The Bible Contradictions Quiz Show video (linked below) is by far my most watched, most commented-on, and most repetitive for me as far as those comments go. One after another, believers in an inerrant bible jump onto the comments page claiming that I have thoroughly misinterpreted the text or taken every example out of a context in which it would naturally make perfect sense in harmony with all other bible verses, and that they can explain away every single ‘so-called-contradiction’ I included in the script.
I find that a point-blank question is usually enough for them to leave immediately – such as “Has any living human ever seen God?” They quickly come to see that any possible answer taking into account
Genesis 32:30 “…For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”,
Exodus 33:11 “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”, or
Exodus 24:9-11 “Then Moses [etc] went up… and they saw the God of Israel.”
is going to be flatly refuted by me bringing up
John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time.” or
1 Timothy 6:16 “[God],…whom no man has seen nor can see”,
and they either disappear pretty quick, or attempt to explain that every bible scholar who has every worked on any translation from the original language into Latin or English has ben wrong, whereas they are right, and most of all: that taking the words on the page to mean what they actually say is an utterly misguided way to interpret scripture, and will certainly lead to a skewed understanding of what the author is intending to communicate. After all, this is GOD we’re talking about, so there is a supernatural explanation for everything, and in calling the passages “contradictory”, I have failed to search hard enough for what the hidden meaning/explanation/mystery could be.
I’d like to focus here on an explanation that none of my many critics on this video ever want to confront.
They’re often happy to claim that they’re the first living humans since the original authors to have gotten the exegesis right; they’re happy to invent, whole-cloth, narrative or theological “glue”, with absolutely no biblical support, to blend the two or more conflicting biblical accounts, (more often than not changing the meaning of both in doing so); they’re more than happy to declare that words need not be considered to carry the meanings associated with them in every single other instance of their use. Or, of course, they plead their singular understanding of the “Context!!!” out of which I have taken the verses- until I tell them to take all the context they need to explain whether or not the tomb was; a) open, or; b) not open, when the women arrived
Matt 28:2 “…For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door…” ;
John 20:1 “…Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”
and Luke 24:2, and Mark 16:3-4
Or perhaps to argue that there being a magical context in which the tomb was both open and not yet open when they (she?) arrived is THE MOST LIKELY explanation of the two accounts. After all, again, it’s the bible, so the least likely and most illogical answer to a problem is a viable option when looking for the most likely and logical explanation.
The mental and linguistic backflips that I’ve seen going on, in the research I carried out for the video itself, and since posting it more than two years ago, is truly amazing. Biblical inerrantists go to extraordinary lengths, and place their faith in the most mind-bogglingly elastic, over-stretched, flaky ‘explanations’… without daring to confront the most astonishingly simple explanation that ties everything together. What explanation is that?
I’m talking about the idea that one or more writers (or copyists) made a mistake.
Someone wrote it down wrong.
Someone got their facts wrong.
Someone heard wrong.
This explanation for there being two (even ‘seemingly’) discrepant accounts is utterly satisfying. It accounts for EVERYTHING. It leaves no mysteries behind, nothing unexplained, nothing left to investigate. Yet they just won’t go there. It’s the one explanation that is entirely off-limits. It just happens also to be the very best one.
The investment in the belief that the bible is inerrant is enormous. They’ve bet the house on it, and they apparently recognize that to give it up would mean no less than the end of their faith.
Take for example a few of the contradictions dealt with in the video. 2 Sam 8:4 says that David took 700 horsemen out with him. 1 Chron 18:4 says 7,000. What’s more likely – that both are entirely true, that there is a context in which both numbers are correct, some hidden back story that is not given anywhere in the text but is discernible through communication with an invisible spirit whispering facts into your heart – or that some copyist either dropped or added a zero somewhere along the line? What on Earth is so bad about THAT explanation that it needs to be competely taken off the table?! It is PERFECT!!
When we have over 5,000 manuscripts of the Greek new testament at hand, no two of which are identical, and terminologies for the kinds of errors that we can see in them all, is it really so hard to believe that errors and alterations may also have made their way into the ancient manuscripts of the old testament as they passed along?
2 Sam 23:8 says David’s captains killed 800 men in one encounter, the author of 1 Chron 11:11 puts it at 300. Someone wrote a digit wrong. Perhaps the digit wasn’t clear on the copy they were reading. Or wait!- maybe 300 DOES equal 800 in some context. Yeah, I wonder. I invite any believer to explain to me why a contortionist explanation featuring some magical behind-the-scnese mathematics or invisible narrative ‘glue’ is better than “Someone made a mistake”.
Judas hanged himself (Matt 27:5).
Wait, no, he died by falling over in a field bursting open in the middle (Acts 1:11).
So… rather than inventing the narrative that he must obviously (derrrr,….) have hung himself in a field, died, the rope snapped, and since rigor mortis had obviously set in the fall obviously caused his middle to burst open when his obviously bloated corpse hit the ground,… [NonStampCollector WHY can't you SEE this?!] why not be satisfied with “Well gee, perhaps two writers in different times and places reported different versions of the FORTY year old story?!” The same two authors, mind you, who also had differing accounts of the time of Jesus’ birth – reporting two dates differing by eleven years! Is it really so difficult to imagine that in a largely illiterate oral culture, an 80 year old story had split into two versions, or are both dates for Jesus’ birth independently true, too?
Yes, apparently it’s possible to consider them both true, if you’re so totally invested in the idea that the text is inerrant, and that ANY explanation, no matter how flimsy, contorted and made-to-order it is, is better and more likely than “a human author (or scribe) made a mistake”.
“A person wrote it down wrong” is not, in any context, an unlikely eventuality. It is attested by centuries of biblical scholarship; it is nothing new. It explains everything, and leaves nothing to be explained. There is simply no better explanation for the texts to be in the state they’re in, in these cases; yet not even the most liberal Christians are entirely comfortable going there. We all know why – only the non-believers are happy to go where that fact inevitably leads: These texts, and the errors that fill them, are the products of exclusively, and entirely, human minds. [shudder]
I challenge any believer reading this to give me an explanation of any of these contradictions that is better, more fulfilling, or more all-encompassing than “A person wrote it down wrong.”
This by no means covers all the contradictions given in my video, and I’ll be back again some time looking at some of the other kinds, and why the inerrantists’ explanations are, once again, crap.