|Lenny Flank: A Critique|
Our subject this time — one Lenny Flank (1995, uploaded 17 January 2003) — is mostly noted for arguing in the creation/evolution arena, but he does harbor at least one item along the lines of topics we address. In line with some recent projects we will present Flank’s material in almost complete entirety below and insert our own comments in green. But it’s noticeable that a number of Flank’s arguments have been addressed on creationist websites as well.
The entire basis of fundamentalism and scientific creationism, as the creationists themselves have pointed out, is a belief that the description of creation in Genesis is literally true, and is a correct historical description of what happened. And, as we have also seen, this basis is part of a larger faith that the entire Bible itself is literally true in all that it says, completely free of error or contradiction.
Decent start, but about the last thing he does get right.
The fundamentalists who would have us take “the Bible” literally
This is, a little vague — we take the parts literally which are intended to be, and so on; as determined through rigorous genre study — but Flank probably does not mean to imply otherwise.
are rather unclear about which Bible we should view as inerrant. In addition to the well-known King James version of the Bible, there are also the Scofield Bible, the Anchor Bible, the Revised Standard Bible, and several others.
Last I heard there was only a KJV-Only camp and no “Anchor Bible Only” group, or “RSV Only” group insisting that these other Bibles ought be understood as inerrant. Major statements like the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy say only the original mss. are/were inerrant. Furthermore, this is exactly what the major creationists organizations say. E.g. the Statement of Faith of Creation Ministires International says, “The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. It is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs [emphasis added].” That Flank doesn’t even get this idea right leads us to wonder how well he has studied his opposition.
A literal Bible might be easier to accept if all
of these versions read the same, but they do not.
What’s the relationship between acceptance of literalism and consistent readings
of translations? This is a non sequitur in process.
What’s the relationship between acceptance of literalism and consistent readings of translations? This is a non sequitur in process.
The King James Version, for instance, mentions “unicorns” in several different places:
Unicorns, however, do not and never have existed. The references to “horns” and “strength” make it likely that the original verses probably referred to the auroch or wild ox, which is now extinct but which lived in the Middle East at the time the Old Testament was written. And, indeed, some of the other versions of the Bible translate these verses as referring to “wild oxen” rather than “unicorns”.
Correct, and that decision was based on serious contextual study of what the original intent of the document was. So why is Flank objecting about what the KJV said on this? Even one of Flank’s major sources, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible — written by a leading atheist, therefore a “hostile witness” — agrees that the Bible’s original writers made no mistake here (pp. 186–187).
Perhaps the most famous example of mistranslation is the Biblical assertion that Christ was “born of a virgin”. The original Hebrew word here is almah, which means simply “a young woman”. The Hebrew word that refers specifically to a virgin is betulah, but this word is not used here. When the Bible was translated into Greek, the Hebrew word almah was translated into the Greek parthenos, which means “virgin”. (Spong, 1991, p. 16) Thus, the original Biblical assertion was that Christ was “born of a young woman”, and this indeed is the way it is translated in several versions of the Bible.
Spong is no authority on these matters; see here. One wonders why the Rabbis who translated the LXX before Christ need correction from Spong or Flank, or why being born merely from a “young woman” would be a “sign”? Maybe they could also tell us where almah is used in the OT of anyone who is NOT a virgin, while betulah is used of a widow in Joel 1:8? For a better analysis, see here, or even one from Creation Ministires International here.
One verse that is never translated correctly in any version of the Bible is the very first, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for “God” here is “elohim”, which is actually the plural of the word, and literally means “the gods”. Thus, an accurate translation of this would be “In the beginning, the gods created the heavens and the earth.”
Wrong yet again. The verb “created” bara is singular — it would have to be the plural form baru for this translation to be tenable. See here.
This verse is only one indication that the monotheistic religion introduced by the Bible was not always monotheistic.
He’s technically part right; “monolatry” is a preferred word, but see here.
Several other Biblical verses imply that there are, or used to be, more than one god. Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” In Genesis 3:22, God is depicted as saying, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” During the description of the Tower of Babel, God is described as saying, “Go to, let us go down, and here confound their language.” (Genesis 11:17)
See link just previous.
There are also indications within the Bible that, just as in the Greek legends of Hercules, who was half-human and half-god, the Hebrew gods also sometimes mated with humans: “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all they chose … and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:2–4)
It runs down again to how one defines “elohim” as noted in the link above. In any event that’s hardly enough of an indication to draw any solid conclusions. Hercules was unique — most of the Greek deities incarnated as humans rather than being hybrids. Zeus played a Gen. 6 role to a T and was not a hybrid.
Today, Biblical historians
How about some names and arguments instead of a vague reference to "historians"?
have concluded that Judaism was at one time a polytheistic religion,
More like “polyelohimistic” — again see link above.
until the time when the priests of the storm god Yahweh gained enough political and religious power to declare that their god was not only the most powerful god, but was in fact the only one.
A very simple thesis, notably lacking in direct evidence. In short, history invented to explain away history in a way that is found to be amenable.
The translation problems of the Bible are not helped by the fact that often several different versions of Biblical events are present, each of which appears to have come from a different source. There are two separate versions of the Creation story, for instance, one in Genesis 1:1–2:3 and the other in Genesis 2:4–25.
Wrong -- see here.
There are three separate versions of the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:2–17, Exodus 34:1–27, and Deuteronomy 5:6–21.
who it is easier to cite en masse than to actually critically confront arguments
have concluded that the Pentateuch was not written by a single person (and none of it was written, as tradition held, by Moses).
Instead, the linguistic and archeological evidence (including the famed Dead Sea Scrolls) indicates that the stories of the Bible existed only as oral tradition for hundreds of years before they were written down,
Which is quite all right as these were people capable of keeping such tradition accurately, the implied graphocentrism notwithstanding.
and that there are at least four separate sources for the text of the Old Testament, known as the Yahwist source, the Elohist source, the Priestly source, and the Deuteronomist source, with each section written at different times. All of these varying sources were edited together into their final form by an unknown person or persons known as the Redactor, who probably performed this task in about 400 BC.
Again, see link to JEDP items above. Flank goes on to spend a few lines describing this thesis, and we'd give the same answer, as he uses the same examples as above (creation stories, 10 C’s) though he also adds the one about animals in the Ark. That being the case, we'll pass all the explanation and move to the next place with a new topic.
Of course, some cross-cultural contact was inevitable, and some parts of the Priestly text do, in fact, bear unmistakable affinities to certain of the Babylonian myths and legends. The great ages given for the Biblical patriarchs in the book of Genesis, for instance, (some of the ancient Biblical figures are said to have been several hundred years old when they died) are reflected in the Babylonian and Sumerian traditions of equating age with wisdom, and therefore of posthumously attributing a great age to ancient leaders according to their wisdom and honor—the more powerful and honorable they were, the older (and thus wiser) they were said to be. The Sumerian List of Kings, for instance, which describes the deeds of various ancient leaders, gives ages for some of these heros of several thousand years. These were not meant to be literal figures of the number of years they had lived, but were a measurement of their glory and honor.
How does Flank know the Sumerians didn’t take these ages literally? What Sumerian text or person did he consult? It never occurs to these sorts that the Sumerian King list is a historical verifier for Genesis.
The Priestly version of the creation story in Genesis chapter one, moreover, bears a number of affinities to the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, a poem of about 1,000 lines which was found in the ruins of the library of king Ashurbanipal in the city of Ninevah. This poem has been dated to between 2000 and 2600 BC, long before either version of the Genesis creation story was written. TheEnuma Elish tells how the god Marduk created the universe in several steps. First, light emanated from the Babylonian gods to illuminate their work. Then, Marduk created a firmament—a hard clear “roof” which holds up the sky. Next, Marduk created dry land underneath the firmament, and after this created the heavenly lights. Finally, Marduk created humans, and on the final day the gods rested and celebrated. The order of the narrative in Genesis bears unmistakable signs of the influence of the Enuma Elish.
It has also been determined that the accounts are independent — see here. A real historical core behind both suggests itself as an answer.
Parallels can also be seen between the book of Genesis and the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, written about 2000 BC. In the Gilgamesh, we find the story of Utnapishtim, a man who is informed by the god Ea that the earth will be destroyed by the god Enlil in a fit of anger, by drowning everything in a great flood. In response, Utnapishtim builds a large wooden boat and loads it with himself and his family, all of the local craftsmen, his gold and silver, and a male and female of every living animal. Heavy rains break out and last for six days, and everything is drowned except for Utnapishtim and his boat. After the waters recede, Utnapishtim sends out a dove, then a swallow, then a raven to find dry land. After the flood, Utnapishtim and his wife are rewarded by the gods by being made gods themselves, and are taken up to the heavens. The similarities between the Utnapishtim story and the Flood of Noah are unmistakable, and it is likely that most of the Genesis story was built around this Babylonian tradition.
Why is such dependence likely? Why not a common traditional core (even if Flank is right about the Flood from a historical basis, which we say he is not)? The Babylonian story has a boat shaped like a cube (which would roll all over the place), versus the barge shape of the Ark (whose dimensions mean that if the wood was only a foot thick, it could not be capsized even by waves several times higher than typical tsunamis — see here); Utnapishtim’s desire for gold and silver bespeaks something added to the story by men with dollar signs in their eyes. Who was Utnapishtim going to trade that stuff with when he got off the B-Ark?
Similar problems of authorship also arise in the New Testament. Although it is popularly held that the Gospels were written by the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in fact none of the four Gospels was authored by anybody who had actually met Christ, or who had seen any of the events he described firsthand.
Let’s see Flank handle this.
The earliest of the four Gospels, Mark, was written about 70 AD, nearly forty years after the death of Christ, See same link on dates. All before 70 except possibly John. by a person who, Biblical scholars have concluded, does not appear to have been highly educated and therefore was probably not a priest.
Why did he need to be a priest? As for education, if he could read and write, he was already better educated than 90% of the population. Beyond that what we can tell from the text is that Greek was not Mark’s first language; his rhetorical style is not advanced, but as Witherington notes [Mark commentary, 19] Mark is a skilled arranger of his material.
From linguistic and historical clues, it appears as though the work was written in Rome.
Probably right, and the only thing he gets right about Mark.
The Gospel of Matthew was written in the mid-80’s,
Again see link above.
by a Jew who was probably a lawyer and who in any case was well-educated. He may have been a Levite.
That he has right. Why doesn’t he see that this is a description that fits the tax collector Matthew?
Exactly where it was written is in some dispute, but the city of Antioch is the favored candidate.
Apparently, the author of Matthew was familiar with the written account known as Mark, and many sections of Matthew are lifted almost word for word from the earlier book.
Not likely — see here.
The Gospel According to Luke was written just a few years after Matthew.
Again see above.
Most Biblical scholars agree that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same person, and most of the clues point to the texts having been written by a non-Jew, and most likely by a Greek physician. Like the author of Matthew, the writer of Luke had access to the earlier book of Mark, and lifted whole sections of it nearly intact.
Most do agree on these last points.
The Gospel of John was finished around 100 AD.
Again, see above.
Unlike the authors of Matthew and Luke, the author of John does not appear to have had any contact with earlier texts.
Not so — see material at end of John item in link; we see signs of intent to supplement Mark.
The original text of John was written in Greek, and was probably the work of a student of someone who had himself heard the words of John the disciple.
Possibly, as that would be in line with ancient use of a scribe.
Thus, the book of John is at best third-hand,
“Third-hand”? And this proves, what? Nothing in the process of hearer to scribe would serve to damage the accuracy of the transmission.
and, as with the other gospels, most of the words it attributes to Christ were probably never actually said by him.
Easy to say, but don’t look for Flank to explain why he is right.
The fundamentalists, of course, reject the idea of a Bible that was pieced together years after the events which it describes,
How many years? 5? 10? Not that it makes a difference.
by a succession of people each of whom had their own motives and emphasis,
No one denies motive or emphasis — who is Flank talking to? See here.
but each of whom had a consistent message to spread. In their zeal to take every word of the Bible literally,
the fundamentalists completely miss the rich theological symbolism which is found throughout the Bible.
Miss it? I appreciate it more because I do genuine contextual study. Flank’s response is unsatisfactory (and of course Flank couldn’t care about this “rich theological symbolism” anyway).
Many of the incidents described in the Bible, if taken as literally true, paint a picture of God that would shock many people. In Ezekiel 23, for instance, God is stated to have had children by two prostitutes:
I know of absolutely no one — not even a KJV Onlyist — who takes this as anything but a huge figure of speech. What is he thinking, it is an “all literal or nothing is” approach?
In Psalms 137:9, God apparently suggests that the children of the Edomites should be killed: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
Flank’s grasp of the cultural setting is weak — see here, ending section.
When the Midianite cities were taken by Moses, God orders him to kill all the male children and all the women who were not virgins, and to give the virgins to the troops: “Now therefore kill every male along the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the woman children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17–18)
When the Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go, God responds by killing every first-born child of Egypt, even those who had nothing to do with the Pharaoh’s decision: “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn of in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon the throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.” (Exodus 11:4–5)
See outrage item linked above, and here.
Similarly, when God tells Noah that the world is wicked and will be destroyed, God acts not merely by killing off the wicked, but by killing off every living thing on earth—even those animals which could not have been wicked in any way: “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
And all he has is “argument by outrage” as a reply — again, link above.
As Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong
Far from a top-rated scholar, as noted.
notes, “The picture of God that began to emerge from the Bible for me was neither a pleasant one nor one to which I was drawn to worship”. (Spong, 1991, p. 17)
Spong of course would prefer to worship a senile Grandpa who is willing to let him indulge or is too out of it to stop him.
Indeed, who would want to worship a God that advocates killing innocent children,
Better to let them starve slowly in the desert? See link above.
or who has sex with prostitutes?
Real LITERAL ones, of course, as Zeke 23:4 says: “Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.” So now will Flank say this means God had sex with parcels of land?
Of course, such a picture of God is understandable when one realizes that it comes by way of a nomadic warrior-tribe
What does Flank have against nomadic lifestyles? Imagine if Flank said, “a homosexual tribe…”
which lived by plunder,
Lived by? Not really. That period lasted only about 40 years and was in any event way, way before the time when Flank claims that the OT parts were written. He doesn’t see the inconsistency, though. If it was written as late he says, the nomadic warrior stage was long forgotten.
and which was obliged to fight its way through the world and ruthlessly slaughter all enemies, real or imagined.
And of course Flank has done an intimate study of sociological conditions in the ANE and knows this — he hasn’t, which is why he won’t give us more than vague generalities out of Spong.
The Biblical descriptions tell us more about the describers than about the described.
That is, if it was written early … which Flank says it was not. A little projectional psychology is always useful: 1000 years from now it'll be said that America’s war on Germany was written out for the same sort of reasons.
Those who would take the Bible literally have many things to explain away. The Bible is riddled with accounts that are contradictory and mutually exclusive.
Let Flank name the ten best if he can escape vague generalization.
Since the books of the Bible were not works of single people, but amalgamations of oral traditions written down hundreds of years apart, it is not surprising that there should be contradictions and errors.
Cart before the horse on this one. He explained “why” before proving any “what”.
These are only a problem for the literalists who wish to take every word of the Bible as inerrant.
I still don’t know who these people are.
Among the problems which a literalist interpretation presents:
In Genesis 35:19, we are told that Rachel’s grave is in Bethlehem, in Judah: “And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” But, in First Samuel 10:2, we are told something different. Now, Rachel is said to be buried elsewhere: “Rachel’s sepulchre on the border of Benjamin at Zelzhah.” So which is it?
It says she was buried ON THE WAY to Bethlehem, not IN Bethlehem. This is the first time I have ever seen this claimed as a problem, and you can see why.
In Genesis 37:25, we are told that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers to a passing Midianite caravan, who in turn sold him to some Ishmeelites, who in turn took him to Egypt: “And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. There then passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph into Egypt.” (Genesis 37:26–28) But just eight verses later, we are given a different story: “And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.” (Genesis 37:36) Wait a minute, what happened to the Ishmeelites? I thought they took Joseph to Egypt and sold him?
No. Try this.
In First Samuel 16:1–23, we are told the story of how David came to be in the court of Saul (and later became King of Israel). According to this account, God tells Samuel that David will be the next King. Shortly after, King Saul asks for somebody who can play the harp, and somebody mentions David, the son of Jesse. Saul sends for him: “And David came to Saul, and stood before him; and he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me, for he hath found favor in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand, so Saul was refreshed, and the evil spirit departed from him.” (I Samuel 16:21–23)
In the very next chapter, however, we are given a totally different story of how David came to become a part of Saul’s court—perhaps the most famous story in the Bible, the tale of David and Goliath. Now, we are told that David’s three older brothers joined Saul’s army to fight the Phillistines, and David went home to watch the sheep (no mention here of David being an “armor-bearer” in Saul’s army). When his father asks him to take some corn and bread to his brothers at Saul’s camp, David arrives just in time to hear Goliath challenge the Israeli army, and he asks the people around him why somebody doesn’t just kill Goliath. He is taken before Saul, who, from this account, gives no sign that he already knew David as the guy who played the harp and who he “loved greatly”. Instead, Saul tells him he can’t fight Goliath because he is just a kid.
David then goes out and kills Goliath, causing King Saul to ask “Whose son is this youth?” (I Samuel 17:55). David is brought before Saul, and Saul, apparently having no idea who David is, asks again, “Whose son art thou, young man?” David answers, “I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” (I Samuel 17:58) But this makes no sense. How can Saul not know who David is, or know that he is the son of Jesse, when just a short time before he had been smitten by this same David’s harp-playing and begged his father Jesse to let him stay? Throughout the whole “David and Goliath” story, Saul gives no sign at all that he already knows David as his armor-bearer, yet the earlier verses make it clear that this was how Saul met David. The two accounts are mutually exclusive. Both cannot be right.He spent three paragraphs explaining this. The answer is here.
These differing accounts become understandable when it is realized that they are not historical accounts, but oral traditions
On that he is right — and it’s reading such oral accounts with a nuanced eye that removes many problems.
which were passed down for hundreds of years before being written into the Bible at different times and by different people.
Which is only a problem to a graphocentrist — oral traditions (see link above) are capable of being passed down accurately for hundreds of years.
In such a process of transmission, errors and omissions are inevitable.
And are almost always matters of, “4000 stalls or 40,000”? Not to the level Flank wants it to be.
They only become a problem when one attempts to take these stories as literal historical truth.
They only become a problem when you don’t do enough contextual research. Flank hasn’t.
Like the Old Testament, the New Testament also existed as oral tradition for a long period of time before being reduced to writing.
Again, only a problem for a graphocentrist, and though we say it was only 10–20 years, even 40–50 would be no big deal in an age when oral transmission was highly reliable.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the New Testament is also riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies
which study easily answers.
The most glaring inconsistencies (and the ones most difficult for the literalists to explain away) are found between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Since Biblical prophecy stated that Christ would be a descendent of King David, both of these gospels trace Jesus’s lineage back to the time of David (and before). However, these genealogies are not consistent with each other. In Matthew 1:16, we are told that “Jacob begat Joseph, who begat Jesus.” But in Luke 3:23, we are told something totally different: “Heli begat Joseph, who begat Jesus.” To make things worse, the lineage given by Matthew 1:2–26, traces Christ’s ancestry back to David’s son Solomon. But the genealogy given in Luke 3:23–38 makes Christ a descendent of David’s son Nathan. Either the ancestors of Jesus were genetic recombinants, or someone’s genealogy is wrong. On top of this, Matthew lists a total of 55 generations from the patriarch Abraham to Jesus, while Luke lists only 40 generations between the two.
These are not matters of differing interpretations or theological dispensations; they are a simple recounting of what purports to be a historical fact—the ancestry of Christ— and they do not agree with each other. What could be more simple than telling us the name of Christ’s grandfather?
More simple? Someone who approaches the texts without any knowledge of the purpose and use of ancient genealogies, and reads it like a newspaper. Or which former prince of Israel he can trace his ancestry to? Or how many generations have passed between Christ and his ancestors? No other conclusion can be reached than that one of these two writers is wrong.
Or that Flank is without necessary contextualizing knowledge.Both of these lineages cannot be correct. This, of course, is not a problem when one realizes that neither of these writers ever met Jesus, and neither had access to any first-hand information—one (or perhaps both) of them simply passed on mistaken information. This is, however, a major problem for those who want to take the Bible as literally inerrant and historically accurate.
Other inconsistencies between the four gospels abound. Since the gospel of John was the last book to be written, and was apparently written independently of the other three, it is not surprising that it should contradict the others on numerous points. In John 2:13–17, for instance, the driving out of the money-changers from the temple by Christ is placed at the beginning of his ministry, just after his picking of the Apostles.
It’s contradiction only if one says that their event was the ONLY time Jesus did such a thing. As it is that is unlikely — such a prophetic demonstration would have been useful for Jesus at any time in his ministry. See article on John's authorship linked above.
In all of the other gospels, this incident is described as happening just before the crucifixion (Matthew 21:12–13, Mark 11:15–19, and Luke 19:45–48). John’s account places the miracle of the catch of fish as a post-resurrection event: “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.” (John 21:14) But Luke describes this as the incident which caused Peter, James and John to join the disciples at the beginning of Christ’s ministry (Luke 5:4–7).
Same answer. If anything here John’s timing suggests Jesus doing the same thing to bring the previous incident to mind. Note that John has a different set of people here and also no stated evangelism purpose linked to the catch (“fishers of men”).
Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:17 all describe the Last Supper as being the Passover meal—but John 13:1–9 describes it as taking place the week before Passover.
No. See here.
There are also inconsistencies between the other gospels. Matthew, for instance, is the only one of the gospels to mention the miraculous star over Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1–2)
If he is the “only one” then it can’t be an “inconsistency”. One cannot be inconsistent with none. Relatedly see here.
In Mark 10:35–37, we read: “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in glory.” But in Matthew 20:20–21, there is a different version of this story: “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” Here, it is James and John’s mother which makes this request, not the disciples themselves.
Again, none of these discrepancies are disturbing if we remember that these were oral traditions that were passed down for decades before being written.
It would not need decades to appear, and none of these variations disturb me as an inerrantist.
But for the Biblical literalists, they present embarrassing problems of consistency.
And who are these literalists? Flank doesn’t say, and the creationist folk I know — his targets — have no problem with my material on this subject.
Even more disturbing to the literalist fundamentalists (as well as the creationists) are those passages of the Bible which deal directly with verifiable history.
None I know of are disturbed by any of these.
The Bible is rife with passages which are simply not historically accurate. In Daniel 1:1, we read: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakin … came Nebuchadnezzer … unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.” From archeological data, we know that Jehoiakin began his reign in the year 609 BC, thus this Biblical siege must have taken place in 606 BC. But Nebuchadnezzer wasn’t even the King of Babylon in 606 BC, and he didn’t attack Jerusalem for the first time until 597 BC (Asimov, 1968, p. 599)
Another passage in Daniel 5:1–2 states: “Belshazzar the King … commanded to bring forth the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzer had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem.” Belshazzar was indeed a historical figure, but he was not Nebuchadnezzer’s son and he was not the King—he was a viceroy to Nebuchadnezzer’s son King Amel-Murduk. (Asimov, 1968, p. 605)
See here. Why is Flank using the science fiction writer Asimov as a primary source on the Bible?
The prophet Ezekiel predicted that Nebuchadnezzer would take the city of Tyrus (Tyre) and sack it: “For thus saith the Lord thy God; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylon … and he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers.” (Ezekiel 26:7–9) Nebuchadnezzer, however, never conquered Tyre—he was forced to lift his siege after fifteen years of fighting. (Asimov, 1968, p. 588)
Ezekiel also predicted that Egypt would be conquered and made a subordinate kingdom: “And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom.” (Ezekiel 29:14) This never happened.
Didn’t it? The jury is still out. Also see an item here.
There are also many incidents described in the Bible which have no extra-Biblical confirmation—and some of these are the most famous stories of the Bible.
Which means nothing. Many events in Tacitus have no “extra-Tacitean” confirmation.
In Daniel 4:33, we are told that Nebuchadnezzer was afflicted by God when he didn’t repent his sinful ways: “He was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagle’s feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws.” Had such an affliction suddenly struck the king of Babylon, the most powerful man on earth at the time, someone would certainly have noticed, but there is no mention of such an incident in any Babylonian, Sumerian or any other Middle Eastern records.
See here. Actually Babylonian authorities would do their best to keep this out of the papers. Ever notice how even today the ill health of leaders is covered up?
Similarly, when the sun stood still at God’s command so that Joshua’s Israeli army could finish slaughtering the Amorites (Joshua 10:12–14), such an extraordinary event would have been noticed by people all over the globe, yet there is no written record of such an event outside of the Bible—not a word from Mayan astronomers or Chinese astrologers or anybody else.
Likewise, there are no records anywhere in the voluminous Egyptian hieroglyphic records of any Biblical Plagues (surely the Egyptians would have noticed if all of their first-born children died—it would have decimated the country and left Egypt a shattered state ripe for conquest).
See same link — and there actually is some evidence. Not that ancient kings liked to record conspicuous failures; aren’t these guys always telling us the Bible is biased …?
There are no extra-Biblical records of a non-Egyptian aide to the Pharaoh named Joseph,
He would not have been noted by his Hebrew name of course.
and no Sumerian, Babylonian or Assyrian records of the sudden destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
As if Flank knew what Sumerian, etc. records to check that were contemporary. There is an evidence to consider, however.
In the New Testament, Matthew describes the “slaughter of the innocents”, in which Herod tries to eliminate the Christ child by killing every male under three years old. There are no records of such an incident in any Jewish, Roman or Greek historical records of the period, and this slaughter is not even mentioned in any of the other books of the Bible.
There doesn’t have to be. See here.
It does, however, have remarkable parallels with the earlier Biblical story of the birth of Moses (where another leader tries to have a prophesied rival eliminated by killing children—and which also has no extra-Biblical references). Most Biblical scholars believe that Matthew cribbed the Herod story and based it on the account of Moses.
Actually, closer to the truth is that he wrote the Herod story in such a way as to allude to the Moses one — the parallels are only remarkable to someone who doesn't understnd ancient composition tecyhnique. See here and pertinent example here and here.
To the creation “scientists”, of course, the crux of the matter is the Bible’s reliability as it applies to scientific matters, particularly to the events described in Genesis. But here, too, the Bible demonstrates itself to be no more sophisticated than were the simple goat-herders
This statement is appallingly racist.
who wrote it. In First Kings 7:23, we are told of a large vessel that was made for King Solomon: “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other … and a line of thirty cubits did encompass it round about.” (I Kings 7:23) The ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is known as “pi”, and pi has a numeric value of approximately 3.15.
If Flank wants to criticize alleged Biblical mathematical errors, he had better take some remedial math himself! Pi (π) rounded to two decimal places is 3.14 But even if we grant Flank’s argument (which I don’t as per the links below), the Bible would be correct if it was merely rounding π to the nearest whole number 3 (or rather, the 10 and 30 are nearest whole numbers), in which case it would be an approximation (with correct rounding, unlike Flank’s!) NOT an error.
Thus, a circular vessel of diameter ten cubits would have measured about 31.5 cubits round, not 30 as described here (and if the vessel were not circular, the circumference would have been even larger). Either the measurements cited here are incorrect, or the Bible is claiming that the value of pi is 3.0. This, of course, is a trivial matter to most of us—the unsophisticated Biblical writers, who had no idea what “pi” even represented, simply gave the wrong measurements. But to the Biblical literalists, who view the Bible as historically and scientifically inerrant, it is inexplicable. They prefer not to talk about the fact that the Bible gives the wrong value for π.
They don’t talk about it because they already have answers (and realize that since π is an irrational number, filling the whole Bible with decimal places of π would still be an approximation) — see here and entry found here, as well as the Creation Ministires International response. One day a biblioskeptic might surprise us all and properly address the arguments of conservative apologists.
In Leviticus 11:13–19, as part of the dietary restrictions imposed on the Jews, we see another example of the unsophisticated view which the Biblical authors took towards the natural world: “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the osprey, and the vulture, and the kite after his kind; every raven after his kind; And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, and the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” Bats, of course, are not birds, but to the unsophisticated Hebrew tribesmen, anything with two wings that flew was “a fowl”.
It takes us one link for an old argument. If the Bible is wrong to refer to bats as “flying creatures” (as the Hebrew word oph means), perhaps Flank should also write articles attacking all modern marine biologists who refer to all swimming creatures as the nekton, regardless of taxonomic category.
Further in these dietary laws, the Bible makes the surprising assertion that some insects have only four legs: “Even of these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goes upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. But all other flying creeping things which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.” (Leviticus 13:22–23) Grasshoppers and beetles certainly are “flying creeping things”, but they have never had only four feet.
And, yet again.
Another place where the Bible makes a mish-mash of science is Genesis 30:31–43. In this story, we are told that Jacob is given the opportunity to take all of the livestock from Laban which are spotted or striped and keep them. To insure a better take, we are told, Jacob cleverly took willow sticks and carved them into a striped and spotted pattern, “And he set the rods which he had piled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled and spotted.” (Genesis 30:38–39) In other words, Jacob, by allowing cattle to view spotted sticks during the act of mating, was able to induce them to produce spotted cattle, which is just as impossible as producing striped human babies by having sex in front of a barber pole. Today, with our knowledge of genetics, we know this Biblical story to be scientific nonsense, but to the ancient Hebrew herders, such “magic” was widely accepted and was not questioned.
In fact, the Bible accepts completely the primitive view of these ancient pastoral societies. The earth was assumed to be flat, with the sun revolving around it and the stars embedded in the “firmament”, a hard dome that covered the earth. Above the firmament was Heaven. It was because of this world-view that the ancient Hebrews saw no problems with the story of Joshua commanding the sun to stop in the sky (the sun, of course, doesn’t move around the earth
and of course Flank would never ever use the words sunset or sunrise, would he?).
Similarly, those Biblical verses which indicated that the earth was immovable
from the Psalms which used the same word to say that the Psalmist himself was immovable too (Ps. 16:8), but no-one believes that it teaches that the Psalmist was rooted to the spot.
and flat were not questioned until the time of Galileo. In Daniel 4:10–11, we are told of a vision in which Daniel sees “a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
He claims it was Daniel’s vision – it was NOT, but rather but dream of a pagan king which Daniel interpreted. And this was a dream — perhaps Flank will also tell us that Pharoah’s dream interpreted by Joseph (Genesis 41) means that the Bible is teaching cannibalistic cows and even cannibalistic ears of wheat?
The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.” On a sphere such as the planet Earth, it is impossible to see “to the end of all ” from any one spot, no matter how high. But, since the writers of the Bible believed the world to be flat, this presented no problems. Similarly, in Psalms 104:5, the poet writes that God “laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move forever”. The earth, of course, does move—and a sphere has no “foundation”. But, since the Psalmist believed that the earth was flat and rooted to a fixed spot, this presented no problems either.
On two occasions, the Bible leaves the realm of reality altogether, and asserts that humans and animals have conversed together in spoken language. In Numbers 22, we find the story of Balaam, who was riding a donkey when the road was blocked by an angel that only the donkey could see. When the donkey refused to move ahead, Balaam whipped it, whereupon the donkey turned and said to him, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” Balaam, rather than falling off the donkey in astonishment (what would YOU do if your dog suddenly turned to you and told you to stop hitting him for peeing on the rug?),
My little dog is smart and I'd suppose he had been hiding his ability all along.
instead calmly explains that he wished he had a sword so he could kill the donkey. Whereupon the donkey talks again, and says, “Am I not thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?” (Numbers 22:28–30) Needless to say, donkeys do not, and never have, talked, and lack all the physical traits necessary for speech.
Unless miracles interfere, eh? But try this. Flank repeats the same with the snake in Eden, and then does some creation/evolution stuff beyond our scope. But that’s been enough to show at any rate that there’s nothing new from this quarter.