It’s high time I jumped back into another vid by this character. This time we’ll look at his reasons why the Bible isn’t a well-written book.
Many fundy atheists have a somewhat skewed portrait of the Biblical texts. Although there is room for the benefit of the doubt, considering many believers view them the same way, this is hardly an excuse to ignore scholarship. Whilst addressing these points it’d be a great opportunity to explain how the Biblical texts are to be read. I’ll write his argument in bold and respond below.
1. The Bible is not well organized
Hemant claims that this is a problem because, while it may be written chronologically, thematically it’s a jumble, so that leaves Christians who want to justify beliefs with no other choice than to jump from one book to another. If this is how the Biblical texts are to be viewed it would be helpful to have an index, but it isn’t. Hemant gets it half right when he says,
“That might be okay for a history book, but not when it’s a guidebook for life.”
Very little of the Bible is what we would call a “guidebook for life.” To venture a guess it makes up probably 10% if even that. The Bible is first and foremost a historical text. Believers who wish to use Scripture as a guide to their lives need to note the historical context it was written in and glean inspiration and guidance from that. A book I cannot recommend enough here is Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes by Brandon J. O’Brien and E. Randolph Richards. Since this book was released well before this vid was published Hemant would have done himself and his viewers a favour by picking it up. Of course, research outside of a fundamentalist’s perspective isn’t a common forte of online skeptics.
Moreover, it is quite possible that Hemant is vastly overexaggerating his point here, especially if we were to compare the Biblical texts to the respected texts of Islam or Hinduism. The books of the Bible are each centred on a single theology (unlike the Hindu texts which are theologically diverse and disconnected), they do not lack thematic coherence, and they are consistent with history and archaeology. On the other hand, the Quran is not thematically coherent (the Quran is a book arranged of 114 suras, and one of these could be placed immediately by another despite being written a decade apart) and it lacks support from historical and archaeological evidence.
2. There are no pictures!
Has Hemant read a scholarly study Bible? I own one with commentaries by scholars John Walton and Craig Keener discussing the cultural backgrounds of the text. It’s very helpful, and with it comes many pictures, maps, diagrams, etc. Should God have provided those? If we can do a great job ourselves I see no need to. Does Hemant wish to undermine human achievement?
3. It’s not specific
Most of what Hemant says here is addressed under point one above. Outside of that, he argues that the “right and wrongs” are not easy to understand. When is it right to kill people in the name of God is one such example he says would be helpful in a sidebar. Again I reiterate my response to point two above. We have more than capable minds.
4. It’s not easy to understand
Here Hemant points to Christians who have many different interpretations of the texts. If you point to one verse, Hemant can point to 100 Christianities. This may only be a problem because many take the Bible as a personal guidebook, thus it becomes subject to the unique experiences of the individual. People are going to interpret things in a way that relates to their own lives, this isn’t surprising. But if we’re to be authorities of interpretation then we cannot decontextualize the text and/or relay on uninformed (whether through study or prayer) personal interpretation.
Put that aside and the Bible really isn’t hard to understand. I’m no scholar and I don’t need to read an entire library to understand what a verse is saying. It ain’t impossible for the layman.
5. It’s not consistent
Hemant calls out supposed Biblical contradictions here, but we get no examples, let alone good ones. Any reader of my site knows I’ve looked at a good number of these and none of them come close (in some cases critics don’t even know what a contradiction is). Hemant has the burden of proof to provide a problem that cannot possibly be solved and he has avoided that here. Furthermore, he implies that the Gospels aren’t reliable because they tell “contradicting” stories of Jesus’s life. If we view the Gospels as eyewitness accounts as opposed to mythological stories this is more of a confirmation to their reliability than not (additionally, calling them “contradictions” is a poor, misguided, and simple-minded description). If four people told things the exact same way we’d be wondering if they hadn’t had a group talk beforehand in order to keep their story “consistent.”
Why are these differences in the Gospel accounts? We’ll refer to one example. Why does the Gospel of John recount this post-resurrection conversation between Jesus and Peter?
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
This seems pretty arbitrary, mean even, considering that Peter doesn’t compare himself to the others anywhere else in John’s Gospel. Why is Jesus doing so now? Where is this missing piece recorded? We find it in Matthew 26:31-35 and Mark 14:26-30.
“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” (Matthew 26:31-35)
Here Peter compares himself to the others and claims that, although they may fall, he will never do such a thing. If we were to expect the Gospel of John to be a mythological story or later legend we would surely expect him to include this allusion to an earlier event, but he doesn’t. This serves no literary purpose whatsoever. Where’s the foreshadowing or explicit connection between the two conversations? There are none. What we have is exactly what we would expect if John were an eyewitness and was casually remembering this conversation. There are many, many more examples of this kind of coincidence and it’s something detectives look for in eyewitness testimony. If Hemant knows this, yet he still defines the problem as a “contradiction” in order to undermine the inerrancy of Scripture, he deserves no respect in the academic field.
6. It doesn’t make any clear predictions
With this objection, Hemant takes a stab at eschatological preachers and writers. With this, I have no problems. In all honesty, I agree that writers fitting “signs of the end times” into various passages are doing us no favour. Check out J.P. Holding’s The Encyclopedia of End Times Fails. It’s an excellent work debunking many of these attempts to align events of today with the Bible. As for myself, I lean heavily towards preterism, so the majority of predictions have no relevance for today. Here’s a quick summary by Tekton TV,
7. It lacks knowledge that humans of the time couldn’t have had
This is no problem at all. It’s what we would expect from a work of antiquity. Since critics refuse to treat the Biblical texts as historical they then turn and create problems that don’t exist. The Bible wasn’t written by scientists nor was it meant to be a work of science. Take Genesis one, for example. John Walton, in his excellent work The Lost World of Genesis One, provides clear cut evidence that this isn’t a textbook telling of material origins but of functional origins. Inserting modern science into a text that didn’t understand it is a practice called Concordism and has resulted in grave misreadings. To this effect, Walton notes,
“We should not worry about the question of “truth” with regard to the Bible’s use of Old World science…..some scientific framework needs to be adopted, and all scientific frameworks are dynamic and subject to change. Adoption of the framework of the target audience is most logical. The Old World science found in the Bible would not be considered “wrong” or “false” as much as it would just offer a perspective from a different vantage point. Even today we can consider it true that the sky is blue, that the sun sets and that the moon shines. But we know that these are scientifically misleading statements…..The Old World science in the Bible offers the perspective of the earthbound observer.
“God did not give Israel a revised cosmic geography— he revealed his Creator role through the cosmic geography that they had, because the shape of the material world did not matter. His creative work focused on functions, and therefore he communicated that he was the one who set up the functions and who keeps the operations going, regardless of how we envision the material shape.”
Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (p. 62). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Hemant is barking up a tree that sits outside of this discussion.
8. The characters make no sense
This is a strange one, to say the least. Hemant complains that the Bible’s portrait of God isn’t well-written because He is sinless. A well-written character has flaws and is complex. You mean someone like David? Send Psalm 137:9 to Hemant and many of his followers and they’ll shout “barbaric!” at the sight of a Biblical character thinking or doing some kind of wrong. He also begs the question that God is a “character” in the sense that He came from someone’s imagination. If He was complex, in the sense of a morally troubled superhero, we’d have more reason to conclude that He was written by a talented author. Yet, what we have is exactly what we’d expect if God, being a sovereign and self-sufficient deity, existed, so Hement instead makes the claim that He isn’t well-written because God doesn’t fit his vision.
9. It’s too repetitive
Hemant takes another poke at the Gospels with this one, but as I argued under point seven they are written exactly as expected if they were eyewitness accounts. He gets close to touching this when he brings up William Faulkner writing scenes from different perspectives, but he doesn’t take it much further than that (although there is a curious denial of legendary development when he implies that they don’t add anything. Wonder what skeptics make of that one….). What I see with this objection is the critic wishing the Biblical texts were written as stories so he can make the claim that they are stories. Since they aren’t written as mythological legends he attempts to turn that into a problem by claiming that it isn’t well-written. It’s nothing more than circular reasoning.
10. It goes too far with the stories
Here Hemant implies that the Bible isn’t well-written because they contain miraculous accounts. He has completely switched gears: from seeing the texts as a myth in all previous problems to now seeing them as historical and arguing that they aren’t good history. Once we make a case for the existence of God miracles are no longer an obstacle for the searcher. Of course, nothing is to be taken at face value and not all are genuine, however, as Craig Keener in his two-volume work suggests, a lack of a miraculous experience is far from uniform. If God exists, His acts in history would be expected.
Maybe Hemant will release a part two one day, and I’ll be there ready to address them, but for now, this isn’t offering anything even remotely challenging to the inerrancy of reliability of Scripture. Most of Hemant’s objections sit on a false view of the Bible, and others simply beg the question. Maybe he’ll try harder next time, but from what I’m seeing, I doubt that’ll be the case.