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February 18, 2010

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This might interest you. On Wednesday, March 10, Dr. Tony Curto, professor of apologetics at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will be giving a presentation at our Annual Conference: http://www.gpts.edu/conference

The title of his message is "A More Sure Word: The Self-Authenticating Nature of the Bible"

He introduces his talk here on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3nyHmDfvQ

If God chooses imperfect human instruments to do his writing for him, would it not follow that, for a suffiently large sample of writing, the sample will have imperfections? If the statement "Expect perfect results from imperfect instruments" is not true, it cannot be made true by prefixing it with "God can". If the statement "Expect perfect results from imperfect instruments is true", it cannot be made untrue by prefixing it with "God cannot".

"would it not follow that, for a sufficiently large sample of writing, the sample will have imperfections?"

Not necessarily, ex if the following is true: "Humans can make mistakes except when God is purposefully and divinely guiding them." If that is the case, the sample size would be irrelevant.

>>"If God chooses imperfect human instruments to do his writing for him, would it not follow that, for a suffiently large sample of writing, the sample will have imperfections?"

No, it doesn't.

That's exactly what the post addresses (in the first paragraph...beginning with the first sentence.)

You may, of course, disagree, but you'll need to articulate your problem with the line of reasoning in the initial post.
(Note: the initial paragraph doesn't "stamp" anything with "God can" either.)

Perhaps there is something imperfect and askew in your line of reasoning, since we are imperfect... ;)

The first paragraph, and the first sentence, of the original post, contain the word "possible". For a sufficiently large quantity of writing, "possible" becomes "probable". So all we have to determine is whether the Bible is a long enough string of text where "possible" becomes "probable". Jeff conceded at the very start by using the word "possible", so articulation of the problem with the line of reasoning of in the initial post will have to live with what Jeff said.

Once you believe the bible was written by God, then it necessarily has no error.

totally error free.

If you are Christian, try to ask yourself, what would a bible contradiction even look like???

In other words, just try to complete this sentence:

If page 900 said X, and page 901 said ~X, then I would stop believing God wrote the bible.

Write down your own X.

I think you will find,

there are no X's.

ToNy:

Inerrancy is neither a necessary or a sufficient condition for authenticity. For example, in my post just previous, I said that the first sentence of Jeff's post contained the word "possible". But it was actually the second sentence. So would you say that "Johnnie didn't write that post because it has an error"? My post is authentic because I attest to having written it.

Likewise you cannot say that a text attributed to God did not come from God because the text we see has an error. The issue of inerrancy of a text is different from the issue of who is the author of it.

First, it doesn’t follow that because the Bible’s written by men, that it therefore must be in error. Human error is possible, not necessary.

This strikes me as yet another example of an apologist interpreting an objection in the dumbest fashion possible, and then proceeding to tell everyone that the objection is dumb. A more charitable way of interpreting the objection would take it to be asserting a probability. Given that the Bible was written by humans living in the ancient world, there is a high probability that it contains at least one error. There is nothing self-defeating or obviously stupid about that claim.

A simple question illustrates this: “Are you suggesting with this objection that if God does exist, He’s not capable of writing what He wants through imperfect men?” This is hard to affirm. If the answer is “No,” then the objection vanishes.

The objection vanishes only under its least charitable interpretation. Interpreted as a claim about what is likely to be the case given the origin of Scripture, this response completely misses the objection.

The objector may also raise the point about dwindling probabilities. Suppose there is a (.9) percent chance that God exists, given our background knowledge. Given our background knowledge and theism, we must now ask what the probability is that God would reveal anything. Suppose that probability is (.85). Given that God exists and that he has revealed something, what is the probability that he has revealed the Bible as the word of God? Suppose it is (.75). Given that God exists and that he has revealed himself and that he has revealed himself in the Bible, what is the probability that the Bible contains no errors? Lets say (.99). All of these are quite generous. But when multiplied together, the final probability that the Bible has no errors is around (.57), which is far from the sort of evidence that would justify a life changing conversion. That puts the person far closer to agnosticism than full blown Christian belief.

Johnnie,

>> "you cannot say that a text attributed to God, did not come from God because the text we see has an error."

Actually I think you can say just that.

As greg wrote above: "If God inspires it then it doesn’t matter if men or monkeys did the writing; they’ll still write exactly what God intends."

So, every word there, was intended to be placed there -- by god.

and god doesn't make errors.

So if i see an error in the words,

Then I know, God didn't write it.

ToNy: I see that the post I attributed to Jeff was written by Greg (I am having trouble with both inerrancy and attributing authenticity today).

So I think what you are saying is, "If I see the error in the words, and if what Greg says is true, then I know God didn't write it".

"But when multiplied together, the final probability that the Bible has no errors is around (.57)"

Simply multiplying probabilities is valid only if the probabilities are about independent propositions. Since none of the propositions you cite, Malebranche, are independent of each other, your calculation is invalid.

Here's an illustration. The probability that a six-sided die comes up with a six is one-sixth. The probability that it comes up even is one-half. Now if you ask "What's the probability of it coming up both even and six?"

The answer is NOT one-twelfth (even though one-half times one-sixth is one-twelfth).

This is because coming-up-six and coming-up-even are not independent. In cases where A and B are not independent, to get the probability that A and B are both true, you have to multiply the probability of "A" not by the probability of "B", but by the probability of of "B given A".

So the probability that the die comes up both six and even is one-sixth...exactly the same as the probability that the die comes up six. This is because the probability of it coming up even given that it comes up six is 1.0.

Now let's consider your argument step by step.

You put the probability that God has revealed anything at 0.85. And you put the probability that God exists at 0.9. Following the method of your argument, we should be able to calculate the probability that God exists and has revealed something by multiplying 0.9 by 0.85 to get 0.765.

The problem with this is that God's revealing something is not independent of His existence.

So how should the calculation actually work out? Well, we have to ask: what is the probability that God exists given that He has revealed something? It is 1.0. Multiplying 1.0 by 0.85, we get 0.85. So the probability of God's existing and having revealed something is equal to 0.85. That is, it is exactly the same as the probability of God's having revealed something.

Is that really a surprise? If I say that God revealed something, I don't add anything by saying that He exists. He had to exist in order to reveal something.

The same goes with the probability that God has revealed Himself in the Bible. If you say that the probability that God has revealed Himself in the Bible is 0.75, you don't multiply by the probability that God has revealed something (0.85). You multiply by the probability that God has revealed something given that He has revealed Himself in the Bible (which, again, is 1.0). That gives us 0.75 as the probability that God has revealed Himself in the Bible.

Finally, the probability that the Bible contains no errors must be considered. Here at least, the probability that the Bible contains no errors given that God has revealed Himself in the Bible is not obviously 1.0. Let's say that it's close to the 0.99 probability you mention. Then the final probability of an inerrant Bible is 0.7425. That's quite a bit higher than your erroneously calculated 0.57.

"If God chooses imperfect human instruments to do his writing for him, would it not follow that, for a sufficiently large sample of writing, the sample will have imperfections?"

No. Nothing of the sort follows. For starters, even if you assume that human imperfection guarantees a certain level of 'noise' in the transmission of God's Word, it is possible to transmit messages with negligible error through noisy channels (whether they're made of wire or protoplasm). That's the fundamental theorem of information theory (Shannon's Theorem).

Apart from that, God is in absolute control of the noise, so human imperfection is no guarantee of noise in the first place.

johnnie

ya

WisdomLover,

You have read my argument exactly backwards. I am not interested in the probability that God exists given that he has revealed himself (which is 1). I am interested first in the probability, given our background knowledge and the existence of God, that God has revealed himself (which clearly is not 1, but lower). You have reversed the order. It is as though I were interested in the probability, given that Jill went to the party, that Jill had fun at the party, only to be addressed by an objector as though I were interested in the probability, given that Jill had fun at the party, that Jill went to the party, which is 1! But the probability, given that Jill went to the party, that Jill had fun at the party is certainly not 1!

Let us call theism “T” and our background knowledge “B.” I want to know the value of Pr(T/B). Let us say that Pr(T/B)=(0.9). Now I am interested in the probability, given (T & B), that God would reveal himself to humanity. Let us call the event of God revealing himself to humanity (E). I am therefore interested in Pr(E/T & B). Let us say that Pr(E/T & B)=(0.85). But what is the probability, given that E & T & B, that God would reveal himself in the Bible (R), as opposed to all the other religious texts. In other words, what is Pr(R/T & E & B)? Let us say that Pr(R/T & E & B)=(0.75). But what is the probability, given that God exists (T) and that he has revealed himself (E) and that he has revealed himself in Scripture (R) and our background knowledge (B), that everything Scripture says is true (S)? In other words, what is Pr(S/T & E & R & B)? Let us say that Pr(S/T & E & R & B)=(0.99).

Now the question is, “What is the final probability?” We get that by multiplying each probability along the way [Pr(T/B) X Pr(E/T & B) X Pr(R/T & E & B) X Pr(S/T & E & S & B)]. That gives us about (0.57).

This pattern or arguing is something apologists should avoid:

1. It is highly probable, given our background knowledge, that God exists.
2. It is highly probable, given our background knowledge and God’s existence, that God would reveal himself.
3. It is highly probable, given our background knowledge and God’s existence and God’s revealing himself to humanity, that God would reveal himself in Scripture.
4. It is highly probable, given our background knowledge and God’s existence and God’s revealing himself to humanity and God’s revealing himself in Scripture, that Scripture contains no theological error.
5. Therefore, it is highly probable that Scripture contains no theological error.

The problem is that the probability calculus (which holds for epistemic probability, a distinct kind of probability than mathematical or logical probability) tells us that final probability will not be nearly as high as the probabilities in the premises. Suppose we are trying, via apologetics, to raise our agnostic opponent’s confidence in verbal plenary inspiration by making it epistemically more probable to him that Scripture has no error (these probabilities just amount to what a person would expect, given some hypothesis, so they vary from person to person). We must first convince him that, given his background knowledge, it is likely that God exists. Then we must convince him that, given God’s existence and our background knowledge, it is likely that God would reveal himself, and so on. Suppose the apologist is having an incredibly good day. Suppose the apologist’s interlocutor’s epistemic confidence in the premises of the argument are represented as follows:

Premise One: 0.9
Premise Two: 0.85
Premise Three: 0.6
Premise Four: 0.9

The probability at the end only comes out to (.41), which means the argument doesn’t even establish that it is more likely than not that Scripture contains no theological error. So, the conclusion does not follow. Even if you raise the probability of premise three to (0.85), the final probability will only be (.58), hardly enough for the “it is highly probable” conclusion.

OK. 10 points for Malebranche. I misread your initial comment. For some reason I took you to be presenting prior probabilities of T, E, S etc. and then just multiplying them to get the probability that all of them are true. In re-reading your comment you obviously were not up to that at all. You were attempting to calculate the probability of S from conditional probabilities. I'm not sure why I missed that. So anyway, Revoco.

And, of course, you're right about avoiding the argument form shown in your 6:58 comment.

Apologists for inerrancy have to take a more a priori line on most of the premises in their argument. For example, we need an argument for the existence of God more along the lines of a Cosmological or Ontological proof. And we need to argue for the fact of revelation by analysis of the Divine attributes. Even the basis for the inerrancy of Scripture given its inspiration should be given on a priori grounds. The only link in the chain that should be considered a matter of probability is the claim that given the fact of revelation, the Bible is by far the most likely candidate.

And I'm not even sure how you would go about arguing for some of the probability claims above anyway. For example, how would you argue that the probability of revelation given theism is some number, say 0.735, as opposed to 0.635 or 0.835? I can't imagine how such an argument would even go. It seems to me that you're either going to be able to prove deductively from first principles that an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful creator will reveal Himself to His creatures as they need it or you're going to fail to prove it.

WisdomLover:

Thanks for the reference to Shannon's Theorem. Whether a negligible amount of error amounts to inerrancy I leave for others to discuss, since inerrancy is irrelevant, but the argument that God is in control of the noise runs into problems. It suggests that someone or something inspired by God becomes merely an automaton, "downloading" information. This might be OK for fish that can locate coins or donkeys that talk, but if the channel is a human, what happens to that human's free will? It sounds like we have some sort of pantheistic argument here.

Another way of stating it: God can’t err; the Qu'ran is God’s Word; therefore, the Qu'ran can’t err, even if men are involved.

Johnnie-

I'm not sure what's wrong with an automaton hypothesis. With that said, I don't think I'm committed to it. God is in absolute control of the noise because He, with full omniscience, created and selected the free people (who are the noisy channels) He used to transmit His Word.

>>"Another way of stating it: God can’t err; the Qu'ran is God’s Word; therefore, the Qu'ran can’t err, even if men are involved."

I guess you could say that, but why would you want to?

...or maybe this way:

God can't err; the Qu'ran is Allah's word; therefore, Allah is not God, even if men believe it.

Or this:

Allah is a false god; therefore, the Qu'ran is false, even if men say otherwise.

Can I say these too?

Wisdom Lover:

The problem with an automaton hypothesis is that Scripture does not appear to have been written by automatons. For example, Paul, in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, identifies two people he had baptized, then, a little later, identifies another and says "I don't know if I baptized any others". I don't see how God, using Paul as an automaton, could say such a thing. It would make more sense to say that Paul himself is in control of what he is writing; he is writing about a point he wants to downplay; he is using his recollection to flesh out his argument a bit, and the whole point is not important anyway, so he leaves it unfinished.

Going back to Shannon's Theorem, we have here two channels that are in series, and Shannon's theorem is sensitive to the capacity of the channel, in this case, the slower of two. The modern equivalent of Paul's writing his epistle is downloading text (from God) and then spooling it to a printer (a scribe). The inspiration could be ascribed to the downloading. Paul spent years in the desert before he began his epistle writing, so he had plenty of time for channeling at low error rate. What Paul dictates to the scribe is limited by the scribe's speed and noise level.

Later on in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul switches between speaking on his own behalf and in the Lord; again, it does not make much sense that Paul is acting here as an automaton; why would God go "offline" and have Paul say something on his own when God could simply continue and give his own definitive word on the subject?

SH-

An inerrantist, such as myself, does bear this burden of proof: to argue that the Bible is God's Word. And that, in all likelihood, will involve arguing that it is exclusively God's Word. That is, other candidate revelations, such as the Koran, are not God's Word. At least, I don't see another way that we inerrantists can meet our burden of proof.

I think Luther's insight on grace is the linchpin of this argument. There are only two religions in the world: the religion of works and the religion of grace. The Bible presents the religion of grace, and it is exclusive among candidate revelations in doing so. All other candidate revelations present a religion of works.

For starters, this makes the Bible either very right or very wrong. But if you take it a step further, if God is provably gracious, then the probability that any other extant candidate revelation is the Word of God is close to 0.

Johnnie-

What you've said about Paul certainly is evidence against an automaton hypothesis. I'm not convinced that it's decisive evidence.

But, in the end, I think it's neither here nor there, since, for the reasons I already mentioned, I'm not committed to an automaton hypothesis (nor do I believe an automaton hypothesis is true).

You're analogy of a slow download and a fast print is pretty good. Notice that the slow download process is clearly the noisier channel because God's Word has to get past the inspired author's sin. The sin of the amanuensis is not at play as much. He doesn't have to choose the words to say; he just has to copy them down. So that process can go faster. In both channels, God knows all about and is in full control of the noise.

There are other channels involved in the transmission of God's Word to us as well. The slowest and noisiest of the lot is the process by which the text was copied in the long years before Guttenberg. Some of that noise is still being filtered out to this day.

David Hawkins,

Yep, you can say all of those. Thus illustrating the absurdity of the original statement.

Wisdom lover:

Thanks for your additional comments.

In regard to download and print, I was thinking that download was fast and printing slow. But with higher noise on the download, the download might have to be done more than once before the recipient gets it right.

Sheep Herder, you've missed the point of the statement. The original statement is not meant to prove that the Bible is the word of God or inerrant. It's merely meant to say this: If something is God's word, and God is inerrant, then it doesn't matter if humans are involved. His argument entailed "if God inspires it." It's proving the point about human involvement, not about the inspiration of the Bible.

The point of the argument is about whether or not humans can mess up God's words--it isn't meant to prove anything about which words are God's words. Though, of course, as a Christian, Greg is talking about the Bible in his illustration of why human writers can't mess up God's words just by being human.

Amy,

It is possible that I may have missed the point of the statement. Regardless, I won't be able to understand it properly until we can resolve the axioms upon which it was built. Let's start with the first clause:

God can't err;

How do we establish this?

That would involve a separate argument unnecessary to the point that given the existence of the Christian, perfect God, a human could not prevent Him from doing what He wanted. Please consider all the "ifs" that lead up to the main point. You don't need to establish that God can't err in order to understand the "if/then" nature of the argument.

I think you're thinking this argument is intended to accomplish more than it actually intends to accomplish. One must only describe a hypothetical situation in line with Christian doctrine (e.g., if the Christian, perfect, inerrant God exists and if He inspired the Bible) to show that the use of human writers does not necessarily entail errors in order to show that the objection (which states that it does necessarily involve errors) fails.

It fails in a situation where the Christian God exists, so therefore, it can't prove inerrancy in that situation. And in a situation where God doesn't exist, there's no issue of inerrancy to argue against so there's no need for this objection. So as an objection against the Bible's inerrancy, it accomplishes nothing.

This does not prove that there are no errors, nor does it prove that the Bible is God's word. What it does do is show that this particular objection fails. That's all.

(And someone from another religion could certainly use this same argument to argue against this silly objection and defeat it in the same way. If their God is real, then their scripture does not necessarily have errors. Therefore, the critics must prove the errors in some other way because this particular objection will not do the job. You see?)

You may have many other objections that could be raised against inerrancy (such as your belief that God can err, perhaps) that could still be raised, but those are separate issues.

Amy,

Great response - thank you.

I still need to wrap my head around why a hypothetical assumption can be a valid logical basis from which to discredit a real objection but I think you've given me a better context from which to evaluate this.

Hi WisdomLover, I would like to understand Luther's view, has he used this as an apologetic that is found in any of his work?

Another point that separated the Bible from other purported revelations is it is the only revelation that doesn't fail a coherency test. All the more impressive is the fact that there were centuries of time and multiple writers involved prior to its completion. It's internal coherency points to supernatural involvement.

Hi Brad.

Luther never argues for inerrancy that I know of. He simply takes the authority and accuracy of the Bible for granted. That wasn't really a controversy in his day. But Luther definitely does argue for the proposition that there are only two kinds of religions: the one of grace and the one of works. And he argues that the Bible presents the religion of grace.

My point was that this insight provides a basis for arguing for the uniqueness of the Bible as God's Word (because God is gracious).

Now, while I agree with you about the coherency of the Bible, there are obviously plenty of places where you have provide some pretty subtle arguments to see that it is coherent. So I'd rather start from the Bible's inspiration and argue to its coherency than argue from its coherency to its inspiration.

This is really a pretty silly discussion If we cannot objectively determine that God exists, we cannot objectively determine if the Bible (or any book for that matter) is God's Word. Both the belief that God is and that the Bible is God's Word are reasoned acts of faith. Also, anyone who doesn't concede that the Bible has apparent contradictions and serious textual issues really hasn't read it very carefully.

I am not sure I follow Amy's first sentence in her last post:

"That would involve a separate argument unnecessary to the point that given the existence of the Christian, perfect God, a human could not prevent Him from doing what He wanted."

God wants to bring all to salvation. But if a human interposes his will and wants to go to Hell instead, it would prevent God from bringing all to salvation.

I still want someone to give me an X.

If you are Christian, try to ask yourself, what would a bible contradiction even look like???

In other words, just try to complete this sentence:

If page 900 said X, and page 901 said ~X, then I would stop believing God wrote the bible.

Write down your own X.

I think you will find,

there are no X's.

ToNy:

Your plan for non-salvation appears to be finding an X and ~X in the Bible and relying on a statement by a frail human instrument of God.

Hi WisdomLover, I guess I would also start from inspiration, precisely because of the fact that we presuppose God's inherent coherency--perfect in His nature. Inerrency would be highly unlikely unless God's reasoning was perfect, which we know it is since it's been revealed to be.

Scott, it's quite the other way around when it comes to biblical contradictions. I've yet to see one that hasn't already been answered in an acceptable way. This is ToNy's point, he's already been through the thousands of supposed contradictions and the Christian will answer in a way that doesn't satisfy someone who doesn't have the Spirit of God. It comes down to ultimate propositions to get to the real root of why there is disagreement. Orthodox, historical Christianity doesn't see faith and reason separately as you seem to be charging. This is a modern day perversion of the true faith because of rampant false doctrine.[see below]

Johnnie, why do you think God wants to bring all men to salvation? I guess I should really be asking you what do you mean by "God wants"?

Brad,

Let my say it another way, then. It is not God's will that any should perish. Is it then logically possible to say, "It is not God's will that any Bible should have an error"?

johnnie

what?

Tony-

I'm not sure how to take your remarks. Are you asserting a commitment to the complete coherency of the Bible?

Or are you saying that Christians will assert a commitment to Biblical consistency in the face of an obvious contradiction?

Scott E-

I assume you are replying to Amy's point.

Amy was pointing out that the argument for Biblical inerrancy is long and complicated and that the article was really defending one premise in that argument.

In general, if you provide a defense of a premise of a complicated main argument, it's really no objection at all that that defense doesn't prove the final conclusion of the main argument. Nor is it an objection of the defense that it provides no help for some of the other controversial premises of the main argument.

But that's what you seem to be doing in your comment. That God exists is not the subject of the article under discussion. It certainly is a premise in any argument for Biblical inerrancy. It's just not the premise we are talking about here.

Johnnie,
In Matthew 23:35, Jesus refers to the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. But the Zacharias who was slain on the temple-grounds in Second Chronicles 24:20 was the son of Jehoida. His martyrdom occurred in about 825 B.C. Zacharias the son of Barachias (a.k.a. Berechiah) was the prophet who, in an entirely different era, served as one of the Minor Prophets -- Zechariah 1:1 identifies the author as Zechariah, the son of Berechiah and dates his ministry to the 500’s. Though there are many possible solutions to this apparent contradiction, Occam’s razor would suggest that the simplest answer is the most likely. Either Jesus misspoke or the writer misquoted Jesus.

Another example is the apparent contradiction between Paul and James regarding the role of works in salvation. A third example is the reversal in the order of creation between Genesis 1 & 2 that the NIV removes but the NASB lets stand.

A person not already committed to the position of inerrancy might reasonably conclude that these are obvious contradictions.

An objective analysis would have to conclude that the Bible could certainly contain errors. I do not believe that it does, but I recognize my position as the step of faith that it indeed is.

My post above was meant for Tony.

ToNy:

I did a brief experiment. I grabbed the only Scripture I had on had at the moment, my little green Gideon New Testament, Proverbs,and Psalms, and selected pages 100 and 101 to do a search of. I did not find any X and ~X on thoses two pages (Mark 13:7-14:3) though there are some verses there that are problematical in themselves, such as Mark 13:30. It took me about 3 minutes to do a casual check. Now suppose we have n pages to check. The total numbers of unique pairs to check in a set of n pages is n squared minus n. Suppose we have a 1500-page Bible. There would be 2,248,500 pairs of pages to check. With 3 minutes per pair, that would be a total of 6,745,500 minutes, or 112,425 hours, or 4,684.38 days, or 12.83 years. So a person could do a complete check in a lifetime. But how many people between the original Pentecost and now have actually done so? I suspect that most, if not all people who assert complete self-consistency of the Bible base that assertion not on their own research but on the statements of others. And we are speaking only of self-consistency here, not the additional task of checking whether any part of the Bible is contrary to fact.

You apparent found your faith on the consistency of Scripture, since you are offering to give it up if an inconsistency is found. Instead of believing on the Bible which speaks of the Son, why not just believe on the Son?

Scott-

The 'contradiction' in the order of creation between Gen 1 and Gen 2 is really just evidence that one or both of the accounts is not and was never intended to be chronological. The idea, by the way, that the Genesis accounts are non-chronological is an old view that predates the theory of evolution by centuries.

The 'contradiction' regarding the role of works and faith in salvation between James and the rest of the New Testament is actually just a case of an ambiguity in the word "belief" (pistis) that James is at pains to underline. Dead faith, the faith of the devils, is passive. Saving faith is active. The activity James is concerned to attribute to living faith is trust, not what we'd normally call good deeds.

So the most troubling 'contradiction' is the case of the two Zechariahs. And, in my view, this is among the most troubling apparent contradictions in all of Scripture. But even here, I think there's very good reason to think that both Zecheriahs were killed in the temple (though in different places in the temple and by different murderers). But even if that's not so, the slip about Zecheriah's parentage may have come in an early copy rather than in the autograph. So there's really no conflict here either.

BTW-In my view, the only issue more troubling than the Zecheriahs is the case of the demoniacs in the tombs. Matthew says there are two, but Mark and Luke only mention one. And even there, there may be a reason that Mark and Luke mention just one: only one of the demoniacs attempted to follow Jesus after his deliverance.

There are, of course, many other 'contradictions' (just Google the Skeptic's Annotated Bible). Most of them are silly quibbles easily answered. Some are more challenging. But on my view, the two Zechariahs and the two demoniacs are the most difficult.

But are they really that big a problem?

WisdomLover,

>> are you saying that Christians will assert a commitment to Biblical consistency in the face of an obvious contradiction?

Yes

>> But are they really that big a problem?

Yes. Finding errors in God's book is really a big problem.

Scott Erlenborn,

>> the Bible could certainly contain errors. I do not believe that it does, but I recognize my position as the step of faith that it indeed is.

Yup

Johnnie,

>> You apparent found your faith on the consistency of Scripture

I'm not a Christian.

>> Instead of believing on the Bible which speaks of the Son, why not just believe on the Son?

cuz god wrote the bible so it shouldnt have any errors. And if it has one, then I don't think god wrote it.

WL: Are you saying that Christians will assert a commitment to Biblical consistency in the face of an obvious contradiction?

Tony: Yes.

OK. I thought that was it, but others were responding to you as though they thought you were an inerrantist. So I had to ask.

WL: But are they really that big a problem?

Tony: Yes. Finding errors in God's book is really a big problem.

Obviously yes. If you really do find errors, that's a big problem.

But equally obviously, I was arguing that the two Zecheriahs and the two demoniacs are as close as you get to the flat-out contradiction that you believe Christians are blind to. But they're really not very close at all. (Unless, that is, you have an antecedent commitment to the falsehood of the Bible.)

I mean, if there were two demoniacs then there was one. So strictly speaking, there is no tension at all. The most you can say is that it's odd that Mark leaves out the second demoniac.

But even that isn't very odd. By leaving out the second demoniac, Mark is able to elaborate on the terrible details of the first demoniac's plight. For example, Mark tells us how the demoniac cut himself with stones, was bound with chains and so on. These are details that might not have (and probably did not) apply to both demoniacs, but only to the demoniac Mark was describing. As such Matthew does not include those details. So both Matthew and Mark left out details for narrative purposes. In Mark's case, he left out the second demoniac. In Matthew's case, he left out the full description of either demoniac's plight. Leaving out details for narrative purposes does not constitute error.

So if we say "Do your worst, skeptic", one of the best shots the skeptic will be able to give is the case of the demoniac(s) in the tombs. And that really doesn't come very close to the X and ~X case you want Tony.

ToNy:

I did not say your faith was that of a Christian. In an earlier comment to this thread I referred to your "plan for non-salvation".

Wisdom Lover,
Your solution of two Zechariahs is sheer speculation. Is there any evidence to support your position? No, only a pre-commitment to your belief in the Bible's inerrancy. This is simply bad scholarship. A better answer is that Jesus misspoke. It does nothing to damage the belief in the Bible's inerrancy and can easily be explained by the "kenosis theory." Although Jesus may also have intentionally misspoke as an accommodation to that which was commonly believed at the time but totally tangential to his point. But even this solution is sheer speculation. An rational person might just as easily conclude that the writer simply misquoted Jesus, as I assume Tony does.

Also, I find it somewhat ironic that those who argue for God's preserving grace in the original authorship of the biblical texts conveniently abandon this position when it comes to the Bible's reproduction. I do the same thing, but I can see how a non-Christian would see this as a facade. Why wouldn't or couldn't God's preserving grace protect both the original authorship as well as its reproduction? Our only answer is that the evidence shows that God didn't protect the reproductions, but we assume he must have protected the Bible's original authorship from man's errors due our understanding of God's inspiration and how Jesus himself is quoted in the utilization the OT in his own ministry. All of which is to say, that the Christians belief in the authority and the accuracy of the Bible is a step of faith, which has been my point all along.

Tony,

Have you considered that the Bible does need to be God's Word in order for it to be utilized in a credible argument for Christ's resurrection? I came to faith as a fairly well educated adult and like you see through many of the false arguments that many Christians use to defend their beliefs. However, when I read the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus by his followers (mostly Saul/Paul's conversion), I was struck that these men were willing to die not for that which they believed, but that which they claimed to have seen. Do people willing die for that which they know to be false? Possibly, but I don't believe so.

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