Saturday, December 08, 2007

How Not to Read the Bible, Part 4
It’s not news to anyone — at least anyone who reads the Bible even a wee bit skeptically — that the book is chock-full of contradictions and impossible events. Instead of carping snidely about this, in the style of a college bull session, Kugel gives us a magisterial, erudite, yet remarkably witty tour through the research. If reading the Bible demands a suspension of disbelief — Moses turned the Nile to blood? Joshua stopped the sun at noon? Samson killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass? — then “How to Read the Bible” will prompt a suspension of belief.

Well, here it is on full display.

Chock-full of contradictions. I would dispute that, but no alleged contradiction is given. Let me say about that many contradictions involve 1) mistranslations or understandings of the original language 2) genuine known issues regarding textual transmission 3) ignoring context 4) ignoring the vagaries of human language 5) not giving Scripture the benefit of the doubt.

Let me give an example. I was always told that my uncle escaped his concentration camp and was taken in by a convent. An article about his life said he was rescued by the U.S. Army. Is this a contradiction? No. He got to the convent and then the U.S. Army liberated the area. This surface problem can be resolved by just asking my uncle some questions.

Now, the authors of the Biblical texts aren't here to query. But there are many possible solutions to alleged contradictions. If you don't want to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt, you will just say it is a contradiction.

The rest of this quote is more problematic. "Impossible events." In other words, miracles are impossible, so if the Bible reports them the Bible is wrong.

If you assume the miracles can't happen, guess what? Miracles can't happen. This is just circular logic. The Bible can't be trusted because miracles can't happen. And why can't miracles happen? They just can't. Not very impressive if you ask me.

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