The Bible is not the Word of God.
Professor Bart Ehrman sets the scene for us; “The Bible is filled with discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable contradictions. Moses did not write the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not write the Gospels. There are other books that did not make it into the Bible that at one time or another were considered canonical – other Gospels, for example, allegedly written by Jesus’ followers Peter, Thomas, and Mary. The Exodus probably did not happen as described in the Old Testament. The conquest of the Promised Land is probably based on legend. The Gospels are at odds on numerous points and contain nonhistorical material. It is hard to know whether Moses ever existed and what, exactly, the historical Jesus taught. The historical narratives of the Old Testament are filled with legendary fabrications and the book of Acts in the New Testament contains historically unreliable information about the life and teachings of Paul. Many of the books of the New Testament are pseudonymous – written not by the apostles but by later writers claiming to be apostles. The list goes on." (Ehrman, 2009, pp. 5-6)
Contrary to the Bible's claims in Deuteronomy 31:24-26 and John 5:46-47, Moses (c. thirteenth century BCE) did not write Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy (Jones, 2005). These books are a collection of four subsequent sources (Harris, 2010):
- The Yahwist source (J): written c. 950 BCE
- The Elohist source (E): written c. 850 BCE
- The Deuteronomist (D): written c. 650 BCE
- The Priestly source (P): written c. 500 BCE
“Most contemporary scholars accept the view that the final work of editing the various sources into their present form must have been done sometime between the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and the career of the priest, Ezra (c. 450-398 BCE), depicted in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as imposing the laws of the Torah of Moses upon the Judean community” (Jones, 2005, p. 9234).
In their book The Bible Unearthed, Israel Finkelstein the Jacob M. Alkow Professor, of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel, and Neil Silberman reveal that no archaeological evidence has been found for many of the Old Testament’s claims:
“Much of what is commonly taken for granted as accurate history – the stories of the patriarchs, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, and even the saga of the glorious monarchy of David and Solomon – are, rather, the creative expressions of a powerful religious reform movement that flourished in the kingdom of Judah in the Late Iron Age” (Finkelstein & Silberman, 2002, p. 23). They date the Iron Age at 1150-586 BCE (Finkelstein & Silberman, 2002).
“The historical saga contained in the Bible – from Abraham’s encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses’ deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah – was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the imagination” (Finkelstein & Silberman, 2002, p. 1).
The Old Testament writings from Abraham to Solomon were not solely a brilliant product of the imagination. “Just as Egypt, India and China, Crete, Greece and Rome, the Germans and the Celts, inherited and restyled the civilizing legacy of the nuclear Near East, so too the authors of the Book of Genesis” (Campbell, 1962, p. 130).
Compare the Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis with the Old Testament Flood myth:
In the Epic of Atrahasis, the god Enlil becomes angry with mankind, Enlil convinces the other gods to destroy mankind with a flood but the god Enki favours Atrahasis telling him to build an ark; this allows Atrahasis to survive the flood with his family whilst saving a quantity of animals (Frymer-Kensky, 1977; Jones, 2005).
The Old Testament Flood myth was not solely a brilliant product of the imagination; no imagination is required when you're plagiarising other myths.
“A number of scholars have thought that actually there may have been some devastating flood that all but annihilated civilization in the area of the early cities, and some have even thought in their excavations they have discovered the evidence. However, the flood strata unearthed in the various Mesopotamian city sites do not correspond to one another in date. Those at Shuruppak and Uruk were laid down at the close of the Jemdet Nasr period, c. 3000 B.C., while that of Ur occurred at the close of the Obeid period, half a millennium before, and that of Kish two or three centuries later; so that each can be interpreted only as a local, not as a general Mesopotamian (let alone universal) catastrophe” (Campbell, 1962, p. 121).
“No flood deposits are found in third millennium strata, and Archbishop Usher’s date for the Flood of 2349 BC, which was calculated by using numbers in Genesis at face value and which did not recognize how highly schematic Biblical chronology is for such early times, is now out of the question” (Dalley, 1991, p. 5).
Numbers 23:19 is incorrect – God changed his mind in Jonah 3:10.
Numbers 23:19 – "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
Jonah 3:10 – "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."
Is God genocidal or compassionate?
1 Samuel 15:3 – "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."
Psalm 145:9 – "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."
Are the dead forgotten or awakened?
Ecclesiastes 9:5 – "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten."
Daniel 12:2 – "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting contempt."
How could God kill the firstborn of all livestock in Exodus 12:29 if they all died in Exodus 9:6?
Exodus 9:6 – "And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died."
Exodus 12:29 – "At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well."
To repeat Professor Ehrman's earlier statement, "Many of the books of the New Testament are pseudonymous – written not by the apostles but by later writers claiming to be apostles" (Ehrman, 2009, pp. 5-6). This is a commonly held view amongst New Testament scholars:
“Like all the gospels, our so-called Matthew was originally anonymous.” (Price, 2006, p. 114)
“The text itself of each Gospel is anonymous and its title represents what later tradition had to say about the identity of the author … the first Gospel was put together by an unknown Christian who utilized the Gospel of Mark, the Matthean collection, and other special sources.” (Metzger, 2003, p. 114)
“To refer to the author as Matthew is only a convention.” (Miller, 1995, p. 56)
“Thus, the ultimate author of Mark might well have been Basilides the Gnostic, with the “Ecclesiastical Redactor” none other than Polycarp of Smyrna.” (Price, 2006, p. 71)
“The text itself of each Gospel is anonymous and its title represents what later tradition had to say about the identity of the author.” (Metzger, 2003, p. 114)
“Most scholars use the traditional name “Mark” as a convenient way to refer to the anonymous writer. The actual name and gender of the author are not known.” (Miller, 1995, p. 10)
“The text itself, like all the gospels, is anonymous.” (Price, 2006, p. 493)
“The text itself of each Gospel is anonymous and its title represents what later tradition had to say about the identity of the author … Early tradition makes Luke a native of Antioch in Syria, and indicates that he became a Christian during the early decades of the expansion of the church among the Gentiles.” (Metzger, 2003, pp. 114-115)
“As for the vexing question of gospel authorship, we may immediately dismiss the claim that it was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.” (Price, 2006, p. 667)
“The text itself of each Gospel is anonymous and its title represents what later tradition had to say about the identity of the author … No simple solution to the problem of authorship is possible but it is probable that the Fourth Gospel preserves Palestinian reminiscences of Jesus’ ministry.” (Metzger, 2003, pp. 114-115)
“The author, like the three other “evangelists,” is anonymous and only a century later was identified with John, the son of Zebedee (and he with “the disciple Jesus loved most”).” (Miller, 1995, p. 198)
“All critical scholars write off the Book of Acts as basically fiction.” (Price, 2006, p. 1181)
What did Jesus say before he died?
John 19:30 - "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Luke 23:46 - “Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
At least one of the gospels is incorrect, according to the texts, Jesus said one of these specific phrases and then died immediately afterward, even if both phrases were said together, he could only die immediately after one of them. This means that at least one of the gospel authors is making content up.
What did Judas do with the betrayal money?
Matthew 27:5 - "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
Acts 1:18 - "With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.”
In Matthew, Judas throws his betrayal money into the temple, in Acts he uses it to buy a field. Once again, at least one of the documents is incorrect and the other is writing fiction. The observant reader will also notice that Judas hanged himself in Matthew, whereas he fell over and had his intestines burst out in Acts.
Who was Joseph's father?
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.”
In Matthew, Joseph's father is Jacob, in Luke, Joseph's father is Heli. Once again, at least one gospel is making content up because they cannot both be true.
Was Mary Magdalene present when the stone was rolled away?
Matthew 28:2,5,8 - “...Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it…The angel said to the woman, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified…So the women hurried away from the tomb…”
John 20:1,11-12 - “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw that two angels in white seated where Jesus’ body had been…”
In Matthew the stone is rolled away whilst Mary Magdalene is present, in John the stone had been rolled away prior to Mary Magdalene's arrival at the tomb. Once again, at least one gospel is making content up because they can't both be correct.
“Given the rapid expansion of the Christian church and the consequent demand for many copies of the Scriptures, the speedy multiplication of copies sometimes seemed more important than strict accuracy of detail." (Metzger, 2003, p. 327)
“... the early Christian texts were not being copied by professional scribes, at least in the first two or three centuries of the church, but simply by educated members of the Christian congregations who could do the job and were willing to do so, we can expect that in the earliest copies, especially, mistakes were commonly made in transcription. Indeed, we have solid evidence that this was the case ...” (Ehrman, 2005, p. 51)
In addition to inadvertent alterations, occasionally deliberate changes were introduced into the text. Thus, as the liturgy of the church and the ascetical practices of monastic communities became more highly developed, scribes would sometimes introduce changes into the text they were copying.” (Metzger, 2003, p. 327)
“The manuscripts of the New Testament preserve traces of two kinds of dogmatic alteration: those that involve the elimination or alteration of what was regarded as doctrinally unacceptable or inconvenient and those that introduce into the Scriptures “proof” for a favorite theological tenet or practice.” (Metzger & Ehrman, 2005, p. 266)
The oldest Gospel in our possession is a fragment of John labeled P-52 (Miller, 1995). It was written around 125 CE nearly 100 years after the death of Jesus. You can view all that's left of it below:
“... how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes – sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.” (Ehrman, 2005, p. 7)
- More Bible contradictions
- Two creation stories in Genesis
- Obsolete Bible Verses
- Strange Bible Verses
- Violent Bible Verses
- Marcion of Sinope
- Robert G. Ingersoll on the Bible
- Criticism of the Bible
- Biblical criticism
- Historical criticism
- Textual criticism
- Documentary hypothesis
- Influences on the Genesis creation narrative
- Historicity and origins of Abraham
- Origins of the Genesis Ark story
- Flood geology
- Gilgamesh flood myth
- The Exodus
- Historicity of the Battle of Jericho
- Historicity of Joshua
- Development of the Hebrew Bible canon
- Development of the New Testament canon
- Nag Hammadi library
- New Testament apocrypha
- Authorship of the Bible
- Campbell, J. (1962). Oriental Mythology: The Masks Of God. New York: Penguin.
- Dalley, S. (1991). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, And Others. Cary: Oxford University Press.
- Ehrman, B. D. (2009). Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them). New York: HarperOne.
- Ehrman, B. D. (2005). Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperCollins.
- Finkelstein, I., & Silberman, N. A. (2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. New York: Touchstone.
- Frymer-Kensky, T. (1977). The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9. The Biblical Archaeologist, 40 (4), 147-155.
- Harris, S. L. (2010). Understanding The Bible. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Jones, L. (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion. Farmington Hills, Michigan, USA: Thomson Gale.
- Metzger, B. M., & Ehrman, B. D. (2005). The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Metzger, B. M. (2003). The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (3rd ed.). Nashville: Abingdon Press.
- Miller, R. J. (Ed.). (1995). The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar's Version. Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press.
- Price, R. M. (2006). The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts. Salt Lake City: Signature Books.