Posts Tagged ‘Bible Contradictions’

Sunday Scripture

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Sunday Scripture-The Righteousness of Lot and the Levite

Following in the vein of the Dawkins clip two posts ago I thought we would take a look at the timelessness of biblical morality.  Remember the story:  Lot is found to be the only righteous person in Sodom and Gomorrah and so the Lord sends to angels to get Lot and his family the heck out of Dodge.  We’ll pick up the story in Genesis 19:

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.  when Lot saw them he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.,  And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on  your way.” 

So they accept his invitation and Lot prepared a feast for them and baked them unleavened bread.  This was part of the custom of Lot’s day.  It was considered extremely bad form to refuse hospitality to a visitor.  While they were eating the wicked men of Sodom caught wind of Lot’s two visitors.  Soon a mob surrounds the house composed of young and old men. 

and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

But Lot was a good man and refused the request and defended his two guests.  How did this righteous man of God do this?

But Lot when out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.  Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like;only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.

I will say that there isn’t a believer around who would condone Lot’s actions in this chapter.  But what bothers me about the verse is that nowhere is this action condemned by God or anyone else  in the bible.  Why would a righteous God who is so busy in the Old Testament judging humanity and other individuals for sins not condemn this action?  Other great men of the bible were punished greatly for far less transgressions.  And this is not the only time it happens.  Take a look a Judges chapter 19 for an absolutely horrific tale of a Levite surrendering his concubine to a similar mob.  The mob ravages her throughout the night and the concubine returns to the house and collapses at the door.  The kind, gentle Levite see her lying there and tells her to get up.  But when she doesn’t answer he places her on his donkey nd takes off.  When he gets back to his own place, he cuts her into twelve pieces and sends each piece to the twelve tribes of Israel as a message about the foul deeds of the men who committed this atrocity.  Chapter 20 continues the story of the righteous indignation of the Israelites against the men of Gibeah for what they did to the concubine and the murderous revenge they planned to inflict. 

Neither of these actions are condemned by God.  Neither is the fact that the Levite had a concubine in the first place.  Were these simply examples of otherwise righteous men who were themselves flawed and in need of the grace of God?  Why was this treatment of women tolerated by anyone let alone God?  Because the bible is not the written word of some god in the sky but rather a collection of writings reflecting the misogynistic culture of the time.  If any one today did these types of things in the name of religion they would rightly be convicted of murder and rape.  Being a flawed human being means having a temper, being selfish, or prideful or greedy.  Murdering, rape and genocide are examples of morally bankrupt criminals.

Sunday Scripture: The Ten Commandments

The Christian Right makes much about the importance of the Ten Commandments to American history.  For the right, it is important to them that the Ten Commandments be displayed prominently in public locations as they believe the displaying of the commandments is an acknowledgement of our nation’s dependence on God.  These displays have been viewed by the courts to be a violation of the establishment clause when displayed by themselves.  The right has viewed these court decisions as the further erosion of morality in America and the rejection of God from the public square.  The best case study of this was the insistence of Judge Roy Moore to display the commandments in the rotunda of his Alabama courthouse. 

What is interesting about the Ten Commandments is that there are two contradictory sets of commandments in the bible.  And the one that we traditional refer to as the Ten Commandments is not the one referred to as the Ten Commandments in the bible.  The first set is found in Exodus chapter 20.  This is the set that we are all familiar with and is the set that the Christian Right so vociferously demands be displayed in civic buildings across the country.  When you read the surrounding verses of this set, it almost seems as if these Ten Commandments were just inserted into the text.  They are somewhat out of place.  The verses do not say that this set was written on stone, not does this passage indicate anything about Moses smashing them after witnessing the idolatry of the Israelites.  In fact, it is not until Exodus 31:18 that God gives  Moses the tablets and it only says that the tablets contained the “testimony” written by the finger of God. 

This first set of commandments is repeated in Deuteronomy chapter 5.  It is here that Moses says that these were written on the two tablets of stone.  It does not say that these are the ones he smashed when he came down from the mountain but it is assumed that they are and that is a sound assumption.  This chapter still does not refer to these commandments as the Ten Commandments.  In Deuteronomy chapter 10, verses 1-5, God tells Moses to cut out two tablets of stone, come back up to the mountain, and that he will write on the tablets the words that were on the first set of tablets.  Here the commandments aren’t listed but they are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

Jump back now to Exodus chapter 34.  Here, just as in Deuteronomy chapter 10, God tells Moses to cut out two stone tablets, go back up to the mountain and he will rewrite the words on the new tablets that were on the old ones.  But the story changes around verse 14.  God starts to list the commandments again.  The first two are the same for the most part as the set we have been talking about.  But things start to get wierd at the third commandment, Keep the feast of unleavened bread.  The fourth commandments match up, remember the sabbath, the new fifth commandment becomes, observe the feast of weeks.  The new sixth commandment is now to have all males appear before God three times a year as opposed to not murdering in the original.  The seventh commandment goes from not committing adultery to not offering the blood of the sacrifice with leavened bread.  In the new eighth commandment we are told not to leave the sacrifice of the feast of the passover out overnight, instead of the original exhortation not to steal.  In the new number nine we are told to bring the first fruits into the house of the Lord, instead of not bearing false witness.  And finally, we are told not to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk instead of not coveting our neighbor’s possessions, which include his wife. 

Weird huh?  Well, it’s even weirder that this set in Exodus 34 is the one that is actually referred to as the ten commandments.  According to this chapter, this is the set that Moses placed in the Ark of the Covenant. 

So which set should we really be displaying if we want to honor the true ten commandments?  Once again, we see the selective way in which the bible must be read if it is to make any sense whatsoever in the minds of believers, which in the end is no sense at all.

Sunday Scripture

The Contradictory Creation Stories of Genesis

In a cheap ripoff of PZ Meyers’ Sunday Sacrilege I bring you Sunday Scripture.  A weekly examination of contradictions, and other problems found in the  Bible.

There has always been a debate about whether Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2 are two different and contradictory accounts of creation, or whether chapter 2 is just a more detailed account of the chapter 1 narrative.  In my fundamentalism I always took the second position, that chapter 2 is just a more detailed account.  However, if we really do just let the text speak for itself and not try to infer out of it meanings that are not there, we see that they are indeed contradictory.

In chapter 1 verses 9-13, the third day of creation, God creates the earth seas, and all vegetation. 

Then god said let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them, on the earth”; And it was so.  And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind;

Three days later on day 6, God creates man.  Now, if we move over to chapter 2, verse 5 we read ,

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate th ground.

God creates man in verse 7 and in verse 9, after the creation of man, we see that God causes,

to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food;

Notice in chapter 1, on the sixth day, animals were created and then man, but in chapter 2 verses 18-19, man is on the earth alone and God creates the animals so he would have a suitable helper.  The animals are created and then brought to Adam to be named. There are other minor discrepancies that really aren’t that significant.  These are the two I wanted to focus on. 

There are some interesting explanations by creationists for these contradictions, all involving a lot of inference, assumption and speculation.  I decided to go straight to the most “authoritative” source for an explanation of these discrepancies.  Answers in Genesis. 

Here is the page on the Answers in Genesis website that addresses many issues related to the Genesis accounts of creation and the flood.  About halfway down the page you will see this link, Genesis 1 and 2: refutation of alleged contradictions, which takes you offsite to a page that attempts to harmonize the two creation accounts. Here is the explanation that is offered for the contradiction between the two accounts of when vegetation was created,

The allegation is that whereas G1 has plants made before man, G2 has man-made before plants. But it is really rather simple to see that G2 indicates no such thing as is claimed, for the latter specifies that what did not exist yet were plants and herbs “of the field” — what field?

The Hebrew word here is sadeh, and where it is used of known geographic locations, refers to either a quite limited area of land, and/or a flat place suitable for agriculture, as opposed to the word used in 1:11, “earth”, which is ‘erets — a word which has much broader geographic connotations.

See for example:

  • Gen. 23:12-13: “And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land [‘erets], saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field [sadeh]; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.”
  • Ex. 9:22 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land [‘erets] of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field [sadeh], throughout the land [‘erets] of Egypt.”
  • Lev. 25:2-3, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land [‘erets] which I give you, then shall the land [‘erets] keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field [sadeh], and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof…”)A key to understanding what is being described here is that verse 2:5 goes on to explain WHY there were no “plants of the field” — because a) there was no rain upon the earth, and b) there was no man to work the earth — the two key elements for agriculture according to the ancient mindset. Thus, what this passage indicates is that there was as yet no organized agriculture, and that makes sense of the verses following, where God specifically plants the garden of Eden and places man to tend to it.
  • G2 is not indicating that there were no plants created yet at all, but that a special place was set aside for the foundation of agriculture and for plants “of the field” to be developed. (This idea of Eden as a special place set aside shall come into play as we progress.)

    Here is my problem with this explanation.  How the hell is someone with no knowledge of Hebrew supposed to figure this out.  If the scriptures really are inspired by God, why would he inspire them in such a way, that the only way to really know what he said, is to have an understanding of the original languages the scriptures were written in.  Surely in his omniscience he would have been able to see the problems this would create for his people. 

    Secondly if this really does refer to agriculture, what is the deal with the  plants and fruit that God created in chapter 1.  If there were fruit trees all over the place why would Adam need agriculture to grow food.  There also seems to be an emphasison seeds in the first chapter as well.  How do we know these seeds aren’t already referring to agriculture.  It seems that Adam either didn’t need agriculture for food or that agriculture existed prior to chapter 2.  Either way, the agriculture explanation is a huge leap in logic that is only justified by a person’s insistence on keeping Genesis 1 and 2 literal accounts of the same event. 

    Now lets take a look at the issue of when animals were created.  You will have to go the link above and read the explanation for this one yourself because it is way to long to quote here.  In short, the writer uses the same type of argument, minutely examining the verb tense of the word formed in chapter 2 verse 19.  Like the first explanation it is a convoluted attempt to massage the meaning you want out of the text by getting into an overly technical explanation of Hebrew.  And like the first I feel the same way about it. 

    This ridiculous parsing of obscure verb tenses is common, and not just in relation to creation.  This technique is used in almost all theological debates and can get outrageously technical.  It eventually became a  point of disillusionment for me that contributed to my cynicism.  I felt that God would never have allowed his word to hinge on such obscure and subjective interpretations of Greek and Hebrew.  Now I look back on this and realize it was just another step in my eventual realization that you could you make the Bible mean anything you wanted it to mean.  And if you could do that, then it really didn’t mean anything at all.

    Post-Easter Analysis

    Have you read the resurrection stories and then listed out the events that each of the gospels describe side by side and tried to harmonize the stories.  Here are some problems you will run into. 

    1. What day did Jesus die on?  This is still quite a topic for debate.  In Mark Jesus dies on the Day of Preparation for the Sabbath, which is Friday before sundown.  In John, Jesus dies on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, Thursday before sundown.
    2. Who bought the Potter’s Field and how did Judas die? In Matthew Judas feels remorse and returns the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests.  He went and hanged himself and the chief priests took the 30 pieces of silver and bought the Potter’s Field.  In Acts Judas acquires the field with the 30 pieces of silver and somewhere he falls and his intestines burst out. 
    3. Who was at the tomb on the day of resurrection?  In Matthew it is Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, In Mark it is Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Solome.  In Luke it is Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women.  In John only Mary Magdalene is mentioned. 
    4. Where was the stone that was placed in front of the tomb entrance when the women arrived?  In Matthew the women find it rolled away and an angel sitting on it.  In Mark it is already rolled away but the angel is not on top of the stone but rather inside the tomb.  In Luke, they find it rolled away, they walk into the tomb and find it empty, all of a sudden two men appear next to them.  In John, Mary Magdalene finds the stone rolled away, leaves to tell Peter and John, they all come back and Peter runs into the tomb .  Mary is outside the tomb but looks in and sees tow angels.
    5. What do the angels tell the women?  In Matthew the angel says that Jesus is risen and is on his way to Galilee.  In Mark, the angle tells the women to go and tell the disciples to go and see Jesus in Galilee.  In Luke, the angles don’t tell the women to do anything, and in John the angles say nothing.
    6. When was the temple curtain torn in two?  In Mark the curtain is torn after Jesus breathes his last.  In Luke, the curtain is torn before Jesus breathes his last breath.

    There have been some pretty interesting attempts to harmonize these.  All presume a lot and have little evidence from the texts to back them up.