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March 18, 2006 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Biblical Errancy. Complete with an Index of Biblical Citations.
posted by The Jesse Helms (47 comments total)

 
Probably the most important thing on that site, from the issue in which he announces the publication's end:

Moreover, the kind of opposition you receive is often commensurate with the manner in which you project your ideas and beliefs. Referring to biblicists and religionists as ignorant, brainwashed idiots wallowing in a sea of fantasies, dreams, and stupidities will more than likely generate resentment and comparable responses rather than objective, serious contemplation. That kind of language is a direct threat to egos and self-concepts and is bound to foster antagonism and hatred. Embarking upon an ego-trip to vent your frustrations and disgust may create feelings of satisfaction and euphoria, but it is unlikely to materially alter the beliefs of anyone. One can expect walls rather than bridges to arise in abundance with all the accompanying rhetoric, threats, and vituperation. We have always worked on the theory that opponents who are buried in a mountain of facts and data don't have time or interest in becoming ominous or menacing. They are too busy thinking about what you are saying to contemplate more bestial devices.

A lesson I should probably learn.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2006


Also see CARM.org's Bible Difficulties index, and Tektonic Ministry's List of Bible Contradictions Beaten to a Pulp.
posted by brownpau at 9:24 AM on March 18, 2006


I can see why someone would compile such a list, and how it could be helpful in responding to proselytizing Christians. But if these sorts of point-by-point lists aren't linked with a broader frame of reference, they're ultimate value is limited.

These sorts of inconsistencies and inaccuracies should be presented to biblical fundamentalists as evidence of a text which developed in time, over generations, and through the efforts of human authors and interpreters. Historicism, imperfect though it may be, is the only heuristic which accounts for these inconsistencies. Every intellectually responsible believer I've ever met has been obliged to grapple with a concept of divine revelation which is bounded by historical time and human imperfection.

The point is that biblical literalists believe what they do because it provides them with a sense of security, a pivot in an otherwise maddeningly contingent cosmos. Leading them into the Enlightenment is going to take something more than a rote list of contradictions.

Even Spinoza didn't reject the Bible as a document capable of disclosing moral truth. He merely demonstrated that the plurality of interpretations in circulation were evidence of its fundamental contingency. But Spinoza did so in the course of advocating a new, transcendent human subjectivity. Unless it's joined with this project (ever more incomplete in our days), another enumeration of biblical inaccuracy is nothing but "vanity and chasing after wind."
posted by felix betachat at 9:28 AM on March 18, 2006


"List of bible contradictions beaten to a pulp"

Heh. And they call atheists "sophomoric".
posted by Decani at 9:35 AM on March 18, 2006


Referring to biblicists and religionists asReferring to biblicists and religionists as ignorant, brainwashed idiots wallowing in a sea of fantasies, dreams, and stupidities will more than likely generate resentment and comparable responses rather than objective, serious contemplation.

Assuming you actually want to objectively, seriously contemplate that they're not ignorant, brainwashed idiots wallowing in a sea of fantasies, dreams, and stupidities.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:36 AM on March 18, 2006


Oh goodie, a link to Carm. I never get tired of Matt Slick's rationalization for the war crimes against the Midianites:

Some may object that the Israelites then married the virgins, the daughters of those whom they had killed and that this would be a horrible thing for the virgins. Perhaps it was a horrible thing for them. But, their lives were spared. Also, in that culture at that time, warfare and plunder was a necessary evil. The reality of taking women as wives was unfortunate but true.

Christianity: your source for Moral Relativism™
posted by fleetmouse at 9:50 AM on March 18, 2006


I'm almost finished reading the Old Testament (I'm in Hosea) and despite the problems inherent with translating a book of different languages over centuries in less than ideal circumstances, I still know the Bible is true beyond a doubt.

The Bible isn't perfect. It has errors. However, the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect and you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history.
posted by rinkjustice at 9:53 AM on March 18, 2006


Truly an American icon.
posted by brownpau at 9:56 AM on March 18, 2006


I love the "It's a contradiction/no it isn't" argument mainly because it's a red herring which helps distract from the key point about the type of slack-witted anus (oops! There I go!) who sets any store by the Bible as a source of "truth". That point being that you have to be pretty seriously dim, intellectually craven and/or needy to believe obviously nonsensical things simply because an old book says they're so.
posted by Decani at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2006


the Bible is true beyond a doubt.

The Bible isn't perfect. It has errors.


Nice brain you got there.
posted by nicwolff at 10:05 AM on March 18, 2006


Metafilter: vanity and chasing after wind.
posted by Rumple at 10:15 AM on March 18, 2006


"The cynic’s vanity—the one which gives him license to be scornful where other men delight—is the assumption that he knows the inner workings of things."

--John Myers Myers


On preview: Rumple beat me to the V word.
posted by tkolar at 10:23 AM on March 18, 2006


you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history.

Yes. The Bible as a historical record may or may not be consistent, and as a system of moral beliefs it may or may not be complete. We know (Godel) that it can't be both. But it has affected more people on a profound personal level than probably any other book in history. Except for maybe the Quran. I say that this makes it true. In a certain way.
posted by Laugh_track at 10:33 AM on March 18, 2006


you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history.

Well, assuming you mean history since the New Testament was written down, The Communist Manifesto comes close. Not to mention the Koran.
posted by jack_mo at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2006


The point is that biblical literalists believe what they do because it provides them with a sense of security, a pivot in an otherwise maddeningly contingent cosmos. Leading them into the Enlightenment is going to take something more than a rote list of contradictions.

The original quote makes the same mistake about their innocence and abilities We are where we are today because of these arrogant assumptions about religion. Any serious literalist is brain damaged or otherwise lacking something normal in their genes, but yet they all have a common delusional footing. The point is to not assume we can change them at all, because their books and their religious franchises are never going away. The goal is to never let them have control or power over us based on their dogmatic assumptions. We only need to show the undecided how absurd it is, and that doesn't mean acknowledging it as a pacifying or useful crutch. We shouldn't assume they are both neutral and antagonistic at the same time.
posted by Brian B. at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2006


The Skeptic's Annotated Bible is rather good as well, and also comes in Mormon and Qur-an flavors.
posted by CRM114 at 10:42 AM on March 18, 2006


the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect

What exactly does that mean. Seriously.

you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history

The Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition were pretty profound -- and not in a good way. Organized Christianity has had a pretty checkered past. For every Thomas Merton we get stuck with a Jerry Falwell.

...it's about the message (love), not the messenger (Jesus). But the loudest proponents of Christianity seem stuck on using the messenger as a cudgel to beat other folks over the head with -- including debating the minutae of a translation of an old book with an outdated world view.

But the bible is not without it's merits. IMHO, the only interesting translation of the bible is "The Message -- Remix." Check it out...along with the writings of other religions.
posted by bim at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2006


Most lists of Biblical errors are too long. In an effort of produce a formidable pile of errors, they include inconsistencies that may be explainable from context, or by the simple precept that God may authorize exceptions to some of his rules in some instances.

Then when believers show that a few errors are not necessarily such a big deal, the remainder of the list of error (too long to discuss point by point) can be dismissed by believers as well.
posted by washburn at 10:47 AM on March 18, 2006


You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place
--- attributed to Johnathan Swift
posted by kcds at 10:50 AM on March 18, 2006


Errancy in this type of text (which is largely unique from what we are taught to read) mostly depends on your approach to it.

McKinsey approaches the Bible almost as if it were a novel and expects the types of criticism used for those types of works to carry over. What particularly caught my attention is when he claims after citing six or so resurrections over the course of the Bible's entire timeline, "By the time Christ rose from the dead this was a rather common occurrance." Common within the text maybe, but fairly rare when you open up the scope of the record.

Even then, McKinsey doesn't seem particularly adept at analyzing a text even in his own framework. He seems oblivious to the simple notion that the importance of the resurrection of Jesus was not that it was the resurrection of Jesus, but that is was the resurrection of Jesus. Of course in his defense, neither do the Christians he mentions speaking with in the piece.

Most (Christian) theological approaches to the Bible can handle the so-called errors smoothly.

However, given that our understanding of theology in, at least, American culture is so weak (probably because the most powerful Christian sects also have the most abyssmal leadership), a large chunk of Christians handle these issues like an android from Upright Citizens Brigade would. So, by all means, lay in. But that doesn't mean you've discovered the secret destruct button for Christianity; you're just pestering those who really don't care about this kind of thing anyway.
posted by pokermonk at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2006


We are where we are today because of these arrogant assumptions about religion.

Where exactly are we today?
posted by pokermonk at 10:59 AM on March 18, 2006


you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history

I most certainly CAN. I am always amused at how so many Christians seem to think that nothing important happened before Christ. It was only 2000 years ago. We find a lot of evidence for civilized human presence as far back as 10,000 years or more. But lets just sweep away the Torah, the Koran, I Ching, the Hindu Veda.

The Hindu Veda practically invented scientific inquiry. And while European Christians were wallowing in their own shit and dying of plague in the Dark Ages, Islamic people were enjoying a much more enlightened society and a much higher level of technology. Much of that was lost when ignorant Crusaders came and burned down the great library of Alexandria. Way to go Christianity! Destroyed the epicenter of enlightened thought and scientific knowledge of the ancient world. Why? Because some unclean heathens (They were actually cleaner since they invented modern soap) were having too much fun without Jesus?
The tables have turned on that front and who can guess why? Now it is the Islamic nations who tend towards radical religious zealotry compared to Western nations. And also Western nations who excel at scientific progress and enlightened exchange of ideas. Anyone else see a pattern here?
posted by Farengast at 11:02 AM on March 18, 2006


Where exactly are we today?

I would say on the brink of environmental collapse, global religious warfare and internal social demonization. The statement assumed a fundamentalist surge. I realize that some credit the dark ages with a run-up to progress.
posted by Brian B. at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2006


However, the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect and you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history.

Yes I can. See? Here I go:

I deny that.

It was pretty easy. Now you try.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:32 AM on March 18, 2006


Psh, you claim the bible isn't perfect and yet your science textbooks are replaced EVERY YEAR. When was the bible last replaced, huh!?
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2006


Calm and composed
Let us Awaken to our True Self
Become fully compassionate humans
Make full use of our abilities
According to our respective vocations
Discern suffering
Both individual and social
And its sources
Recognize the right direction
In which history should proceed
Joining hands as kin
Beyond the differences of
Race, nation or class
Let us, with compassion
Vow to bring to realization
Our deep desire
For emancipation
And construct a world in which
All can live truly and fully.

"Vow of Humanity" from the Sutra of Vimalakirti, from a talk by Hisamatsu Shin'ichi, who goes on to say:
"The Vimalakirti Sutra seems to have been composed six years after [Buddha] Shakyamuni's death, at the beginning of the second century C. E. As a matter of historical fact, we cannot be certain whether Shakyamuni or Vimalakirti really said what is recorded in the sutra. But rather than focus on this problem of historical facts, let us focus on the content itself. I consider myself a Buddhist, but I neither approve of Shakyamuni's words nor think they are true simply because he is supposed to have said them. And, to be frank, I don't want to assume such things at all. My attitude is one of agreeing with what he said if it really convinces me, and if it doesn't, I will continue to doubt. Even if I am doubtful, however, I will never insist that only my view is correct. I think I am flexible enough to learn from the sutras where I am wrong or my understanding is insufficient."

Disclaimer: No martyrs were created in the production of this wisdom.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:12 PM on March 18, 2006


You know, I'm not entuirely sure that religions don't do *better* the more silly and self contradictory they are. Certainly no-one has ever given up on a religious beleif just because it was illogical.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on March 18, 2006


You can keep your bibble. I'll stick to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, thanks.
posted by stenseng at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2006


Amusingly, the bit where I respond with some of the lunacy in this thread with a one-word summary ("Fool.") has been deleted (or I fubared my posting.)

But that's okay, because the more verbose of you have hammered that point in time and again. Different words (and many more of them!) but same conclusion.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2006


the bit where I respond with some of the lunacy in this thread with a one-word summary ("Fool.") has been deleted (or I fubared my posting.)

You were deleted. I remember reading the post.

I'll stick to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, thanks.

Unfortunately, we can't seem to get GWB to stick to these.
posted by bim at 12:28 PM on March 18, 2006


Artw
You think anyone has tried to make a religion out of quantum physics? If your proposal is true, we could start the most successful religion ever!
posted by Richard Daly at 12:29 PM on March 18, 2006


I can't believe there are so many people who still don't get that people wrote the bible--a bunch of people, over time.

It doesn't take away from the lessons it gives, or the things you can derive from it--at all.

God gave us brains and reasoning skills for a reason--we have a responsibility to use them.
posted by amberglow at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2006


It doesn't take away from the lessons it gives, or the things you can derive from it--at all.


And some great lessons it gives! Your kid talks back to you -- kill the little fucker. Want to own slaves -- sure thing! Someone rapes your daughter -- just get some money from him and make him marry her. Who gives a shit what she feels or wants or thinks about the matter?
posted by c13 at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2006


Laugh_track: "The Bible as a historical record may or may not be consistent, and as a system of moral beliefs it may or may not be complete. We know (Godel) that it can't be both."

Your non-sequitur reference to Gödel makes baby Jesus cry.
posted by dilettanti at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2006


Much of that was lost when ignorant Crusaders came and burned down the great library of Alexandria. Way to go Christianity! Destroyed the epicenter of enlightened thought and scientific knowledge of the ancient world. Why? Because some unclean heathens (They were actually cleaner since they invented modern soap) were having too much fun without Jesus?

The Crusaders had nothing to do with the burning of the Library of Alexandria. It was gone long before them, although exactly who destroyed it is unclear. Caesar burned it, although it was probably rebuilt. Sometimes the death of Hypatia is associated with its destruction, although there's no direct evidence for it. Bishop Gregory Bar Hebræus said that the Caliph Omar, when he took the city, ordered it to be burned. In any event, it's not the Crusaders, although it might be 4th century Coptic Christians.

http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/articles/ArticleView.cfm?AID=9
posted by dd42 at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2006


And some great lessons it gives! Your kid talks back to you -- kill the little fucker. Want to own slaves -- sure thing! Someone rapes your daughter -- just get some money from him and make him marry her. Who gives a shit what she feels or wants or thinks about the matter?

ok, "some of the lessons and some of the things"--ok?
posted by amberglow at 3:40 PM on March 18, 2006


Thanks, dd42. I didn't mean Crusaders like from the Crusades. Just European Christian invaders. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by Farengast at 4:57 PM on March 18, 2006


related, Miami Herald columnist: ... Put simply, I've had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.
By which I mean people like you, who dress their homophobia up in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says.
And never mind that the Bible also says it is 'disgraceful' for a woman to speak out in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband. Never mind that the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death. Never mind that the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.
I'm going to speculate that you don't observe or support those commands. Which says to me that yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you'd be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside.
As such, your claim that God sanctions your homophobia is the moral equivalent of Flip Wilson's old claim that the devil made him do it.
You resemble many of your and my co-religionists, whose faith so often expresses itself in an obsessive focus on one or two hot-button issues -- and seemingly nowhere else. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:29 PM on March 18, 2006


rinkjustice writes "However, the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect and you can't deny that the precepts of the Bible have affected humankind more profoundly than any other document in history."


Yeah, burning the library of Alexandria and the lynching of Hypatia probably stalled science for a millennium. Thanks, Jesus.
posted by orthogonality at 7:14 PM on March 18, 2006


Hey, Jesus was cool. It was that asshat Paul who hijacked the church that's to blame. Well, him and the legions of asshats who used the church's power to do evil.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on March 18, 2006


You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place
--- attributed to Johnathan Swift
posted by kcds at 12:50 PM CST on March 18 [!]


I think you should post that to every thread on MeFi.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:54 PM on March 18, 2006


Damn, I'm trying to remember / look up one of my favorite Old Testament atrocities, and can't narrow it down. Maybe one of you scholars can help: The Israelites are in a bloody war (again) with some tribe / city or another. There's a surrender. The "enemy" agrees that all men will be circumcised and convert to the current Hebrew god (there are many Hebrew gods in the OT). And after a few days, "when they were sore" ... oh hang on, I think that's the money quote.

There we go: Genesis 34.

All right, so it starts with this one non-Hebrew prince dude raping an Israeli gal. And then he wants to marry her, as is the custom with these Bible cavemen – all romance, all the time. So Jacob makes a deal, sure, but the prince has to cut off the top of that penis if he wants to be part of the family ... oh, and all his adult men have to suffer the same mutilation.

So they do it, the fools. And then when they're all down with The Pain, Jacob's gang slews all of them. And takes all the wives & daughters and rapes the hell out of those gals. And then takes whatever else is left, like the city.

Ah, the OT. Nothing but the Thug Life.

I do love the Bible -- one of the Top Ten religious texts, to be sure -- but it is difficult to believe the majority of Christians understand any of that psychotic paranormal melodrama. (Plus, all the good stories were lifted from older histories like the Babylonian & Syrian tales. Thieving Jehovah nuts.)
posted by kenlayne at 9:36 PM on March 18, 2006


Hmm, thought I pop by good old mefi for a look-see and yup, sure enough: we still got the literalist reader vs believer matchup happening.

Ok, to understand belief in the Bible ya gotta understand what it all means to people, what it means to their actual lives, how it relates to them (very) personally.

Let's see, how about the zen thing, goes something like: zen teaching itself is not the object, it's like a finger pointing at the moon - so forget the finger! Get past the finger! Look up!
posted by scheptech at 1:20 AM on March 19, 2006


Burning the Library at Alexandrea and such...

There's an interesting story in today's New York Times about the play Farenheit 451. I haven't read the book, but I think I should.

Named for the temperature at which paper ignites, the novel depicts a near-future society in which firemen don't extinguish fires but instead burn books, and where the complacent populace, numbed by nonstop television and advertising, seems all too eager to embrace enforced ignorance. Suicide, abortion and teenage violence run rampant. Politics are a joke. And somewhere in the white-noise background, there's a war on.
posted by bim at 7:22 AM on March 19, 2006


The level of insanity in this thread makes it hard to comment, although some good points have been made. It proves once again the validity of the (almost completely ignored) quote at the beginning. Narrow mindedness is narrow mindedness, no matter on which side it occurs. This debate misses the whole point of the bible, that it is not about the letter of the law but about the spirit of the law.

For those who say the bible is one of "the top ten religious texts," then why not treat it with the same respect that you give to these other texts? It is hard to imagine the same level of vituperation being directed at any other religion, Judaism, Islam, Buddism, etc., as has been directed against Christianity in this thread. Funny how political correctness doesn't extend to Christianity...

Those who say take the message but reject the Messenger (Jesus) betray an utter lack of knowledge of the bible. Jesus is the message. Period. That doesn't even have to be any religious statement; any basic literary analysis will tell you that.

And before you respond with any of the usual tired lame excuses about fundamentalist dominance, think about it. You can believe whatever you want to believe, but one of the first principles of any kind of enlightenment is that you have to at least respect and give right to others' beliefs as well. This would apply no matter which side you are on.
posted by blue shadows at 11:39 PM on March 19, 2006


Funny how political correctness doesn't extend to Christianity...

Funny how the vituperation is directed at the only religion that is seriously affecting our ability to live free lives in this country.

I'll respect and give rights to others' beliefs only so far as they, mine. And right now, the Christian politicists are pissin' on my rights. When they FO, I'll cut them slack.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:27 AM on March 20, 2006


For more on Biblical accuracy also read Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman.
posted by nofundy at 7:33 AM on March 20, 2006


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