Issue No. 5,

May 1983


COMMENTARY

Peter--The Bible has many heroes who play a crucial role in the formulation of Biblical concepts and ideology. Jesus, Paul, Abraham, David and Peter are among the more prominent figures. Unfortunately, each of these individuals has serious deficiencies in his character and should not be depicted as models for our children to emulate. Peter is as good an example as any of one lacking in courage and integrity. All of the following acts, statements, and events in the New Testament show poor judgement associated with naming churches, cathedrals, basilicas, and so forth after him, and the absurdity of granting him sainthood: Later issues of BE will discuss the accuracy of additional statements by Peter.

Despite this deplorable record, Peter is considered to be a "saint" by many, and one branch of Christendom has even gone so far as to use Matt. 16:18-19 to designate him as first Pope. Of all the Apostles, Peter was the most important; yet he often demonstrated a sorrowful lack of honor, truthfulness and integrity. One can only pity any institution having him as a founding father.

Contradictions

--If there is any area in which the Bible's imperfections and errancy is most apparent, it is that of inconsistencies and contradictions. The book is a veritable miasma of contradictory assertions and obvious disagreements, which is to be expected in any writing formulated over approximately 1,500 years by 40 or 50 different writers, few of whom seemed to be precisely concerned with what the others had penned. Moreover, the highly repetitive nature of the Bible accounts for many of the conflicts. It would have been far better for those attempting to defend the Book if, for example Deuteronomy had not repeated so much of Exodus, Chronicles had not repeated so much of Samuel and Kings, and the gospels had not been so repetitious. But they do repeat and, thus, problems exist. Yet, despite all historical, mathematical, ethical, philosophical, geographical, and chronological difficulties contained therein, some die-hard fundamentalists carry their hopelessly doomed resistance to the bitter end. As incredible as it may seem, there are some individuals who still say, "The Bible is perfect and inerrant. There are no inaccuracies." So, for the benefit of these holdouts, I am going to provide a list of some simple, straight-forward problems that even some well-known spokesmen for the fundamentalist position grudgingly concede:

Besides hundreds of singular contradictions, the Bible has several instances in which contradictory statements appear in blocks or groups of anywhere from 10 to 25. The numerous problems associated with the Resurrection show this quite well (See: BE #2). Probably the most blatant example concerns the listings in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 of the family units of the returning exiles. There are about 33 units that appear in both lists, starting with the children of Parosh. Fourteen of these units disagree, as can be seen by simply reading down the lists and comparing the numbers. Moreover, Biblical writers often had difficulty in adding figures, and this instance is no exception. Ezra 2:64 says the whole congregation together was 42, 360, whereas, one need only add the figures to see that it is actually 29,818. Neh. 7:66 says the total number of returnees was 42,360, whereas, the actual number of people listed in Nehemiah 7 is 31,089.

REVIEWS

For many years apologists have been using a wide assortment of rationalizations and justifications to explain away obvious contradictions or inaccuracies in Scripture. Many have become masters of distortion, prevarication, and obfuscation, often going as far to make that which is patently false on its face seem rational, if not extraordinarily wise. They have developed an ability to make that which is irrational and absurd seem sensible and profound. The noted Biblical scholar J.T. Sunderland said it well:
Men (theologians-ed) allow themselves conveniently to drop into the background some of the more incredible or objectional things which the books contain; they develop a marvelous facility in explaining away contradictions and inaccuracies and things which the increase of knowledge has shown not to be true, and in reading into the books in a thousand places all sorts of new meanings and so-called "deeper interpretations" to make the teachings of the books harmonize with the increase of knowledge. That which really belongs to the mind of the reader is attributed to that of the writer. The natural and simple meaning of the words is set aside. Forced interpretations are put upon passages for the purpose of compelling them to harmonize with that which it is supposed they ought to mean. Statements, doctrines, and allusions are discovered in the books which not only have no existence in their pages, but which are absolutely foreign to the epoch at which they were written."
The Origin and Character of the Bible,by J.T. Sunderland, p. 12.
In light of this fact, let us look at some of the explanations apologists often submit to explain problems such as those already discussed. In his work, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties, professor Gleason Archer of Evangelical Divinity School attempted to wrestle with many of the contradictory aspects of the Bible and produced a work which is something less than definitive. Although a strong evangelical fundamentalist, he admits the previously-mentioned inconsistencies ( a, b, c, d, and e) are in fact, contradictory. He doesn't dispute the point, but attributes this to copyist errors. A Biblical writer supposedly transcribed something incorrectly. This explanation is often employed by apologists when any other approach would obviously be false. Facts are stubborn things, and closemindedness might begin to show through. But how does one know if a copyist has made a mistake, when Archer himself admits the original writings longer exist? "...we must deal with the very real problem of the complete disappearance of the autographa (the original writings-ed) themselves... it is technically true that there are no extant inerrant originals." (p. 27). "it may be true that we no longer possess any perfect copy of the inerrant original manuscripts of the Bible." (p. 28). Having said this, Archer then makes a statement bordering on the absurd. "So also, we must cherish the inerrant originals of Holy Scripture as free from all mistakes of any kind, even though we have never actually seen them." (p. 29). Imagine the nonsense of this! We are told, Yes, there are contradictions in the KJV of the Bible. Why? Because somebody copied something wrong from the original writings. But no one has ever seen the original writings, so how does Archer know that something was copied incorrectly? How does he know the original itself is flawless? The originals themselves could very well contradict each other. In fact, how does Archer know there were original writings to begin with? Apologists constantly talk about the autographa, which admittedly do not exist, and no living person has ever seen. Modern versions of the Bible such as the King James, the New American standard, the Revised Standard, and the New International are nothing more than compilations, put together by a team of scholars who, after viewing a wide variety of Biblical manuscripts and codices (e.g., Codex Siniaticus, Codex Vatianus), attempted to reconstruct the alleged original writings. The fatal flaw in the entire process, even if there had been original writings, lies in the fact that hundreds of manuscripts disagree on hundreds of verses. Consequently, any version of the Bible is nothing more than the outcome of a popularity contest, in which conflicting manuscripts were reconciled with conflicting scholarly opinion. Votes, not God, gave man the Bibles of today.

Turning from the copyist error defense, let's examine some other common responses apologists often give to problems. With regard to the contradictions between Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7, Archer says, "But it may well be that Ezra used the earlier list of those who originally announced their intentions to join the caravan of returning colonists, whereas Nehemiah's list reproduces the tally of those who actually arrived in Judea at the end of the long trek..." (Ibid. p. 230). Archer then dismissed the inaccurate totals by saying, "At any rate, the difference in totals that do appear in these two tallies should occasion no surprise whatever. The same sort of argumentation and attrition (while en route-ed) has been featured in every large migration in human history." (Ibid. p. 230).

This explanation has no strength whatever, since Ezra 2:1 and Nehemiah 7:6 clearly show both lists are referring to those who actually returned to Jerusalem and Judah. What happened while they journeyed is irrelevant. Thus, there are contradictions with respect to the number in each tribe and total number of arrivals. Archer closed his commentary by attributing some of the difficulty to copyist errors."...it is very easy to see how uncertainty as to the digit might join with absent-mindedness on the part of the copyist to produce an inaccuracy in reproducing the figures." (p. 230).

In regard to the Ezra/Nehemiah problem, W. Arndt, an apologetic professor of New Testament exegesis and hermeneutics at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, said copyist errors were responsible. "It is quite likely that where so many names and figures had to be copied, errors of transcribers crept in, and that these are responsible for some of the variations." Does The Bible Contradict Itself?, W. Arndt, p.49.

Chronological contradictions exist throughout much of the Bible, and nowhere is this more evident than in the gospels. For instance, Luke 4:5-9 says the devil took Jesus up to an (sic) high mountain and then to the pinnacle of the temple, while Matt. 4:5-8 says he took him to the pinnacle first and then to the mountain. Archer's attempt to resolve this problem relies almost entirely on one word. He claims that Matthew uses "then" (Matt. 4:5), which shows a logical sequence of events, while Luke uses "and" (Luke 4:9) between the two events, which obscures the sequence of events (p. 230). The problem with this approach is that several versions of the Bible (NIV, Modern Language, the Living Bible) say that the Greek word which has been translated as "and" in the KJV (Luke 4:9) should be translated as "then". Moreover, there are 44 verses in Luke's fourth chapter, and 34 of them begin with "and". If Archer's logic is adhered to, 34 of the verses could be rearranged in any manner a translator desired, and no one could possibly know the sequence of events.

Another chronological contradiction Archer attempts to reconcile concerns whether Jesus overthrew the tables of the money-changers (Matt. 21:12) and subsequently cursed the fig tree (Matt. 21:19), or cursed the fig tree (Mark 11:14) and then threw out the money-changers (Mark 11:15). Archer's resolution of this problem borders on the pathetic. He admits Mark 11:14-15 is arranged sequentially, but says of Matthew, "As we study the narrative technique of Matthew in general, we find that he sometimes arranges his material in topical order rather than in the strictly chronological order that is more often characteristic of Mark and Luke" (Ibid p. 334). Yet, one need only read Matthew 21:12-19 to see that the narrative is arranged chronologically, not topically. Matthew 21:18 clearly shows the fig tree was cursed the day after the money-changers were expelled, in clear opposition to Mark's account.

Anyone desiring a more comprehensive listing of head to head Biblical disagreements can consult such works as: The Bible Handbook by G.W. Fooote, Is It God's Word? by Joeseph Wheless, The Bible by John Remsberg, The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, or The Christ by John Resburg. Each book is well worth reading.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #4 from Michael Hauenstein of Dayton, Ohio (PART II)
You say that Jesus repeatedly made false statements (See: BE #2-ed.). Using a RSV (Revised Standard Version-ed), a corrupt piece of junk if there ever was one, you say, "Jesus broke his promise" in John 7:8-10. First of all, AV 1611 (King James Authorized Version-ed.) is the only Bible without a provable error in it. By using a RSV you'll find all kinds of mistakes. But the AV 1611 is correct every time, it won't miss a lick. The AV 1611 says, "I go not up yet." Jesus didn't lie. He just wasn't going to go up when they went. Now, who made a false statement: God and the Bible or you?

Editor's Response to Letter #4 (PART II)

Mike, let's don't be absurd. The fact that the King James Version of the Bible has obvious and provable contradictions is beyond rational dispute. Holding strongly to one's beliefs and defending them with firm conviction is one thing; fanaticism is another. Anyone who can read can see contradictions abound. That's not the issue. The question is: Are they of sufficient numbers and of such overriding importance as to destroy the Bible's validity? Do yourself a favor, Mike. Don't try to protect an utterly indefensible position. You said the King James Version "won't miss a lick." Don't let yourself be licked by relying on it.

You contend the KJV, unlike the RSV, protects Jesus by having "Yet" in the verse (John 7:8). But I suggest you observe other versions of the Bible, such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) because it omits "yet" also. Before calling it a "piece of junk" too, you'd better consult such fundamentalist evangelicals as Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, whose writings are quite prominent in Christian bookstores. In Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity they say, "Although it is not as readable as some translations, its accuracy is second to none. If one desires to study the Scripture, the New American Standard Bible is perhaps the best Bible available." (p. 71). There was no "yet" in the manuscripts scholars studied. and that's why the RSV of 1952 and NASB of 1971 omitted it. Biblicists are well aware of this problem, Mike, and certainly would have put "yet" in, if at all possible. They don't want to confront this difficulty any more than you do. (Letter#4 will be continued-ed.)

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #10 from M.B. of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Dear Sir, It is refreshing to hear a sound rebuttal against literalists and "their" Bible. I am an unfortunate person who works with three "fundies" (one of whom is a self-taught Reverend) on an almost daily basis. Furthermore, these "fundies" have friends, so I am constantly bombarded with biblical rhetoric.

The so-called Reverend is smugly reviewing your first two issues. His comments, I'm sure, will only be defensive at best, since your logic is impeccable. Having enjoyed your first two issues of BE, I would be interested in knowing about yourself and your background. Indeed the fervor of your attack seems to suggest a former fundamentalist past. In any case, I'll be looking forward to your next issues.

Editor's Response to Letter #10
Dear M.B. I always avoid leaving the Bible and discussing myself, but since your letter is so nice I guess a slight divergence won't matter. I have a bachelors's degree in philosophy and a master's in the social sciences. I've been in the field of education for over 15 years, and passed the age of 40 some time ago. Serious reading, chess, and tennis are my favorite pastimes, and probably show I have no fundamentalist background whatever. I grew up as a religious neutral and have been teaching myself since age 16, thus avoiding the usual one-sided instruction. Incidentally, ask your "so-called" reverend friend to write me. I'd like to hear from him.

Letter #11 from Don Morgan of Crusade Publications of P.O. Box 200, Redmond, Washington 96052-0200
Dear Mr. McKinsey. Your March issue was, as usual, very well done. With regard to letter #3, and your response to it, I would like to offer a few comments. When 2 Tim. 3:16 was penned (and it was probably NOT written by the so-called Paul) THE BIBLE DID NOT EXIST--the verse could not, therefore, refer to the Bible as we know it. At the most, it could only have pertained to the Old Testament. All of "Paul's"letters were completed BEFORE the first word of any of the so-called gospels was penned, and long before the question of biblical canon was settled (as you probably know). In addition, the verse can be correctly translated as follows: "All scripture WHICH IS INSPIRED by God..." (which puts the verse into an entirely different perspective). 2 Tim. 3:16 can only be used by, or on, the gullible to "prove" the inspiration of the Bible. When so used, not only is the verse being used incorrectly in terms of Biblical chronology and in terms of probable intended meaning, it is also used being used in a circular reasoning process (as I am sure you are aware). One must also take note of the fact (as one fundamentalist minister admitted to me) that "all scripture" can, in this case, mean nothing more than "all writing." Thus, 2 Tim. 3:16 becomes completely worthless in supporting the notion of biblical inspiration!

In response to questions such as: "Why do you go to such great lengths to prove the Bible wrong?" I respond that I consider it my DUTY to expose the true nature of the Bible in order to offset those who go to such great lengths to prove that the Bible is the word of God. I point out that a perfect being WOULD BE APPALLED to be associated in any way with such an imperfect book.

In addition (and you can tell "Ray" about this), I was once a born again, Bible believing, God fearing, fundamentalist Christian (See: Letter #3 in Issue #3-ed.). "God" gave me a reasonably good set of brains. I could not help but notice, in my on-going Bible studies, that there were problems with the Bible that were more than apparent. I gingerly began investigate. One thing led to another. What started as a timid investigation became a full-blown hobby, which has constantly occupied my time for almost six years, and I am now a born-again agnostic/atheist. I contend that ANYBODY who looked into the Bible as I have done would either: 1) become an agnostic or atheist, or 2) keep his "faith" only by subverting his own reasoning and denying reality.

Editor's response to Letter #11
Well, said, Don! Many scholars have stated the points you have made about 2 Tim. 3:16. Whether it should be translated, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (KJV) or "Every scripture which is inspired by God is also..." (Many Greek scholars) makes a tremendous difference. The latter translation implies some scripture is not inspired and would destroy the strongest verse fundamentalists use to prove the Bible's inerrancy. Incidentally, it really isn't necessary to go to "great lengths" to disprove the Bible. One need only open the Book and read with a critical eye.

Letter #12 from S.B. of Portland, Oregon
Dear Dennis: To put my reaction to Biblical Errancy in today's vernacular, "totally awesome!" Herein (I'm a ... student and we all talk with words like that), please find my check for $3 for the next six issues of BE, as per your offer on page six of issue #3. Are Issues #1 and #2 possible to obtain? If they're as good as #3, I ought to start keeping a set of these things...

Editor's Response to Letter #12
Dear S.B. Any back issue of BE is available. Just send 75¢ for each issue you desire.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

(a) Any letter sent to the editor may be published unless the author stated he/she does not want it put into Biblical Errancy. (b) The name of any individual submitting a letter to BE will no longer be revealed when the letter is published. Only initials will be used unless the source says he/she wants to be identified. Letters to BE are always welcome and will be encouraged (c) Anyone not wanting his initials and/or address revealed should so state.

Issue No. 6

June 1983


COMMENTARY

The Virgin Birth--The Virgin Birth is among those concepts that are crucial to an adequate understanding of Christianity, one of the stones in the ideological foundation. Yet, like other stones, it is premeated with problems and contradictions that need to be exposed. Apologists contend the miraculous nature of the event could only be associated with the birth of a divine being, namely Jesus Christ. But what is so miraculous about a virgin birth? Webster's Dictionary defines it as a birth in which the mother retains her virginity by having no contact with a male.But this isn't a miraculous event. An egg can easily be taken from a virgin, united with a sperm in a test tube and re-inserted into the uterus without any physical contact being involved. Indeed, the parents that eventually emerge from this union don't even need to know one another. Where is the miracle? Webster defines miracle as, "an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws and is hence thought to be due to supernatural causes, esp., to an act of God." But God doesn't need to act in this instance. It's not necessary. A fundamentalist apologist was correct when he said: "The Bible Believer should not defend the possibility of virgin births within the human race; rather he should argue that the virgin births cannot happen naturally or artificially, and that the only reason why Christ was virgin born was because of the miraculous ministry of the Holy Spirit." (The Virgin Birth, by Gromacki, p.96.)

Most of the difficulties associated with the Virgin Birth arise from within the Bible itself. To begin with, several statements contend Mary was a virgin at the time of the birth and that Joseph did not have contact with her until afterwards (Luke 1:34-35, Matt. 1:24-25, 1:18, 20), while other verses say Jesus was Joseph's son (John 1:45, 6:42, Luke 2:27, 41, 4:22, Luke 2:33,43 in NASB, Matt. 13:55, Luke 3:23). Even Mary said Joseph was the father of Jesus (Luke 2:48), and she ought to know. Several others verses show Jesus had a natural birth, according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3, 9:5). It's hard to believe the birth was natural if one of the parents was an Un-natural Holy Spirit.

A second major problem connected with the Virgin Birth arises from some of the previously-mentioned verses which allege Joseph was the actual father of Jesus. According to the genealogies in the first chapter of Matthew (1-16) and the third chapter of Luke (23-31), Joseph was a descendant of David. Therefore, Jesus was a descendant of David, which is required of one claiming the Messiahship (Jer. 23:5, 2 Sam. 7:12-13, Psalms 89:3-4, 132:11). But Joseph couldn't be the father of Jesus and Jesus couldn't be of David's seed (2 Tim. 2:8, Acts 13:22-23, Rev. 22:16) "according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3, 9:5) if he energed from a virgin birth. Christians must abandon one of two concepts, either the Virgin Birth or Messiahship of Jesus. They are incompatible. How could he be of David's descent "according to the flesh" if Joseph was not his physical father? A virgin birth would destroy the physical chain, the link between generations.

Apologists attempt to resolve this dilemma by alleging one of the genealogies (Luke 3) pertains to Mary, not Joseph. (See: Tough Questions Skeptics Ask by McDowell and Stewart). It allegedly shows he is a physical descendant of David, and since Jesus was from her flesh, he is also a physical descendant of David and can claim the Messiahship. However, there are several problems with this explanation. Although Joseph was from the house of David (Luke 1:27, 2:4), Mary appears to have been from the house of Judah since her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:36) was a daughter of Aaron, i.e. from the house of Judah (Luke 1:5). Moreover, Mary's name is never mentioned in the genealogy of Luke 3, and only arises incidentally in that of Matthew 1. Both genealogies clearly pertain to Joseph. Both clearly trace the descent of Joseph, not Mary. In fact, none of the genealogies in either the Old or New Testament trace the lineage of a woman. Women are never given a position of such importance in the Bible as to merit a genealogy, and there is no evidence Luke 3 provides an exception. The superiority granted men in the Bible would forestall any possibility of women being considered as equals. (More will be said about this in later issues of BE).

A third problem arising from the birth of Jesus lies in the fact that the Bible repeatedly says nothing pure can come from woman (Job 25:4, 14:4, Job 15:14 NIV), and anyone touching a woman within seven days after she has menstruated (Lev. 15:19) is impure. Mary had to be purified (Luke 2:22-24) according to the Old Testament law (Lev. 12:8), and it's difficult to see how Jesus could have avoided touching her during these periods. Mary was under the curse of Original Sin, like all of us, and thus was no purer than anyone else. Realizing the problem an impure Mary presents, Catholics tried to resolve this difficulty by proclaiming the Immaculate Conception in 1854. They alleged that Mary herself was conceived apart from sin: she was pure. But that does not resolve the problem; it's only removed one step. If this were true, how could Mary's sinful parents produce a pure daughter? Moreover, if Mary were sinless, like Jesus, then why would she say in Luke 1:47: "And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." If Mary had been sinless, holy, and the mother of God, why did she need a Saviour? According to Christianity, only sinners need saviours.

A fourth problem with the Virgin Birth arises from the wording of Isaiah 7:14, which supposedly prophesies the virgin birth of Jesus. According to the King James Version (KJV) the verse says: "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and call his name Immanuel." Translators hotly debate the use of the word "virgin", which came from the Hebrew word "almah". Hebraic scholars say "almah" means a "young woman", not a virgin. They further contend that the real Hebrew word for virgin is "bethulah". They refer to Gen. 24:43 and Ex. 2:8 which show "almah" means a maid, not a virgin. Who knows Hebrew better, the Hebrews or the Christians? And the Hebrews say in their Masoretic text that "almah" should be translated as the young woman, not virgin. Some scholars further allege that "shall concieve" should have been translated as "is with" child, which is in the present tense and shows the prophecy pertains to a woman existing in Isaiah's time. Other critics claim "shall conceive" was translated from "harah" which actually means"has conceived". They say "harah" (conceived) is the Hebrew perfect tense, which represents past completed action in English. Additional evidence that Isaiah 7:14 does not pertain to Jesus lies in the fact that Jesus was never referred to as Immanuel in the New Testament, is never called Immanuel except by those who do so in order to fulfill the prophecy, and, according to Luke 1:31, was to be called Jesus, not Immanuel.

A fifth problem associated with the Virgin Birth is that some Christians allege Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. But this couldn't have occurred unless all of Jesus' brothers and sisters were products of virgin births also. Many verses show Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, Gal. 1:15, Luke 8:19, John 2:12, 7:3-5, 7:10, Acts 1:14), that Jesus was only the first of several offspring (Luke 2:7), and that Joseph had no contact with Mary till she had brought forth her firstborn (Matt. 1:25).

Besides these major problems, there are also several difficulties related to the Virgin Birth. If Joseph was the natural father of Jesus, as some previously-mentioned verses allege, then Jesus was illegitimate, a bastard, since Joseph and Mary were engaged, not married. Luke 2:5 proves the latter quite clearly in the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Version (NAS), and the New International (NI) Version. Moreover, Jesus couldn't claim the throne of David. To quote the fundamentalists: "...if Jesus had been sired by Joseph, He would not have been able to claim the legal rights to the throne of David. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a Descendant of King Jeconiah, and Matthew 1:12 relates that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, He could not rightly inherit the throne of David, since he was a relative of the cursed line." (Answers to Tough Questions, by McDowell, p. 56). Secondly, several other figures in the Old Testament also had miraculous births. Issac was born to an aged woman, Sarah, who no longer menstruated (Gen. 18:10-11), and Samuel was born to a woman, Hannah, whose womb had been closed by the lord (1 Sam. 1:5, 2:21). And thirdly, it's difficult to believe that the scruples of Jesus were far from those of his ancestors. Was his morality really that different from theirs? Abraham married his sister and seduced herhandmaiden; Judah committed incest with his daughter-in-law; David was a polygamist, an adulter, a robber, and a murderer; Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines; and Rehoboam, Abijam, Joram, Ahaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Manasseh, Amon, and Jehoiachin were all described as purveyors of iniquity. Only four women are mentioned in Jesus' ancestry, besides Mary, and yet each was morally deficient. Tamar seduced the father of her late husband; Rahab was a common prostitute; Ruth went to bed with one of her cousins instead of marrying another cousin; and Bathsheba was involved in adultery. Despite this litany, apologists ask the world to believe these unprincipled malefactors gave rise to a perfectly sinless being, God himself.

Greek and Hebrew--In discussions with respect to the Bible's validity and meaning of verses (exegesis), apologists often say, "But you have to go to the original Greek and Hebrew to determine the meaning of words and phrases in order to see what the author meant." The implication, of course, is that if you don't know Greek and Hebrew, you can't really understand the Bible. There are several flaws in this tactic, however. To begin with, an apologist correctly stated: "With the various revised versions at hand, with an analytical concordance, with reliable commentaries, and with the help of dictionaries of the Bible language, the reader need not know Greek and Hebrew to verify the original meaning of a given passage. He has in his mother tongue the means whereby he may determine the correctness of most of the obscure translations." (Bible Difficulties, by W. Arndt, p. 20). Robert Ingersoll also made an appropriate observation in this regard: "It has been contended for many years that no one could pas judgement on the veracity of scripture who did not understand Hebrew. This position was perfectly absurd. No man needs to be a student of Hebrew to know the shadow on the dial did not go back several degrees..." (Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 11, p.297-98). But equally important is the fact that returning to the "original" Greek and Hebrew doesn't really solve the problem, because thoroughly knowledgeable Greek and Hebrew scholars often can't agree on the translation of many words and phrases. They not only can't agree on the best translation of many terms, but they can't agree on which manuscripts are the best reproductions of the non-existent original manuscripts and, thus, which manuscripts the translations should come from. To make matters worse, they can't agree as to the authorship of many books in the Bible or when they were written. Disputes in these matters are never-ending and often boring. All of this disagreement has given rise to the many versions of the Bible that currently exist. Which is the best version? Who knows? They all claim validity; they all came from Greek and Hebrew scholars, often teams of individuals; and they disagree on significant points. For example, what is the correct translation of Isaiah 7:14? Should it say a "virgin" or a "young woman"? What is the correct translation of Luke 2:43? Does it say, "Joseph and his mother" (KJV) or does it say, "His parents did not know it" (RSV)? The distinction is crucial because the KJV implies a virgin birth, while the RSV shows a natural birth. To further complicate the problem, some manuscripts, which are felt by some scholars to be accurate reproductions of the originals (the autographa,) don't even include many verses in most current versions of the Bible. For example, some of the most ancient authorities don't even have the last 12 verses of Mark, which are quite important to critics of the Bible's validity.

These are only some of the major problems one will encounter if he thinks returning to the Greek and Hebrew will resolve problems. If there were unanimity among the scholars, this would be a wholly viable approach. But one need only compare the KJV with the RSV to see that it's still a matter of selecting whom you wish to believe. Any true believer in the Bible is really placing his bets and hoping for the best when he chooses a version. Apologists try their best to put a gloss of confidence over the whole situation. They confidently assure their followers that the latter are getting the truth straight from God's mouth, that there is nothing to worry about, they are receiving the words of God as originally written. "The text of the Bible has been translated accurately. We may rest assured that what we have today is a correct representation of what was originally given." (Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, by McDowell & Stewart, p. 77). "What of the New Testament? Again, based on the evidence, the conviction comes that there is a text which does not differ in any substantial particular from the originals of various books as they came from the hands of the human writers." (Know Why You Believe, by Paul Little, p. 42). But that's just the question, Mr. Little. What text? Scholars agree there is a text that "does not differ in any particular from the originals" but they can't agree on what that text says. "The number of manuscripts of the New Testament...is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities." (Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by McDowell, p. 45). The question is not, has the "true reading" been preserved, but what is the "true reading". The many versions of today show scholars can't agree. Any layman walking into a bookstore to buy a version can only guess and take his chances. Anyone trying to reconcile the Living Bible(LB), the RSV, or the NWT with the KJV, for example, is destined for a migraine. Before one can discuss the Bible's validity with a fundamentalist, there must first be agreement as to the version to be discussed.

REVIEWS

A professor of the Bible and Greek and chairman of the department of Biblical education at Cedarville Bible College, attempted to resolve some of the problems related to the Virgin Birth. He alleged, for example: "Joseph and Mary were legally married or betrothed" (Matt. 1:18). She was called "his wife" twice (Matt. 1:20,24). He was called "her husband" (Matt. 1:19) (The Virgin Birth, by Robert Gromacki, p. 76). Obviously, Gromacki doesn't like the idea of believing his alleged Saviour was illegitimate. Of course, what he has done is opt for the Biblical version that suits his needs, a common ploy of apologists. The KJV of Matthew 1:18 says they were "espoused", which Gromacki equates with "being married," while the Modern Language (ML), the LB, the NWT, and the NI versions clearly say "engaged." There are no valid grounds for equating espoused with being married. Even the RSV and the NASB versions say they were betrothed, i.e. engaged. Gromacki uses the word "married." Although Matthew 1:20, 24 in the KJV strongly imply Mary is Josepj's wife, the ML, the LB, the NAS, and the NI versions show she is not his wife. And while the KJV of Matt. 1:19 says Joseph is Mary's husband, the ML and the LB versions versions refer to Joseph as her fiance. As stated earlier, the version people use depends on what they want to prove. Every Christian is putting his/her money on a Biblical version favored by one group of scholars and taking his/her chances. You could be an expert in Greek and Hebrew and still find scholars who would firmly disagree with your translation of many verses.

In trying to explain why Mary referred to Joseph as Jesus' father, Gromacki says, "In public, Mary had to refer to Jesus as Joseph's son in order not to arouse any suspicion about His origin." (Ibid. p. 75). this explanation is pure speculation, since Gromacki couldn't possibly know Mary's motives, and is also alleging the "Blessed Mother" lied. We are to believe the mother of God deliberately told a falsehood.

In a Life Magazine article Robert Coughlan took a position somewhat similar to that of BE. He said: "On the other hand, both Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke-ed.) give genealogies showing that Jesus was a descendant of King David through the male line-that is, the line of Joseph--an incongruity increased still more by the fact that the genealogies differ." (Life, Dec. 25, 1964, by Robert Coughlan, p. 90). Apologist Gromacki's response to this was: "If both genealogies did record Joseph's physical lineage, then Coughlan was indeed correct; however, no reputable evangelical embraces that position. Coughlan's rejection of the accuracy of the two genealogies was based upon his subjective equation of the two. He nowhere proved that they both belonged to Joseph." (The Virgin Birth, by Gromacki, p.151). Coughlan doesn't need to "prove it." All one needs to do is read the genealogies in Matt.1 and Luke 3 to see they pertain to Joseph. It's stated quite clearly. The burden of proof lies on the shoulders of Gromacki. He needs to prove the genealogy in Luke 3 pertains to Mary, which isn't possible unless some unwarranted assumptions are made. Her name never appears once in the entire third chapter of Luke. It's rather difficult to believe a geneaology pertains to someone who isn't even mentioned. Another apologist said: "The reason that Mary is not mentioned in Luke 3 is because she has already been designated the mother of Jesus in several instances." (Answers to Tough Questions, by McDowell and Steward, p. 60). Why would this be of significance? The point at issue is not whether Mary is the mother of Jesus, but whether the genealogy in Luke 3 pertains to Mary.

DIALOG AND DEBATE

Letter #4 from Michael Hauenstein of Dayton, Ohio (Part III)
You say, "Quoting from a work is fruitless unless you first prove the book is valid, truthful and reliable." Have you proved that the works of Ingersoll and Paine (atheists and infidels), that their work is more truthful, valid and reliable than the Bible? If so, please exlain to us dumb, dumbs, how you so ingeniously accomplished this fact.

Editor's Response to Letter #4 (Part III)
To begin with, Mike, you haven't read the works of Thomas Paine. He was a deist, not an atheist. Read The Age of Reason and you'll see quite clearly he believed in God. Secondly, I use accurate statements from Ingersoll and Paine's writings; I'm not supporting everything they said. They never claimed the perfection for themselves that you claim for the Bible, and I wouldn't believe them if they had. Thirdly, quotes from these men are used to disprove the Bible's validity, not to propound a position. Are we discussing the "inerrant Bible" or the infallibility of Ingersoll and Paine? They don't have to be perfect in everything they wrote to prove the Bible is imperfect. They aren't on trial; the Bible is. It's claiming perfection, they aren't. Fourthly, Mike you are the infidel. You lack fidelity to logic, evidence, science, and reason. Infidelity depends upon one's perspective. And finally, I've never implied you or those of your persuasion are dumb, dumbs. Pejoratives only build walls. You just haven't been given a lot of vital information.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #13 from N.S. of Richman, Indiana Dear Dennis, LOVE IT! Received April issue, and now want Jan. and Feb. Don't want to miss a word! I'll let you do all the work and I'll have all the discussions with my Christian friends. This is just the fuel I've needed. I just haven't the patience to read that horrible book. Thanks again for a wonderful job-- well done.

Letter #14 from S.W. of New York
Dear Dennis, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your publication. You certainly are a sharp and perceptive individual, and I admire you greatly for your work to expose the Bible for the fraud that it is... Keep up the good work and remember that there are a lot of people out here supporting you.

Editor's response to Letter #14
Dear S.W: I would apreciate any assistance you or others can provide in urging my supporters out there to contact me. Tell your friends and relatives. I always need publicity and more subscribers.

Letter #15 from Rev. E.E. of St. Louis
I am a retired pastor in the United Church of Christ, and for most of my career I have had to deal with and sometimes attempt to work with "Biblical Inerrancy" people. Aside from quoting a few unacceptable passages from Paul's epistles... I have found little help, like you are offering in BE, which I saw offered in the April issue of Progressive magazine. I would be very grateful to receive a copy of BE for one of my committees in my United Church of Christ denomination, Missouri Conference.

Letter #16 from D.W. of Dayton, Ohio
I can appreciate that yours is the only national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists; however, in future issues I hope that you will establish a balnce between the Commentary section and the Dialog and Debate section. I realize that you are attempting to bend over backward in an effort to allow ample space for the apologists. If you give them the whole magazine, they still would not be satisfied. If you and Mike Hauenstein want to maintain a long-winded personal dialogue, fine; do it through your personal letters. Obviously he does not want to listen to the facts, and you will not change him. In the meantime, the work you do with the commentaries is excellent, and I, for one, do not want to see that cut short. I can go to the Christian bookstore and obtain all of the tracts that I could ever care to burn, but yours is the only place to get the objective commentaries. All I am asking is that in future issues the space be allocated more on a 50/50 basis.

Editors Response to Letter #16
Your point is well taken, D.W. A balance is important. However, Mike wrote BE a lengthy letter, replete with arguments often made and appropriate for this publication. Biblical Errancy is not meant to be an anti-Bible publication. It's intended to provide a forum for a dialogue on the Bible's validity, a platform for all points-of-view. Debate, argumentation, and polemics are an indispensable part of its overall philosophy. You seem to be quite intelligent and have probably discovered this for yourself. The April issue became overly involved with the corespondence between Mike and myself. I apologize. Who sent whom what publication can be rather confusing to outside observers. I think this was the real problem. Henceforth, I will make amends.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

A sizable number of BE critics seem to think the DIALOGUE AND DEBATE section is actually entitled HIT AND RUN. They write one critical letter and then vanish into the darkness of anonymity. Perhaps they are fearful; perhaps that is all they had to say. I don't know. I do know that if they aren't willing to engage in an open discussion over several months; if they aren't willing to defend the "perfect" book; if they don't have the courage of their convictions, then they are trying to circumvent the very purpose for which BE was created. Over the years I've talked to many ministers and other biblicists and found they, too, want to avoid additional discussions. Yet they continue making absurd claims about the Book's accuracy. I've even tried to get Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to return to my home. They won't.

Issue No. 7

July 1983


COMMENTARY

Original Sin-- In the fifth chapter of Romans Paul created a concept--Original Sin--that is crucial to Christianity. He alleged humanity is under a curse because of Adam's failings in the Garden of Eden. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12)." "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22)." (Also note Rom. 5:17-19). Yet, despite Paul's assertions it's difficult to see how the condemnations pronounced upon Adam, Eve, and the Serpent in the third chapter of Genesis (Gen. 3:14-19) condemned all mankind to eternal punishment. Paul's interpretation is just not warranted by the narrative. Gen. 3:14, for example, says:"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, 'Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life'". Clearly this bestows no curse upon Adam and doesn't materially affect the serpent. How did the serpent move before, if not upon its belly? It's difficult to imagine a serpent walking upright or finding one that eats dust. Even if he had walked on legs, the alteration is not germane to the issue. It is the curse on Adam that matters.

Gen. 3:15 (NIV) says: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers (her seed- KJV, RSV); he will crush your head and you will strike his heel." These curses sound ominous but are of little consequence for several reasons. In the first place, the serpent, i.e., the Devil, didn't have offspring. According to Christianity the battle between good and evil is between the Devil and all others. Nothing is said about the Devil's children. Secondly, if "the woman" refers to Eve, then her offspring could refer to any person who lived. By what rationale can Paul say this verse is referring to one specific individual, Jesus, who lived hundred of years later in another part of the world? Her seed (RSV) must be referring to one person. If not, if it is referring to all of Eve's descendants, then to whom does "he" refer? Thirdly, the waters are muddied even further by the fact that the KJV and the RSV say "her seed" and seed is always plural in the Old Testament. It's never used to refer to a single individual, such as Jesus. And lastly, the "he" couldn't be Jesus, as Paul contends, because Jesus never crushed the head of Satan. If he had, then how could there still be "sinners" and how could the Serpent still be doing injury? Romans 16:20, which says: "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" and 1 Thess. 2:18, which says: "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us" show that even after the death of Jesus, Satan still lived and exercised control over people. The best Christians can do with this problem is allege Jesus will destroy Satan when Christ returns. Assuming his return, however, is pure speculation, relying on hope and a promise.

Gen. 3:16 says: "Unto the woman he said, 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee'." Even if this verse were true, it would not mark the establishment of Original Sin, but only explain why women have pain during childbirth and have been dominated by men. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband" doesn't sound like a curse or punishment.

Gen. 3:17 says: "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life(RSV)." This verse does little more than condemn man to work for a living and curse the ground upon which he labors.

Gen. 3:18 says: "...thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field (RSV)." According to Gen. 1:29: "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food'," the plants of the field were already bestowed upon man for food. It's difficult to see this as a curse, in any event.

Gen. 3:19 says: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground...(RSV)." eating bread in the sweat of his face or working to produce food partly explains why man was created in the first place. Gen. 2:5, which says: "...and there was not a man to till the ground (RSV)" and Gen. 2:15, which says: "And the Lord took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it (RSV)" show man was put into the Garden of Eden to work and keep it up-- a blessing of healthful work instead of idle existence. Except for having to work for a living, this is no curse upon Adam or mankind.

In summary, much of the "Curse" is upon the helpless earth which Yahweh (God) had just created. There is not a single word or remotest hint at sin, at death, or eternal damnation. Every clause of the "curse" is no curse at all. God told Adam that because of what he did the ground is cursed, he must toil for food, thorns and thistles shall be brought forth to him, and he must eat the plants of the field. Where is the curse of Original Sin?

From the first curse in Genesis 3 to the end of Malachi, amid all the ravings threatening death upon the Chosen People, there is not the remotest reference in all the Old Testament to the Snake Story, the Curse of Adam, the Fall of Man, or the necessity of Redemption from "Original Sin" and the fires of Hell. Hell and its fires are totally non-existent in the Hebrew scheme. All the furies of God are temporal terrors and end with death of the accused. Jesus never once mentioned Adam or the pretended curse and fall. He never implied his mission was to undo what Adam had done. Not one of the gospel writers uttered anything about Adam, the Curse, or Redemption.

Messianic Prophecies--Christian apologists claim only one man in history, Jesus, fulfills the Old Testament prophecies with respect to the Messiahship. From their perpective he, and he alone, meets all of the requirements one must fulfill in order to be the prophesied Saviour of mankind. But do the facts confirm this claim? Can Jesus truthfully allege he is the Messiah outlined in the Old Testament? This question can best be answered by analyzing those prophecies which appear to provide the strongest support for such an assertion. Among those often discussed, none are more relevant to this issue than the prophecies in Isaiah 7, Micah 5, and Isaiah 53. If these can't withstand critical analysis, if they aren't applicable to Jesus, then what prophecies are? Since each is specific, detailed and rather lengthy, they will be discussed in this and subsequent issues of BE.

Micah 5-- The fifth chapter of Micah, one of the most quoted sections in the entire Old Testament, marks a fine place to begin an analysis of Messianic prophecy. Although touted as a fountain of truth and prediction, it's difficult to see its applicability to Jesus. Micah 5:2, for example, says: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel." Apologists smile with glee over the fact that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem appears to have been predicted hundreds of years before the event. But if they had read elsewhere they would have seen that Bethlehem was the name of a man whose father was Ephratah. First Chron. 4:4 says: "These are the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah, the father of Bethleham." First Chron. 2:50 also shows Bethlehem was a man descended from Ephratah. And since neither Bethlehem nor Ephratah appears in the genealogies of Matt. 1 or Luke 3, they could not be ancestors of Jesus, and Jesus couldn't be the ruler referred to. Bethlehem refers to the name of both a man and a town. Another problem with Micah 5:2 lies in the fact that thousand of children have been born in Bethlehem, but that doesn't give each of them the right to claim to be the Messiah. Thirdly, Jesus was by no means a ruler in Israel. Quite the contrary, the people ruled over him, as is shown by his death. Micah 5:2 continues with: "...whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting (KJV)." "Everlasting" is not a correct translation from the Hebrew. The Hebrew word actually signifies times long past as in Amos 9:11, Isaiah 63:9, Malachi 3:4, and Deuteronomy 32:7. No Jewish Old Testament writer ever taught that the Messiah was divine or his birthplace was eternity. The literal translation from the Hebrew is "from the days of ancient time." Not only the Jewish Masoretic text but several Christian versions--the RSV and the NIV--say "from ancient days." Although the writers of the RSV and the NIV have translated the Hebrew correctly, they have fallen into a dilemma. How could "from ancient days" refer to Jesus, since he is allegedly God, and God exists before ancient days? God is eternal and without beginning. Micah 5:4 (RSV) says: "And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth." This verse means the Messiah will bring peace and security to the world, as is stated in Isaiah 2:4. But if this verse is referring to Jesus, why did he not bring peace? Even more important is the fact that Jesus said he came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). But the really crucial verse is Micah 5:6, which says: "...thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian when he cometh into our land,...." If any verse proves the fifth chapter of Micah has nothing to do with Jesus, this is it. In the first place, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed and Assyrian power ceased to exist 606 years before Jesus was born. Secondly, Jesus never became a military leader. Thirdly, the Romans, not Assyrians, conquered the land of Judah during the lifetime of Jesus. Jesus struggled with Romans, not the Assyrians. And lastly, Jesus did not drive out anyone, especially the Romans. On the contrary, they signed the warrant for his execution. More will be said in subsequent issues of BE about other "sure-fire" prophecies of Jesus. Apologists often accuse their opponents of taking verses out-of-context, yet that's precisely what they did with Micah 5.

Biblical Inerrancy--On page 23 in Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, McDowell and Stewart provide a list of 8 commonly given reasons for believing the Bible is inerrant.

The evidence that the very words of the Bible are God-given may be briefly summarized as follows: (1) This is the claim of the classical text (2 Tim. 3:16); (2) It is the emphatic testimony of Paul that he spoke in Words...taught by the spirit (1 Cor. 2:13); (3) It is evident from the repeated formula, "It is written;" (4) Jesus said that which was written in the whole Old Testament spoke of Him (Luke 24:27, 44, John 5:39, Hebrews 10:7); (5) the New Testament coinstantly equates the Word of God with Scripture (Matt. 21:42, Rom. 15:4); (6) Jesus indicated that not even the smallest part of a Hebrew word of letter could be broken (Matt. 5:16); (7) The New Testament refers to the written record as the "oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2, Heb. 5:12); (8) And occasionally the writers were even told to "diminish not a word" (Jer. 26:2); John even pronounced an anathema upon all who would add to or diminish from this book.
The fallacy in this above lies in the fact that all 8 reasons are making the same point in different words--the Bible is inspired because it says so, which, of course, is no proof whatever. Many writings in history have claimed divine perfection, but no prudent observer would accept them on this basis alone. McDowell and Stewart acknowledge as much on page 1 of Tough Questions Skeptics Ask. "...the Bible claims to be a record of the words and deeds of God, thus the Bible views itself as God's Word. The mere fact that the Bible claims to be the word of God does not prove that it is such, for there are other books that make similar claims."

The Resurrection--In Tough Questions Skeptics Ask McDowell and Stewart attempted to answer the following questions: How do you explain the contradictions in the Resurrection story? Their response is almost as unbelievable as the resurrection itself. They state:

A common objection to the...resurrection is that the four Gospel narratives contain hopeless contradictions. If the four accounts were placed in parallel columns a number of apparent differences would be highlighted. However, these apparent differences ultimately confirm the truthfulness of these accounts, rather than refute them. If all four Gospels gave exactly the same story, in exactly the same order, with exactly the same details, we would immediately become suspicious.
On the contrary, wisdom dictates that one become suspicious when they don't agree. Suspicion or not, if contradictions are to be avoided, they must give the same account. How contradictions, hidden under the euphemism of "differences," confirm truthfulness and agreement is difficult to fathom. McDowell and Stewart continue:
It is quite clear that all of the Gospels relate their portraits of Jesus differently. This is what we should expect. No four witnesses (or news reporters), all of whom witness a series of events, will write them up in exactly the same way, detail for detail. If they did, there would be obvious collusion.
Every time I have appeared on the radio, some caller has invariably made the "witness at a car accident" argument, which is no proof at all. Contending people always give conflicting reports of traffic accidents doesn't resolve anything. When there are contradictions, somebody isn't telling the truth, and that's all that matters. When witness A says there were 4 people in the northbound car and witness B says there were 2, when witness A says the accident happened at 2 o'clock and witness B says 3 o'clock, somebody's wrong. Collusion isn't even an issue. Whether it exists is of no consequence. All that matters is whether or not the stories agree. They either do or they don't. McDowell and Stewart's apologetic continues:
If the differences concerned the main points of the story, then there would be justification for doubt, but when the salient points are agreed upon by every witness, insignificant differences add to, rather than subtract from, the validity.
Any kind of differences major or minor, couldn't possibly add to a story's validity. But even more important is the fact that the accounts differ in nearly every major aspect. They don't agree on who went to the tomb, when they arrived, who was there, the status of the tomb, and so on. McDowell and Stewart then state: "It should be noted, too, that none of the details necessarily flatly contradicts any others, but in some plausible way they correlate together to supply the larger picture." If they really believed this, then I would challenge them to write one consistent narrative incorporating all four gospel accounts. The details are wholly incompatible and only confuse the overall picture. They continue:
One of the seeming contradictions that bothers people concerns the time the women came to the tomb, related differently by John and Mark. Mark's account has the women coming to the tomb at the rising of the sun, while John states that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb when it was dark. This difficulty is solved when it is realized that the women had to walk quite some ditance to reach the grave, since they stayed in Jerusalem or Bethany. It was dark when they left the place in which they were staying, but when they arrived at the tomb the sun was beginning to shine. Therefore, Mark is speaking of their arrival, while John refers to their departure.
McDowell and Stewart are apparently having difficulty reading the English language. So, for their benefit I'll quote the exact words of Mark and John. "And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun (Mark 16:2)." "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre,...(John 20:1)." Clearly both accounts are referring to the time of their arrival, and their time of departure is of no consequence.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #17 from J.S. of Santa Barara, California
Dear Dennis. In reading your Biblical Errancy periodical (Issue #2, Feb. 1983) I found some glaring mistakes in your line of reasoning. For example, in your explanation of apologists, you claim that, "...the witnesses-at-an-auto-accident argument...is quite irrelevant since two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive versions of the same event cannot be simultaneous accurate. One or the other is false." (That's all J.S. said on this matter-ed)

Editor's Response to Letter #17
Yes, J.S. I did make such a statement. So where is my mistake? You forgot to say where I allegedly erred. I stand behind the statement and always will.

Letter #17 Continues
Furthermore, you claim that Matt. 8:1-2 supports the theory that the tomb was "closed when arrived." This, in fact, is not the case! A tomb is not even mentioned in either verse!! In your own line of reasoning, therefore, your periodical (or more directly you) must be a fallible source, and hence I should not use your "version" because it is false. Perhaps you will claim that it is a "copyist error," in which case, you owe an apology to the apologists and moreover to this Archer fellow; this is because in the four years I have taught Physics at College level, I have learned that it is at least as likely (if not more likely) to confuse 40,000 with 4,000 than 28 with 8.

Editor's Response Do you realize what you have done, J.S? You have written an entire letter because I made a typing error in my February issue. You are correct. Matt. 8:1-2 does not support the theory that the tomb was "closed when arrived" but Matt. 28:1-2 does. My typist left off the "2" on the number "28." So what are you trying to prove, that I am fallible? Of course I am. Do you know anyone who isn't? I've never claimed infallibility, but the Bible does. As I stated in the last issue (June 1983) of BE, the Bible is under the microscope, not its critics. It's claiming perfection, they aren't. The context of Matt. 8:1-2 in the February issue clearly shows Matt. 28:1-2 was intended. Have I criticized you, J.S., because you misspelled "explanation," capitalized "physics," and omitted a "the" in front of the word "college"? Moreover, you falsely stated I have a "version". In truth, I analyze the versions of others, but I don't advocate one of my own. What is my "version"? I'd be interested in knowing, since every version in existence has hundreds of problems. You read my entire second issue and only mention one typing error. If that is the best you can do, J.S., you have practically endorsed the February issue.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #18 from N.S. of Richmond, Indiana
Dear Dennis, First here's my three dollars for six issues of BE. I think it's wonderful! I'm an Agnostic, or Atheist, or whatever you wish to call me, but have had problems answering some of my Christian friends' arguments. I've always known they were wrong, and actually have pity on people who will not question what they read in the Bible. That's what first got me started. I never even opened a Bible till 4 or 5 years ago, and the more I read, the more I was astonished at the doubletalk and downright filth. I'm grateful to my parents, who weren't religious, that they weren't. Therefore I was able to see through this garbage (and I must call it this) for I had not been conditioned all my life. Incidentally, I'm no child, I'm 55. As you say, millions are only getting one side of the story, and what a pitiful story it is. Thanks again for something that's needed.

Editor's response to Letter #18
I see you agree with Thomas Paine, N.S. "Garbage," "filth," and "doubletalk" remind me of some of his comments: "Yet this is trash that the Church imposes upon the world as the WORD OF GOD; this is the collection of lies and contradictions called the HOLY BIBLE! this is rubbish called REVEALED RELIGION!"
The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Vol. 9, p.201.
"...but if thou trust to the book called the Scriptures thou trust to the rotten staff of fable and falsehood."
The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Vol. 9, p. 248

Letter #19 from S.S. of Vienna, Virginia
I have long been aware of God's atrocities in the Bible. If people will only take the trouble to READ the damned thing and let it speak for itself, then there could be no lingering doubt that the so-called "Word of God" is among the most profane and repulsive collections of writing ever to exist. I refer to the human sacrifices of Leviticus, Judges, and 2 Samuel; the sanctioning of slavery in Exodus and Leviticus; the selling of one's daughter, the killing of witches, death for heresy and violating the sabbath, all to be found in Exodus. And for all those Bible-thumping sexists out there, for unchastity at the time marriage--a PENALTY IMPOSED ONLY UPON WOMEN (Deut. 22:20-21)

And so far as the New Testament is concerned--it is a compendium of both historical and logical contradictions (read: S.G.F. Brandon, Joel Carmichael, or G.A. Wells) filled with paganism and old time superstition. Easter is named after the old goddess of Spring. Christmas falls upon the winter solstice, which is when the Saturnalia was formerly celebrated.

I could go on and on, as any good amateur Bible critic could do. The point is that the more carefully one reads the Bible, the more absurd and utterly ridiculous it becomes. Anyone who believes that the Bible is the word of some god cannot claim to be at all rational (to paraphrase Clarence Darrow); and what future is there in store for mankind if there is to be this disdain for rationality?

Please enter my subscription for six months.... Please keep up the excellent work you are doing. This country needs more freethinking, independent-minded people like you. Is it any wonder that the Bible warns that "the simple believe anything (Prov. 14:15)? Indeed, it takes a simple mind to swallow such worn-out fables and mythology as are found in the unholy-as-can-be Bible.

Editor's response to Letter #19
I see you also agree with Paine, who said:

People in general know not what wickedness there is in the pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! it is quite another thing, it is a book of lies, wickedness and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy, than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty.
(The Age of Reason, Paine, p.103)


Issue No. 8

August, 1983


COMMENTARY

Slavery--The Indianapolis Star, one of the most conservative newspapers in the nation, has always quoted 2 cor. 3:17, "Where the Spirit of Lord is, there is liberty," on the front of each and every issue. Yet, if the Bible were, indeed, the Word of God, as apologists allege, it would be difficult to find a comment more at variance with the facts. All of the following verses show the God of the Bible sanctioned, indeed, instituted slavery--the absence of liberty. "Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise (Deut. 15:17, KJV)." (In order to minimize the Bible's support for slavery, the King James translators used "servant" instead of "slave" in this verse and others. The RSV translators used "bondman." Any knowledgeable authority knows slaves are being discussed, and several versions, e.g. the NWT and Living Bible, are honest enough to admit as much.)

But to continue: "Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and you can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly ( Lev. 25:44-46, NIV)." "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property (Ex. 21:20-21, NIV)." "I (the Lord-ed) will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away (Joel 3:8, NIV)" (See also: Ex. 21:2-6, Deut. 15:12, 28:68, and Jer.27:8,12).

Apologists attempted to gloss over the situation by alleging these verses came from the God of the Old Testament and his laws, while the New Testament's God is supposedly one of love, liberty and compassion. If so, somebody forgot to tell Peter and Paul. The latter said: "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men....(Eph. 6:5-7, NIV)." "All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered (1 Tim. 6:1, NIV)." "Slaves, obey your earthy masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord (Col. 3:22, NIV)." "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,....(Titus 2:9, NIV)." Paul not only sanctions slavery but equates serving one's master with serving God. To serve one faithfully is to serve the other faithfully. Peter agrees with Paul: "Slaves, submit yourselves to your master with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also those who are harsh....Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:18,21, NIV)." Clearly, according to the Bible, the spirit of the Lord has little to do with liberty. If they were inseparable, God wouldn't be supporting the slavemasters. Confederate leaders during the Civil War were quite correct when they contended the Bible supported slavery. "...Let the gentleman go to Revalation to learn the decree of God--let him go to the Bible,.... I said that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible, authorized, regulated, and recognized from Genesis to Revelation.... Slavery existed then in the earliest ages, and among the chosen people of God; and in Revelation we are told that it shall exist till the end of time shall come. You find it in the Old and New Testament--in the prophecies, psalms, and the epistles of Paul; you find it recognized, sanctioned everywhere (Jefferson Davis by Rowland, Vol. I, p. 316-17)." The well-known reverend Alexander Campbell contended: "there is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral." However, biblical support justifies nothing. Slavery was no more right in 2,000 B.C. than in 2,000 A.D. Morality has not changed that much, regardless of cultural difference and time differentials.

Women--Any discussion of bondage and the Bible would be remiss if the Biblical role outlined for women was omitted. In both the Old and New Testaments women are assigned a position not appreciably different from that of domestic servants. Their status is demeaning, debilitating, and wholly incompatible with self-respect and confidence. Except for Mary, Eve, Ruth, Sarah, Rachel, and a few lesser figures, few biblical women have roles of significance, and even fewer are worthy of emulation. Eve, for example, is blamed for the creation of Original Sin. The Bible says as much: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (1 Tim. 2:12-14, NIV)." Is it any wonder that women's groups oppose this narrative? With his usual wit, Ingersoll once observed: "...nearly every religion has accounted for all the devilment in this world by the crime of woman. What a gallant thing that is! And if it is true, I had rather live with the woman I love in a world full of trouble, than to live in heaven with nothing but men (Ingersoll's Works, Vol. I, p.358)." One of the saddest and most perplexing dilemmas one can experience in modern society is confronting women who strongly believe and defend a book that so clearly assigns them a degrading and subservient status. How do you reach those who are defending a philosophy that is so totally opposed to their interests? To use the vernacular, the Bible is sexist and permeated with male supremacy, as the following verses show only to well: "...and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee (GEN> #:16)." "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man;.... (1 Cor. 11:3)." "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man (1 Cor. 11:9)." "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife.... Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husband in every thing (Eph. 5:22-24)." Anyone desiring more proof should read: Deut. 21:10-14, 24:1-4, Judges 5:30, Esther 1:20-22, Rom. 7:2, 1 Col. 3:18, Titus 2:4-5, 1 Peter 3:1, Lev. 12:2, 5, Gen. 3:20.

If these are not sufficient, there are more. The evidence is overwhelming. Apologists try to soft-pedal the entire matter, but facts are stubborn things. It isn't just Paul, but the entire Bible that's guilty. Is it any wonder that feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, once said: "The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling-blocks in the way of woman's emancipation (Free Thought Magazine, Vol. 14, 1896)." "I know of no other book that so fully teaches the subjection and degradation of women (Eight Years and More, Elizabeth C. Stanton, p. 395)." Not to be outdone, Ingersoll again displayed his wisdom by saying: "...it (the bible-ed) is not the friend of woman. They will find that the writers of that book, for the most part, speak of woman as a poor beast of burden, a serf, a drudge, a kind of necessary evil--as mere property (Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 12, p.43)." "As long as woman regards the Bible as the charter of her rights, she will be the slave of man. The Bible was not written by a woman. Within its lids there is nothing but humiliation and shame for her. She is regarded as the property of man.... She is as much below her husband, as her husband is below Christ (Ingersoll's Works, Vol. I, p. 396)." But, perhaps, George Foote made the most poignant comment of all: "It will be the proud boast of woman that she never contributed a line to the Bible."

In closing, it should be noted that the Bible sanctions the subservience of woman far more than it sanctions the slavery of blacks. Indeed, although many verses support slavery, none clearly prescribes white dominance over blacks.

Coping with Apologists--Although BE rarely goes outside the Bible to make observations, an occasional exception is warranted. Throughout the years I have noticed differing philosophies employed by those seeking to cope with defenders of the Bible. Generally speaking, they can be grouped into nine broad categories with some overlap. Each is worthy of note.

Paul, the Deceptive Disciple--No discussion of devious activity with respect to biblical figures would be complete without an extensive analysis of Paul. If, in fact, Paul wrote the Epistles, then no individual, other than Jesus, has had greater influence on the development of Christianity. Yet, his tendency to operate on expediency was unexcelled. He often made false statements, misquoted, and proved himself unworthy of trust. The following examples are only a fracttion of those available. In 1 Cor. 2:8 Paul said: "Which none of the princes of this world know; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." What princes crucified Jesus? He was killed by a mob and some soldiers. In Col. 1:23 Paul said: "...from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." Come now, Paul. At no time has every living person heard the gospel. Indeed, millions of people have come and gone without having had any contact whatever with the Bible. One of the great misquotes of Paul is found in Acts 20:35 where he says: "...ye ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." Nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus make such a statement. Paul's oratory apparently got away from him.

Paul, like Jesus, often ignored his own advice. For example, in Rom. 12:14 he said: "Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not." Yet, in Acts 23:3 he denounced someone by saying: "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall." In 1 Thess. 2:3 Paul says: "For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you." Yet, in 2 Cor. 12:16 he said: "Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery. In 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23 Paul says: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient." The allegedly moral Paul views himself as being a law unto himself. A different kind of problem is found in 1 Cor. 15:5, where Paul says: "And that he (Jesus-ed) was seen of Cephas (Peter-ed), then of the twelve." If true, this would mean there were 13 apostles, unless Peter was not an apostle. In 1 Cor. 10:8 Paul referred to a plague described in the Book of Numbers. He Stated: "...and fell in one day three and twenty thousand." Yet, Num. 25:9 clearly says the number was 24,000. "And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand (Numbers 25:9)." More will be said later about Paul's shortcomings.

REVIEWS

In The Bible Has the Answer, apologist Henry Morris of the Creation Research Society in San Diego, California, attempted to justify the role assigned to women by the Bible. Never one to mince words, he confronted the issue head-on, by stating at the outset: "Some go so far as accusing the Bible of perpetuating female bondage through its archaic teachings. This unfortunate charge is ironic, for the Bible alone offers the only true freedom for women or men. While pagan cultures contemporary with Old Testament Israel treated women as the lowest form of chattel property, the Bible exalts women who found fulfillment in many ways. For instance, Hannah's life centered on her family (1 Sam. 1-2); Miriam excelled as a prophetess (Ex. 15:20); Deborah achieved greatness as a judge, military leader and poet (Judges 5); Esther successfully led her people through intriguing political conspiracies (Esther 4-7); and Naomi and Ruth sold real estate (Ruth4:3-9). Women aided in the defence of Thebez, an unnamed woman turned the tide of that battle against the wicked aggressor, Abimelech (Judges 9:50-55)." (The Bible has the Answer, Henry Morris, p. 239-240). The weakness of Morris's position lies in the fact that the individuals selected not only have minor roles in the overall biblical scheme of things, but have been inaccurately portrayed. The biblical descriptions associated with each of those cited don't exalt women as much as they describe their actions. Hannah was a maid. She wasn't exalted but merely wanted to become pregnant. Miriam didn't prophesy anything; she merely played a timbrel and sang (RSV). Deborah was a judge, but nowhere does it say she was out of the ordinary. She wasn't a military leader either; she merely gave some advice to one. Esther's role resembled that of a soap-opera heroine rather than a leader of her people. Naomi not only sold real estate, but sold Ruth as well! (This was an exceptionally poor example for Morris to chose). And the unnamed woman merely killed the attacking general; she didn't turn the tide of battle, like Samson with a jawbone. The groping-for-straws aspect of Morris's examples only highlights the rather pathetic portrayal of women by the Bible. Two of the most famous biblical women, Eve and Mary, are assigned less than commanding roles. Eve is given the distinction of having brought sin into the world, hardly a worthy role-model, while Mary was little more than a conduit for Jesus' entry. As this month's Commentary showed, there is no basis whatever for Morris's contention that "the Bible alone offers the only true freedom for women." Indeed, the evidence clearly proves the contrary. Can he produce one biblical verse that exalts or elevates womanhood per se, that is, without making the elevation dependent upon the performance of an act of subservience? Morris continues: "Furthermore, there are no distinctions of sex regarding salvation by faith in Christ or one's position before God (Ibid. p. 240)". Although the Bible doesn't appear to make a distinction between males and females with regard to who is "saved," it clearly makes a distinction with regard to one's gender before God. Morris attempts to downplay the force of Paul's admonitions by quoting 1 Cor. 11:3, which states: "Within the Christian home, the man is the head of the woman (Ibid. p. 240)." But 1 Cor. 11:3 says nothing about a home, Christian or otherwise. Male superiority is not restricted to home; males are superior as shown by: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11:3)." Morris continues with: "Yet, the husband violates the Bible's instruction if he treats his wife as an inferior (Ibid. p.240)" and states this is found in 1 Cor. 11:11-12. In truth, the latter merely states man is born from a woman; nowhere is the husband told not to treat his wife as inferior. Morris's apologetic continues with an eye opener: "The wife has no less important or exalted a position than the husband, but hers is not as head of the home. Subjection, in Scripture, does not carry the connotation of inferiority (Ibid. p. 240)." How could subjection not mean inferiority? To prove this point, Morris quotes Eph. 5:22-25, which proves precisely the opposite! Wives are to be subject to their husbands: "the husband is head of his wife (Eph. 5:23)" clearly putting her in an inferior position. Morris then moves his apologetic to another defense with: "As in the home, so in the local church, women have a definable role (Ibid. p. 240)." It certainly couldn't amount to much in light of 1 Cor. 14:34, which says: "Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak." Morris attributes their demotion to Eve's duplicity. "The prohibition against women in church leadership seems to come as a judicial result from Eve's complicity in the first sin in Eden (Ibid. p. 241)." In other words, women are being denied leadership roles today because of what Eve did years ago. The innocent are being punished for what an ancestor did long ago. Again shifting the focus, Morris states: "Some have even called Paul an antiquated sexist, and have implied that his teachings on women's roles reflect his own sexual insecurity and misinformation. Obviously, those making such charges have a very low view of Scripture (Ibid. p. 241)." Regardless of what view critics may have of Scripture, where are they wrong in this analysis? Unless Morris has evidence to the contrary, he should not laugh off this view. It could be correct. Morris concludes his apologetic with a comment that merits little serious consideration: "The Bible does not prohibit women from enjoying equal opportunity legally, socially, or economically, nor does the Bible require Christian women to be submissive to all men (Ibid. p. 242)." To this, one can only say, Don't be absurd, of course it does. "...women should feel perfect liberty to take positions of authority over men in professional, business, or social contexts (Ibid.)." Before making this statement Morris should have read 1 Tim. 2:12, which says: " permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent (RSV)." Virtually every aspect of Morris's apologetic is in direct opposition to biblical teachings.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

A couple of readers questioned the use of "apologists," "apologetics." and "errancy." They should rest assured, however, that these are well-known terms in the realm of biblical analysis, and have not been manufactured by BE for pejorative purposes. Webster defines "apologetics" as: "the branch of theology having to do with the defense and proofs of Christianity", while an "apologist" is defined as "a person who writes or speaks in defense or justification of a doctrine." Both terms are appropriately followed by the word "apologize", which means to express regret for a fault, wrong, etc." Webster defines "errancy" as "the state or instance of erring, a tendency to err" while "inerrant" is defined as "making no mistakes; infallible." All three terms have been used for years. Indeed, Christian bookstores often have a section entitled "Apologetics" and a group of conservative biblical scholars calls their organization The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.
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