Unreliability of the Christian Bible

The Gospel of Matthew 2:13-18 tells the account of Herod's slaughter of the innocents in an attempt to hopefully kill the child Jesus in the slaughter. There is, however, not one contemperaneous account of this event outside the Bible, not one from the time when it happened, Josephus decades later made no mention of it, though Antiquities of the Jews mentioned Jesus, now recognized to be a spurious interpolation added long after Antiquities was written. Seutonius didn't make mention of it, neither did Tacitus.
Why might this be ? Why is this account found in the Bible alone, and no one else makes mention of it ? Could it likely be that the slaughter of the innocents simply never happened, that some unknown redactor interposed that into the story of Jesus decades after Matthew was originally composed. Maybe even as much as three to four centuries after Matthew was penned.
Archaeologists digging in the Sinai Peninsula have dug deep enough to find hunter gatherer tools and weapons, but have been unable to find any trace of any Hebrew encampments in the Biblical desert wilderness, they have found no traces wherever they have looked in Sinai. Jericho was not an inhabited city when Israel would have come to it. It was destroyed hundreds of years earlier. Archaeologists find no evidence that the Hebrew kingdoms of David and Solomon ever existed.
There are no traces of a Hebrew presence in Egypt. And if you look for evidence of Noah's global deluge in the earth's strata you won't find it. The geolgic column is properly ordered and not jumbled and mixed as they would be if there had been a catastrophic global flood. The geologic column is a geologic record of the progression of life from simple to complex. The Christian Bible is just not reliable.

Tags: Bible, Unreliable

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I read what you have to say and understand the value of your position. It must be stated and you do so very clearly.

However, Being polite, gentle, using reason, pleading, crying, begging for relief from the torment imposed on people in the name of god is a crime that has never been addressed to its full degree. Have you been reading all the heroic efforts of military women and the culture of rape? That attitude just doesn't fall out of the sky on some evil men, it falls from the belief, held for centuries, that women are objects to be used. Sure it is better now, but where did that idea get started?

Being silent has never been the way out of misery for me and countless other women and children. The term "Battered Child Syndrome" was first coined in 1962. Before there was a name there was no syndrome. A thing seems to have to have a name to be a problem worth looking into. 

The Earth is coming to a tipping point in many factors. Access to oil is on a downward curve, water becomes a problem around the globe, changing climate and rising water put pressure on lives and infrastructure, unresolved conflicts that have simmered for years come to a head, income gaps grow by the month and have been doing so since 1975, rogue states have access to nuclear power, and overconsumption of all resources threatens our well being.

Being silent on any one of these factors leads to not waking up to what is going on. People project their frustration toward insignificant things instead of paying attention to underlying causes of disruption. They scapegoat others and stop looking for causes. 

It seems strange to me that the last person who was burned at the stake for heresy was only in 1612 and when we object to the tyranny of religion we are accused to being too loud or too militant or too strident. NO! We are not strident enough.  

I take no offense and you certainly did not hurt my feelings. No need for an apology. I intend to speak as clearly and honestly as I can and I expect the same from others. Being timid or self-censoring serves no one, especially me. I'm having trouble finding words today, I can blame it on recovering from anesthesia, and I intend to respond when my mind clears. 

Thanks for your input; I value it. 

Debra Stevenson,

You are wrong on many points.

1.       Atheists do not base their opinions on what the great atheists say. I became a confirmed atheist some 40 years before and knew nothing about the greats you mention. Also, atheism has existed on this earth since very long ago with many atheists expressing their independent reasons and views. So there is no idolatry. You are talking like a theist here. I haven’t read anything from them. I purchased the ‘Delusion” several months before and have to finish it yet. Many atheists have expressed differences of opinions with great atheists and I myself have done so before.

2.        You say “Perhaps the world would be better of without religion but many atheists who desire the destruction of religion are not really behaving any different than religious people who look forward to their deity punishing atheists  for eternity or annihilating them.”

Some over enthusiastic atheists may talk of destruction of religion but this not a universal atheist slogan. There is no need for anybody to destroy religion, it will destroy itself in not too distant future.

                Why say that the world may be a better place without religion. How can you have any doubt on this count if you know what damage religion has caused, is still causing and will continue to do so in the future, until it destroys itself.

Hey Anthony,

Why might this be ? Why is this account found in the Bible alone, and no one else makes mention of it ? Could it likely be that the slaughter of the innocents simply never happened, that some unknown redactor interposed that into the story of Jesus decades after Matthew was originally composed. Maybe even as much as three to four centuries after Matthew was penned.

Your first question is actually very interesting, since this is one of the ways of understanding the message that the writer of Matthew is trying to impart, and the way he goes about doing it. I don't really know of anyone who believes that this slaughter is a later interpolation (there's no evidence for this), in fact I would argue against it.

Put simply, the writer of Matthew is trying to show that Jesus is the Messiah by continuously contrasting his deeds and history with the deeds and history of figures in the Old Testament. It's also rather clearly geared towards a Jewish audicence, which is why gMatt places such a high emphasis on prophecy and goes through a lot of pain of showing how Jesus supposedly fulfills all these prophecies. And it also shows Jesus essentially reliving several key moments of the mythology of the Jewish people.

The first chapters of Matthew in particular are filled with references to Exodus. After tracing Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham, the father of all Jews, in the first chapter, we get Jesus' birth narrative. Just like the Jews escaped from the Pharaoh after an angel appears to Moses, Jesus' family receives a similar angelic vision and escapes from King Herod. Herod's insistence on retrieving them causes the deaths of all the first-borns in the city (a direct parallel to the last of the plagues of Egypt). After they travel to Egypt for a time of banishment -again, it can't get any more clear- the first scene after their return is... you guessed it, Jesus' baptism in water as the confirmation of his Messanic nature, paralleling the confirmation of the Jews as God's chosen people by the parting of the Red Sea.

These analogies occur all throughout Matthew and they're not exactly hidden: they're fully intentional ways of linking Jesus to other Jewish holy men. That's why they're of course nowhere to be found in the writings of historians of the era: these are literary devices.

It's similar for the genealogy found in Matthew or Luke. Was that actually intended to be factual? Probably not. Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus back to Matthew, the father of the Jews, to show his allegiance to the Jewish people. Whereas Luke's genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, the progenitor of the human race. Why the difference in emphasis? Because Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience with a Jewish message, whereas Luke has a more universal message.

Now the really interesting question is: given that all these references would be absolutely obvious to someone who knew these texts practically by heart, how would a First-Century Jew even interpret all this? Quite possibly, for many it would have been clear that this was not all meant to be literal history, but simply tongue-in-cheek ways of showing the significance of Jesus and the audience would have understood them as such. It's only through a change in Christian mythology (de-emphasizing Jesus' Jewish side) and a general loss of Biblical knowledge, that we don't recognize these references anymore and start asking ourselves if this is all meant to be historical.

It's probably not. But after 2000 years, we'll never quite know for sure.

Matt VDB:

I am aware of all that you said, but be it noted that many Bible critics also point out the fact that the gospels are literary devices, as shown by the fact that the slaughter of the innocents did not occur at the time between Jesus was born and the time he reached 2 years of age. But what does this say about the message of the gospel ? And what does it say about the historicity of Jesus the man or his alleged divinity ? What good is a literary device in establishing the validity of Jewish and Gentile Christianity and it's message ?

Anthony,

I am aware of all that you said, but be it noted that many Bible critics also point out the fact that the gospels are literary devices, as shown by the fact that the slaughter of the innocents did not occur at the time between Jesus was born and the time he reached 2 years of age.

Yes, that's what I just explained: the event did not occur, it's a literary device.

But what does this say about the message of the gospel ? And what does it say about the historicity of Jesus the man or his alleged divinity ? What good is a literary device in establishing the validity of Jewish and Gentile Christianity and it's message ?

Beats me. What does that have to do with anything I said? All I explained was why gMatt has this passage and why it mirrors Exodus in the way that it does. It's clearly not actual history, and one can argue that it was never really meant to be seen this way.

I'm not sure what conclusions about Jesus' historicity or the validity of Christian doctrine you were expecting.

Regards, Matt

Matt VDB:

The point I'm trying to make is that whether every atheist (or even every liberal Christian) in the world knows that these tales are used as literary devices is irrelevant. A large percentage of people the world over take the Bible literally, they take it at face value.

Many times I've heard preachers say, "God says what he means and means what he says". These people take the Bible from cover to cover to be the literal and infallible word of God, and they don't recognize the use of literary devices in the Bible. And a good number of these people are potentially dangerous.

 

Okay. Well in my opinion trying to use inaccuracies in the Bible as a means of challenging literalism, doesn't really work. It certainly hasn't worked in my experience. I prefer to challenge the underlying assumptions of literalism right off the bat: trying to nitpick events and point out the lack of evidence for them, always gives them too much wiggle-room.

Matthew T:

Actually, in trying to reason with believers I've found that pointing out the moral atrocities commanded, condoned, or caused by God in the Bible does little good either. Most of the believers I've encountered believe that whatever God commands or does is moral by virtue of his being perfect, holy, and sovereign. Nothing I know sways such believers, not pointing out the flaws of the Bible, nor pointing out the flaws of it's God. But whenever I get the opportunity I have to try.

We can't just give up and go on our merry way because of the apparent futility of it. There's too much at stake. 

Anthony,

All believers need the crutches of religion and god for their existence. They are unable to fill the vacuum unbelief will cause in their minds. They are mentally weak.  They know the flaws in their belief and so are desperate to defend their faith. Therefore its' futile to argue with them. You can wake up a sleeping man but not a man pretending to sleep.

"We can't just give up and go on our merry way because of the apparent futility of it. There's too much at stake."

This this kind of thought is the laudable strength of atheists like  you. No doubt we cant give up. This kind of thought keeps our hopes alive. We will win ultimately because we are strong.

Madhukar:

As always your knowledge and wisdom impresses me.

"All believers need the crutches of religion and god for their existence. They are unable to fill the vacuum unbelief will cause in their minds. They are mentally weak.  They know the flaws in their belief and so are desperate to defend their faith. Therefore its' futile to argue with them. You can wake up a sleeping man but not a man pretending to sleep."

What you say very much reminds me of a saying by Mark Twain:

"Faith is believing what you know ain't true".

I am thrilled that we have biblical scholars and historians at this site.  Your writings are absolutely first rate and must reading.  Thank you for them!

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