Related Pages: Why Christianity | Bible: criticism | inerrancy | Faith and Reason | Fundamentalism | Fundamentalist | The Bible vs Church Theology

Under Construction

On this page and the bible criticism page we talk about criticisms and opposing views of the Bible and Christianity. It is not an attempt to discredit the Bible, which is amazingly consistent considering the number of authors and time period over which it was written. Most people, even of other religions, believe the Bible is at least inspired by God, if not the literal "Word of God".
I am not an biblical apologist and make no attempt to counter these criticisms; There are other places to look for that (see links below).

Let me preface this by saying the purpose of the bible is not to teach history or science, but God's will for mankind, so all this effort by Biblical literalists to prove inerrancy is not helping in the Bible's basic purpose.

At Let's Appreciate the Bible's Contradictions - OnFaith they say,
"The men who compiled and edited the Hebrew scriptures two millennia ago had every opportunity to correct its contradictions -- but chose not to. They didn't remove one of the two creation stories for the sake of clarity because they recognized that each contains rich metaphors that shed unique light on the nature of existence."
Their authors knew that language can only approximate the profound truths of their subject matter, that contradictions are essential to the reading experience."

In Richard Friedman's book "Who Wrote the Bible", where he tries to identify the sources of some of the apparent discrepancies on the Old Testament, he says:
The challenge that this investigation presents is not to the belief in the revealed or inspired character of the Bible, but to traditions about which humans actually wrote it on the parchment."

Although there are inconsistencies in some details in the bible (Many Christians refute this saying it is just our lack of understanding) it is generally very consistent considering more than 40 authors wrote it over more than a thousand years.

The people who make the most sense to me in this discussion claim you cannot prove or disprove the bible.

In his book "Is the Bible True" Sheler (he is a U. S. News religion journalist who defends the Bible) says:

"Never before has the Bible been subjected to as much scholarly and scientific scrutiny. Archaeologists are making dramatic discoveries that cast surprising new light on the Bible's accounts of history. Anthropologists and Sociologists are also adding new insight."
"For many people, the explosion of modern research and speculation has forever changed how the Bible is regarded. For some it has made a purely literal approach to the Scriptures untenable, while for others it has made the Bible more credible and concrete in its connectedness to verifiable history."
"After all of the scholarly scrutiny, the Bible emerges affirmed but not unscathed, a credible but complex chronicle of humanity's encounter with God."

In "How to Read the Bible: History, Prophecy, Literature--Why Modern Readers Need to Know the Difference and What It Means for Faith Today" (2005), Steven McKenzie says:

"The fact that so much of the Bible's early history appears, in the light of scientific analysis and historical investigation, not to have happened in the way that the Bible claims raises a question about the Bible's nature. But as with Jonah *, the problem may lie not with the Bible but with the way readers have approached it."
* McKenzie starts the book with the story of Jonah, and makes a case that it is not a history or biography, but satire or parody. And that by misclassifying the genres of some Bible books, we get the wrong message.
When God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry out against it wickedness, Jonah heads away from Nineveh. McKenzie explains how the role of Nineveh is actually an anachronism, which would not make sense in a historical nariative.

McKenzie quotes Christopher Shea's article (see below), which says:

"You wouldn't know it from attending a church or synagogue, or from reading the annual Christmastime articles in Time magazine, but for the past half-century scholars have steadily chipped away at the Old Testament's credibility as a historical document. The big story in the Near Eastern archeology has been how many biblical narratives have been moved from the category of accepted fact to the misty realm of fable.
  First to go was the Creation story, in Genesis - what evidence could ever be found to support it? Then Noah and the Flood, a catastrophic event for which there should be clear geological marks. There are none. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who once fit into secular histories of the the second Millennium B.C., left behind no evidence of their existence. If they were historical figures, we have to take the word of the biblical scribes, who wrote centuries after the patriarchs died.
  The story of the Israelites' conquest of Canaan, blaring trumpets and all, has given way to a rather mundane vision of peaceful infiltration and a social revolt among indigenous peasants. There was no walled city at Jericho when Joshua was supposed to have destroyed it."
Source: "Debunking Ancient Israel: Erasing History or Facing the Truth?", Christopher Shea, "The Chronicle of Higher Education" (Nov 21, 1977).

McKenzie makes a case that much of the Old Testament is an etology, a story that explains the cause or origin of a given phenomenon - a cultural practice or social custom, a biological circumstance, even a geological formation. It is not science or history but a story that "renders an Account" by offering some explanation of present conditions and circumstances based on past causes. He gives as examples Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories, "How the camel Got His Hump, ...

He also points out that the Gospels in the New Testament are not biographies of Jesus in the sense of the modern genre, but rather a story to bring theological instruction to their respective audiences.
He says the Bible must be read in light of these motivations for its creation.

Another example where you have to take things in context McKenzie gives is 1 Cor 13, the "love chapter".
Paul describes love as "patient and kind" precisely because the Corinthians are being impatient and unkind in their disputes over spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14)

What the Bible Says:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work." [2 Tim 3:16-17]
Scripture here refers primality to the OT since much of the NT had not been written yet.

No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." [2 Pet 1:20-21]

"Our brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him." [2 Pet 3:15]

In [Gal 1:11-12] Paul says: "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."

"To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord) ...": [1 Cor 7:12]
In this verse Paul makes the distinction between his word and that of the Lord.

In "C. S. Lewis on Scripture", Abingdon, 1979, Michael J. Christensen, says: "From these passages and others it is apparent that revelation refers to the activity of God by which he discloses himself and his purposes to men of faith. Inspiration refers to the influence of the Holy Spirit on the minds of men to allow them to comprehend and communicate that which is divinely disclosed.

Though the various biblical writers corroborate each other in their statements on divine inspiration and revelation, the questions of inerrancy and infallibility are not specifically addressed in Scripture. Theologians from ancient to modern times have differed widely on these issues as well as in their understanding of how the Bible came to be inspired and how to interpret that which has been revealed."

The Reformation passed to its heirs the belief that ultimate authority rests not in reason or a pope, but in an inspired Scripture. Many conservative protestants, hold to a literal interpretation of an inerrant Bible.
However, many well respected biblical scholars and writers such as C.S. Lewis will admit there are inconsistencies in the Bible.

Bruce Metzger, Princeton Seminary Biblical Scholar, answered a question during a presentation at our church about the inerrancy and authority, he said "There are mistakes in bible". He went on to say that considering the time over which it was written and the number of authors it is amazingly consistent.

The two words most often used to express the nature of scriptural authority are "inerrant" and "infallible." Since Protestants reject the infallibility of both the pope and the church, the word has been used increasingly of the Scriptures. More recently "infallible" has been championed by those who hold to what B B Warfield called limited inspiration but what today is better called limited inerrancy. They limit the Bible's inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, particularly soteriological issues. Stephen T Davis reflects this tendency when he gives a stipulative definition for infallibility: the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice.

The bible was written over 16 centuries from 1400 BC - 200 AD by more than 40 authors, although the actual authorship of many books is still debated by biblical scholars.

Most advocates of Biblical inerrancy hold that they are not, in fact inconsistencies, noting the difficulty of effectively interpreting the text in its context, and sometimes theorizing unwritten histories that allow the story to read without contradictions. Alternatively, scholars who analyze stories, myths, and ancient documents interpret many of the apparent inconsistencies as intentional secular storytelling devices. The majority of Christians, notably Catholics (especially since Second Vatican Council, hold that the inerrancy of the Bible is limited to the things that God intended to reveal. The alleged inconsistencies do not belong to this group of teachings, or are examples of figurative language. Opponents of organized religion often see these alleged inconsistencies as a reason to reject the Bible out of hand.
Some, such as C.S. Lewis, have argued that the slight inconsistencies in the narratives improve the credibility of the narratives as a whole, as they are evidence that the narratives were written independently. Source: (no longer available).

R. C. Sproul says that "this does not mean that the Bible translations we have today are without error, but the original manuscripts were absolutely correct."

In his book "Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why", 2005, Bart Ehrman explains how typos and theological changes made by non-professional scribes got into the New Testament.

In 1707 John Mill studied 100 Greek manuscripts of the new testament and found 30,000 places of variation.
As of 2005, 5,700 Greek manuscripts had been reviewed and there are estimates of 200-400,000 places of variation. (They may be counting a typo in 1 version as 5,700 variations because of the 5,700 copies without the typo).

At the Biblical Manuscripts page they say "only .5% of its words are in question".

Bruce M. Metzger
Bruce M. Metzger (Ph.D., Princeton) is the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. An expert in ancient biblical manuscripts, he has participated in three major Bible translation projects and was chairman of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation committee.

In The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions, 2001, Bruce M. Metzger says:
"Difference in wording in available manuscripts. These differences have arisen because a scribe in copying a document of some considerable length would, almost inevitably, make inadvertent alterations in the wording. Furthermore, occasionally a scribe would deliberately introduce into the copy a slight change that seemed to be needed in order to clarify the meaning. For example, the older manuscripts of Mark 1:2-3 attribute to the prophet Isaiah the Evangelist's quotations from both Malachi and Isaiah, whereas later manuscripts (followed by the King James translators of 1611) read, 'as it is written in the prophets' -- an obvious amelioration of the earlier text."

In the Introduction To the reader of the NRSV, Metzger says,
"the King James Version has serious defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the King James Version was based made it apparent that these defects were so many as to call for revision."

Following the publication of the RSV Old Testament in 1952, significant advances were made in the discovery and interpretation of documents in Semitic languages related to Hebrew. In addition to the information that had become available in the late 1940s from the Dead Sea texts of Isaiah and Habakkuk, subsequent acquisitions from the same area brought to light many other early copies of all the books of the Hebrew Scriptures (except Esther), though most of these copies are fragmentary. During the same period early Greek manuscript copies of books of the New Testament also became available.

Since this page in on Inerrancy lets list a few.

Some often quoted mistakes:

  • The apparent inconsistencies between the genealogies in 1 Chron. 2, Matt. 1 and Luke 3
    See Differences between Chronicles, Matthew and Luke.
  • the accounts of the death of Judas in Matt. 27:5 and Acts 1:18-19.
  • Lewis also refers to "The universally admitted unhistoricity (I do not say, of course, falsity) of at least some of the narratives in Scripture (the parables), which may well also extend to Jonah and Job."
    C. S. Lewis on Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Historicity of Scripture
  • In Genesis 1, Adam is created after the other animals; In Genesis 2, he appears before animals.
  • In Mark 14:12, 15:25 Jesus is crucified the day after passover, in John 19:14 the day before.
  • Some places in the Bible say all you need is faith [John 3:16] for salvation others say good works [James 2:14-17] are required also. See judgement.
    This is one of those seeming inconsistencies which many theologians say can be explained by taking it in context and looking at the real meaning. e.g. true Faith will result in good deeds.
  • Noah's ark:
    Could all those animals fit?
    In "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study", by John Woodmorappe, 1996, he says:
    "They would fit in about 90% of the space"
    In fact I think it's amazing that the number comes out so close to being reasonable considering they didn't know a species from Adam when Genesis was written. See the Noah's Ark page for more detailed calculations.

    Other Ark questions:

    • How did species on other continents (penguins, polar bears, African elefants, ...) get to Noah?
    • Salt and fresh water would be mixed; How would salt water and fresh water fish survive?
    • Where did the water come from to cover major mountain ranges? Theories like water from space and from a hydroplate 10 miles underground don't hold up to scientific scruteny.
  • There has been a lot of discussion over the last 20 years on the origins of Israel in Canaan . Some say the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho has given way to a rather mundane vision of peaceful infiltration and a social revolt, with archeological discoveries and other evidence to support it.

    Mysteries of the Bible - Bible's Greatest Secrets - YouTube - They talk about how archaeology indicates that there may not have been a Battle of Jerrico. [Joshua 10]
    In fact the Canaanite civilization may have collapsed because of earthquakes and the Israelites may have walked in and taken over.

    "The Origins of Israel in Canaan: An Examination of Recent Theories" by John J. Bimson has an extensive discussion of some of these theories and presents another theory more consistent with the Bible, but says "It will be a good while before enough evidence is available for a final verdict."
    See also:
    BBC - Religions - Judaism: Joshua

Old Testament

There is a lot of discussion on how much of the old testament can be verrified. Archeologists even argue about interpretation of artifacts.


      30000 BC Earliest cave paintings in Europe
       4000 BC1 Creation 
       3500 BC First written language, Cuneiform, created by the Sumerians
       3200 BC Egyptian Hieroglyphics  
       3000 BC Bronz Age begins in Egypt
       2350 BC  Flood
       2091    Abraham moves to Canaan
       1587    Iron Age begins in Asia Minor.
       1446    Exodus
       1406    Joshua suceeds Moses, enters Canaan
       1400    Greek alphabet developed
  1375-1050    Judges rule Israel
       1028    Israel United under Saul and David
        966    Solomon's Temple Founded
        930    Israel splits into Judah and Israel
        900    First evidence of distinctive Hebrew and Aramaic writing
        722    N. kingdom (Israel) falls to Assyria (some have 730)
        586    S. Kingdom (Judah) falls to Babylon
        692    Death of Issiah
        620    Book of Deuteronomy is "discovered,"
            leading to monotheistic reform in Judah under rule of Josiah.
        538    First group returns from exile
        530    Daniel written
        516    Second temple in Jerusalem erected
        458    Ezra returns to Jerusalem
        400    Books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah are written.
        300-400 Pentateuch (Torah, first 5 books) is finished
        150    Earliest date of a Dead Sea Scroll
         64    Roman Occupation of Palestine
          5    Birth of Christ
         30 AD Crucifixion of Christ
         50 AD Paul in Europe, writes Epistles to Thessalonians.
         70 AD Second Temple destroyed
      50-70    Mark written (some say it was written around yr. 50)
         75    Matthew written
         80    Luke written
        100    John written
        132    Jews revolt in Judea.
        135    Rome  obliterates nations of Israel and Judea.
              This began the diaspora (scattering of the population
              to other parts of the world.)
1. Dates (Chronologies)
There are several systems for determining dates in the bible . Creation can be calculated to be various dates from 3760 BC to 5501 BC and the Exodus is placed anywhere from 1211 - 1552 BC. Dr. Gerald E. Aardsma says there is a typo in Kings which leads to a 1,000 year gap and comes up with a 2447 date for the exodus
See Bible Dates.

Since Moses lived in the 15th century BC and the Hebrew language was not developed until the 10th century BC, the first 5 books of the Bible were not written down by Moses. They may be his stories passed on by oral tradition.
See Authors of the Pentateuch.
Some think these were oral tradition written down around the 7th century BC, although the earliest written documents in existance today are the Dead Sea Scrolls from the 2nd century. See below.
Archaeological claims vary from people who claim to have found remnants of Noah's Arc to revisonists who claim that the nation of Israel was really created from Canaanite dissidents and were not a group who moved with Abraham from Mesopotamia to Haran to Canaan (2090 BC) and there was never any migration back to Canaan with Joshua after the exodus (1450 BC). i.e. most never left Canaan. Some say, there may have a small group with a Moses-like leader who came from Egypt, but most Israelites never left. Some also claim there was never a large unified kingdom under Saul and David (1030 BC).
This, of course, becomes a political football, with the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict over rights to the area.
There is little evidence to make any conclusions on events prior to the 9th century BC, after David and about the time the Hebrew language was developed.
See Archaeology below.

There are some theories. See: Moses: Evidence - the Exodus at the BBC

Dead Sea Scrolls:
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran (near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. They consist of roughly 800 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, They date back to the 2nd century BC and are the oldest copies of the Bible.
Although a few of the biblical manuscripts found at Qumran differ significantly from the Masoretic text, most do not.
(Note: The Masoretic text is the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the seventh and tenth centuries AD.)

At they say:
"In a comparison of Isaiah the texts from Dead Sea Scrolls proved to be word-for-word identical to our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation, in 13 minor variations, consisted primarily of obvious slips of the pen and spelling alterations (Archer, 1974, p. 25) or a missing phrase or verse. Further, there were no major doctrinal differences between the accepted and Qumran (Dead Sea scrolls discovered near Khirbet Qumran) texts."

At the Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies they say:
The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 which has two different text types, with about 1,375 differences from the MT (Masoretic Text - The Hebrew Bible) The later Greek version of the old testament (LXX) was thought to be inferior to the MT, but some of the Dead Sea Scrolls followed the LXX rather than the MT.

Jeremiah is one seventh shorter in the LXX than in the MT. This is the most dramatic difference between the LXX and MT. The LXX of Jeremiah probably reflects an earlier edition of the Book of Jeremiah. Not only is the LXX shorter, but the arrangement of verses is different.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are very similar to the LXX with the shorter text, and the different arrangement of verses.

In "Is the Bible True", Jeffery Sheler says: "The Bible had navigated the centuries well, Scholars indeed would find some intriguing variations within the massive trove of biblical documents. But overall, as Notre Dame professor Eugene Ulrich, chief editor of the Qumran biblical texts for the Oxford Discoveries in the Judean Dessert series, observed, "The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly accurately preserved for over 2,000 years"
He goes on to say: "Roughly half of the biblical texts from Qumran were found either to contain passages that do not appear in modern translations, or to lack passages that appear in the traditional Bible."

The Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the U. Chicago

Other Archaeology:
Archaeology claims range from proof of the Red Sea crossing to claims that the nation of Israel was really created from Canaanite dissidents and were not a group who moved with Abraham, and most never went to Egypt.
Most archaeologist agree there is little credible archeological evidence prior to the 9th century BC.

  • See "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts", Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001
    According the Publishers Weekly: "The book points out that many of the events recorded in the Old Testament are not historically accurate. Finkelstein and Silberman do not aim to undermine the Bible's import, but to demonstrate why it became the basic document for a distinct religious community under particular political circumstances."
  • In What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel, 2001, William G. Dever argues against revisionist theories, particularly those of Thomas Thompson ("The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel", 1999).
  • At Archeological Evidence regarding the Bible at
    They talk about the discovery of ancient rock inscriptions in the Sinai and Yemen that record the events of the Red Sea Crossing and the Exodus mentioning Moses, Miriam and Joseph.
  • The "Naked Archaeologist" series on the History Channel, tries to defend Bible History.
    An Article in The Canadian Jewish News says that Simcha Jacobovici, who made it, accuses "biblical archeology" of being motivated chiefly by politics and anti-Semitism.
    The received wisdom of academia on biblical archeology is that the earliest parts, from Exodus onward, are mythological stories and fairy tales.
    Jacobovici finds obscure evidence which is not verified by historians or Jacobovici, which he claims proves the Bible stories.
    In Higgaion, Chris Heard, Associate Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, says:
    "Jacobovici, who is neither a biblical scholar, nor a historian, nor an archaeologists, but a filmmaker, seems ignorant of good historical methodology."

"Who Wrote the bible?", 1997 by Richard E. Friedman
What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel, 2001 by William G. Dever
"Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why", 2005, Bart Ehrman
Reading Genesis One: Comparing Biblical Hebrew with English Translation, by Rodney Whitefield ISBN 0-9728782-0-3
The text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, by Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, 4th edition 2005
Professor Bruce M. Metzger (Princeton Theological Seminary). . . remains the dean of New Testament textual criticism. It brings the discussion of such important matters as the early Greek manuscripts and methods of textual criticism up to date, integrating recent research findings and approaches into the body of the text.
"Is the Bible True", by Jeffery Sheler, 1989
101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History,Gary Greenberg, 2000
"The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English", Edited by Martin G. Abegg, Peter W. Flint and Eugene Charles Ulrich
The Bible Without Theology: The Theological Tradition and Alternatives to It, 1987 Robert A. Oden, Jr.

"The Date of Deuteronomy: Linch-pin of Old Testament Criticism.

Let's Appreciate the Bible's Contradictions - OnFaith
10 Things Evangelicals Aren't Supposed to Say | OnFaith Is the Bible True at (
Apologetics Encyclopedia
Jesus at (
Alleged Bible Discrepancies at
Did Moses write the Pentateuch
The Synoptic Problem: The Literary Relationship of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
Alleged inconsistencies in the Bible
C. S. Lewis on Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Historicity of Scripture
Alleged Bible Discrepancies at
Creation - Evolution - Intelligent Design by GR Gaudreau.
Bible Contradictions
Bible contradictions - by category
What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know: A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy
Contradictions Answered
Answers to so called Bible contradictions
Probabilities of Bible Inerrancy
The Production And Translation Of The Bible
Bible criticism
Why Christianity
last updated 4 May 2010