Right on cue, after my post on the Bible as ‘the Word of God’, Mike Ratcliff over at the intense Possessing the Treasure, posted his own item on the forged 2 Timothy 3.16-17, using it to show how the Bible is truly God’s Word.
You should know that Mike will not be contradicted in any way. You’re wasting your time posting a comment about his ‘exegesis’ of biblical texts because his musings – and there are many, many of them – are without any sort of error. Mike doesn’t make mistakes! He explains in his post how the Bible is ‘inspired, infallible and inerrant’. Many evangelical Christians hold this view of the Bible, which is as mistaken as it is idolatrous.
Infallible literally means ‘incapable of failure’ and ‘trustworthy’, but as I’ve attempted to show in many of my previous posts, the Bible fails in all sorts of ways:
It fails as science. It claims light existed before the sun was created; it claims the sun goes round the Earth, which it thinks is the centre of the universe. It has no idea about the order in which life-forms developed; no idea about evolution; no idea about life-forms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It describes insects as having four legs and gives animals the power of speech.
It fails morally. It endorses slavery, polygamy, rape, incest, genocide and cruelty to both animal and human life. It denigrates women, children, the disabled and gay people. It prescribes brutal and barbaric punishments for those who infringe its petty laws.
It fails in its promises and prophecies. None of its promises ‘work’, none of its prophecies have come true (except those made after the event they’re meant to be predicting.)
Can something that fails so spectacularly and consistently be considered trustworthy? Yes, say Christians like Mike. No, says anyone capable of a little elementary reasoning.
Inerrant means incapable of error. As if the errors in the ‘failure’ category aren’t enough, the Bible is littered with mistakes and contradictions. The gospels, for example, all have different visitors to the tomb of the supposedly risen Jesus. These visitors are all met by different strangers – one man, two men, angels and their dog, Spot. More importantly, the New Testament can’t decide how a person is saved. Paul’s formula is radically different from Jesus’, and different again from the message Luke puts into his mouth in Acts. In total, there are eight different and conflicting ways to find salvation in the New Testament*.
Inspired literally means ‘breathed out’; Mike Ratcliff and others insist that the Bible is ‘breathed out’ by God. Apparently, he ‘breathed out’ his confused, contradictory message into and through fallible tribesmen, and first-century hallucinatory zealots, causing the former to exaggerate their own importance and success and the latter to create those eight different routes to salvation. He didn’t, however, see fit to give them a clear picture of who Jesus actually was, nor a precise formulation of the so-called Trinity (that fanciful nonsense had to be worked out much later), nor of what would happen to believers after death. He did, though, inspire forgeries and fakes like 2 Timothy and left it forty to a hundred years to prompt four individuals who had never met Jesus to write the muddled tales of his adventures on Earth. He didn’t think it important to preserve the originals of any of the manuscripts he’d inspired, nor did he take steps to prevent them from being altered both deliberately and accidentally throughout the ensuing years**. Perhaps he ‘breathed out’ the alterations and errors too.
The real problem with the inspiration argument is though that it is circular; the Bible ‘proves’ God and God proves the Bible.
No, the Bible is not infallible. Nor is it inerrant, nor inspired. It is an all too human creation, fallible and error-ridden. There is greater consistency and style in the works of Shakespeare than there is in the shambolic collection of books cobbled together as the Bible in 397CE. Those who see it as something more, see what they want see and are wilfully blind to its many failings. God’s Word it isn’t.
* For the eight (at least) salvation plans in the New Testament see my book, Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead, chapter 6.
** For errors, alterations and the non-preservation of any original documents see Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible And Why.