1. Why The Bible Is Not Accurate
2. Testing The Bible Anonymous
3. Testing The Bible — Answer to Anon D Nicholls
4. Testing The Bible — Part 2 Anonymous
WHY THE BIBLE
IS NOT ACCURATE HISTORY
(Investigator 102, 2005 May)
There is a ‘school’ of thought in Christian circles, mainly from the fundamentalist side of religion, pushing the line that the recording of natural history and culturally selected supernatural history should be viewed in the same light. By sticking to a narrow set of criteria, with the discounting of relevant opposition to their hypothesis, they hope to persuade all and sundry of its correctness.
The main ‘error’ made is denial of strong human bias regarding religious affairs.
A second ‘error’, following on from that, is fudging the fact that the bulk of New Testament knowledge is obtained through biased religious writers well after the events. Ex biblical reference, again, well after the events, is fragmentary and has nothing convincing to say about the main contention, supernormality.
A third ‘error’ is the insinuation that the study of written history, as a science, can be as trustworthy as hard science.
A fourth ‘error’ is not following two accepted rules of historical study. They are: To treat reports of supernormal happenings with the greatest of scepticism and to be wary of written history that appears to be, or could have been ‘contrived’ or the result of legend etc.
Using the above ‘errors’, a circular argument is set up ‘proving’ the supernaturally orientated scriptures are accurate, therefore the events depicted in them are accurate and if the events are accurate then the supernatural parts of the scripture are true. This is rubbish of course.
But, we must revisit that which is in dispute. Anonymous states that transmission of the New Testament has accuracy beyond that of other historical works. The simple answer to this is: So what? It is a compilation of words concerning alleged supernormal events.
The date the New Testament, as it exists today, was compiled, is in dispute depending on which historian is telling the story. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has it that Irenaeus, just prior to 200 CE, used the four canonical gospels, 13 letters of Paul and various other NT writings. There is dispute about whether or not an original source ‘Q’ existed (And if so, when it was written?) or that Mark’s version was copied by the other later writers because of identical phrases. The final verses of Mark’s gospel are regarded as not original but a later addition. This certainly supports the idea that there is no exactness fitting the principles of conclusion through proper scientific investigation enough to be relied upon.
Small alterations to the missing originals, if they existed at all, could change the whole story. Oral recounting is notorious for the ‘Chinese whispers’ effect. It also allows plenty of scope for fraud, mistake or delusion. Excluded Gospels confuse the issue even greater.
So, what do we have? Most probably we have copies of copies, of oral reflection, telling a tale of the alleged supernormal with the original idea more than capable of being a myth made grandiose by legend as a result of hearsay and folk lore. We do not know if they are telling the alleged story as it was (A highly unlikely event), or it is laced with the addition of supportive embellishment, subtraction of contradictory notions or even if the alleged story is not the product of lunacy somewhere down the line. The delusion responsible for the 10,000 other religions makes this to be a very feasible assumption.
Ex Biblical historians after the time would have had access to hearsay accounts. To them, the events reported surrounding the Biblical times in question were but ancillary to natural historical recording. None give glowing accounts of the alleged supernormal occurrences and that is very telling.
Acknowledgment of the alleged events of NT writers, by non-aligned historians of and after the time, are only brief references, derived from hearsay, copied from other writers, unclear in content, agreed upon interpolations and are no where near conclusive. As an example we must discount Josephus’s ‘Antiquity of the Jews’ references of the ‘Messiah’ for two good reasons. It did not appear in the accounts of Josephus until the time of Eusebius in Constantine’s reign, nor did Origen make mention of it, and Josephus remained in the Jewish ‘faith’ despite acknowledging the ‘Messiah’. Was he insane? Anonymous makes a point that people can change. I ask then, why didn’t Josephus? And, why didn’t the Jewish nation?
No impartial historian of the time or after mentions the alleged darkness for three hours around the alleged Jesus’ death, (Something that would be difficult to miss) nor did they mention Saints coming out of their graves and going into town. (A remarkable omission again) None mentioned that a star hovered over the house of a particular establishment and that three wise men from the East had followed it. Stars do not hover over houses. If a star was that close to the Earth, it would evaporate in a fiery explosion. Those and other allegedly divine interventions were only reported by Biblical writers.
When studying natural history, apart from being ultra suspicious of supernormal allegations, historians, having no evidence other than that of supernaturally predisposed biblical writers, have no option than to disregard as fabrication that which is otherwise credibly unsupported. This is especially true if supernatural claims permeate the documents which are only contrived for that purpose.
Here is the crux as to where Anonymous blunders. The study of textual/literary history is a science, but more accurately it is only an attempt at gaining a practical understanding of the past. In fact, there is no obligation or compunction whatsoever on the part of anyone to accept such historical studies at face value. This is particularly true concerning ex NT ancillary accounts. The proof is that there is no consensus by non-partisan historians that the alleged supernormal events actually happened and indeed, there is contention as to whether the NT depicts accurately actual natural history.
So, where does this leave us? With an ex-Biblical unsupported, well after the alleged events, alleged supernatural story that has been passed down through the ages as though it is the truthful chronicle of a god visit.
Communion, a book about alien abduction, is historically correct, is from the time of the alleged occurrences and was not written many decades after them. It was written in an age of instant information, thus excluding oral exaggeration in the continual retelling. It was written in a time where illiteracy is the rarity instead of the norm. It was written in a time when scientific understanding in the Western World is beyond anything even dreamed about in the superstitious and scientifically ignorant New Testament days. It was written, not whilst the peoples allegedly involved were suppressed by the harsh rule of the Romans and clutching at straws for deliverance from them. It was written at a time and place where democracy and not poverty stricken tyranny shaped the opinions of the wretched. ‘Communion’ copies are near to being 100% transmission-ably accurate.
I do not accept that people have been abducted by aliens and experimented on; I would therefore be a fool to accept that the less historically worthy extant New Testament documents depict accurately the alleged supernatural actions of an alleged god. Both these instances, and their ardent supporters, fit well within the known about psychological profile for the capacity of humans to surrender to wishful-thinking.
Therefore, concerning the statement, ‘The transmission of the scriptures is reliable’; only one conclusion can be reached. The transmission may be reliable from date X but there is no credible reason to accept they correctly represent alleged events in toto before date X.
"Transmission reliable", is a meaningless phrase, one not worthy of the fanatically serious and contorted investigation afforded to it by those not convinced by ‘faith’ alone.
TESTING THE BIBLE
(Investigator 103, 2005 July)
David Nicholls listed five errors which, he says, Fundamentalist religion uses to set up a circular argument. (Investigator 102, p. 47)
I observe circularity too: Fundamentalists often support their disputed beliefs — such as Noah’s Flood — with "We have the testimony of Jesus" or "God was there and gave us a true written record." The "testimony" or "written record" is itself in The Bible and therefore assumes The Bible true prior to any proof.
Nicholls’ list of five errors do not apply to, or describe, what I do.
What I do when I investigate The Bible is look for statements that are testable. I go to the scientific literature to test them. I try to find out whether they’re correct or wrong as judged by current science.
Nicholls accuses the Bible writers of "strong human bias". "Bias" can mean that a writer presented points of interest to himself to the exclusion of other points. A writer can be "biased" in this sense and still be accurate. Alternatively, "Bias" can denote "distortion" and "presenting a false picture".
To determine whether the Bible writers distorted or falsified we need to investigate how accurate The Bible is.
That’s what I do. I investigate The Bible by seeking out whatever in it is testable, and find out what science says about it.
This process has proved hundreds of Bible statements correct including many previously considered false. That is, the science that seemed to disprove The Bible was itself often wrong and subsequent science confirmed the disputed statement. Much of this has appeared in Investigator Magazine and is on the website.
If The Bible does have hundreds of scientifically accurate statements and its critics regularly turn out wrong what do we make of it?
Could we reason inductively — could we generalize our findings — and predict the process will continue until The Bible is proved 100% correct and all its opponents wrong?
What about alleged activity of God i.e. alleged miracles reported in The Bible? If there is no God then obviously there were no miracles. If there is a God, miracles are possible.
What I do, is examine alleged miracles and see how much can be scientifically explained.
About 25 Bible miracles have been examined in Investigator by me — and a few more by Allan Brunt in the "Red Sea Crossing". Most "miracles" so far examined were rare natural events spectacularly timed so as to produce desired or predicted outcomes.
Nicholls doubts there was "darkness for three hours" when Jesus died and says no historian confirms it. (p. 49) This one I haven’t discussed before. But I see no problem in regarding it as a heavy cloud formation that took three hours to pass. Ancient historians did not record daily weather in Israel and so the non-confirmation of this point is not significant.
Nicholls also queries the "Saints coming out of their graves". This was explained in "Archaeology Supports The New Testament" (Investigator 25).
And the "Star of Bethlehem" was considered in No. 81 and No. 88 where I used computer software named "Skymap".
Nicholls (p. 49) tells us why he expects The Bible to be wrong:
A Christian might say it implies:
"All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy
"God…never lies". (Titus 1:2)
As for me, I dig for the facts to find out
whether statements in The Bible are true or false.
TESTING THE BIBLE —
Answer to Anonymous
(Investigator 104, 2005 September)
For Anonymous (Investigator No. 103) to argue coincidence of natural occurrence as a way of revelation has no basis in science whatsoever. How does one determine whether a coincidence is at play or was so ordained by an alleged supernatural power. The ‘believer’ will ‘believe’ supernatural control but a non-believing scientist will not make the same determination.
As for the Bible containing scientifically unknown information for the time, again, coincidence is the highest probability of the cause. The term, highest probability, in this case, is being kind to the utmost.
Using Anonymous’ hypotheses, The Arabian Nights, would be prophetic in demonstrating the voice-activated door only now a reality. (Open Sesame)
We have Leonardo Da Vinci’s helicopter drawing explaining vertical lift well before its time. Unfortunately, the large crossbow was a failure.
Then there is H G Wells landing on the moon well before NASA. The War of the Worlds, intelligent creatures attacking Earth from Mars, did not eventuate.
Of course, we cannot leave out Jules Verne. ‘A trip to the moon’ showed things to come well before their time. ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, is now known to be impossible or very difficult.
Humans have always had imagination and with enough written down, it is sure to strike a semblance of future reality sometimes. Reasonable thinkers call this coincidence.
Repeatable and testable science depends on facts and not coincidence. The Bible states that there was light and then the creation of the Sun. It states the Earth went back 10 degrees in Kings and was stationary in Joshua. It states the Saints walked and it is only the likes of Anonymous who would suggest the inerrant book really meant an Earthquake threw bodies out of the ground. To argue a star apparently ‘stood still’ over a particular house because of cloud formation is unscientific to the extreme.
All the above examples, biblical and otherwise,
are the result of humans entering fantasyland. I have nothing against a
sojourn in fantasyland now and then, but permanent residency is not good
for a healthy psychological disposition. I therefore now leave it, as a
TESTING THE BIBLE — PART 2
(Investigator 105, 2005 November)
David Nicholls (#104) says:
Actually I did not put it like that.
In my research I observe that many Bible "miracles" can be explained as natural events occurring at the right time to impact history and politics. Whether the "miracle" was coincidence or an activity of God is then a separate question — one that we can’t settle by experiment or observation. What I usually do is test testable statements in the Bible by reference to the scientific literature.
I’ve shown that the Bible has proved correct in hundreds of disputes, and sometimes modern science was revised rather than the Bible. We could therefore reason inductively, that is generalize the observed trend and predict that more of the Bible will be proved.
People trust and believe each other on flimsy grounds compared to evidence for the Bible. No human has turned out correct – as has the Bible – in hundreds of disagreements in science, ethics, history and theology across thousands of years. Whether H G Wells, Jules Verne, Leonardo Da Vinci or The Arabian Nights fit such a description I’ll leave to Nicholls to demonstrate.
Regarding the Star of Bethlehem. The Bible and history agree with planet positions given by the computer program "Skymap" — which I showed in #81 and #88. A star can point to a "place", even to a house if it’s a solitary house and cloud formations channel the starlight toward it.
What the observer sees may also be psychologically
predisposed. We need to remember that Bible statements on astronomy refer
to what people at ground level see, or would see, if they looked. And what
they see can sometimes be quite subjective.
Next I’ll discuss the "saints" who left their
tombs when Jesus died:
We’re dealing with an earthquake that occurred when Jesus died.
The Greek for arose is egiro which occurs about 140 times in the New Testament. In most instances egiro refers to rising from the dead. In some instances, however, it refers to rising up after sleeping, or standing after lying down, or lifting a sheep out of a pit (Matthew 12:11), or even to becoming prominent like in "false prophets shall arise and mislead many…"
Therefore I conclude the earthquake lifted or raised some dead "bodies" from their graves. Such an event also happened a few times in the 20th century. Floods can do this too. The 19th century saw occasions when heavy rain raised bodies out of shallow graves at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.
Verse 53 has several interpretations. Firstly, the phrase "came out of [or "from among"] the graves" may refer to people who saw the bodies and it’s these observers who "appeared to many". Verse 53 therefore tells how it’s known that the bodies "arose" — it’s known because observers "appeared" (and by implication reported it).
For another interpretation rearrange the
phrases as follows:
In this variation it’s the bodies that came out of the graves and then appeared "unto many" that is by "many" people seeing them. The word "who" is then implied so that again it’s the "many" observers who went into Jerusalem and reported what they saw.
The point to remember is that we’re dealing with the effects of an earthquake and one effect was that it raised or lifted some "bodies".