Bible debates, perhaps more than any other debate topic, can become lost in endless details of interpretation and subtle questions of translation. It can easily seem that to get into the debate at all requires one to be a Biblical scholar. Fortunately, this is not the case, particularly when dealing with fundamentalists who claim that the Bible is free of error and contradiction.The claim of Biblical inerrancy puts the Christian in the position of not just claiming that the original Bible was free of error (and, remember, none of the original autograph manuscripts exist) but that their modern version of the Bible is the end result of an error-free history of copying and translation beginning with the originals.
Such a position is so specific that it allows one to falsify it simply by reference to the Bible itself. For example, Gen 32:30 states, “…for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” However, John 1:18 states, “No man hath seen God at any time…” Both statements cannot be true. Either there is an error of fact, or an error of translation. In either case, there is an error. And if there is an error, then infallibility of the Bible (in this case the King James Version) is falsified. A typical defense used here is to look up the meaning of the original Hebrew / Greek, read that one of the words can have multiple meanings, and then pick the meaning that seems to break the contradiction. For example, the Christian might argue that “seen” or “face” means one thing in the first scripture, and something completely different in the second.
The logical flaw in this approach is that it amounts to saying that the translator should have chosen to use a different word in one of the two scriptures in order to avoid the resulting logical contradiction that now appears in English—that is, the translator made an error. If no translation error occurred, then an error of fact exists in at least one of the two scriptures. Appeals to “context” are irrelevant in cases like this where simple declarative statements are involved such as “no one has seen God” and “I have seen God.” Simply put, no “context” makes a contradiction or a false statement, like 2 = 3, true.If one is prepared to allow for the possibility of translator or transcriber errors, then the claim of Biblical inerrancy is completely undermined since no originals exist to serve as a benchmark against which to identify the errors. Left only with our error-prone copies of the originals, the claim of infallibility becomes completely vacuous. Pandora’s Box would truly be open: You could have the Bible say whatever you want it to say by simply claiming that words to the contrary are the result of copying or translation/interpretation errors, and nothing could prove you wrong.
Let’s look at several more of these context-independent contradictions and errors of fact.1
|Matt 19:26 says “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. “||Judges 1:19 says “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” This is remarkable on its own, revealing a far-from-omnipotent tribal god being defeated by technology.|
|Mark 15:25 says “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.”||John 19:14-16 says “…about the sixth hour…they cried out…crucify him….Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.”|
|2 Kings 24:8 says “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months.”||2 Chronicles 36:9 says “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem…”|
|2 Kings 8:26 says “Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign…”||2 Chronicles 22:2 says “Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign…”|
|2 Samuel 6:23 says “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death”||2 Samuel 21:8 says “But the king took…the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul”|
|2 Samuel 8:3-4 says “David smote also Hadadezer…and took from him…seven hundred horsemen…”||1 Chronicles 18:3-4 says “David smote Hadarezer…and took from him…seven thousand horsemen…” Note the spelling difference of Hadadezer.|
|1 Kings 4:26 says “And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots…”||2 Chronicles 9:25 says “And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots…”|
|2 Kings 25:8 says “And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month…Nebuzaradan…came…unto Jerusalem”||Jeremiah 52:12 says “…in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month…came Nebuzaradan…into Jerusalem”|
|1 Samuel 31:4-6 says “…Saul took a sword and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead and…died with him. So Saul died…”||2 Samuel 21:12 says “…the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa.”|
|Gen 2:17 says “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eastest thereof thou shalt surely die [note: it doesn’t say ‘spiritual’ death]||Gen 5:5 says “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.”|
|Matt 1:16 says, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus…”||Luke 3:23 says “And Jesus…the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli”|
|James 1:13 says “..for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”||Gen 22:1 says “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham…”|
|Gen 6:20 says “Of fowls after their kind and of cattle [etc.]…two of every sort shall come unto thee…”||Gen 7:2,3 says “Of every clean beast thou shall take to thee by sevens…Of fowls also of the air by sevens…”|
|Luke23:46: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”||John 19:30 “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”|
|Gen 32:30 states “…for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”||John 1:18 states, “No man hath seen God at any time…”|
|1 Kings 7:23 “He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.”||Circumference = Pi() x Diameter, which means that the Bible is saying that Pi() = 3. A strict literalist who believes a perfect God would allow no error must admit that in this case their perfect God is allowing some pretty sloppy approximations. How sloppy does it have to be before it’s just wrong?|
|Lev 11:20-21: “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.”||Fowl do not go upon all four.|
|Lev 11:6: “And the hare, because he cheweth the cud…”||Hare do not chew the cud.|
|Deut 14:7: ” “…as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof.”||This is wrong on both counts: Hare don’t chew the cud and camels do divide the “hoof.”|
|Jonah 1:17 says, “…Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”||Matt 12:40 says “…Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly…” whales and fish are not related|
|Matt 13:31-32: ” “the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed which…is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree.”||There are 2 significant errors here: first, there are many smaller seeds, like the orchid seed; and second, mustard plants don’t grow into trees.|
|Matt 4:8: ” Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”||Unless the world is flat, altitude simply will not help you see all the kingdoms of the earth.|
1 See C. Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1995), which is an extensive compilation of scripture problems.