Field of Science

The Science of Biblical Literalism

Welcome to America! Home to (arguably) the largest population of people who view the bible as inerrant. These people often say that they take the bible literally. They don't, but they do use the word "literal" incorrectly.

For example, if the bible were literally true, there could be no parables.
Anyone of those people who espouse biblical literalism want to disagree with this point? If Jesus told a parable, you know a made up story to make a point, then the words in the bible reflecting that parable are NOT literally true. Those words are fiction, make believe, allegory, etc. So if you believe the parable is not literally true, then you are not a biblical literalist. By the way, if you happen to agree with me here, but are one of those jackasses people who believe the world is 6000 years old because of Genesis, then please refrain, in the future, from saying the bible is literally true. What you want to say is that the bible is inerrant. You are still a moron, but at least by being precise I won't think you're a fucking moron anymore.

So what is the problem with biblical inerrancy? It would be easier to start with what isn't the problem with biblical inerrancy, so let's start there....

1. Biblical inerrancy allows me to be a mindless dolt. I do not have to think, critique, analyze, or otherwise use any part of my brain above the brain stem to be a functional member of my church. It allows me to simply accept what I am told by those who affirm they know what they are talking about as long as they have previously cloaked themselves in some biblical context.

2. ??? I guess I only have the one.

OK, lets see about some of the problems with biblical inerrancy and by problems I do not mean specific issues but the overall problems with this line of "reasoning."

1. Translation. The bible is not read in the language it was written. The old testament was written in Hebrew and the new testament in Greek. These were then translated through Greek (in the case of the old testament) and Latin and ultimately into English. This is not completely true, for example we have some old Greek texts of the new testament which can be translated directly into English. Regardless, you have to believe that there is a 1:1 or 1:1:1 or 1:1:1:1 word for word translation between these languages. Anyone who is fluent in more than one language understands the absurdity of this position. Look at the English language: take the words LARGE, HUGE, GIGANTIC, HUMONGOUS do these all convey the exact same meaning? If these words were being translated into Japanese what would the corresponding words be? More importantly if we asked 100 Japanese-English speakers would they translate these to the same corresponding words?

"Fine" you say, "this is just a triviality it doesn't change any fundamental meaning thus the bible is inerrant." Indeed, the example of BIG synonyms is susceptible to that rationale. However, the fact is that translations are subject to interpretations and these interpretations affect the meaning of the text. How many sermons have you been to where the focus is on a specific word in a verse? If the original text had the word LARGE and through several translations it became GIGANTIC, then your pastor may incorrectly focus a sermon on the "fact" that the bible states it was a gigantic whatever and not simply a large whatever.

2. Source. There are no original texts of any part of the bible, no original verses, chapters, words, etc. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Jack Squat. Thus, you have to assume that the translation you are reading is in fact based on a valid copy of the original. Not just a copy, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy and nowhere during this genealogy can a scribe have changed the text (see below). Seem likely? Remember this was before the printing press so there were very few copies of any text.

3. Editing. Here you true believers just need to jam your head in the sand. It is clear that the biblical text has changed over time. In fact biblical scholars (not the ones whoring themselves on Sunday morning TV, but actual people of education and intellect that read and study the ancient manuscripts) have long known this fact. I will reference Bart D. Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus for a more thorough analysis of this point (and point 2 to a lesser degree), its an easy read and comes in at an simple to get through 200 pages. Also, you can go to your local study bible (not bible study which is less about study and more about ideological justification) and look at the various translations and difficulties with the text. Here's a fun fact for the biblical inerrancy campers still following along....John 7-8: verses therein regarding the adultress brought before Jesus by the Pharisees: NOT ORIGINAL it was added well after the fact. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," not written by John, more like the John Grisham of the time.

Please, before you throw out the "god had it added later to complete the bible" argument. Remember you will have to accept that the bible wasn't correct before that point or undergo some type of logical fallacy that should cause your brain to explode if there was a god.

4. Inclusion/Exclusion. How did the decision regarding which books and letters to include get made? There are numerous writings that were left out. The Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, etc. Why are these left out? and why are the others in? Note the new testament as we are familiar with it didn't originate until ~350 and even then it was not uniformly accepted as is for hundreds of years. So was the bible wrong for most of the first 500 or so years of christianity?

There are at least 4 lines of reasoning that demonstrate the position of biblical inerrancy is absurd. The one contradictory position is that biblical inerrancy is easier. This is true, but so is life after a lobotomy.

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