One of things that I want to do on this blog is codify some thoughts about my conversion to Christianty. I became an atheist sometime in the preteen years and stayed that way until age twenty-three. Then I converted to Christianity. Why? Well, I tried to write an explanation and it turned into a book of about 120 pages. Maybe someday I’ll publish it. If not, perhaps I’ll at least put a synopsis up.
But if the topic is still a puzzle to me, it seems even more of a puzzle to everyone else. Why, some people wonder, would you possibly leave rationality and facts and logic and go off to believe some mythology written thousands of years ago by a tribe of nomadic sheperds? Don’t you know all of the facts that prove Christianity to be untrue? Don’t you know, for instance, that there are errors in the Bible?
As a matter of fact, I do know that there are errors in the Bible and it does nothing to stop me from being a Christian. Perhaps this misunderstanding arises because some outsiders think that “the Bible is the basis of Christianity”. It’s actually Jesus Christ who’s the basis of Christianity. The Bible is a collection of books, some of which are about Jesus Christ. The Bible is no more the basis of Christianity than Dreams from my Father is President of the United States. Less, actually, since Dreams from my Father is at least entirely about the President of the United States.
But, someone might protest, if there are errors in our only direct source about the life of Jesus Christ, doesn’t that cast doubt on the facts about the life of Jesus Christ? To that I only answer that it depends on the error. There are plenty of errors, but it seems that when atheists push lists of errors at me, they almost always focus on ones that aren’t errors.
For example, a few weeks ago an online debater threw Mark 11:1 at me: “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples.” The supposed error is that if they traveled to Jerusalem from the east, they would have reached Bethany first and then Bethpage. Aha! In your face, man! There’s an error in the Bible!
Or is there? Suppose I told you (truthfully) that two years ago I drove from the east coast to Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Would you then leap up and accuse me of gross inaccuracy, since I actually drove to Saint Paul and Minneapolis? I don’t think you would. Yet that’s the sort of logic that this debater was relying on.
Or, for another example, the supposed conflict over whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew and Luke says that he was, while John supposedly says otherwise; Richard Dawkins actually make this the cornerstone of his case against gospel accuracy in The God Delusion. But look at what the relevant passage in John 7 says: “On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’ Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?‘” Now surely even Richard Dawkins can catch the difference between “A said C” and “A said that B said C”. John doesn’t say that Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, but rather that some rubes thought He wasn’t. In fact John sets up the incident to mock them further, because in verse 52 they ask whether it’s possible for the messiah to have anything to do with Galilee, thus demonstrating ignorance of the Messianic Prophecy in Isaiah 9 concerning Galilee.
If you happen to be looking for a good biblical contradiction, try Mark 2:26. In this Mark refers to an incident from 1 Samuel 21 that occured when Ahimelech was high priest, yet Mark incorrectly identifies Abiathar as being high priest at the time. This, I can assure you, is a grade A, USDA Prime biblical error and there’s no two ways about it.
So why are there errors in the Bible? Well, why not? The idea that there aren’t any was invented sometime in the 18th century by American fundamentalists as a wrongful reaction against modern, scholarly Bible criticism. Before that it wasn’t a big deal. Even Martin Luther (the original one, not King Jr.) was aware of the Abiathar-Ahimelech hiccup and advised followers to just not worry about it. Suppose I say the gospels are inspired. Inspired how? Perhaps the Holy Spirit motivated the goseplers to get the facts about Jesus written down, but that was the limit of inspiration. Alternately, suppose the Holy Spirit caused them to drop a few minor mistakes into the gospels just so that the gospels wouldn’t be perfect, thus to ensure that we’d worship Jesus rather than the books about Him.