheist sites who avail such examples simply in >an attempt to discredit the Bibles validity. I am hoping that you are able >to use your good judgment and obvious intellect to see how unfair this is.
No, I don't see how this is unfair. If people are going to hail the book as infallible when it clearly is not, I think it is not only not unfair to point that out, but completely justified.
I do believe that some of these sites are citing some "contradictions" that are only apparent contradictions, and that many of their examples are evidence only for their ignorance of biblical and Hebrew/Greek scholarship, and not of biblical error.
However, there are many legitimate examples of biblical errors, contradictions, failed prophecies, etc., and they often include many of these valid examples.
There are enough to make a good case against biblical perfection.
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