The instant we admit that a book is too sacred to be doubted, or even reasoned about, we are mental serfs.—
The doctrine of the infallibility of the scriptures asserts that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. If the argument of the doctrine were valid we would expect to not find any inconsistencies in the text, otherwise God by association would be found to be inconsistent.
It is expected, in mere human productions, that errors will frequently appear; but in a work that is divine, there can be no excuse for faults of any kind, not even in a single instance.—
The gospels in their infancy were the subject of several modifications.
The lesson to be learned from the history of the three texts above examined is this: First, it is quite erroneous to assert... that the text of the gospels bears no trace of having been altered anywhere for dogmatic or doctrinal reasons. On the contrary, here are three texts [in Matthew] which have been so altered. And, what is more, the interpolated texts have been regularly appealed to for centuries and centuries in defense of the very doctrines in half of which they were inserted.—
Even throughout the centuries modifications occurred. For example, the ending of Mark was interpolated from the other gospels yet in the most ancient manuscripts of Mark there exists no ending. That is worrisome considering the fact that most scholars believe Mark to have been the most ancient gospel and that all the other gospels to have borrowed from it.
In order for a continued justification of the doctrine it is said that only the ancient original manuscripts, which are no longer existent, were infallible. But to assert such a statement is to infer that the manuscripts that we have today are inferior to the originals and the natural conclusion being that the Bible as it is in its many translations is not the infallible word of God.
What was written in the 'original originals' is quite unknown. It is important to remember that the words 'authorized' and 'original', as applied to the Bible do not mean 'genuine', 'authentic' or 'true'.—
Many of the books in the Bible were not written by those who they are generally attributed to. There is no evidence that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament nor any evidence that the apostles themselves wrote the gospels. It is only tradition that has upheld these beliefs. Saint Augustine's argument with Faustus reveals that even in Saint Augustine's time this fact was known of the writings of the New Testament.
It is not without reason that we bring a critical judgment to the study of Scriptures where there are such discrepancies and contradictions. By thus examining everything, and comparing one passage with another, we determine which contains Christ's actual words, and what may or may not be genuine. For your predecessors have made many interpolations in the words of our Lord, which thus appear under His name, while they disagree with His doctrine. Besides, as we have proved again and again, the writings are not the production of Christ or of His apostles, but a compilation of rumors and beliefs, made, long after their departure, by some obscure semi-Jews, not in harmony even with one another, and published by them under the name of the apostles, or of those considered the followers of the apostles, so as to give the appearance of apostolic authority to all these blunders and falsehoods.—
There are many stories held up by the Christian community at large as being factual and literal that are merely mythological. What follows is some exceptions to many of the notable ones.
There is as much reason to believe Mahomet as to believe Moses and Jesus, and their apostles and followers. The fact is, there is no reason to believe any of them, unless the stories which they relate are consistent with the nature of things...—
The creation story in Genesis suffers from a lack of knowledge concerning the nature of the solar system. It depicts the existence of days without the Sun.
One thing, however, is remarkable in the account, that there were three days and three nights before the creation of the sun, which is the sole cause of day and night. This proves that Moses, or whoever wrote the 1st chapter of Genesis, was neither a good world-maker, nor a good astronomer... Moses makes day and night without the existence of a sun—
It could easily be said that those “days” are only metaphorical in nature but surely that provides little solace to the mind. If that is the case it could likewise be inferred that all astronomical events and bodies (such as the Sun and Moon) that are mentioned are only metaphorical. The whole story might as well be metaphorical - the end result being that the story is a myth.
The main of the flood story is that the earth was full of the most vile unrighteousness and it was God's desire to cleanse it with a flood. God is said to have had thoughts only to save one man and his family who were said to have been righteous. It would have been just as easy, if God was going to act in a miraculous way, for him to send an angel of death as it would have been to create a flood to cover the earth. Furthermore, it is unclear why God required Noah to invest his time and energy to build an ark that would be useless afterwards. He could have simply asked Noah to climb the highest mountain and only caused the flood to go to a certain height; the results would have been very much the same. Or God could have teleported Noah and all the animals into the heavens while he flooded the place.
Noah is supposed to have packed pairs of all animals into his ark. The writer was probably aware of only the animals in his neighborhood in spinning this yarn. He would not have spun such stories if he were aware (nor did the almighty disclose it to him) of the thousands of millions of species of animals, birds and snakes on this earth.—
The story of the Israelites leaving Egypt in exodus is questionable because there exists no archelogical evidence that establishes the credibility of the story. There exists no evidence of a mass of Israelites having lived in Egypt or for that matter having left Egypt.
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether. Speak now in the hearing of the people, and let every man ask from his neighbor and every woman from her neighbor, articles of silver and articles of gold.”—
God is quoted as commanding the Israelites to steal the valuables of the Egyptians. Such a command is in direct violation of the law that God was said to have given them. The 10 commandments explicitly state,
Thou shalt not steal.—
The Exodus depicts God as sending mixed signals to his people and to all peoples of the earth by commanding a particular tribe to do one thing and then later telling them they should not do that one thing he previously commanded them to do.
When the chosen people of God were able to leave the land of Egypt, he commanded them to borrow from the Egyptians, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, without any intention of ever returning them to their proper owners, but to march off and appropriate them exclusively to their own use. Here was deception, and a breach of trust of so black a complexion, that is was very ltitle better than downright theft or open plunder.—
There are many war stories in the Old Testament in which God commanded the Israelites to go to war with another people often unprovoked. Here is another instance where the God of the Israelites commands one thing and later commands the exact opposite. In other words, God is sending mixed messages to his people which only instills in them inconsistent behavioral patterns.
Thou shalt not kill.—
When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with that commandment and saw the people of Israel worshipping a golden calf he was instructed by God to tell the faithful portion to murder the unfaithful portion.
And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.—
It is odd to observe that in most cases in the scriptures, mankind is left to do God's killing for him especially when God could more easily put to death every unfaithful person. Had God done the killing himself there would have been less of a total loss of life since the faithful wouldn't have needlessly died in combat.
The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. To believe, therefore, the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God; for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend? And to read the Bible without horror, we must undo everything that is tender, sympathizing, and benevolent in the heart of man.—
There are other instances where God directly tells the Israelites to go and kill all the people of the land - men, women and children. It perplexes the mind why God told mankind not to murder if he was later going to sanction murder in his name. The command would have been better restated, “Thou shalt not kill unless I tell thee.” By which the entirety of the commandments could be reinterpreted, “Do or don't do unless I tell you”. The end result being, that rather than the commandments being a holy/sacred/unbroken law, they instead become a method for control and manipulation.
It is no surprise then that the Old Testament reads as wartime propaganda. One of the necessary precursors to war is a demonization of the enemy and that can be clearly seen in the scriptures where every next-door neighbor is declared an enemy of God. A man will more readily charge into battle if he believes he has the backing of his country and the backing of a supernatural being. The priest class preached that fanatical message of nationalism supported by supernaturalism. Any man who would even dare marry a foreigner was considered to have done an act unholy in the sight of God and punishable by death. An immortalization of the heroes or kings of war can also be seen in the scriptures most prominently in the character of King David who is said to have slaughtered thousands upon thousands of men for God's glory.
Here are a few of the questionable verses that I have come across authors mentioning.
Curds and Honey
Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good."—
There is one further observation upon the nature of this prophectic passage, which is, that after declaring that Emanuel should eat butter and honey, and the reason that is offered for this, is that he might know how to refuse the evil and choose the good; as if the way to discriminate with correctness between moral and immoral principles, was to live upon butter and honey.—
Love and Hate
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...—
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.—
In the gospel of St. Matthew, we are commanded to love our enemies. By what strange perversion of moral sentiment is it, that we are commanded in one place to hate our nearest relations, and in another to exercise a tender and affectionate regard to our implacable enemies.—
For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”—
He declares in some parts of the New Testament, that every thing shall be regulated by his arbitrary will without regard to the nature or character of the case. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardenth. Is it possible that even a christian believer can suppose for a single moment, that the principles of genuine morality can rest upon such an arbitary basis?—
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”—
But it appears that Thomas did not believe the resurrection; and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I, and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas.—
Throughout the Bible there are many instances of related numbers being inconsistent which help form a strong argument against the Bible being inspired by God. Below are a few such instances.
House of Jacob
And the sons of Joseph who have been born to him in Egypt [are] two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who are coming into Egypt [are] seventy.—
and Joseph having sent, did call for his father Jacob, and all his kindred -- with seventy and five souls—
~Source: Macnaught, John. The doctrine of inspiration. p. 118~
And the dwelling of the sons of Israel which they have dwelt in Egypt [is] four hundred and thirty years;—
And God spake thus, That his seed shall be sojourning in a strange land, and they shall cause it to serve, and shall do it evil four hundred years.—
~Source: Macnaught, John. The doctrine of inspiration. p. 117-118~
And Israel dwelleth in Shittim, and the people begin to go a-whoring unto daughters of Moab,... and the dead by the plague are four and twenty thousand.—
neither may we commit whoredom, as certain of them did commit whoredom, and there fell in one day twenty-three thousand—
~Source: Macnaught, John. The doctrine of inspiration. p. 43~
Principles of Nature
There is not a word in all the songs of Solomon, which has the least relation to religion; they are descriptive of sensual love.—
Terms like divinity, Holy Ghost, Eucharist, prophet, omnipotence, infallibility etc are words for words’ sake and terms for terms’ sake. If we deliberate deeply on these permutation-combinations of high-sounding sounds and syllables and mean nothing verifiable. Take one of the most inspiring quotes from the Bible “I am the way, the truth and the life”, an astounding statement, which does not give away anything concrete. What is the exact meaning of the terms “way,”“truth” and “life”. Ask ten people the meaning of these fancy words and you will get twenty different answers.—
Most if not all verses in any of the scriptures can be interpreted in many ways. One of the more concrete sentences in the Bible is “He took bread in his hands…this is my body…etc” There is no controversy as to the meaning of “He took bread and raised it”. However, when it comes to the statement “This is my body”…“this is my blood” there is confusion. The numerous interpretations of these simple-looking sentences have been the cause of the most number of schisms in Christianity.—
Pontius Pilate has been much maligned for condemning Jesus to death. Nevertheless, from the circumstances described in the Gospels, we have to conclude he was a good administrator and a philosopher. He tried his best to save Jesus, even offering Barabas in exchange for Jesus. However, the Jews and their high priests would have none of it, and as an administrator, Pilate had his limitations. In the course of the trial, he discourses with Jesus only as a philosopher can. Jesus grows exuberant and talks of his father in heaven and his being sent by Him, which was gibberish to a foreigner like Pilate. Jesus also speaks frequently of the word, we discussed above—truth. Pilate fells Jesus with one simple question “What is truth?” Christian theologians maintain that Jesus did not answer the question due to its banality. I for one think it was the most intelligent thing that happened at the trial. Jesus was astounded by the import of the question. Even with a gifted tongue, Jesus was taken aback and tongue-tied by the question and its enormity.—
The doctrine of inspiration
But, in the meanwhile, if we seek for a logical answer to our question, it will not be found in Holy Writ, at least not in the form of a definition; for the Bible is written throughout in popular, familiar phraseology, and not in the way of any philosophical system. One may find many rich and imaginative descriptions in the Bible but not a single logical or scientific definition.—
We know that there are modes of explaining away these and all other discrepancies; but we feel that they are so thoroughly unsatisfactory - not to use a stronger word - that, though they may serve as a hiding-place for the doubts of those whose conclusions.. are foregone, yet they are a terrible stumbling-block to those who bring earnest, unprejudiced minds to the examination of Scripture.—
Nor is it only in this case that such discrepancies manifest themselves to the careful observer. In almost every instance where two or more evangelists record the same conversation, the various interlocutors are represented as saying the exact words written; and yet the several accounts of their words differ remarkably.—
At the outset, it is clear that a writing which records the narratives of miraculous events is not thereby proved to infallible. Those chronicles, for instance, which tell us of Dunstan's superhuman doings and sufferings, are not by any man supposed to be free from all admixture of error because they contain marvellous stories. Such chronicles may, indeed, be infallible; but, even to establish their credibility, they require all the more testimony, because they expect us to believe what is so unlike all that we have experienced.—
From these considerations it is clear that no weight can logically attach to the complicated argument, in favour of scriptural infallibility, which is drawn from the authority calimed for Scripture by the New Testament writers. It is as futile as if one should say all the Pope's utterances must be infallible, because he himself claims infallibility as attaching to some of his sentences.—
It may be interesting, however, to some of our readers to know, that the learned are by no means agreed that the term “Word of God,” is ever once used in Scripture as a designation of the Bible.—
The variations and discrepancies which occur in the accounts of what was said by Jesus, or those around him, lead us to the supposition that human tradition, and not Divine dictation, was the source from which the evangelists, at all events, draw their information.—
Thus, then, we conclude that these two Evangelists, and, like them, all the other New Testament writers, never dreamt of infallibility attaching to their books - never dreamt of the Spirit of God dictating their sentences; but knew well, as one of them has said, that they carefully and honestly obtained the best information they could, and then piously employed the knowledge they had acquired.—
If one be asked, Why do you believe that woman was made out of man's rib? the answer is, Because the Bible, or the book of books, the greatest of all books, which is my rule (canon) of faith, tells me so. How constantly do men assume that such and such a statement cannot be erroneous, because it rests on the authority of the Bible!—
And we have perhaps seen enough to show us that the broad distinction between canonical and uncanonical writings is one set up by the dogmatic definitions of man rather than by the actual differences which sever the two classes of composition.—
If then all the promises of Jesus did not make Peter infallible as a religious teacher on that occasion at Antioch, what proof is there that they ever made him infallible either when he wrote or when he spoke?—
Once let our minds be possessed with the notion that the book, which as containing the heavenly Father's teaching we rightly call the “Word of God,” was indited by the Holy Ghost and that its human authors were merely used by that Divine person as so many pens might be used by us - that these human authors were instruments in the hands of the Spirit and not rational free agents - and it follows by an easy process of logic, if not by a necessary course of piety, that we should believe there can be no error in that which the all-knowing has penned. But is not this to lose sight of the palpable fact that the inspired writers so completely retrained their human faculties that each wrote in his own style and according to the propensity or habit of his own disposition.—
If blemishes in the creature be not incompatible with the stupendous interference of a Divine agency in generation, why should errors in the Bible be any more incompatible with the admirable co-operation of the Divine Spirit in the writing of the Bible?—
Or, again, Scripture itself teaches us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost; and that, if any man love Jesus and keep his commandments, the Father and the Son will come and make their adobe with that man; and, yet, where is the man, except our Lord, who has been either impeccable or infallible?—
Does the acknowledgment of the infallibility of this one standard bind in one brotherhood of agreement Episcopalians and Presbyterians, Calvinists and Arminians, and all other sects even of Protestantism? Has not each sect, and almost every individual, its own (fallible) interpretation of the infallible Book?—
Let us, first of all, remind the reader that there is no such word as our English noun “Inspiration” either in the Hebrew of the Old Testament or in the Greek of the New.—
If a Jew, or an early Christian, wished to say that any action was referable to some inspiration, his mode of expressing this idea was, Such and such an action was performed by such and such a spirit, good or evil, as the case might be.—
Thus our conclusion with reference to the Old Testament is that whatever was good, orderly, or strong... the Bible-writer attributed to the... Spirit of God whose action we designate “Inspiration”—
In a word, if there was any thing which seemed good, in their thoughts or actions, the early Christians, like the pious Jews before them, ascribed its excellence to divine inspiration.—
It is noticeable in connexion with the general subject of our previous chapters, that, not only does no sacred penmen claim for his writings the character of inspiration, but, moreover, that the very idea of Inspiration, as it was held by the Old and New Testament writers, had not the slightest connexion or even compatibility with infallibility.—
We have moreover seen that there is no more substantial or satisfactory reason for our expecting the Bible to be free from all error than there is for our expecting that every believer, who is influenced for good only by the Spirit of Truth, must be incapable of error and sin.—