Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Is The Bible Inerrant?

Shortly after finishing "Why I Became An Atheist" I stumbled into the work of another man, who was to have a large influence on my thinking, namely Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman.  The first book I read, of Professor Ehrman's, was "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why", but later I would also read this one, this one, this one, this one, and my personal favorite, this one (although not in that order). 

It was Ehrman's work that was primarily, but not solely, responsible for changing my mind on a "major" theological issue...unbeknownst to me, it was only the first of many such changes to come.  You know an issue is considered "major" btw, among evangelical Christians (this is the world that I come from), if dissenters are branded as "heretics", or some such scary thing, by a significant portion of the community.  Rob Bell, for example, has recently crossed the line that divides "minor" (we're allowed to disagree on this and still be friends) and "major" (if you question this I'll say you're not a real Christian and are "leading others astray") evangelical Christian theology, with his recent book "Love Wins". 

I knew this was a big deal but, despite my best efforts to fight it, I had completely lost my belief in Biblical inerrancy. 

For a while, I tried to hang on to some sort of vague notion of the Bible being "inspired", instead of "inerrant", but eventually I just let go of that as well.  What does it really mean for a book to be "inspired" anyway?  I find all kinds of books "inspiring", but I don't think that God wrote them!

I'd like to simply list a few of the things that I was discovering about the Bible, at this point in my de-conversion journey.  If you click on the last word, of each point (below), it will take you to an example (or numerous) of each problem mentioned.  In the case of number's 7 and 8, I have linked to videos that feature Bart Ehrman himself, both of which are lengthy but well worth watching in their entirety...
  1. The Bible was altered
  2. The Bible contains lots and lots and lots of contradictions.
  3. The Bible tells many tall tales.
  4. The Bible's authors borrowed & adapted mythical stories from their surrounding cultures.
  5. The Bible contains mythical stories that literally millions of Christians (wrongly) believe to be true
  6. The Bible contains known historical inaccuracies.
  7. The Bible contains books that are forged.
  8. The Bible is, generally speaking, unreliable.
There are many, many other things I could have mentioned, such as the Bible's clear signs of legendary development (ie. in the resurrection accounts) and rampant superstition.  Later on, I hope to write at greater length on a few of these points, individually, especially as it pertains to their larger implications for Christianity.

What was most surprising to me, about all of this, was that I hadn't known any of it before.  I had spent my entire life in the church and never once, to my knowledge, had these difficulties even been mentioned, let alone addressed or challenged.  Any one of them should suffice, by itself, to demonstrate that the Bible is not inerrant.  Would God really allow so many mistakes in a book that He wrote (or even "inspired"!)?  Where was the evidence that the Bible is "the word of God"?  I was frantic to find it.

Besides, why would God not also see to it that the original manuscripts were preserved?  Even if the originals were "inspired", in some mysterious way, we don't have them.  What we have have, instead, are copies of copies of copies of copies...and if we know that some of these copies were changed, which we do (see point 1), than what about the changes scholars haven't yet discovered (or never will)?

All of these questions, and so many others, were racing through my head.  I could feel the earth shifting underneath my feet, and I knew that my faith was beginning to crumble.


  1. Even if someone tried to argue that this doesn't disprove the Bible (lol), there's no denying that for a book that is supposedly the one book the lord and creator of the universe gave humanity, it sure bears all the marks of something that people just made up.

  2. Respectful Atheist10 August 2011 at 16:48

    Exactly. And if our eternal destiny were to depend on having "faith", in the factual truth of certain claims that are recorded in this Bible (ie. the resurrection of Jesus), one would further expect this "lord and creator" to make the evidence pretty rock solid. Doesn't he desire that "no one should perish" but that all should "inherit eternal life"?

  3. Ah, but He also desires that all should believe in a vague 2000 year old historical event donchyaknow. Your free will is getting in the way! So God doesn't wish you to perish, He just wants you to turn off your brain in the process.

  4. I only recently discovered (a couple of years ago) the canonization of the Bible and how that process came about. Other than my close friend becoming an atheist this year, that was the other major event for me that caused me to start questioning my Christian faith.

    As a kid I was told the Bible was basically written by God (well, by men who were writing down exactly what God told them). To find out the books that were included in the Bible were essentially voted on and that there were many other texts that weren't included made me feel as though information was being hidden from me. It also took much of the "divine" aura out of the Bible for me as it now sounded much more like a man-made, democratically created book.

    Looking forward to digging more into your provided resources...

  5. Respectful Atheist15 August 2011 at 15:02

    Thanks for the note David. I've been exactly where you are, right now (and it wasn't that long ago for me). If you haven't yet read Bart Ehrman's "Jesus Interrupted" you should check it out. This book will lay the groundwork for much of your investigation.