Conversations: Scriptural Accuracy

It is often said that it is reasonable for people to believe that the Bible is the word of God because many of the events recounted in the New Testament confirm Old Testament prophecy.

A pathetic argument. Consider the following, how difficult would it have been for the Gospel writers to tell the story of Jesus’ life so as to make it conform to Old Testament prophecy? Wouldn’t it have been within the power of any mortal to write a book that confirms the predictions of a previous book? In fact, we know on the basis of textual evidence that this is what the Gospel writers did.

The writers of Luke and Matthew, for instance, declare that Mary conceived as a virgin, relying upon the Greek rendering of Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew text of Isaiah uses the word ‘alma’, however, which simply means “young woman,” without any implication of virginity.

Ironically, it seems all but certain that the dogma of the virgin birth, and much of the Christian world’s resulting anxiety about sex, was a product of a mistranslation from the Hebrew. Another strike against the doctrine of the virgin birth is that the other evangelists have not heard of it. Mark and John both appear uncomfortable with accusations of Jesus’ illegitimacy, but never mention his miraculous origins. Paul refers to Jesus as being “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” and “born of woman,” without referring to Mary’s virginity at all.

And the evangelists made other errors of scholarship. Matthew 27:9-10, for instance, claims to fulfil a saying that it attributes to Jeremiah. The saying actually appears in Zechariah 11:12-13.

The Gospels also contradict one another outright. John tells us that Jesus was crucified the day before the Passover meal was eaten; Mark says it happened the day after. In light of such discrepancies, how is it possible for people to believe that the Bible is perfect in all its parts?

And do they think of Muslims, Mormons, and Sikhs who ignore similar contradictions in their holy books? These faithful masses also say things like “the Holy Spirit has an eye only to substance and is not bound by words” (Luther). Does this make them even slightly more likely to accept their scriptures as the perfect word of the creator of the universe?

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 19-20)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

2 thoughts on “Conversations: Scriptural Accuracy

  1. The Gospels also contradict one another outright.

    The books of “Mark,” “Matthew” and “Luke” all give us the “fishers of men” story, but John, who was purported to BE one of those ‘fishers of men,’ unloading his boat on the Sea of Galilee, along with his brother, James, and Peter and his brother, Andrew, said it didn’t happen that way at all – that in fact, the four of them were followers of John the Baptist, and one day, John saw Jesus walking along the river bank and waded across to chat with him. He decided to spend the night with Jesus, and when he returned the next morning, he convinced the other three to come with him and follow Jesus.

  2. Here’s a case of blatant false reporting – at no point in the history of the Roman/Israeli relationship did an emperor ever call for a census that would have required the men of the country to travel to the home of a distant ancestor to be counted. Imagine the chaos, imagine the damage to the economy if all of the men shut down their work to travel to be tallied!

    So why was this story so important that a biblical author would resort to blatant falsehood? Simple:

    This is Migdal Edar. In times past, a series of such towers had been built as military outposts along significant roads to discourage robbers and raiders. It had been converted, by the time of Jesus, to a special place consecrated as the birthing site for sacrificial lambs. An expectant ewe was taken to a cavern beneath the tower, that was kept immaculately clean, for the birthing. Once the new lamb was born, it was important to protect him from injury, so he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lain in a manger until he could rest and gain some degree of strength in his legs. Sound familiar –?

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