On Eric Hildeman's "Creationism: The Bible Says No!"

Eric Hildeman's Creationism: The Bible Says No! has a lot about evolution, and per my profession not to comment on things I know nothing about, we won't be talking about that portion of the book. What we will be talking about is the other substantive portion of the book, in which Hildeman talks about: The Bible. And not just Genesis either. Hildeman ranges all over the text, from Exodus to Revelation.

What for? It's a book about creationism, isn't it? So that means just or mainly Genesis?

No, not this time. Hildeman has decided for a tactic with creationists, in which he brings up other "Bible problems" that have nothing to do with creationism. He wants his humanist friends to make lists of Bible contradictions and hand them out at creationist meetings [160]. He even has his own Bible marked with ribbons. He calls this a "Pull Out the Rug" strategy [174] which he thinks ought to be "placed at the vanguard of evolution's counter-offensive."

Now in a way, we can't blame Hildeman for thinking this is a clever tack, for when it comes to Bible problems, Hildeman has a certain misplaced confidence that comes of lack of familiarity with credentialed Biblical scholarship, and his limited exposure to it while attending a fundamentalist Bible college.

What seems to have gotten the most attention from Hildeman to apostasize is differences among the Gospels. Having been taught to say there are "no contradictions in the Bible" [5] but without the supporting information to confirm and defend that view, Hildeman embarked on a mission which finally led him to believe that he had caused "two millennia of doctrine" to "go up in smoke" with great ease. He tells us that he became aware of "explanations" though we are not told whose explanations, much less why they ought to be regarded as "incredulous".

Any particulars? Yes. One of these is the Synoptic story of the demoniacs, and particularly, whether there were one or two present (he doesn't seem to be concerned with the issue of the geography). We'll begin by noting the OUR explanation for this one here. Hildeman himself apparently never heard of our explanation 2 or much of what we have in 3; he had only heard of the most simple form of the answer, as expressed by Archer in the article. Thus his own answers to harmonizing solutions are deficient to the same degree.

First, those who offer such explanations are said to be committing an "editorializing error" Hildeman calls, "doctoring Scripture's meaning." [9] Serious students will recognize this as a retreat into a fundamentalist mentality that treats the text as a monolithic whole written under modern rules of composition. There is no "doctoring" being done here. Whether we accept 2 or 3 or some mix of the two, what is being done here is an appeal is being made to authorial constraints and/or practice considered normal in the practice of writing at the time these authors wrote.

Admittedly short versions like Archer's (and perhaps also Muncaster's, as used by Hildeman, [10], though I have not read Muncaster) do not say such a thing. But this is what lies, ultimately, behind the answer.

Hildeman's second retort is that the answer "admits that God would allow mistaken perspectives to get written into Scripture." [9]

No such thing is said; all Hildeman has done is assumed that it is a "mistake" to present things any other way than the ultraliteralist, fundamentalist form that he assumes must hold true under a doctrine of inerrancy. This is not even true as far as the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy is concerned, which says:

We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of metrical, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.


So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: Since, for instance, nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.

Hildeman apparently never graduated - even now - beyond a simple form of inerrancy rooted in modern, Western cultural values of reportage. Note as well that our answers are not about "vantage points" or "perceptions" (as Hildeman puts it, as though someone blocked the view of the disciples of one of the demoniacs) but of intentional, artificial literary and narrative devices. Thus as well, Hildeman's reply, that such things only "explain" the error even as they admit an error [10] misses the point.

Hildeman's retort that if one of the demoniacs was prominent, he "should have been mentioned by name or title," [10] is rather misplaced. No member of the reading audience would be served by any such contextualization, as if the man (even if alive, in this day when the average lifespan was 35) were going to be alive to find and talk to.

The prominence, if this is the explanation we use, is established by actions. Nor is it any answer to say that Mark and Luke "very strongly imply" that there was just one by merely mentioning one. In my essay comparing the four biographies of Lincoln I found exactly the same sort of "mistake" Hildeman finds here:

Oates: Lincoln "stood inside the doorway and shot a wild turkey as it approached."

Donald: Lincoln "spied a flock of wild turkeys outside the new log cabin. He seized a rifle and, taking advantage of one of the chinks (in the wall), 'shot through a crack, and killed one of them.' "

So does Oates "very strongly imply" that there was only one turkey? No, he doesn't - he merely highlights the single bird, for whatever reason. Please note the "original" source for this account in both:

A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log-cabin, and A. with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack, and killed one of them. He has never since pulled the trigger on any larger game.

The original source quote quite clearly indicates the presence of a full flock. So by Hildeman's logic, Oates (a professional historian and publisher writer) has "very strongly implied" that there was only one turkey and has committed an "error".

  • Hildeman is aware of some explanations like 2 (though how much the same is unknown) but in the usual fundamentalist way, calls this an "editorializing error" as well, that of "adding to Scripture." Hildeman's error is once again viewing Scripture as an entity with a conceptual wall around it; his retort that this too makes the text in "error", thus again, a misplaced complaint.

    For Hildeman, the second most egregious problem in Scripture is the differing genealogies of Matthew and Luke for Jesus. Once again, we provide our answering material here and here. Our answer is much the same in principle as that for the demoniac issue - with the genealogies, we are working within established principles of normalcy for the ancient world.

    Hildeman's awareness of such answers seems minimal. He comments on answers that make "son" into "son in law" in Luke. This is really not necessary; but even so, Hildeman does not even touch such issues as Luke's heavy interest in women, or levirate marriage, or inheritance rules. He also appeals to what is known as the "Jeconiah problem," to which, our sister site has answered as well in the same article.

    To refer to such things as leaps over ancestors as "errors" as Hildeman does several times, betrays a poor knowledge of relevant contextualizing data. But Hildeman even includes the argument about Luke's inclusion of Cainan (3:35-36), which is not listed in Genesis. Several authors have answered this point, as .

    Hildeman axtually admits that an answer like the one linked exists (he gives a two-sentence summary of it) but says this is "a dangerous point to be made by literalists" [19] because, he says, "who's to say [editing] hasn't been done in some other area of the Bible as well? The existence of such revisions to scripture is proof positive that God's divine hand was not truly protecting all of the Bible from the editor's pen - and that should be a sobering revelation."

    Sobering to whom, we wonder? Once again, Hildeman needs to consult the Chicago Statement, which doesn't sense danger one bit to say:

    We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

    I do not know where Hildeman did his studies, but this "sobering revelation" has been a mainstay of evangelical thought for quite some time now. No one maintains that God did, or needed to, preserve the transmission of the Bible's text. Indeed, if Hildeman has any disrespect for those he might call "bibliolaters" he has just answered his own objection as to why this would not be done.

    That leaves Hildeman's question, "how do we know there aren't more?" - and the answer is, if there are indeed more, it is his burden as a critic - not ours - to show one. In textual criticism - whether applied to the Bible or to a secular document - evidence, not suspicion, is what makes for "who's to say" if editing has been done. Moreover, let us not use the name "editing" to describe what is, in this particular, an accident, which is how the overwhelming number of such errors came about.

    Third up on Hildeman's list: "Two Creation Stories." We have an answer to that here.

    The answers Hildeman deals with, from someone named "Jim," and another from Kent Hovind (!), (not from scholarly sources) are not our own.

    Fourth on Hildeman's list: Did Jesus deal with Bartimeaus before or after Jericho? Hildeman is aware of the answer (he calls it "rationalization") that there was an Old and a New Jericho, which is one of two answers we offer; however, for my part I find the explanation of Rene Latourelle in The Miracles of Jesus [155] most coherent: Luke phrases matters as he does because he wants to follow with the episode of Zaccheus in Jericho. The difference in geographical location may be explained either by archaeology as above, or by compositional requirements per Latourelle.

    Hildeman does not know the latter answer, but for the former, objects:

    • If the were an Old and a New Jericho, "the Gospel writers would have specified" which one was in view. This answer is offered in vain, for unless Hildeman SHOWS that such distinction was made between the two towns in literature of the period, he is merely contriving a requirement for the Gospels to adhere to, and then objecting without basis that they do not adhere to it.
    • He then objects that there is no reference anywhere to an old or new Jericho. This is beside the point. Archaeology HAS shown that there were two cities; that is all the evidence that is needed for a coherent explanation.
    • Finally, Hildeman says that this explains how the error got in the text, not why it is not an error, and that is patently false. Once again, if this is an artificiality (of the sort LaTourelle offers) then the semantic contract is not one of modern fundamentalist exegesis.

    Fifth on his list, the death of Judas. Our answer here. Hildeman knows of no answer such as Conrad's thesis. He knows the other (from Muncaster) and after insulting Muncaster's book for being "teeny-tiny" (compared to what has been written by Craig Keener or N. T. Wright, that describes Hildeman's single 214-page effort quite well) most of his answer has to do with Muncaster's explanation of what the traditional area looks like - which isn't essential to our arguments in either case; though Hildeman's counsel that the landscape of the area could have been different is rather odd -- did the Jews moved the rocks around, and there were no trees there in the first century?

    Sixth on his list, Acts 9:22-25 vs. 2 Cor. 11:32-35. Our answer, part of a larger article, will be extracted this time:

    This presents an interesting debate, for those who steadfastly insist that Paul's letters are to be given preference over Acts are stuck here with a case where what Paul reports is often regarded as less probable than what Luke does! …Who was really after Paul? Both parties would have their motives; the Jews for obvious reasons, Aretas because of his suspicion of Jewish preachers, helped along by his stormy relationship with the Herods [With.AA, 324]. Cooperation, intentional or otherwise, would not be impossible, and Luke's omission of Aretas may be related to Paul's lack of success in the Arabian mission - for to mention Aretas might require Luke to explain WHY Aretas was after Paul.

    What exactly did Aretas do, and how did he do it? The answer depends on who was in control of Damascus at the time, and even then there are many possibilities. Did he watch from outside the city himself, or send his minions? Was he watching from the outside because the Romans were in charge of the city, and he couldn't get inside -- and therefore did he recruit the Jews hostile to Paul to help him on the inside? If Aretas was in charge of the city, how much power did he have as a client-king? How many men did he have helping him?

    Although a valiant attempt has been made by Jewett [Jew.CPL] to determine the answer to these sorts of questions, there is simply too much left open for us to make any determination.

    Hildeman disputes that both the Jews and Aretas could have been after Paul because Aretas would have been an Arab, whatever that is supposed to answer. Apparently Hildeman cannot conceive of Paul being pursued by two different parties - Jews on one hand, and Arabs on the other. If he wonders why, he needs only figure out what sort of reaction Christian missionary efforts would have gotten from each.

    Seventh on his list, the Triumphal Entry. Hildeman here oddly seems to think the issue is that Jesus was on but one donkey, and the contradiction claim is whether the one donkey is male or female. That's not even correct in terms of what the claimed problem is, so we cannot offer an answer.

    Eighth: the cursed fig tree. Our answer, here. Hildeman does not even refer to answer.

    Last on the initial list, Hildeman offers Barker's "Easter Challenge". On this one I have a series here.

    With that done, some odds and ends from Hildeman's first chapter, relevant to our mission:

  • Hildeman deserves credit for at least admitting that Christian faith is not itself debunked if indeed credible claims of Biblical error are found [41]. But he is still awry in his assumption that the form of literalism he once believed is the only option for inerrantists.
  • Hildeman espouses canonical confusion [41], though we will grant this much he admits: Canons are as much a convenience as anything; truth is truth wherever it may be found. However, Hildeman deserves no credence as a critic of the canonical process if all he is going to do is note the existence of differing versions of the canon, and then offer comments like, "Just what the heck comprises Scripture anyway?" There are better studies, such as our own.
  • If Hildeman wants to argue with someone about 1 Timothy being an unauthorized forgery [43] he can challenge us here. The same goes for his claims of "editing" of Paul's epistles, if he provides specifics. He provides only one, that of 1 Cor. 14:34 ("Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.") which he says was "written in by a chauvinistic editor."[46] While Hildeman is spot on with his detective work (yes, it would contradict Gal. 3:28 and 1 Cor. 11:5) his answer is in error (see here). Hildeman's idea of a "chauvinistic editor" is unnecessary - and his admonition just thereafter for "determining what it meant at the time it was written" is incredibly ironic in light of this (and his repeated) failures to follow this very advice.

    We don't find anything germane to our mission again until Chapter 3 of Hildeman's book - and this time, it's "argument by outrage". Hildeman invites us to consider a scenario in which we are an "unmarried woman" of 13 or 14; just out doing our chores peacefully, when "a large band of marauders comes over the hills to the south, attacks your people, and begins slaughtering everything in sight. They kill your mother and father right in front of you. They take you prisoner, herd you away, and give you over as a forced concubine to some horrible man" and you become a soldier's "sex-toy". [67]

    Sad indeed. The question is, has Hildeman accurately reported a scenario that reflects what is found in the Bible?

    The above is Hildeman's version of what happened in Numbers 31 when Israel met Midian. Unfortunately, he seemed to have not read a few of the prior details when he painted this picture of innocent Midianite provincials minding their own business. To sum it up against the main points above:

  • Mom and Dad wouldn't be there to kill. They were actually out where the Israelites were, trying to use sex as a weapon to seduce the Israelites into idolatry, as a clever way of getting YHWH to destroy them.
  • The girl in question would rather be set to light household chores, and mercifully assimilated into Israelite society.

    We refer to the detailed essay at this locale.

    And is that Hildeman's only error in this area? No, he also offers the Canaanites (see here), David's infant son, the firstborn of Egypt, Abraham and Isaac, the Flood.

    Also, Cain's sacrifice. No, if it were JUST a matter of it being vegetables, then all Cain had to do was say, "I'll try again." That he did not do so shows that the problem was the content of his heart, not the content of his sacrifice.

    But not once does Hildeman actually ARGUE that there was any injustice; he merely lists casualties, like a modern newspaper that thinks that pointing out that people have been killed is an argument against a war. See more on this here.

    More from this chapter:

  • Hildeman's seems to think that an act of divine creative fiat (the virginal conception) is some sort of perverse act of sexuality ("knocked up"). He also thinks that the sighting of the star of Bethlehem implies astrology [74], though if it is, so is using the North Star to find your way.
  • He also does not know the difference between gematria and oral structures (which is what Matthew does when he creates sets of 14 generations for Jesus) and occult "numerology." If what Matthew did is that kind of "numerology," then so is algebra.
  • He thinks that the reference to Jesus by Josephus is "probably forged" [75] (see here). In light of this, may I just say that Hildeman's further blaming of "literalism" for his apostasy are quite ironic. No one but Eric Hildeman is responsible for the choice to ride the pendulum from one extreme to the other, without considering whether he ought to get off at some partway point. His acceptance of such an extreme position about Josephus' reference to Jesus (and he seems to know of only one, not two as there are) evidences one who has not carefully consider the data.

    And from here, all we have in this book that is within our scope - until the appendix - are some notes:

  • It's outside my scope, but I can't help but see Hildeman's claim that ID theorists would regard lightning as evidence of intelligent design [149] to be missing a step - namely, that lightning is a product of the complexity of a holistic meteorological system, not a singular phenomenon independent of other phenomena.
  • Credit where it is due, as Hildeman [159, 167] advises his readers that some claims of contradiction or problems are not good to use (he even strongly advises his reader to avoid using the "Bible has a wrong value for pi" argument [168]), and to know their business before making use of any problems they want to use, and to do research - hopefully, better than his own in thinking of such things as recourse to "chauvinist editors" for 1 Cor. 14.
  • The only answer Hildeman knows for things like, "Did Solomon get 420 or 450 talents of gold from Ophir?" is answers like, "It was two separate trips." [165] And he even has one half of this problem listed as being in 2 Corinthians. This one (and others, such as the age of Baasha [172]) is one of the simplest, easily attributed to copyist error, but Hildeman doesn't even mention or apparently know that this is an answer.

    In close, we will only note that the reader may readily find answers to all of Hildeman's claims of contradiction by using our Scripture Index.