Friday, February 01, 2013

Errors in the Bible?

Apologetics is the art of defending the faith against criticism. Every religion has their apologists but Christian Apologists tend to take center stage in Western culture.

Make no mistake about it, they’re quite clever and their job is a lot easier than you might think; it’s easier because their objective is not so much to convince the skeptic as to reassure the faithful.

An Apologist doesn’t have to worry about probability or even reasonableness. Any explanation, no matter how much of a stretch, as long as it’s possible, is good enough. Even multiple contradictory explanations are often put forth.

There are no errors or contradictions or embarrassing statements they don’t have an explanation for. Some of those explanations are utterly mind boggling but seem to satisfy most of the congregation.

Consider this statement.

Leviticus 11:6 The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.

Rabbits are not ruminants and therefore most certainly do not chew the cud. Obvious error right? Not according to your neighborhood apologist.

Rabbits do rechew partially digested droppings, called cecotropes, to extract additional nutrients. To the casual observer this could appear to be chewing the cud so this is a favorite explanation as to why this is not an error. It’s not a very good explanation since anyone that observes rabbits would note the difference.

Of course you see the problem here. This explains why the Hebrews might have been under a misimpression, but it doesn’t explain why an all-knowing god would. The explanation is usually something to the effect that God was speaking to the Hebrews based upon their understanding of things.

This sort of says that God figured the Hebrews were too stupid to comprehend the reality of the situation so he left them with their simplified, but mistaken, impression. Nice guy.

Now an all-knowing God should have been able to figure out the confusion this was going to cause down the road. It would have been trivial to clarify the situation by saying something like “The rabbit, which appears to chew the cud but is really chewing its own droppings, is also unclean for you.”

I think the Hebrews could have handled that bit of information.

Similar explanations are provided for calling a bat a bird and saying insects have four legs when they have six.

Bats are explained by claiming that the Hebrews probably thought the bat, because it had wings, was a bird and God was speaking to them based upon their understanding even though it was wrong. As for insects, the claim is since the focus was upon leaping insects, such as grasshoppers, the Hebrews didn’t consider the two hind “jumping” appendages as legs.

The same objection applies to these explanations. It tells us why the Hebrews might have been wrong but doesn’t really explain why God didn’t correct their misimpressions and head off trouble down the road.

If the author was an ancient Hebrew, these apologetics explain why he got it wrong but it’s still wrong. They don’t explain why God didn’t correct the situation if for no other reason than to avoid the current objections which, if he’s really all-knowing, he would have known were coming.

Unless of course he just doesn’t care.

Your choice. Either the bible authors were fallible humans or an infallible God who didn’t care enough about his creation to make it right.

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