Does the Bible Contradict itself?

One of the four horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse – Sam Harris – thinks so. He commissioned this beautiful infographic of “contradictions” in the Bible, which shows, once again, that the New Atheists read the Bible in much the same way as the Westboro Baptist Church. Which is the reason they are so angry about Christianity. When you read it like that mob the Bible is pretty awful. What they don’t do is interact with the other 99.9999999999999% of people who read the Bible with some idea of theology, and how the Bible works, and some basic interpretive skills. Things like recognising genre (for example, one of the “contradictions” is two verses in Proverbs that are deliberately contradictory and placed next to each other to highlight the difficulty of dealing with fools), recognising rhetorical purpose, or recognising literary techniques and difficulties that come from translating Hebrew idioms into English. This couplet from Genesis 8 is one of the “contradictions”…

“4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.”

Now, I’m no expert on flood physics and geography – but it seems to me that a boat might come to rest on a high mountain before the high mountain is visible, and it may take a little longer for the rest of the mountains to become visible. Which means that even at face value this doesn’t seem contradictory – but there may (and I haven’t looked into this at all) be something going on here with the numbers seven, ten, and seventeen. Seventeen in Hebrew is written as 10 7. So there’s a possibility that we might just have to allow for some literary artistry going on here… Seven is a pretty significant number for Hebrew thought (I’m not going to get all Augustine and start allegorising here) so this sort of verse would have flagged something for the original Hebrew audience.

I haven’t looked into that many of these contradictions. But the two I chose at random seem pretty easy to dismiss. You can get a bigger copy of the graphic (PDF) and go over it with a fine tooth comb if you’d like to. I can’t be bothered. Because I’m going to show this crowing atheist the same treatment I show the Westboro Baptists. I’m going to blog about his stupidity, and then I’m going to move on.

This infographic is from a site called “Project Reason” – unfortunately they don’t extend that reason past science and into literature. It’s sad. The Resurgence has a look at some of the other contradictions put forward, feel free to make note of any you find in the comments here.


[…] on a com­ment thread dis­cussing the “Con­tra­dic­tions” visu­al­i­sa­tion I posted yes­ter­day pointed out that it’s remark­ably sim­i­lar to this visu­al­i­sa­tion of cross […]

Damien Carson says:

I’ll admit that I didn’t read all of them, but I liked these three:

#64 Where did Jesus cure the blind man? (cites two different events as contradictory)

#77 Will all those who call on the name of the Lord be delivered? (Jesus said not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord…)

#439 Where does God dwell? (He can’t be in Jerusalem AND in heaven at the same time… what is he, omnipresent or something?!)

I’d love to know what is really going on inside the minds & emotions of the folks who put this stuff together. Be an interesting study for a clinical psychologist. Someone on the Gruen Transfer the other night referred to “marketing to the mirror”, and that’s about all I can suggest to explain this. I don’t think anyone but the followers of Atheism could possibly be fooled by it.

Tamie says:

I tried the icky business of writing a more formal opinion piece

Arthur says:

(Wrong Davis!)

Steven says:

The numbers in the flood narrative all correspond to a gigantic palistrohpe – kinda like a Chiasm, but much-much larger… Hebrew artistry indeed :)