What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know

A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy

An essay in hypertext by Scott Bidstrup

"Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers." --Bruce Calvert




One of the bedrock beliefs of most Christian fundamentalists is in the inerrancy of their scripture, the Bible. Indeed, if it can be shown that the English-language Bible that I can obtain at my local bookseller (usually the defined as the King James Version) is absolutely inerrant, their case that it is the word of God would be greatly strengthened.

But, if, on the other hand, it can be shown that there are clearly and unquestionably errors in the Bible, from whatever source, then the position of the fundamentalist is greatly weakened, and if it is based on inerrancy of the Bible, disproven.

The purpose of this essay is to make the latter case, i.e., that when the Bible is examined with dispassion and with objectivity, it soon becomes obvious that it is so hopelessly riddled with errors, impossibilities and contradictions that it is essentially ludicrous to make the claim that it is inerrant.

Also, I'm issuing this challenge: I'm going to offer the Christian apologists equal time; below you'll see a table showing the problem, the apologist's answer if I have found one or been offered one, and the reasonable explanation, as offered by common sense or modern scholarship. In addition, if you can offer a fully harmonized account of the death and resurrection of Jesus that includes all the facts, incidents and circumstances related in the four gospels plus Acts, I'll happily post it here.

In some cases, you won't see an apologistís explanation, because an apologetic explanation consistent with reason is simply not possible. If and when I receive an explanation from an apologist that is even halfway reasonable, I'll post it in the table. Until then, those table cells will remain devoid of explanations.

You can compare the apologists' answers to those of modern secular scholars, and do so side by side. Ask yourself which is more reasonable, which is more likely to be correct.

And so here is my challenge to the fundamentalist Christian who believes in the inerrancy of his scripture: In the light of your claim to biblical inerrancy, how do you explain the following?

Part One

In this part, I'll show you some of the obvious impossibilities in the Bible. I've left out the impossibilities that could be explained by magic and miracles, and have limited myself to only those things that just simply can't be. No way, no how - miracles included.

Obvious Impossibilities

The Problem

The Apologist's Explanation

The Rational Explanation

While describing the same incident, 2 Samuel 8:4 states that King David captured 1700 horsemen, and 1 Chron. 18:4 claims he captured 7,000. [Good News Bible, King James Version]

The accounts disagree.

(no explanation) If God is the author of both accounts, why do they disagree?
The authors of Ezra 2:3 and Neh. 7:8 enumerate the tribes that came back from captivity in Babylon. They disagree as to the numbers involved in some clans and tribes:
Ezra:
Arah: 775
Pahath Moab: 2812
Zattu: 945
Bebai: 623
Azgad: 1222
Adonikam: 666
Bigvai: 2056
Adin: 454
etc., etc.
Nehamiah:
Arah: 652
Pahath Moab: 2818
Zattu: 845
Bebai: 628
Azgad: 2322
Adonikam: 667
Bigvai: 2067
Adin: 655
etc., etc.
Of course, I could go on, but you get the point. The accounts differ, often by thousands, even orders of magnitude.
(no explanation) The accounts clearly differ in significant details, and by significant amounts. They obviously can't both be right. If this is God's word, He apparently can't get the story straight when telling it twice.
Leviticus 11:13-19 refers to bats as fowl, when in fact they are mammals. In the Good News bible, he then goes on in 11:20-21 to declare to be an abomination any fowl that "creep, going on all four..." when there is no such a bird. The 'revised' King James Version, distributed by the Gideons, on the other hand, distinguishes insects from birds, which the GNB does not. In 11:6, he declares "...and the hare, because he cheweth the cud." Hares don't chew a cud. Hares are lagomorphs, not ruminants (members of the cattle family). Only ruminants chew cud, lagomorphs do not. The ancients thought of the bats as birds.

For hares, they note that rabbits (but don't say anything about hares, which aren't rabbits anyway even though they superficially resemble each other) occasionally chew their fecal pellets as if it were a cud.

1. As for bats being birds, where are the feathers? The skin-covered wings, and the hair are good clues that these aren't birds. Maybe a human author of Leviticus might think so, but this is God that is supposed to be writing this. If God created the bats, he surely knew he wasn't creating a bird and wouldn't have said he was.

2. The author of Leviticus obviously didn't have much of an understanding of the most rudimentary of biological science. A fecal pellet is not a cud. A cud is the product of the rumen, a chamber of the stomach of ruminants. A fecal pellet is a product of the lower intestine. Besides, coprophagy (the eating of excrement) has only very rarely been observed in hares anyway. Again, if this is God's word, he is displaying a good deal of ignorance of what he allegedly created.

3. The author of Leviticus obviously didn't have much of an understanding of the most rudimentary of biological science. A fecal pellet is not a cud. A cud is the product of the rumen, a chamber of the stomach of ruminants. A fecal pellet is a product of the lower intestine. Besides, coprophagy (the eating of excrement) has only very rarely been observed in hares anyway. Again, if this is God's word, he is displaying a good deal of ignorance of what he allegedly created.

John 12:24 says "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

How can it bring forth any fruit at all if it's dead?

The reference obviously doesn't make much sense unless one assigns unusual meanings to the word "die" and assumes it means ripened and dried. The fundamentalist claims that in the context of it being a parable, the technical detail of a dead seed bringing forth fruit makes sense. The ancients believed that seeds were actually dead, not alive as we now know they are. But again, God should have known better if this is His word. If the fundamentalist's argument is correct, then Jesus' use of this analogy is a false one ("false premise" fallacy).
Matthew 13:31-32 states that "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed... is the smallest of all seeds but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree."

First, mustard seeds, while small, are hardly the smallest of seeds. Many other seeds, particularly some orchid species, are much, much smaller. Second, it isn't a shrub, but an herb, and isn't particularly large as herbs go, either. There are many herbs that get much, much larger. And third, it doesn't become either a shrub or a tree. Like all other herbs, it stays an herb. It is an annual, and usually dies at the end of a single growing season, so could hardly be mistaken for a shrub.

The fundamentalist claims that use of this analogy is OK, because, again, this is a parable. Itís meant to over dramatize the analogy to drive home the point. It's metaphorical, not literal. The reference simply shows an ignorance of very basic botany at best, and if one accepts the fundamentalist's claim, would make Jesus guilty of hyperbole at the least. This is another example of a false premise fallacy.

Besides, without losing the power of the metaphor (if a metaphorical device was intended), the error could have simply been avoided by the insertion of the words "one of" (one of the smallest of seeds) rather than stating, without qualification, that it was the smallest.

John 12:21 states that "The same came therefore to Phillip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired of him..."

Bethsaida was in the province of Gaulontinis, not the province of Galilee.

Well, it was near the Sea of Galilee. The reference is obviously to the province, not the proximity, so the fundamentalist argument just doesn't wash.
Genesis 6:15 states that Noah's ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits in size. We know that a cubit was approximately 18 inches, yielding a volume (if perfectly rectangular, the most voluminous possible shape of three unequal dimensions) of 1,518,750 cubic feet. Into this, you must fit two of each of the 30,000,000 species on earth, plus all the food needed to keep all of them alive for about a year (add up the timeline).

If this were true, it would not be physically possible to put two of each animal species on earth, plus a years' worth of food for all of them, in a volume of that size.

How do you know it wouldn't fit. Ever tried? Its highly questionable if the animals were simply piled in that volume, willy-nilly, with no room for bedding or even room to stand, whether there would be adequate room, even without the food.

The author of the flood myth simply didn't understand the extent of faunal diversity in the world. As for the volumetric problem, you don't have to try to fit them to see that it won't work. You can simply calculate that it wouldn't fit by adding the volume of the average sized animal's body, multiplied by the number of species. Excluding bacteria, but including all insects, there are more than 30,000,000 species of land animals on earth. Multiply that volume by two, and add in the volume of food required to keep both of each species alive for as much as twenty years (see below), and its pretty obvious that this isn't going to work. Then there's the time it would take to gather up the 30 million species.

If you gathered a male and a female of one species every ten seconds, it would take about ten years to gather up 30 million of them. And mind you, you've got to go to Antarctica to get penguins, the Arctic to get polar bears, Asia to get tigers, Australia to get kangaroos, Africa to get gorillas, South America to get tapirs and agoutis, etc., and you have got to get them back with an adequate supply of their required food and put them in the Ark within ten seconds. Then when the flood's over, you've got to take another ten years to put them all back at the rate of a species every ten seconds.

Then there are all kinds of ecological questions; how are many delicate marine species going to survive when the salinity of the oceans is reduced by two thirds, as it would have been if a worldwide flood of nearly five miles in depth had occurred? How are species going to survive that require mature ecosystems which themselves require centuries to mature? Obviously, this story isn't just impossible, itís ludicrous.

1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chron. 4:2: "He made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to another: it was round all about and its height was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about."

The circumference of a circle is equal to the diameter times pi, or 3.1415. Therefore the circumference of the "sea" had to have been 31.4 cubits if its diameter was ten cubits.

1. There was a widespread belief among the less-educated ancients that the diameter of a circle was one third of its circumference. Apologists suggest that the number was "rounded off" because the Bible "resists interpretation outside a culture not it's own." (Robert Mounce in Answers to Questions About the Bible) Other fundamentalists point out that if the diameter had been measured to the outside, and the circumference the inside, it could have equaled three.

2. Another increasingly popular explanation is that the Hebrew characters for the Hebrew words for ten and thirty each have numeric values, and that if the numeric values for characters in the words from different versions are used, its possible to come pretty close to pi.

3. An additional argument is that the sea wasn't round and therefore selecting the right diameter would have led to a measurement that was one third the circumference.

1. An incorrect number is an incorrect number, regardless of culture. The laws of mathematics are consistent across all cultures and times. If this is God's word, God should certainly have known that the circumference had to be more than 30 cubits if the "sea" was round and 10 cubits in diameter.

Fundamentalists counter that this is a weak argument; I disagree. I don't expect perfect mathematics, but accuracy to at least two orders of magnitude, which the ancients understood and depended on themselves, isn't unreasonable. One order of magnitude of accuracy isn't very much and wouldn't have been any more acceptable to the ancients than it is to us.

Further, the argument of the circumference being measured on the inside would have led to different wording: "round about" implies an outside measurement. When one goes "round about" something, one does not circumnavigate it's interior, but goes about the outside. If anything, the phrase "from one brim to another" would imply an interior measurement of the diameter, while "round about" implies an exterior measurement, which would make the problem even worse.

2. As for the numeric value of the Hebrew alphabet as used in different versions, I find this argument to be the weakest of all. Why can't the value of the words themselves mean what they say? Why does God have to speak in some arcane code that has meaning only in the original Hebrew contrasted with a current version of Hebrew? This numeric value argument is very reminiscent of the "Bible Code" theory, which has been so thoroughly discredited.

3. Finally, if the sea wasn't round, the problem arises as to which axis (major or minor) was measured for the diameter. One would expect the text to offer some allusion to the fact that it wasn't round if in fact it wasn't. Yet it offers no such clue - measuring but one diameter and referring to the circumference as "round about." It is unlikely that the major axis would have been precisely one third the circumference; this would have resulted in a very odd shape for which it would have been difficult to produce a mold.

Part Two

Here are a few (but by no means all) of the direct contradictions that the Bible contains that simply can't be explained away by any reasonable argument. Again, I've limited myself to those contradictions that can't be explained by magic and miracles. This doesn't mean that the inerrantist won't try to explain these contradictions; itís just that he can't.

Direct Contradictions

The Problem

The Apologist's Explanation

The Rational Explanation

Exodus 20:5 "I the lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations."

Ezek 18:2 "What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel? The parents ate the sour grapes, but the children got the sour taste."

The Bible is clear in many places (not just Ezekiel 18:2) that God punishes people for their own sins, not for the sins of their fathers. Examples of this abound in the books of Kings and Chronicles in which kings who did what was right were never held accountable for the sins of their fathers. However, this does not mean that the effects of sin will not continue to future generations. If a father sins by squandering all of his money and leaving his family destitute, his descendants are not personally responsible for their fatherís actions. Nevertheless, they most certainly will feel the effects of the sins of their father. Thus, the iniquity of the father is visited upon the children. This argument fails to consider the fact that God himself is accepting responsibility for the visiting of the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. Well, this does not speak very highly of the sense of justice of the supposedly omnibenevolent god. Of course that's not the only problem with the omnibenevolence doctrine, is it?
Jeremiah 3:12 "...for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever."

Jeremiah 17:4 "Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall be forever."

First of all, these verses are stated in separate contexts-in the first God is talking about Israel and in the second he is referring to Judah. Judah and Israel were two separate countries at the time. Second, the word forever in the original Hebrew (and Greek) does not always been forever in the way that we understand it. It means that something will continue as long as the conditions that allows it to exist last. As an example, slaves were to be servants of their masters in Israel (Exodus) forever. Obviously, their slave ship terminated upon their deaths. If one accepts that God is speaking to one nation in one scripture and to the other in the remaining scripture, it implies that God is certainly, if nothing else, discriminatory. Forever is a long time, and to curse Judah forever and forgive Israel at minimum shows God to be a discriminatory god, even to those under his "covenant." Again, does this fit the definition of omnibenevolence? And where is there justice in an infinite punishment for a finite crime?
Ecclesiastes 1:4 "...the earth abideth forever"

2 Peter 3:10 "the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also, and works that are therein shall be burned up."

The writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely Solomon) is writing in the context of his own lifetime. Compared to his own lifetime, the earth does remain forever. Peter is saying that the world will end in an absolute sense and is writing in a different context. Think of it this way. I could say that critics come and critics go, but the Bible remains forever. However, in a different context I might say that Christians wonít need the Bible when we are in heaven. These two statements are written in different contexts but are not contradictory. The notion that Solomon, if he was the writer (and there is good reason to doubt this for archaeological reasons), would think of the world as eternal in comparison to his own life, should certainly have known better if he was writing under the inspiration of God. After all, this is supposed to be the word of God, isn't it? Then why can't God get his two oracles to say the same thing? The notion that the 2nd Peter reference is metaphorical doesn't wash. The earth is eternal or it is not, so if is, let's not use metaphors implying that it isn't. Of course, science has answered that it is the latter.

Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good."

Genesis 6:6 "And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved at his heart."

The creation was very good until Adam and Eve sinned. At that point it was no longer very good and that is what Genesis 6:6 is referring to. Whether or not God foresaw the sin occurring is irrelevant to the fact that sin HAD NOT YET OCCURRED and thus God is correct to pronounce the world good in Genesis 1:31. If the fundamentalist's argument were true, then obviously God must not have foreseen the consequences of Eve's eating of the fruit; otherwise he would have known from the outset that there was a problem. And 6:6 has god repenting. Repentance implies mistakenness at minimum, so their argument would undermine the claim of God's perfection. The argument that the sin had not yet occurred, and thus the creation was still perfect denies that creation isn't perfect if it isn't going to remain so.
John 10:30 "I and my father are one."

John 14:28 "I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I."

Here we get into a discussion of the trinity. The standard doctrine of the trinity is that Jesus and the Father are one and yet are separate persons. While Jesus and the Father are both God and equal in that respect, Jesus voluntarily subordinated himself to the Father when he became human on earth. It would be similar (although not exactly the same) to saying that a king and a peasant are equal (as humans) but that one is in a greater position than the other. If the fundamentalistís argument is true, then John 10:30 makes no sense at all. How can you be one and still be separate? They are either one or they are not. The states are mutually exclusive.
2 Kings 2:11 "...and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven."

Luke 24:51"...and [Jesus] was taken up into heaven."

John 3:13 "And no man hath ascended up into heaven, except the one who came from heaven."

It is important to look at the context of Jesusí discussion with Nicodemus. Jesus is contrasting himself with Nicodemus and the other Jews. He is pointing out that he has firsthand knowledge of heavenly things and that he is the only one on earth who has come down from heaven with this message. If the fundamentalists' argument were true, then Jesus couldn't have ascended into heaven because 3:13 states "one" not "two." So it would have had to be either Jesus or Elijah. Take your pick. Either way, there's an unresolved problem. The scripture does not make an exception for what the fundamentalist considers to be a messenger - that's actually irrelevant to the contradiction.
Genesis 32:30 "Jacob said, 'I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'"

John 1:18 "No man hath seen God at any time."

Jacob is referring to the fact that he spoke to God in a very intimate, personal setting. Face to face does not necessarily mean that he literally saw God directly. Another possible explanation is that Jacob saw only a small aspect of God and he leaped to the conclusion that he saw God face to face. After all, the Genesis author does not say that Jacob was correct in his statement, merely that he said it. This argument is obviously weak, in that it entails an interpretation of "face to face" as simply not meaning what it says - which is contrary to the literalists' position. If one is seeing an "aspect" of God, but not his face, why does this perfect god who is speaking through Jacob allow Jacob to record an error in this perfect book? Why does the Genesis author not set the record straight? After all, leaving it uncorrected certainly causes a problem with interpretation.



The Crucifixion and Resurrection Mess

or just how contradictory can we make an account of the same events?

Of all the contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible, few make more of a mess of things than the four accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection as given in the four gospels.

Here we have a single narrative, told by four different authors, that is so contradictory that I've never seen an explanation of it. It will be interesting to see the fundamentalists untangle this mess. For the sake of brevity, we'll just pick up the story on that first Easter Sunday:

When the sun was coming up (Matt. 28:1) while it was still dark (John 20:1), Mary Magdalene (John 20:1) or Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt 28:1) or "the women" [note the plural] (Luke 24:1) went to the tomb. There was an earthquake, and an angel came down and rolled the stone away (Matt. 28:2) from the entrance of the tomb and sat on it, even though it had apparently already been rolled away when Mary Magdalene had got there (John 20:1, Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2). The reason for the visit was to anoint the body with spices (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1) or just to look at the tomb (Matt. 28:1), take your pick.

When she or they, take your pick, arrived, she/they witnessed the earthquake and angel coming down from heaven (Matt. 28:1), or they walked into the tomb to discover a young man dressed in white sitting on the right (Mark 16:5) or two men in bright shining clothes (Luke 24:4), take your pick.

At this point, John says that Mary had run back to fetch Peter and another disciple. The other gospel writers make no mention of Mary taking leave of the tomb to go back and get any of the men at this point.

If/when she/they returned, the angel (Mark 15:6) or the angels (Luke 24:5) is/are quoted by the gospel writers as having said one of three things. Either "He is not here, he is raised, just as he said." (Matt. 28:6) or "He is not here, he has been raised." (Mark 15:6, Luke 24:6) or "Woman, why are you crying?" (John 20:13).

So the woman or women ran from the tomb to tell the disciples (Matt. 28:8) or they left, too terrified to say anything to anyone (Mark 16:8), take your pick.

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus appear to her and decided he'd been resurrected (John 20:14-18). Or the women, having left the tomb and thinking things over, were sure that Jesus' body had been stolen, so they tried to bribe the soldiers guarding the tomb to tell them where the body had been taken (Matt. 28:11-15).

I'm sorry, but at this point, the stories diverge so completely, it is not possible to correlate them any further. But that's OK, because by now, you get the point. There are just too many glaring inconsistencies here, most of which are mutually exclusive without some really implausible apologetics. So much so that itís ludicrous to claim that the four accounts are all true. As you've seen, they can't possibly be.

If you want to get a real sense of the inconsistencies in the narrative of the four gospels, start with the trial of Jesus, and compare the accounts in the gospels side by side, reading the account of each incident in the narrative in each gospel before going on to the next incident in the narrative. It will quickly become obvious just how inconsistent the Bible really is.

As you do this, you'll come to realize just how imperfect this supposedly perfect document has to be. And as such, the reasonableness of one of the basic claims of the fundamentalist Christians, that of the inerrancy of the Bible, will evaporate like the dew on a summer morning.

A Note And A Challenge to Fundamentalists Who Read This Essay

I get a LOT of mail about this essay; more than any other essay on my site. If you're planning to respond to what I have written here, PLEASE read and comply with the following. Otherwise, you will probably not get a response from me.

Many if not most of you who write to me about it (and there have been thousands) make the totally unsupported claim that you can explain everything in here, but none of you ever do. And of course, I'm not surprised. So please don't write saying you can explain everything in it unless you take the time to actually do so. I'm not interested in unsupported claims; I'm interested in reality. So don't just make the claim; back it up with your explanations. If you don't do so, don't expect an answer from me. An explanation based on "copyist errors" or "translation errors" isn't an explanation, either, it's a cop-out for the reasons delineated below.

I am not interested, either, in answering letters from people who claim that most or all of these problems are errors in translation and editing. That's not inerrancy, as I have defined it here. If you concede that the Bible contains errors that have been made by translators or editors, then you can conceivably explain anything in it as a copyist, translational or editing error. That's an easy way out, that also has the effect of saying that since the Bible is actually does have errors in it, it can't reliably be considered to be the infallible word of God, either. If you want to take that easy way out, then you're not talking about the inerrant Bible that the fundamentalists claim I can pick up off of my local bookshop shelf. My essay is aimed at them, not you. So PLEASE don't bother to tell me that these are all translator's, copyist's and editor's errors. If it is going to be the reliable word of God, it has to be inerrant, and that means truly inerrant; i.e., devoid of all translational, copyist or editing errors.

In addition, I'm making all of you this offer and issuing this challenge: Give me novel, logically consistent and factually correct explanations for any or all of the problems I list above, and I'll put them on this web site. If you can offer me a complete, logically consistent harmonization of the problem of the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus that accounts for all the facts, places and incidents recorded in the four gospels plus Acts, I'll post it here. Don't just tell me it exists, send it to me. I genuinely want to see it, and I am honest enough to post it here and publicly eat crow over it. Furthermore, I'll go even one better, and that will be to help you claim the $10,000 prize that the Skeptics Society has offered for such an account.

For some peculiar reason I haven't figured out, I get a lot of mail about the "molten sea" item in the last row of the first table. All of them revolve around the very same arguments that are listed in the fundamentalists' explanations; I've yet to get anything novel on that problem. So please, read the explanations, and unless you have something new to offer, don't bother to write about it or other items in the tables.

And finally, if you feel "called by God" to write to me and "bring me to Jesus," save yourself the trouble. Do you seriously think you're the first? My web site gets a lot of traffic (thousands of hits per day) and I get emails like that without exception with every single email session I download, and I'm getting awfully tired of hitting the delete button over and over and over. You're not making Christianity or Jesus any more appealing to me by pestering me about Jesus blessing me, or my impending residence in Hell, or doing the work of Satan, or my lack of reading the Bible in the "spirit," etc. Believe me, I've heard it all a thousand times before, and I'm not impressed. All you're doing by trying to evangelize me is to lend additional credence to my contention that Christianity is nothing more than a highly evolved and infective meme complex.

So please, don't try to proselytize, evangelize or harangue me about the above issues. If you have something genuinely novel to offer, or are interested in genuine, open-minded debate, I welcome your response. But if your intent is to convert me into a follower of Jesus, or simply reiterate the same hopelessly inadequate explanations I've already listed here, forget it. Been there, done that. Not interested any longer.


Books (which, if you wish, you can purchase on-line safely from Amazon.com by pursuing the links here) used in the research of this essay (some not specifically cited here):

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origins of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Niel Asher Silberman is a remarkably thorough and well documented survey of the current state of Biblical archaeology. Must reading for those who mistakenly believe that modern archaeology supports the Bible story.

The Case Against Christianity, by Michael Martin is easily the best philosophical analysis of Christian doctrine I've yet seen. He dispassionately examines each major Christian doctrine, one by one, and shows why it is either inconsistent with other doctrine or provable reality. Quoting liberally from many Christian apologists, he gives a good overview of apologetic thinking. A deep read, but well worth the effort - it will give anyone who takes the trouble to read it plenty of food for thought.

Science on Trial: the Case For Evolution, by Douglas Futuyama makes the best case yet for evolution and shows, point by point, why the creationist interpretation of Genesis is unreasonable. Fascinating reading, its a valuable resource for every high school biology teacher faced with defending science from creationism. Deserves to be much more widely read than it is.

The Complete Gospels: The Annotated Scholars Version by Robert J. Miller is the only translation I know of that has made a serious, scholarly attempt at objective translation. It includes translations of many fragmentary gospels that were not included in the canonized New Testament, and has annotations explaining the differences and what they mean. Highly recommended.

In God We Trust: But Which One? by Judith Hayes gives a generally well reasoned summary of the nonsense of Christian inerrancy claims and points out many of the inconsistencies in Christian doctrine in general. Includes a lot of material on the basic problems with the Bible.

The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C. Dennis McKinsey is the best compilation (running to well over 500 pages) of biblical errors and impossibilities I have yet encountered. It was invaluable in the production of this work, and while it has a lot of material in it for which "magic" explanations are possible, it is also a gold mine of outright obvious impossibilities.

The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations is a fabulous little volume full of many, many quotations showing, for example, that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and several other American founding fathers were hardly the Christians that the radical religious right likes to portray them as being. It also has a long, long list of biblical contradictions -- far more than are presented here. This book was also invaluable in the production of this essay.


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