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The Infallibility of the Bible: Astronomical Errors

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Published: Thu, 07 Sep 2017

03/12/2017

There is overwhelming support for inerrancy from history. The idea that the Bible can contain errors is a relatively new belief. Author and scholar Harold Lindsell stated, “Apart from a few exceptions, the church through the ages has consistently believed that the entire Bible is the inerrant or infallible Word of God”[1]. You need a transition here

The presence of observable and falsifiable[J1] scientific evidence is perhaps the most compelling reason for the conclusion that the Bible is not free from error. Because this evidenc[J2]e clearly yields certain conclusions that are contradicted by direct statements from biblical authors, we can safely say that the Bible is an imperfect book containing flaws of [J3]human origins. Due to the overwhelming amount of scientific errors the book possesses, you [J4]should have great comfort in deciding that there was no divine inspiration or intervention in creation. Furthermore, the vast categories of errors contained in the Bible demonstrate that the mistakes are not confined to a single author or field of study, a realization that should question the foundation and intent of the book as a whole. This paper will focus considerably on the first chapter of Genesis, astronomy, and biology because each of these topics unmistakably contributes to the faux pas of apologetics.

THE BEGINNING:

Anyone with a decent background in natural science who undertakes an impartial but critical look at the first chapter of Genesis should have no trouble denouncing its claims as a complete lie. At best, the author has offered a poorly constructed allegory for the creation of the universe; at worst, and far more plausible, Genesis 1 is a total fabrication. This section will of course demonstrate why the creation account in the opening chapter fails miserably to be scientifically accurate.[2]

Early in the creation, God allegedly separated the waters into two distinct bodies so that land could appear between them. He called the water below seas and the water above sky, which he presumably held aloft by the use of a firmament (Verses 6-10). While the NIV translated this verse using expansion, the Hebrew word utilized by the author is raki’a, which the KJV more accurately translated as a solid body.3

Why is the KJV translation more in line with the author’s intent? First, it’s the primary use of the word. Second, it reinforces the aforementioned idea of a sky ocean because a solid protective layer would be required to suspend the water if there truly were an ocean above us as the Bible suggests. Third, it complements the known widespread primitive beliefs. Take the mindset of an ancient Hebrew for a moment by ignoring any contemporary understanding you have of the world. You can glance at the sky above and observe that it’s the color of water, while, periodically, water falls from above. With no further evidence to consider and no further understanding of this phenomenon, the perfectly logical conclusion would be that there’s a mass of water in the sky. If this is true, it certainly follows that a solid body, a firmament, would be necessary to contain this oceanic reservoir. Perhaps windows even open in the firmament to allow rainfall (Genesis 8:2).

Although the pursuit of knowledge has proven these outdated beliefs untrue, we are far richer in scientific understanding than our Hebrew predecessors and should not scoff at the author for his proposal. We now know that the sky is blue due to the scattering of a particular wavelength of light passing through the atmosphere at a certain angle, not because there’s an ocean in the sky. While we cannot fault the author for believing this ancient hypothesis, we can conclude that his guess on the properties of the sky was incorrect. Already, a critical analysis has demonstrated the Bible to be scientifically inaccurate and undeniably imperfect.

God allegedly created the sun and moon on the fourth day of the creation (14-19), but this curious statement creates a plethora of troubles because God had already divided the day into lightness and darkness as his first creation (3-5). How can there be night and day without the sun, the only appreciable source of light for our planet? Again, we must take the probable mindset of the author to understand his position. Look into the sky away from the sun. It’s unreasonable to conclude that the earth is bright at its distal boundaries just because the sun is shining, unless you have solid evidence to the contrary, because the light originating from this enormous ball of fire appears to stop very near its edges[3]. Besides, everyone knows that the horizon is luminous well before and well after the sun is in the visible regions of the sky. Thus, there’s no solid reason to conclude that the sun has anything to do with creating the illumination, only that it accompanies the somewhat concurrent periods of lightness. In fact, the Bible explicitly states that the sun and moon are merely symbols “to divide the day from the night” (14). In the biblical world, however, God controlled morning and evening by this mysterious force called light (3-5), an entirely different entity created much earlier than the sun. We now know that the sun is the determining factor between morning and evening, yet the Bible clearly proclaims morning and evening existed prior to the sun’s creation.

In addition to the sun gaffe, the scientifically ignorant author commits the mistake of listing the moon as a light (16). If we were to be rigidly technical about the Bible’s claim, this verse is another scientifically erroneous notion because the moon merely reflects illumination from the sun. Isaiah and Ezekiel also make this mistake in their prophecy accounts (30:26 and 32:7, respectively). Again, we often take our modern knowledge about the universe for granted, yet such a gift was completely unforeseeable to the ancient Hebrew.

Another problem arises from the sun not appearing until the fourth day when you consider that plants suddenly appeared on the third day (11-13). While it’s definitely possible, even very likely, for plants to survive without the sun for a single day, many apologists have attempted to rectify the obvious timeline problems in Genesis by altering the meaning of a day. Once they consummate this amendment, they’ve created a timeline in which the plants exist without sunlight for however long these “days” are to them. In most cases, a biblical day must necessarily be no less than a period of millions of years in order to be congruent with scientific data. While the general Hebrew term for day, yom, doesn’t necessarily mean a twenty-four hour day, we still understand it to be a short time period based on every contemporaneous instance of its use. Millennia simply do not qualify using this unbiased criterion. Furthermore, the author provides us with the precise definition of yom in every creation instance: morning and evening. Naturally, we’ll revisit these creationary intervals in the upcoming Thousands Or Billions. For now, let’s return to the problem of the plants thriving without the sun’s existence.

Most vegetation requires sunlight to undergo photosynthesis, the process of using light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients. I wouldn’t bet on plant survival much more than a month without the sun. While it’s true that the biblical creation has this mysterious light existing prior to the arrival of plants, the only thing we can conclude about its existence is the probable lack thereof. The sun, on the other hand, is fully compatible with plant life. Once again, this obtuse blunder can be justified by the limitations of the ancient Hebrew’s knowledge because he obviously wasn’t aware that plants were feeding off sunlight for their survival.

As one final minor point on plants for now, God says he has given us every plant for food (29). However, we’re now aware of plants with qualities poisonous enough that make us avoid physical contact with them. Such disturbingly reckless advice hardly seems to be the kind likely given out by an omniscient deity.

God allegedly created the stars on the fourth day (16), but what were they, and what was their purpose? Biblical authors believed that stars were small sources of light contained within the imaginary firmament covering the earth. In other words, they exhibited no divine inspiration, whatsoever, telling them that stars were actually unfathomably enormous gaseous spheres seemingly countless miles away. In short, the authors’ celestial hypothesis was incorrect on location, number, and size.[4] Verification for the location part of this position is quite easy to demonstrate. After God made the sun, moon, and stars, he “set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” 6(17). So along with the sun and moon, the stars are apparently housed in this imaginary physical boundary separating the sky ocean from the open air above earth’s inhabitants.

The Bible also remarkably claims the outdated belief that stars were extremely small in size. After the disclosure of their location in the firmament, and after God tells Abraham several times that his people would be as numerous as the stars (which is also impossible, yet it’s claimed to have been fulfilled in Hebrews 11:12), the next clear reference to size and position of these celestial bodies is found in the book of Isaiah. Here, the prophet speaks of exalting a throne “above the stars of God” (14:13). Likewise, Job says, “behold the height of the stars, how high they are” (22:12). Stars are not high; they are distant. One would expect these two divinely inspired individuals to make this distinction in their records; instead, they boldly demonstrate that they shared the popular yet erroneous belief that God fixed the stars at the sky’s apex.

The book of Psalms states that God tells the number of stars and calls them all by their names (147:4). That’s quite an impressive accomplishment considering scientists estimate that there could be as many as 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in the known universe. If God truly told anyone how many stars surrounded our planet, the ridiculous firmament belief should have ceased without delay.[5]

Daniel speaks of a vision that he had concerning a giant goat’s horn knocking the stars down to the ground where the goat “stamped upon them” (Daniel 8:8-9). Passing comment on the vision, we can also be decidedly certain that Daniel believed stars were tiny lights hanging above the earth. Otherwise, how could his monstrous goat stamp upon them? More importantly, how could someone divinely inspired write something so blatantly preposterous? In the New

Testament, Matthew and Mark both record Jesus foretelling of an era when the stars shall “fall from heaven” (24:29 and 13:25, respectively). Jesus, a supposedly perfect human being who was supposedly the only son of a supposedly perfect god, wasn’t immune to scientific ignorance either.

Revelation was the grandiose vision of John, yet another man who God allegedly inspired, but John also thought that stars were bright objects of insignificant size directly above the earth. In this record of his dream-like hallucination, he claims to see Jesus holding seven stars in his right hand (1:16). While John may have seen what looked like seven stars in Jesus’ hand, this is not what the text clearly states. The passage unambiguously says Jesus was holding seven stars in his hand. Thus, John’s statement is certainly in error. In addition, John mentions a dream in which “the stars of heaven fell unto the earth” and compares this event to a fig tree shaking off its leaves (6:13). Furthermore, he describes a great star falling into “the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters” (8:10). If a star were to “fall” to our planet as John indicates, it would annihilate the earth upon impact because these bodies are generally hundreds of times larger than our world. Finally, John sees a dragon swing its tail around, consequently knocking a third of the stars in the sky down to the ground (12:4). There’s no need to discuss how enormous such a hypothetical tail would have to be in order to accomplish this impossibility. After all, Revelation was only a vision. On the other hand, we must expect

Christians to accept that this man had a unique foreknowledge of humankind’s imminent future. In other words, these ridiculously fantastical events must remain futuristic certainties to biblical apologists. At this point, we can safely say that anyone attempting to harmonize the scientifically determined position, size, and number of our celestial neighbors with a literal interpretation of the Bible is veraciously wasting his time.

Another embarrassing tale of biblical nonsense is the construction of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. According to the bogus legend, everyone on earth spoke the same language when the erection of the tower began. Because the people of earth had a great desire to catch a glimpse of God, they built this supposed tower intending to breach the sky. As God didn’t like the possibility of people spotting him, he confused their languages to prevent the architects from understanding one another. Unable to continue construction, everyone with different languages went separate ways.

This story is unfeasible for many reasons.[6] The first problem with the incredulous account is the incongruency of the common language theme. We know that many different languages existed centuries before the story’s setting around 2500-2000 BCE. Not only that, but another Pentateuch author had said Noah’s sons separated according to their own tongues in the previous chapter (Genesis 10). At the very least, we have a major timeline discrepancy in need of an acceptable resolution. Furthermore, the notion that nineteenth century man had the architectural knowledge to build a tower even a mile high is ridiculous. To fathom that a group of ignorant ancient Hebrews could make an equivalent accomplishment is ludicrous.

Interestingly, no divine inspiration is available as a possible excuse for the illogical story because God wasn’t siding with his people on this occasion! If he didn’t wish for the people to see him, he wouldn’t have provided the means for them to do so. Of course, the most obvious blunder is God’s supposed fear of us actually reaching him in the sky. To suggest that an omniscient god would destroy a building because he felt he was in danger of humans catching a glimpse of him is an equally ludicrous proposal. The aspects of this story once again go back to the ancient Hebrew belief that God eternally resided on top of a dome covering the earth. Since an omniscient deity would know that the people could not possibly reach him, he would not have stopped the tower’s construction for the specific reason provided by the Bible. The story cries of a myth.[7]

We also have fanciful tales about giants roaming the earth during the Pentateuch era. There’s a lot of room for interpretation here because the exact nature of these mysterious giants is unknown. However, we understand that the Bible has them living both before and after the flood (Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33). Some Christians have argued these giants are the dinosaurs, but this proposed explanation fails to be consistent with the “flood caused the dinosaur extinction” hypothesis offered by others in the same crowd. While the text is most likely referring to a race of people, archaeologists have found no reliable evidence that these creatures existed. Given the track record of the Bible thus far, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Genesis giants are, at best, an exaggeration of an otherwise normal species of life.

Jesus also commits another scientific blunder when he declares the mustard seed to be the smallest seed of the earth (Mark 4:31). There are, in fact, many seeds smaller than the mustard, such as the South American orchid, but the Hebrews were obviously ignorant of most everything outside of their homeland. Had God presented this bit of information to the author of Mark, it seems unfeasible that the writer would portray Jesus as a man so careless with his diction. This example is clearly another biblical error on the growing accumulation that arises from the same limitation of divinely uninspired perspective.

The suggestion that the Bible is lacking a scientific foundation is nothing less than a colossal understatement. The Bible has failed fair, impartial, and universally applicable tests in multiple fields of science. If God truly is the inspiration behind this purportedly divine declaration to the world, he shows absolutely no interest in its understandability or accuracy in astronomy, cosmology, zoology, botany, anthropology, geology, ecology, geography, physiology, and several other disciplines not covered in this chapter. In fact, the Bible handicaps those who use their “God-given” talents of reason and logic to settle blatant biblical problems. Nothing can be more detrimental to the authenticity of a statement than contradictory phenomena that we readily observe and experience. With no other evidence to consider, these natural manifestations should always override what we might hope and think to be correct explanations for unignorable discrepancies. Such is the power of science and reason. They are the impartial pursuit of an answer to a question, not the search for supplements to a predetermined answer.

These are just a few examples of how it is useless and counterproductive even for fundamentalists to try to extract concepts from the Bible that they do not have as well as try to argue that they possess any technical and scientific knowledge beyond their time.

The Bible is a religious, spiritual, moral and mythological book, and as such is subordinate to the world view of its time and place.

It is perfectly possible for Christians to be at peace with their religion and their holy book even though they are aware of their primitive conceptions of the Universe and the World, even as Frei Betto would say in his text The Bible in 12 Steps:

“Just as no one fails to take a remedy because there is an error of agreement in the bull, Jews and Christians do not care if they find a historical misconception in the biblical texts, and in their eyes they are, rather, religious texts. There are notions of science or history and they know that the biblical authors did not intend to reach methodological and scientific precision.We interweaved religious, historical and scientific references according to the knowledge of the time.While the quality of the wiring, the electronic conduits, the post or the lamp , For who seeks light to see better? ” FREI BETTO The Bible in 12 Steps

That is, a fable does not have its essential content invalidated by the fact of describing fantastic things, like Talking Foxes. In the same way, a myth should not be devalued by its physically absurd elements. If I do not believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, it is rather by many other factors, such as those quoted in Is the Divinely Inspired Bible ?, yet it does not invalidate its cultural value.

The biblical apologists are even lucky that, thanks to the early Catholic Church, only the 3 synoptic gospels and the gospel of John were considered canonical. What in themselves already present myriads of “errors” conception about nature. Otherwise, it might be utterly impossible not to see Biblical Geocentrism, which although present is not so explicit.

In Hebrews 11, the apostle Paul refers to the translation of Enoch, the father of Methuselah, which is not described in the Old Testament, only vaguely suggested in Genesis 5:22. Paul’s knowledge certainly came also from other gospels, such as the apocryphon Enoch’s Book of Secrets, which tells the story mentioned by Paul, which makes this book a little more trustworthy than the other apocryphal even Because it is most probably from him that Paul also removed the mention of the angelic hierarchy of Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers, as quoted in

Colossians [1:17], and in other excerpts from his New Testament epistles.

Well, this book, written at the same time as the other Gospels by some scholar who knew Aristotelian Geocentrism, explicitly describes the mechanisms used by angels to move the Sun around the Earth, in addition to the other “celestial spheres” Of the trio Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, were accepted by most scholars, and yet were far more advanced than the primitive idea of a Flat Earth lost in an Abyss.

Probably the incompatibility of Hellenistic geocentrism, which already knew the sphericity of the Earth, with the much more primitive concepts of the Bible, was one of the factors for the disqualification of the apocryphal book of Enoch.

It is certainly lucky. For fundamentalists already have a tremendous work to hide and omit blatant biblical naivety about the reality of nature, and to distort and decontextualize verses.

Turning the affirmation of the apologists:

Many errors were indeed stated, but conservative biblical scholars have always been able to find solutions to these problems. Perhaps they have forgotten to say that these “solutions” only satisfy even the counselors who have “solved” their rationality within Religious Fanaticism.


[1] Zondervan, (The Battle for the Bible, 1978)

[2] Long, Jason (Biblical Nonsense, 2015) 3 Ibid

[3] William Henry Burr (Self-Contradictions of the Bible, 2016)

[4] C. Dennis Mckinsey (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, 1995) 6 Ibid

[5] Long, Jason (Biblical Nonsense, 2015)

[6] Bart D. Ehrman (God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer, 2009)

[7] Bart D. Ehrman (God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer, 2009)


[J1]Word is not used in the right context.

[J2]Which evidence?

[J3]about

[J4]one


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