The Incoherent Bible: a selected analysis
Updated: Jun 19
“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief
- call it what you will - than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course”.
- A.A. Milne, author of Winnie The Pooh.
“… the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed because it is absurd”
~ Tertullian (160 - 220). Known as the Father of Latin Christianity
and the founder of Western Christian theology.
The principle, Credo quia absurdum
(I believe because it is absurd) is often attributed to him.
A proper reading of history and the origins of Biblical stories allows us to understand why some Biblical narratives can make sense in the context of ANE (Ancient Near East) beliefs. I have previously shown that religious scholars unaffiliated with religious schools and their often mandatory statements of faith have demonstrated that Yahweh, the God of the OT and according to Christianity the NT, was originally a lesser God of the Canaanite Pantheon under El whom the Jews elevated to be their only God in their monotheistic religious tradition (see here #14). Knowing this and also how the Ancient Near East viewed cosmology and other mythologies which the Jews borrowed from the cultures around them, including a Global Flood and an Ark, will allow us to make sense of some verses that appear to be strange Biblical writings. By strange I mean that in the context above they make sense whereas with apologists there is always the need to come up with imaginative and very creative rationalizations to try and explain them that stretches credulity to the breaking point.
Christians and perhaps all believers in the Abrahamic God assign certain characteristics to God. These include Omnipotent (all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing and wise), Omnipresent (always everywhere), Good (the section on the immoral Yahweh shows this inconsistency), Just (again, a previous section shows this not to be consistent as He appears to enjoy killing innocents), Merciful (no, He kills innocent children often and sometimes tortures them first), Loving, Holy (unchangingly perfect) and Immutable (never changing). See Amazing Attributes of God. I have shown in a previous section in Christianity that He can display remorse over a previous action and of course can change his mind, which are both inconsistent with His proposed attributes.
Let’s take a look at just some Bible verses that make no sense if God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and unchanging. There are many, but I will only list a few.
1. Genesis 1:26. “Then God said, let us make human-kind in our likeness, according to our likeness; and let them have…”
Comment: The Biblical God is a monotheistic God. Who else is in Heaven with Him? The angels can’t create. “Us”? “Our”? Christians don’t get to project the Trinity onto an OT passage written and interpreted by Jews for centuries before Jesus came along. This makes sense as Yahweh was a lesser known god in the Canaanite Pantheon and the “us” is the 70 other gods in the Divine Council (see Biblical Errors, #14 for an explanation of this phrase and how scholars know what it probably refers to).
2. Genesis 11:5. “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built”.
Comment: In ANE cosmology, Heaven was above the firmament and God resided there. He came down to find out was going on? He didn’t know? Not omniscient then.
Genesis 11:7. “Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
Comment: Here is “us” again. The 70 other gods in the Divine Council. Furthermore, they all reside in a specific place above the firmament in many ANE cosmological myths. They had to go to earth (God is not omnipresent) and God had to go down to find out what was happening - He did not know until He got there? Not omniscient.
See also Genesis 3:22 - “Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”- …”
3. Genesis 18:1. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as a partner.”
Comment: God did not know in His plan that He’d need to add this step? He had to reevaluate His original design and change it?
4. Genesis 2:2-3. “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation”.
Comment: It doesn’t say he stopped or ceased because it was completed. It says he rested. We rest when we’re tired. He needed a rest? God could have “written” it differently and indeed of course it’s a corollary to humans needing to take a break and rest one day per week also.
5. Genesis 3: 8-9, 11-13. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid… But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him “Where are you?”… He said “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”… The Lord God said to to the woman “What is this that you have done?”…
Comment: An all knowing God, a God who knows the future and has a plan doesn’t know what happened? He’s surprised and disappointed and angry? He walks in the garden? He has a bodily form? This is best explained again as Yahweh being a lesser God and taking human form. We are not made in the image of God; it’s the reverse.
6. Genesis 8: 20-21. “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor…”
Comment: God finds the smell of burning flesh pleasant? He smells like you and I? Is this not best understood as an ANE mythological God and not an all knowing and all powerful God that created the universe but takes a particular love of burning animals?
7. Genesis 4:9-10. “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?… And the LORD said, “What have you done?…”
Comment: God doesn’t know what happened? The creator of the universe doesn’t know what has happened? The God who knows all, knows the future, and has it all planned out?
8. Genesis 6: 6. “And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart”.
Comment: He was sorry? He did not know the future and that his human creations would fail to live up to his expectations? And he felt remorse? A God who has everything planned out and knows the future can be disappointed to the point of grief? How can an all-knowing, all-wise God be sorry when it was His plan and He must have known what was going to happen to begin with? If you knew a horse you bet on was going to come in 5th in a race would you be upset when that happened? He changed his mind about the creation of mankind as originally good? How is that consistent with Holiness and Immutable? A human constructed God of a pantheon with human qualities would however.
9. God’s emotional melt downs.
Comment: A God who is all knowing, all wise and knows the future has emotional melt downs when things occur that he does not like? From Part 4 of the section of Christianity. Does this make sense to you?
> Anger - Psalm 7:11, Deut. 9:22, Roman 1:18
> Grief - Gen. 6:5-6, Psalm 78:40
> Hate - Proverbs 6:16, Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5
> Jealousy - Exodus 20:5m, Exodus 34:14, Joshua 24:19
> Regret - Gen. 6:6, 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:35, Gen. 6:7
> Changes his mind/Relents - Exodus 32:14, 1 Chronicles 21:15
10. Genesis 22: 2, 9-12 “He said,“Take your son, your only son Issac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you”… When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven… He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son your only son, from me.”
Comment: Why would God do this? Abraham could have been having some severe anxiety as he was about to kill his son and then burn his body. And Issac? From the Bible narrative he was confused and worried. This is not God caused emotional affliction? Unless faith is such an incredible virtue that you obey voices in your head that tell you to murder your son and burn him and are calm about it? Most importantly, the all knowing God did not know the outcome beforehand? “… now I know…” God did not know before? God had to put those two through emotional distress to know? He’s supposed to be Omniscient. Does this make sense? Why would a loving, all wise and all knowing God do this to his creation when supposedly it was unnecessary (He surely knew the outcome before; why then put those two through this; NOW He knows?). That seems totally inconsistent. Unless God is not omniscient and fits best with an ANE God of the Canaanite pantheon.
Notice that I have not needed to even use other books besides Genesis and I’ve only listed some inconsistencies through chapter 22; there are 50 chapters in Genesis alone. Imagine what it would entail to read through the Bible and try to understand all the inconsistencies in His character that are only best explained if God is a lesser God with limited supernatural powers, a former God of war and storms under the ultimate deity El? No wonder apologists can now earn a PhD in apologetics from bible colleges; so much to defend. Apologetics means the defense of the faith, not the defense of truth. Let’s just look at a few more and then for brevity sake, I must end the examples.
11. Those pesky iron chariots. Joshua 17:18 “… but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
Judges 1:19 “The LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.”
Comment: The all powerful God met His match? To get an idea of the mental gymnastics apologists will go through to rationalize an incoherence, please see this article by Kyle Butt. Notice that any possible explanation will do from a list, no matter how true or unbelievable.
“And, please remember that the exact way to reconcile any contradiction need not be pinpointed, as long as a possible way can be provided.” Mr. Butt writes.
Can you imagine science or historians working like this? If it sounds possible, that’s as far as you need to take your thinking? It does seem that the earth is flat and not moving, that the sun rotates around it. It’s possible; I’m done. The “it’s possible” is actually a thinking disease for seeking truths and is a lazy approach to finding answers. It is often the underlying get-out-of -jail thinking card used by apologists. Anyway, he proposes two of several. One is that the Israelites did take the land, but the Canaanites could have taken it back. Uh? Where does it say that, and it says specifically that they were unable to defeat a population at all. Where is the license to inject something not in the text? The second “possible” reconciliation (because there can be no errors in the Bible according to nearly all evangelicals) is to state that God did not help them drive out the Canaanites with the iron chariots because they failed to kill all the Canaanites or drive them out earlier and thus God was under no compulsion to keep His promise; it was really conditional citing Judges 2:1-3. However, the verse in question says “the Lord was with Judah” which is a phrase that the Lord was alongside Judah fighting with Judah. Elsewhere in the Bible it means the person was successful with God’s help. For example, see: Gen. 39:3&23, Judges 2:18, 1 Samuel 3:19, 1 Samuel 18:12, Luke 1:66, Luke 5:17, etc. See Little-Known Bible Verses VII: Iron Chariots
12. Exodus 4:19, 24-26. “The LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead.”… On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the LORD met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Mosses’ feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bride-groom of blood to me!” So He let him alone. It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”
Comment: Even considering that this is a strange story, God “tried” to kill him? The all powerful God of the universe “tried”? Secondly, God changed His mind because of a bloody foreskin? We were told God is unchanging. We were told He knows the future so why all the drama and then changing His mind? It’s almost like He’s neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Best explained not as the all powerful God of the universe, but rather one of the Gods of the Canaanite Pantheon. These are the kinds of stories we know from Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. Because they are in the same class of literature.
Making Sense of the Bible
Rather than listening to apologists trying to explain “difficult” bible passages, often invoking hyperbole, metaphor, “that word can mean something else in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Latin…”, “you’re taking it out of context”, "that translation is incorrect" despite scores of theologians with doctorates working years to produce it, hand waiving, ad hoc explanations, and rationalizations, etc. we can look at the writings as people who were a product of their times, often influenced by Ancient Near East beliefs and a proclivity to falsely attribute the supernatural to natural events.
> Of course the Biblical writers borrowed the Noachian Flood mythology from the Epic of Gilgamesh. See The Bible and Interpretation, University of Arizona
> That the Pentateuch is all myth allows us to see why it was written by more than one author and certainly not by Moses, if he ever existed. Now it makes sense why the two Genesis creation stories don’t match. None of this happened
> Of course they thought the sun rotated around the earth. “Stopping the sun” suddenly to lengthen a day in Joshua or even going backwards in 2 Kings by Isaiah. They did not know that the earth is rotating at 1,000 mph and traveling around the sun at 67,000 mph. Where are the tsunamis and earthquakes that would have resulted? They did not know about other civilizations like those in North and South America that would have experienced so many hours of darkness and yet have no record of the event.
> They did not know about evolution and so held to the special creation of “kinds”
> They did not know about the germ theory of disease, about epilepsy being neurological and thus not demon possession nor punishments from god
> They did not know that those small lights in the night sky were distant suns and planets and could not fall to the surface of the earth (Revelation)
> They did not know that people have never lived past 130 years at most and certainly not to 900.
> They did not know that women have severe pain and sometimes death in childbirth due to the evolution of bipedalism and not due to a curse and a talking snake
> How could they know that languages evolved with the isolation of groups via migration of humans around Africa, and later moving out from Africa? That the formation of different human languages had nothing to do with a curse at a tower humans were supposedly building to reach to heaven where God and His counsel supposedly resided above the clouds.
> They did not know about genetics and that you don’t make striped animals by mating them in front of rods
> Of course two female bears could not tear apart 42 young boys. They just stood there waiting their turns rather than running away?
> Of course there never was an ark to repopulate all the land animals. They did not know about the unique species in Hawaii (2,500 miles out to sea; how DID they get there after "kinds" came off the ark?), nor how plate tectonics work and why there are huge numbers of marsupial species in Australia/NZ.
> All those NT verses proclaiming that Jesus was coming back soon, often before some living presently had died, make sense if they thought the end times were near. See #9, this site
> Paul writing not to have people marry makes sense if he thought the end times were near
> Of course you can’t follow a star to a location because it’s millions of miles away and will always seem to be in front of you.
> It makes sense that the one miracle through intercessory prayer that would prove God - regrowing amputated limbs - never happens. No amputees healed.
> The reason you don’t see faith healers working in hospitals is the same reason you don’t see psychics wining the lottery
> God can help you find your car keys or a parking spot at the mall but can’t save 620,000 people dying from malaria each year, mostly children (the “Fall” is total mythology and can’t be used to explain reality)
> God condoning slavery complete with instructions on how to beat your slave and pass them down as property makes sense in the context of ANE customs at the time but certainly not an all knowing and loving deity. How to treat your slaves
> A God that is at times jealous, remorseful, or angry is not a God that is all knowing. This God is not a creator of the universe but rather a god of human imagination complete with human limitations and an insatiable desire and unremitting insecurity needing to be worshiped all the time. For example, He knew the future and must have known that committing genocide against the entire human race at the mythological Flood would accomplish nothing since all those human failures would be there after He killed everyone except 8 on a boat. But He did it anyway.
> The concept of original sin is irrational. A newborn baby has not lived long enough to commit "sin". Sin doesn't exist anyway. Do we punish people for what their great, great, great grandparents did hundreds of years ago? And is the punishment eternal and involves never ending torture?
> Christianity, and all religions, boiled down to their underlying assertions, are not rational nor true. Jesus did not stay dead; he only died for a weekend. That's not a real sacrifice as described is it? People were tortured and killed in much worse ways in the history of humans unfortunately. And they stayed dead which is the true definition of the ultimate sacrifice.
Apologists have had over a thousand years of trying to explain Biblical narratives and verses that they find difficult for various reasons. Most of those problems that exist for them evaporate by reading the Bible in the context of ANE cultures with their mythologies and stories that the Bible writers borrowed from civilizations around them. I have only listed a few that are no longer "difficult" if read properly. There is then a generalized proper understanding that makes much better sense of the Bible available to apologists if only they would move beyond looking at the Bible as divinely associated. It's origins, it's literature all begin to make sense if viewed as human produced only. A proper contextual setting will forever escape apologists' often unbelievable rationalizations, some to the point of absurdity, if they refuse to see an honest approach to the bible.
None of the below makes sense for an all knowing, loving and wise God of Christianity: