It took him 7 years to complete, so it's pretty clear that although he's a believer, he does really know his Bible. So let's hear what he has to say. So far he's given me 5 explanations of contradictions. I'm going to post them one at a time so we can examine them here at the blog.
A note about the comments for this post: I usually allow just about any comment to be published on this blog, but for this post I'm going to delete any comment that is more name-calling than substance.
In a court room we often hear the claim that two witnesses contradict one another. But a claim does not an argument make. Everyone recognises that such claims come from a source with a bias: the lawyer for one of the parties. The claim needs to be proven.
Every Bible scholar will recognise that there are apparent contradictions in the Bible. But do they ever rise to a true contradiction? One party believes that the Bible is a book written by fallible humans, copied with errors over the ages, and yes of course, things have gone wrong here and there. Another party even believes that there was intention to deceive, the Bible can't be trusted. And then there's the party to which I belong which believes that although humans were used to write the Bible, they were moved by the holy Spirit, and that God has preserved his Word uncorrupted throughout the ages. And the latter party is at odds with the first two.
In this article I want to advocate for an approach to raise the discussion above a ‘he said’, ‘she said.’ It's an approach I've used when I wrote a full reply to all issues raised by the author of the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, and occasionally have spelled out in detail. My challenge to the author of the SAB is to rewrite all suitable contradictions as a syllogism.
The earliest form of the syllogism comes from Aristotle, and its most famous example is as follows:
- All men are mortal. [major premise]
- Socrates is a man. [minor premise]
- Therefore Socrates is mortal. [conclusion]
Did Moses marry a Canaanite women?
Let's apply this approach to some contradictions. The first one is Numbers 12:1. The relevant portion of the verse:
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married.Mr Wells comments:
Miriam and Aaron (Moses' brother and sister) criticize Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman and thus breaking the law of God ... But God makes it clear that his rules don't apply to his favorites, and he strikes Miriam with leprosy.Let's rewrite this as a syllogism:
- God forbade to marry a daughter of the Canaanites.
- The Ethiopian woman was the daughter of an inhabitant of Canaan.
- Moses married her, therefore he broke God's law.
Back to the syllogism: if the major and the minor premises hold (the first two clauses), then the conclusion is unassailable: Moses broke God's law. But that however is not the case, the minor premise is false: Ethiopia happens to be quite outside Canaan. It's like saying: the Native American woman was the daughter of an inhabitant of Russia.
The correct Euler circle demonstrates this clearly:
I challenge Mr. Wells to give his contradictions as a syllogism. If Mr. Wells gives his contradictions as a syllogism, the correct conclusion then depends on the application of logic, and he can argue if his premises are correct.
I have given three examples of this: one where his minor premise was incorrect, one where his conclusion did not follow, and one where his major premise was incorrect.
I'm certain that in almost every instant it is clear that either his logic or his premises are incorrect. There may be remaining cases where it is very hard to argue either way, due to the distance of time, but regardless it will not be impossible to show that a reasonable defence is possible.
Berend de Boer has an M.Sc in software engineering, and currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He is interested in applying more logic and computation to apologetics and theology. A few years ago he completed giving a response to all issues raised by the Sceptics Annotated Bible.