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During my 20 years as a Christian not once did any church authority ever go into great
detail about how the Bible was written. Moreover, the information that was provided to
me was usually limited to Sunday morning sound bites which made vague references to
the Holy Spirit who was said to have inspired the authors of the Bible. In fact, it was
taken as face value by me and other members of my church that the Bible was the
flawless word of God period, and that was good enough for us.

Well my opinion of the Bible first started to change back in the early 1980's after reading
Isaac Asimov's In the Beginning and Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason. At the time, I
didn't understand much of what either author had wrote, but what I did comprehend was
enough to plant some seeds of doubt that would latter take hold. For the time though, I
was not yet ready to entertain the possibility that the Bible was not the word of God. So,
I repressed any notion to the contrary for many years to come.

The next serious wave of doubt happened to me in 1993. During that time I was in my
sophomore year of college and I happened to get involved with a moderately liberal
nondenominational Church on my college campus. After attending a few weekday
meetings the ministry leader asked me if I would be interested in leading a weekly Bible
study. I agreed but unbeknownst to the pastor, that invitation would not quite turn out as
he had hoped. In fact, I learned several valuable lessons during my brief stint as study
leader, the least of which included: 1) the majority of the time Christians never read their
Bibles, 2) everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--took the Bible as flawless word of God,
no questions asked, and 3) the weekly lessons were ALWAYS limited to one or two
verses, usually in the same chapter, and were always based on those verses which
were positive.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) to prepare for my weekly

stints as study leader I had to actually read the Bible. This inevitably led to me stumble
upon numerous verses--usually in the Old Testament--that often depicted God as very
vindictive, petty, and cruel. In addition, I also started to notice contradictory passages in
the Gospels. In fact, I was told by many pastors that the Gospels told the same story.
However, when I seriously started to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John side-by-side it
became apparent that they did not agree.

Naturally, I had to bring these problems up to the pastor and his answers were far from
comforting. First, he told me that God had created a new covenant with man--part of
which entailed God sending Jesus to die for my sins. In effect, according to him, the
Old Testament God had been replaced with the New Testament God of love. Well I
thought that this was all good and fine, but it did little good for those hundreds of people
that God slaughtered wholesale in the Old Testament! However, I kept this thought to
myself and let the good pastor continue. Next he told me that there are "minor" mistakes
in the Bible but those mistakes are due to imperfect men trying to transcribe the words
of perfect God (his exact analogy was God being the writer and man being the pen). I
am almost certain that this was the first time that I had ever asked myself how a perfect
God who could do ANYTHING, could not make a few mere mortals correctly write down
His words (especially when said God created the pens). Moreover, this was the first
time that I had ever heard a pastor admit that there were mistakes in the Bible. Again, I
kept this thought to myself but something definitely was starting to not add up.

Fast forward to the year 2000. By this time I had completed a undergraduate degree in
the social sciences. Moreover, my liberal arts education had introduced me to the
scientific method, the methods of history, and I also entertained a healthy appetite for
reading--a habit that lead me to read dozens of books on numerous topics. Finally, at
this time I was attending graduate school and had a pretty good idea of what methods
were accepted in credible research. So, with all of this as a backdrop, I happened to
stumble upon Dan Barker's Loosing Faith in Faith while searching for books about
Christianity on the Internet. After reading a few reviews I ordered the book, read it, and
the rest is, as they say, history. What Barker did for me was to confirm for the first time,
many of the same problems that I had noticed in the Bible during my Bible study days.
Moreover, his explanations of these problems seemed to fit the facts and seemed much
more plausible than many of the explanations that I had heard before. Finally, and most
importantly, his book led me to other books on freethought which up until this time was a
genre that I didn't know even existed.

Since the year 2000 I have read many books on freethought, philosophy, and
Christianity. In fact, there are several topics related to these genres that I continue to
read about and one of them happens to be how the Bible was assembled. To this end,
what follows is my interpretation of how the Bible came to be. Naturally, this essay is
based on my interpretation of the many sources which are listed at the end of this
essay. It should be noted from the very beginning that I am not a biblical scholar or a
theologian. Moreover, there are many better accounts of how the Bible came to be than
this particular essay. So with this in mind, if you do happen to continue on and read this
essay I would encourage to be skeptical of what I have wrote. In fact, I entertain some
small hope that you the reader would look up some of the sources at the end of this
essay and draw your own conclusions. Finally, before taking my skeptical challenge, I
would encourage you to read How to Think About Weird Things by Theodore Schick
and Lewis Vaughn. This book presents a very practical approach that non-experts
(theistic or otherwise) can use to evaluate all sorts of claims. This, of course, includes
the claims that I make in any of my online writings.

It should also be noted that during my online forays I often come across a minority of
Christians who will try to use the Bible as conclusive evidence for the existence of God.
Generally speaking, this argument goes something like this:
1) The Bible is God's word.
2) God's word is perfect and error- free.
3) The Bible says that God exists.
3) Therefore, God exists.

This particular argument is based on circular reasoning and always fails. In other
words, to show the truth of premise (1) you would have to prove that God exists. Thus,
one would have to prove the truth of the conclusion to prove the truth of one of the
argument's premises. Simply put, circular arguments cannot demonstrate the truth of
their conclusions because the conclusion is in one of the argument's premises.

However, having noted that this argument is not valid from the beginning, I think that it is
still important to do away with premise (2): God's word is perfect and error-free.
Personally speaking, as a once Bible-believing Christian who had no formal training in
philosophy or logic, the validity of the above argument once meant little to me. So, it is
my intent to do what so many other freethinkers have already done: show that the Bible
cannot be the work of the oft-described, omniscient (i.e., all-knowing), omnipotent (i.e.,
all-powerful), and "perfect" God of Christianity [1].

The Gospels

The Gospels are made up of the following books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Based on my research I discovered that nobody knows who wrote a single verse in any
one of these Gospels, period. Moreover, nobody knows when or where they were
written, period. Most Biblical scholars will agree that the Gospel of Mark is the oldest
out of the four. The Gospel of Mark, as we know it, is not the original Mark. In fact,
most scholars feel that Mark expanded and copied an earlier document that no longer
exists. This original source vanished in the early age of the Church and no one can say
for certain who wrote it, where it was written, or what words it contained.

Many scholars also feel that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were developed from the
Gospel of Mark. Oddly enough, the Gospel of Mark tells us nothing of the sermon on
the mount, the virgin birth, the Lord's prayer—much less any of the facts of the alleged
life of Jesus. It is not until Matthew and Luke that we see these notions appear.
Furthermore, the Gospel of John is suspected by many experts to only paint an
interpretation of the life of Jesus. Rather than being an actual historical document, it
gives an accounting of Jesus in idealized terms--this, likely due to the influences of
Greek philosophy.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are often called the "Synoptic Gospels" due to
the fact that certain parts lay out a synopsis of the life of Jesus. Standing in stark
contrast to this “synopsis” is the Gospel of John. So dissimilar is John to the first three
Gospels, that most Biblical scholars agree that it’s hard to correlate the Jesus of the first
three with John’s Jesus. Mark paints Jesus a man, in Matthew and Luke he was akin to
a demi-god, while John equates Jesus with God himself.
To further cast doubt on the Gospels is the fact that they are riddled with contradictions.
One such example of this is seen in the post resurrection appearance of Jesus. For
example, Matthew tells of Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection on a
Mountain in Galilee, Mark puts Jesus appearing to two of the disciples in the “country”,
Luke on the road to Emmaus, and John in a room in the evening. Now granted, I may
have flunked map reading while I was in the army but this Gospel cartography leaves
something to be desired. In fact, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask why these details
do not agree. Some Christians will tell me that this is a minor detail and that regardless,
the resurrection still happened. Now I can see their point but it becomes quickly moot
when one tries to reconcile all the other apparent contradictions in the Gospels. Believe
me, I am hardly the first to notice this particular discrepancy, nor am I the first to notice
the many other discrepancies that the Gospels contain. For example, Revolutionary
War hero Ethan Allen wrote of these contradictions back in 1836 (See Allen's Reason
the Only Oracle of Man). In the Chapter titled "Truth and Harmony of the Four
Gospels", Colonel Allen spends approximately 70 pages describing errors in the
Gospels. Included in his critique are apparent errors in the genealogy of Jesus, failed
biblical prophecies, and the apparent contradictions in the post resurrection
appearances of Jesus. Modern-day critics have also noticed these Gospel
contradictions. For example, in his essay titled "Leave No Stone Unturned", freethought
activist Dan Barker ( chronicles 17 apparent contradictions in the Gospels.
Furthermore, Donald Morgan expands on Barker's work and lists 22 contradictions in
his "Easter Quiz."

If things were not confusing enough lets add the “Q” Hypothesis. According to biblical
scholars, what similarities that do exist in the four Gospels can be attributed to the
Gospel authors having access to another source which they call “Q” (German word for
“source”, i.e., Quelle). The problem here is that this mysterious “Q” document has
never been found period. Whatever the case, "Q" is a hot topic among biblical scholars.
For example, the book titled The Gospel Behind The Gospels: Current Studies on Q,
edited by Ronald A. Piper (1995), details some 16 recent studies by notable biblical
scholars on the notion of “Q”. Now I’ll be the first to admit that there very well may have
been a mysterious document that can be linked to the four Gospels. However, until
someone finds said document all we really have is educated speculation.

The age of the Gospels is another problem and its a big one in my opinion. The
Gospels are based on a oral tradition that is likely derived from the second or third-hand
testimony of Jewish Christians. Though scholars disagree on their exact age, I think it’s
safe to say that most feel they were not written earlier than a 70 years after the time at
which Jesus is thought to have died. From what I could gather from my research, most
scholars think that Mark was written some time after the year 70 CE, Luke and Matthew
about 85 CE, and John around 100 CE. I could find no evidence whatsoever that the
Gospels were written until 70 to a 150 years after the events that they depict. First,
these dates are subject to much debate and are conjectural at best. Second, the
reliability of 70-year-old testimonials should be incredibly suspect. Third, how can we
base what we know regarding Jesus on documents that were written at least 70 years
after he was supposed to have lived? Finally, as I noted earlier, Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John were not the Gospel authors; and, after examining the approximate age of the
documents, it is quite apparent that whomever did author them certainly could not have
been an eyewitness to the events that they depict!

Finally, the nail on the proverbial coffin is the fact that not only were the Gospels written
at least 70 years after the fact, but that those originals that they sprang from do not exist
period. The earliest copies we have are from the second century and these are
suspected to be copies of copies! Not only do we not know who copied the copies, we
do not know when they were copied, or by whom. In his book The New Testament: A
Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (1997), professor of religious
studies Bart D. Ehrman notes that there are some 5,400 copies of the New Testament in
the world today. These copies range from hand-sized scraps to full manuscripts
containing all 27 books. The problem professor Ehrman points out is that one is hard
pressed to find any two copies that fully agree in their wording. In fact, most biblical
scholars (including professor Ehrman) feel that these differences are due to scribes
making changes as they copied these texts through the centuries. According to
professor Ehrman, scholars estimate the number of textual differences somewhere
between 2-300,000! Or, as professor Ehrman describes it: “there are more differences
among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament."

Now I ask you, what if I wrote a book about the life of a historical figure and I based it on
verbal testimony and sources that were 200-year-old copies of earlier documents?
Naturally, these earlier documents are thought to have been written 70-150 years after
this historical figure had died. To top it all off, the original source that my sources
sprang from is thought to have existed--but never has been found. Finally, I go on the
record an state that everything I have written is flawlessly true with no factual errors
whatsoever and I expect you to believe me. Honestly, do you think any credible
publishing house would publish my book--much less take it, or me, seriously? Or, as
Ethan Allen wisely observed:

"The proofs of divine inspiration which these Gospels contain, are of a peculiar
kind. Their origin is so concealed in a thick cloud from our mortal eyes, that we
know not who were their authors...Their different narratives, when compared
with one another, exhibit so many apparent contradictions, that one half of them
would have destroyed the credit and authority of any book not supported by
divine power...if the scriptures had been written with one half of the care and
ability with which they have been explained and defended, they would not have
been the cause of so much contention and mischief, and they would not have
stood in need of so much explanation and defence. If they had been attacked
with half of the zeal and ability with which they had been defended, they would
have fallen long ere now; but severe laws, superstitious veneration, and able
defenders, have protected and supported them."

(Quote from Allen's Reason the Only Oracle of Man, pp. 68-70)

The Rest of the Bible

As I noted at the beginning of this essay, I am certainly not a theologian nor am I a
biblical scholar. Still, if God and the Holy Spirit are involved, then how come we have
such a mish-mash of Gospel documents? Worse still, there is not one uniform Bible in
Christianity. In fact, we have a Protestant and a Catholic Bible and they are dissimilar in
parts. The main difference in the Catholic and Protestant Bibles is the omission of
seven complete books and parts of two others from the Old Testament. The books the
Protestant Bible omits are:

Tobias I Macabees II Macabees

Part of Esther Part of Daniel Judith
Wisdom Ecclesiasticus Baruch

Catholic or Protestant: Who is right?

Naturally, the differences do not stop here. In fact, Catholicism and Protestantism differ
greatly on how to view and interpret the Bible. Generally speaking, conservative
Protestants believe that the Bible is supernaturally inspired, infallible, sufficient,
authoritative, and literally true.

Catholics, however, differ from the Protestants on the following points:

Supernatural Inspiration: the Bible is supernatural in origin but there is a human element
to the Bible. Consequently, it is possible for minor errors to exist. However, the overall
Biblical message is in tact. This, of course, is contrary to the conservative Protestant
who believes in the total word-for-word inspiration of Scripture via God.

Infallibility: Catholics tend to believe that the message of Scripture is infallible. However,
it is possible for there to exist minor grammatical, historical, scientific, or textual errors.

Sufficiency: Here, perhaps, is the greatest difference between Catholics and Protestants
and likely one of the greatest sticking points in any hope of ecumenical reconciliation.
The Catholic believes that the Church is needed to help interpret Scripture. The
Protestant, however, believes in Martin Luther's notion of "sola scripture". In other
words, the Scripture is always clear and the Holy Spirit helps all Christians to correctly
understand the Scriptural message.

Authority: Again, related to the previous point, both Catholic and Protestant believe that
the Bible's authority is absolute. However, they disagree on whether the Bible is the
only authority and whether the Church is needed to correctly interpret its message.

Literalness: Catholics tend to NOT believe in the literal word-for-word interpretation of

Scripture. They allow for allegory and symbolic language in the Scriptural message--
conservative Protestants do not.

Of course, this debate over Scripture is not limited to Catholics and Protestants. In fact,
many Protestant sects disagree over how to correctly interpret scripture (e.g., some
Pentecostals handle snakes and do so based on Mark 16:17-18; see also Christian
Salvation for more examples). Arguably one of the most telling examples of scriptural
misinterpretation for me is seen in who Christians believe authored the Pentateuch (i.e.,
the first five books of the Bible). At one time I was taught--and sincerely believed--that
Moses did indeed author the Pentateuch. However, after researching the topic I found
that this is likely not the case.

In fact, for thousands of years the Church taught that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Of
course, if this is true, how could Moses have written of his own death in Deuteronomy?
(Deuteronomy 34:5, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab.”)

Interestingly, if you turn to Scripture for the answer you will find approximately two
dozen verses in the Hebrew Scriptures and approximately one dozen in the Christian
Scriptures which state or imply that Moses was the author. Here are just a few

Exodus 17:14 "Then the Lord instructed Moses, 'Write this down as a permanent

Exodus 24:4 "Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord's instructions."

Exodus 34:27 "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Write down all these instructions, for they
represents the terms of my covenant with you and with Israel.'"

Leviticus 1:1 "The Lord called to Moses from the Tabernacle and said to him, 'Give the
following instructions to the Israelites...'"

Leviticus 6:8 "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Give Aaron and his sons the following

Deuteronomy 31:9 "So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests."

Deuteronomy 31:24-26 "When Moses had finished writing down this entire body of law
in a book..."

Today most mainstream biblical scholars DO NOT believe that Moses was the author of
the Pentateuch. They support the "Documentary Hypothesis" which says that the
Pentateuch was written by a group of four authors over a period of centuries. Despite
this, the Church taught for centuries the Bible was the inerrant word of God and taught
that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Even today, there are still Christians
who believe Moses authored the Pentateuch. For example, the NIV Study Bible (1995)
suggests that the multiple document hypothesis does not seriously challenge traditional
church views of Mosaic authorship. Now compare that notion to another Christian book
called The Complete Bible Handbook (2001). In this book the authors at least
acknowledge the various Pentateuch authorship theories and admit that no one knows
for certain who wrote the first five books of the Bible. Regardless, if God is guiding this
whole process one has to wonder why his own followers can’t seem to agree!

To muddy the holy waters even more we have the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew Bible
the Jews do not accept any of the Christian "New" Testament. In fact, they only accept
the Old Testament as authoritative Scripture. The Jewish Bible’s is called the Tanak
which is an acronym that is adapted from the initial letters of the three divisions of the
Jewish canon. The Tanak is made up of the Law (Torah), Prophets (Naviim), and
Writings (Kethubim). Collectively, these three divisions make up the Hebrew Bible.

Now in my opinion this scriptural disagreement is very telling. First, according to the
Old Testament, the Jews are said to have been very close to God. God himself is said
to have helped Moses free the Jews from Egypt (Note: to date the evidence of a mass
exodus from Egypt as depicted by the Bible is, at best, questionable). Could a group of
people who were that close to God—whose religion is older than Christianity—be wrong
regarding their sacred texts and their version of God? I’m sure many of the Jewish
priests, scholars, and theologians would cite the rule of faith regarding their validation of
the Tanak and their version of God. The funny thing is that Christianity and Judaism do
not agree. In fact, Judaism believes Jesus was just a man--not a divine savior. Simply
put: according to standard Christian doctrine, the Jews are hell-bound because they do
not believe Jesus was the Christ.

The Formation of the Bible

Next we have the formation of the Christian canon of Scripture. Up until the
Reformation, Church authority, the rule of faith, and deep study were relied upon to not
only interpret the Catholic Bible, but also to quite literally assemble it. Another startling
fact to which I discovered is that someone did not sit down in the first or second century
and decide to write the Bible. Nor, for that matter, did it drop out Heaven. In fact, as
hinted at by my brief dissection of the Gospels, the Bible itself is a collection of
numerous manuscripts—all which are copies of copies, and translations of translations,
with no originals in existence, period. In effect, the Bible is a collection of these
manuscripts which are alleged to have been selected via “divine” inspiration, and
assembled over many centuries.

Putting it all Together

Throughout history the Catholic Church has held many church councils, and one of the
goals of these councils were to establish an official canon of scripture. After the death
of Jesus until approximately 300 CE, there were many “sacred writings” and oral
testimonies being circulated among the various Christian sects. Oddly enough, during
this period the Christians were seen as heretics by the Roman Empire and treated
accordingly. Well, this all changed around 300 CE when Constantine becomes the
Emperor of Rome and also happens to convert to Christianity.
Some scholars believe that by making Christianity the official religion of the Empire of
Rome, Constantine did much to help in its spread and growth throughout the world.
The problem is that during this time the many Christian sects were far from unified.
These various sects had their own so-called sacred texts and oral traditions—many of
which were supposedly inspired by God. Moreover, these sects often disagreed on
which texts were true and which were false. Well, Constantine was greatly concerned
over these apparent disagreements and feared that many of these sects would offend
the Christian God and bring His wrath down on Rome. Consequently, due to this
concern, Constantine had many of those sects branded as heretics to keep with his
notion of what Christianity should be.

One such sect of Christianity was led by Alexandrian Presbyter Arius. His sect became
known as the Arians and they, like many other sects, laid down their own interpretation
of Scripture and God. The Arians proposed that God the Father and God the Son were
not one and the same (Much like the Mormons today). Rather, they were two separate
entities according to the Arians. Well, this notion concerned Constantine, so in 325 CE,
the first ecumenical council of the Christian church was called to order. This council
become known as the Council of Nicaea, and it was here that regional councils of
bishops came together to settle doctrinal and disciplinary questions. Unlike the councils
to follow (21 in total), this council was not governed by church authority. Rather,
Constantine had the final say as he wanted to rule on the Arian controversy. In the end,
the Arians were branded as heretics and their concept of two separate Gods was
squashed for the time. Interestingly, the Council of Nicaea was the first time the
sanctioned Christian church (sanctioned by Emperor Constantine) started to rule on
which Scriptures were thought to be sacred and which were not.

This pressure for uniformity did not stop with Constantine. In fact, intense debates
raged over centuries before the church finally reached agreement. Due to the Councils
of Nicaea (325 CE), Constantinople (381 CE), Chalcedon (451 CE) and the Second
Council of Lyons (1274 CE), the church finally came to an official consensus on Jesus
and the Trinity. The striking point in all of this is that it took over 1,200 years before the
Church could “officially” decide what Jesus and the Trinity were. Also, all along the way
there were--and continue to be--numerous Christian sects that do not agree with the

Though there were 21 councils in total, one of the most important was the 19th which
was named the Council of Trent. This council took place from 1545 – 1563 and was
fraught with much controversy. The Council of Trent included many important decisions
that were covered in three parts. These include:

Part I (1545-47):

• Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is accepted as the basis of Catholic faith.

• The canon of Old and New Testament books are set in the form of the Latin
• The concept of Original sin is set.
• Rules against Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Part II (1551-52):

• Established the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

• Extensively defines the sacrament of penance.

Part III (1562-63):

• Doctrinal statements on matrimony.

• Doctrinal statements on purgatory.
• Doctrinal statements on veneration of saints, images, and relics.

In short, Trent establishes the official Church sanctioned Catholic Bible. Consequently,
Martin Luther eventually breaks with the Catholic Church and establishes the Protestant
Bible during the Reformation. The funny thing is, he leaves out seven complete books
and two partial books from the Protestant canon.

Finally, what about those books that did not get included in the Bible? The following is a
partial listing of those books that were not considered worthy of canonization by the
early church fathers:

• Traditions of Sayings of Jesus

• The Gospel of Thomas
• The Secret Gospel of Mark
• The Gospel of the Egyptians
• Papyrus Oxyrhynchus
• The Apocryphon of James
• Traditions of Stories About Jesus
• The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
• Papyrus Egerton
• The Gospel of Peter
• The Gospel of the Hebrews
• The Acts of John
• The Gospel of the Nazoreans
• The Gospel of the Ebionites
• The Protevangelium of James
• John's Preaching of the Gospel

Since after the death of Jesus right up until the Council of Trent, church fathers,
theologians, and various sects of Christianity have been debating whether or not to
include or exclude any number of these aforenoted books. Now one would think that if
the “Holy Spirit” of God were guiding this process there should not have been literally
hundreds of years of debates. Moreover, one would think that all of these church
fathers would have been in agreement but that clearly has not been the case. In fact,
many times a book was excluded from the Church canon by a margin and then it may
have taken months or even years for a decision to be reached. What I want to know is
this: If a book was declared “inspired” by, say a 5-4 vote, what happened to the four
dissenters? Did the Holy Spirit take a holiday? Were they not good Christians too?
One has to wonder why a God who could create the Universe out of nothing, raise the
dead, cause donkeys to talk (Numbers 22), and perform all sorts of fantastic miracles,
could not have inspired His followers to create one book that they could all agree on.
As I have often said, suggesting anything less seems to place limits on a supposedly
“limitless” God!

So would someone please tell me which version of the Bible is truly “inspired by God? I
want to know if it’s the Catholic, Protestant, or Hebrew version and I do not think this
should be too hard to answer considering the Holy Spirit is said to be guiding all of this!
If it’s the Catholic version, the Protestants have been following the wrong book for
literally hundreds of years and the Jews for thousands of years. Unless the Jews are
correct which means most of Christianity has been wrong for thousands of years. In my
estimation, no matter how you cut it, the monotheistic version of God has permitted the
Christian and Jewish believers to be led astray for thousands of years. No one would
presume to say that anything that is supposedly inspired by God is unimportant, or
would they? Regardless, the "so-called" inspired word of God leaves something to be
desired since Christianity and Judaism can't seem to agree!

Concluding Thoughts

As I noted at the beginning of this essay, it was my intent to show that God's word is
NOT perfect and error-free, nor can it be the work of a perfect being. However, despite
my opinion that the Bible is the work of numerous fallible humans some Christians do
not agree with me. In fact, I recently engaged in a lengthy discussion with a Christian
who, despite the evidence, still clings to the notion that the Bible is God-inspired [2].
What follows is a condensed version of that discussion:

Two Christian Views of the Bible:

The biblical literalist: For example, a fundamental Baptist or Christian who believes in
"King James Onlyism", would say that divine inspiration and inerrancy are directly
related to the other: The perfect and error-free text is proof of God's inspiration, God's
inspiration is the reason for the perfect text. In short, there are no mistranslations,
omissions, mistakes, contradictions, or additions because this is not possible due to a
perfect God's divine inspiration.

The liberal view: Despite still being divinely inspired by God, due to man being an
imperfect pen or the errors' of copyists, somehow minor mistakes may have crept into
the Bible. However, its overall message is still in tact.

Thus, we can expand upon these two views and create four basic premises. Premises
one, two, and three are common among Christians, whereas premise four is held by
most atheists who are familiar with the Bible:
1) God inspired the writers of the Bible, the writers put pen to paper and transcribed
God's message, word-for-word, with no mistakes period.

2) God inspired the writers of the Bible, the writers put pen to paper and transcribed
God's message, word-for-word, with no mistakes period. Later, the scriptures were
copied and mistakes, omissions, additions, and contradictions may have slowly crept in
as the Bible was copied.

3) God inspired the writers of the Bible, the writers put pen to paper and transcribed
God's message. However, man is imperfect. Thus, despite being God-inspired, due to
man's imperfection, minor mistakes, omissions, additions, and contradictions may be in
the Bible.

4) God did not inspire the writers of the Bible. Rather, the Bible was written by human
hands. Thus, it is a incomplete record of myths, legends, stories, and history that comes
from a specific time and place.

Premise 1 is not defensible given the fact that we no originals to compare to. Moreover,
even if we did, we have no objective way to determine if these words did indeed come
from God, or if the writer just made them up. Finally, this essay tangentially touches on
Biblical errancy and it mentions numerous sources that further expand upon all things
errant, thus the literalist is hard-pressed to explain the numerous mistakes, omissions,
additions, and contradictions which are found in the Bible.

Premise 2 is not defensible. Most biblical scholars would agree that their are
contradictions, mistakes, omissions, and additions to the so-called word of God;
irregardless, we have no objective way to determine if these words did indeed come
from God, or if the writer just made them up. Nor, for that matter do we have any of the
originals so again we have nothing to compare our copies to.

Premise 3 is not defensible regardless of whether or not man is an "imperfect pen."

Again, we have no objective way to determine if these words did indeed come from
God, or if the writer just made them up. Nor, for that matter do we have any of the
originals so we have nothing to compare our copies to.

So, despite a liberal or conservative approach to scripture and despite the fact that
Christians cannot agree on what "divine inspiration" means, premises one through three
can be done away with because we have no originals period. In other words, since we
having nothing to compare to how do we know a word of the Bible is true? We quite
literally have thousands of documents and no absolutely certain way of knowing which
ones have copyist errors and which are correct. So, aside from direct revelations from
God to EACH human, all we are left with is physical evidence, our faith, and many
educated opinions which often may vary.

Given the evidence (or lack thereof) the reasonable conclusion has to be that premise
four is true. Moreover, the contradictions, mistakes, omissions, and additions are
readily explained if the Bible has no supernatural inspiration. However, despite my
conclusion, I am always open to credible evidence that would prove the opposite. This
having been noted, to date, the evidence that I have seen thus far is lacking to say the
least. Simply put: to suggest anything else does not fit with the evidence.

Finally, as a tribute to one of the freethinkers who started me on my road to self-

discovery, l choose to close this essay with the same words that he used to close The
Age of Reason. So, I leave you with the very fitting words of Thomas Paine:

"I here close the subject. I have shown in all the forgoing parts of this work, that
the Bible and Testament are impositions and forgeries; and I leave the evidence
I have produced as proof of it, to be refuted, if any one can do it: and I leave the
ideas that are suggested in the conclusion of the work, to rest on the mind of
the reader; certain as I am, that when opinions are free, either in matters of
government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail."

Originally created: 2001

Updated: 2005