Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Biblical Literalism is Wrong Part 2: Contradictions

I've done some posts on contradictions before, but there's no harm in covering the same ground more than once.

It doesn't take a genius to notice that the bible is full of internal discrepancies, differences in name, number, order etc. and some apologists have become moderately adept at trying to explain these away. For example when a passage in Numbers mentions that 24,000 died from a plague(in Moses' time), and the apostle Paul writes that 23,000 fell in a day from the plague, an apologist will say something flaky like "It is not contradictory that 23,000 should die in a day, and another 1000 die before or after" . While what they say is true, it isn't very convincing. The account in Numbers was not written by Moses, but rather much later, and then Paul is writing over a millennium later again. A better explanation of this contradiction would be that Paul was referring to the same passage from numbers, but his copy of the text had a different number written down than the text we have today.

In fact some contradictions addressed by the same apologist were ascribed simply to copyist error. For example 2 Sam 8:4 says that David took 700 horsemen, and 1 Chron 18:4 says that David took 7000 horsemen. If this apologist is able to realise that there are errors within the bible, even if they are potentially attributable to copyist error, then what on earth are the literalists thinking? The origin of the contradictions is not important because the fact that they exist is enough to demonstrate that the bible is not literally true, and is most certainly not infallible or inerrant. Are you really willing to believe that Joseph's father was Jacob, and Joseph's father was also Heli? Is it possible that the accounts mentioning how many men the chief captain of David's army killed are both literally true considering one account says it was 300 and the other account says 800? Certainly not.

In order for anything to be inerrant, infallible or literally true, these kinds of contradictions would have to be completely absent. Far from being free of contradictions, the Bible (both new and old testaments) is filled with them. Apologists have conceived of ways to explain many of them away, but most are utterly unconvincing, and others require some amazing feats of mental gymnastics to avoid some serious cases of cognitive dissonance. 
"Genesis 1 says that God created them both, and that He did it on the sixth day. It does not say that He created them at the exact same moment. He created Adam first, then created Eve from his rib later the same day. Not a contradiction."
Not only did this aspiring apologist take the verses out of context when he quoted them and misunderstands the creation myth (because he's an ignorant biblical literalist), he also doesn't appear to be familiar with the plot of Genesis 2. God created Adam, then realises that Adam is lonely and has no companions, so he creates all the animals, which Adam then proceeds to name. God then created Eve out of Adams rib to be his companion because he apparently didn't have the foresight to realise that he'd created a sexual being, who required another member of the same species (and opposite sex) to reproduce. Unless Adam was Superman, The Flash and a hyper-genius all rolled into one, I highly doubt that all of those events could have happened in the same day. There are literally billions of species if you count all of the ones that went extinct hundreds of millions of years before homo sapiens existed. Oh wait, I just remembered something, Genesis is a creation myth from a culture that knew nothing about science, no wonder it doesn't make any sense as a literal story.....

By now it should be quite glaringly obvious that being a biblical literalist requires some very serious mental deficiencies.

A list of 1512 contradictions by book.

Part 5: New Testament
Part 4: Errors
Part 3: Genesis
Part 1: Creation Myths


  1. Isn't Heli/Eli Mary's old man?

  2. Nope.

    Matthew 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

    Luke 3:23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,

  3. Lol I know what it says - but what it means to be "the son of" is different to what it means in 2010.

    There's heaps of different ideas about that specific passage but the most common/straightforward consensus is that Luke's genealogy is through Mary's line, Joseph being Heli's son-in-law/adopted heir through his daughter Mary. Another example of this expression can be found in the OT where Jair is called "son of Manasseh" but he's actually the son of Manasseh's granddaughter.

  4. The thing is, there is absolutely no textual support for the whole 'lineage through Mary'. The idea was created as an attempt to rationalise a contradiction. It isn't even hinted at in the text.
    As far as I know, 'son' or whatever the word was in 1st century greek, means son.

  5. Well, many educated scholars support this idea. So I doubt it was created to rationalize a contradiction. More to clarify a "lost in communication" instance. You don't need to hint at something that you assume everybody knows, i.e. the culture of the time understanding the whole grandson/son-in-law/biological son/men are all that matter altogether.