"Beat the Bible Scholar" -- Supplement
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This is an expansion on the video response to NonStampCollector’s (NoSCo’s) Quiz Show (Bible Contradictions). We’ve used this expansion because the simple fact is that that these issues are not simple, NoSCo’s assumptions notwithstanding.

We’ll say more about the broader problems involved below. First, here’s an accounting of the charges made in the NoSCo video, and our answers. Since these are all old news to us (and have been for years), we’ll mostly provide links.

Some of these articles are long and require some thought, but if your concern is truth and hearing both sides, then you will appreciate them – and will also account yourself a better person than the fundamentalists NoSCo is lampooning (and, in fact, acting like himself).

  1. Mic 7:18 vs. Jer:17:4. Jeremiah's profession of “forever” anger should be regarded as hyperbole of the sort commonly used in ancient literature. That this is so is obvious inasmuch as the focus of God’s anger, the people of Judah, will not themselves last “forever”.

    Note (in the article) the example of hyperbole from Ramsses, for example, which is in the same sort of punishment/response context as Jeremiah’s words.

    We still use such hyperbole even today, even the very same expression. See this example:

    Accept that you cannot force forgiveness. Your ex may be angry at you forever.

    Do they mean this literally? No. The real problem: Though a former fundamentalist himself, NoSCo still hasn’t shed his fundamentalist mindset. More on that below.

  2. Does God tempt?
  3. Works and faith – couple of relevant items in this grouping; see here and here.
  4. Can God be seen?
  5. Does God approve of sacrifices?
  6. Does God cause evil? -- NoSCo seems to have the wrong verse from 1 John, though. I’m not sure which one he has in mind.
  7. When were humans created?
  8. Conversion accounts of Paul
  9. 2 Peter 3:10 vs Eccl. 1:4 – this one’s a little unusual. Peter is using the language of a type of literature called apocalypse – which was full of metaphor and hyperbole. You can see other examples of it from the same period (first century AD) that do the same thing. So his comment on the fate of the world isn’t meant to be literal, but a metaphor for something else (what it does mean is another story).

    On the other hand, don’t take Ecclesiastes literally either, for a different reason related to genre; see here.

  10. First to ascend to heaven
  11. Sins of the father
  12. Does God get tired?
  13. 2 Sam. 23:8 vs 1 Chr. 11:11 – example of copyist error -- more on what NoSCo says of such things below. 2 Sam 8:4 -- see entry for that verse. See same page for 2 Sam. 24:24. By the way, if it seems weird that less silver was considered worth as much as more gold, this is because the Persians had a “thing” for silver. To each his own.

    And yes, I did mistype "according" and get the pictures switched. Sorry about that.

  14. This series covers issues of differences among the Gospels.
  15. On poverty and wealth
  16. It is hard to see what the point is of the repeated “death” answers. Is there some contradiction with something else? Is NoSCo objecting to the use of the death penalty? Just repeating the word “death” isn’t an argument.
  17. On Communism
  18. Faith vs evidence -- false dichotomy, sorry.
  19. The Lukan census is a complex issue but it has become more clear with understanding. See a summary of issues here.
  20. Death of Judas

With that, let’s look at what NoSCo has to say about answers to his video.

How NOT to respond to this movie:

a) By assuming that I have not looked into these contradictions with any level of depth and accusing me of not having tried to understand any kind of "deeper meaning". Wherever possible, I consulted christians' explanations of what they like to refer to as "so-called contradictions" and errors. I've looked at the explanations. I've given them a good go. They're just ****.

I don’t need to assume anything, It’s clear from NoSCo’s poor scholarship that he hasn’t looked into these in any depth. He admits that his main critical source is Skeptics’ Annotated Bible, which is by someone who also lacks any serious studies or credentials. I imagine for “Christians’ explanations” he looked at something somewhat less scholarly than a Chick tract, because that’s the sort of thing that thinks a “deeper meaning” is the answer.

Check our answers. We appeal to historical data, social data, literary data, linguistic data. This is the kind of depth NoSCo does not have and never will have. His knowledge is to scholarship as his stick figure ”art” is to a Pixar production.

b) By saying that these aren't errors at all, rather, that they are simply copyist's errors. Uh- derr. A copyist's error is an error. I don't care what kind of error it is, just don't make the claim that the bible is completely free of errors, except for the cases in which there are errors, which are only copyist's errors only, which aren't really errors. Knock it off. I'm talking about the actual words on the actual page of the bible. When they don't add up, - that's called a contradiction or an error.

We noted there’d be more on this above. Sorry, but NoSCo is making up his own rules here. Except for a few Jack Chick style fundamentalists (like perhaps he was at one time?), no one has EVER claimed that modern English Bibles don’t have errors. The key doctrinal statement on this issue (it is called “The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy”) doesn’t claim that. The issue here is what can be determined to be in the original writings – not what’s on the rack on the pew in front of you.

At the same time, it is only fundamentalist thinkers like NoSCo who think that the Bible is said to be without error by modern standards. The standards of the ancient world are to be used as the yardstick. Those, we might point out, are rather less demanding than modern standards; this makes inerrancy less difficult to prove, but it also means that it has less epistemic significance for Christianity than fundamentalist thinkers like NoSCo think it does. Which is a fair tradeoff, I think.

c) If you agree with me that English translations of the bible contain errors, but you think that the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are pure and therefore true - DON'T tell me this and then go on to criticise me and other skeptics for pointing out that the English translations contain errors! You've just said that you agree with me, that there are errors on the pages of the bibles that your god saw fit to let get corrupted in the first place, just in time for the arrival on the planet of more people than ever before - who all apparently need to be saved by coming to trust the bible and heeding the message contained within it!

The Hebrew and Greek are, of course, what we deal in, and this does represent a better understanding of the inerrancy doctrine. But at this point, NoSCo as much as admits that h won’t do the proper legwork. He is now childishly blaming God for making him have to think about these issues.

There are good reasons why copies were not preserved inerrant (see here). As for NoSCo’s complaint about “more people” missing out, that’s merely more childishness. The fact is that fundamentalist thinkers like NoSCo are a distinct minority – they’re a lonely few who actually care about such piddling issues as how many shekels David paid for a threshing floor. Most Christians either see no need to think the Bible is inerrant (whether by ancient or modern standards) or simply shrug and say that such things represent problems they simply can’t see a solution to right now. Others, like me, have looked and found sufficient answers. Nor is an inerrant text necessary for salvation – if the Bible is only as reliable as Josephus or Tacitus, its claims are still there to be evaluated the same way they would be for any other document. Inerrancy is not a necessary doctrine unless you are a fundamentalist – and NoSCo still appears to be one.

As for me, I can do with or without the doctrine. However, even if I were an atheist I would be embarrassed by NoSCo’s efforts.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That which can be asserted without evidence can be discarded without evidence.

Really? This little ditty was made by Carl Sagan, who was not an expert in the evaluation of evidence and had no right to make such declarations. Even so, this is just the argument of David Hume rehashed again, and Hume has been shown to be at fault for defining what was “extraordinary” based on his limited experience. As one of Hume’s contemporaries said, to a prince who lived in a tropical climate, ice would be extraordinary, and by Hume’s argument and Sagan’s ditty, the prince should not believe in ice. Obviously Sagan’s ditty is useless as a test for reality.

After this, NoSCo repeats himself for on several points, then says:

One of the criteria I used to ascertain whether I thought the explanation was good enough, was whether I thought a christian would accept a similar explanation for a contradiction in any other religions holy book, such as the Qaran or Book of Mormon.

That was a fairly foolish criterion to use. What NoSCo “thought” a Christian would accept is not valid as a standard; evidence of what would or could be accepted, is. And it’s pretty clear he didn’t do any serious research to find that out.

While indeed some Christians (and atheists) are inconsistent in the way described, I am not. See article here. I am perfectly willing to accept similar explanations if the evidence bears them out. However, as the article shows, there are factors to consider and it is not simply a matter of blind acceptance. (Though again, we expect that NoSCo, being still a fundamentalist, knows no better.)

You can discuss this more here.