Bible contradictions: why they matter, and why they don’t

This has been out for a while now, but here’s a stunning chart commissioned for Project Reason by Sam Harris attempting to map out contradictions in factual claims of the Bible. It was apparently based on a very different project by someone mapping out correlations and connections in the Bible.

See the entire PDF.

Explains Suzanne Labarre,

The organization here is pretty simple. You’ve got bars at the bottom representing the 1,189 verses of the King James Bible. White’s for the Old Testament, gray’s for the New Testament. Then a red arc links all the verses that contradict each other.

I haven’t checked all these out. Labarre cites as an example conflicting testimony as to Abraham’s age when Ishmael was born. I imagine that several of these contradictions are only apparent, and that a great number more of them will be treated as though there were only apparent by inerrantists.

This chart was no doubt intended to be paraded about as a great reason to dismiss the Bible altogether, but that’s unnecessarily reactionary. How foolish we’d be if we distrusted and discarded every thing in this life which could be shown to be fallible (cars, anyone?).

All of these sorts of conflict come as no surprise to those of us who reject inerrancy, and shouldn’t trouble anyone who recognizes the organic nature of the Bible’s construction. I agree with Thom Stark, John J. Collins, and others who argue that the Bible is, and was always intended to be, “an argument with itself,” and its authors disagreed on matters far weightier than Abiathar’s precise familial relationship to Ahimelech.

I think Labarre’s succinct “moral of the story” serves as a useful caution against views of the Bible that fail to regard its importance as secondary to the reality of God Himself to which its authors pointed:

So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself.

We cannot but expect the Bible to be human, through and through, and leave God Himself to be the only one upon whom all our hopes must rest. “Let God be true, and every man,” writer of Scripture or not, “a liar” — or at least, “frequently mistaken.”

H/T @CircleReader

Tagged with:
Recent Posts: