The Bible is not proof of God anymore than books about Peter Cottontail are proof of an Easter Bunny. You cannot use the screenplay from The Last Unicorn to prove that unicorns exist. No one is making the claim that Darby O’Gill and the Little People is proof that leprechauns exist.
There is absolutely no proof whatsoever that God wrote or influenced the Bible. The Christian and Jewish definition of God is that he is omnipotent and omniscient, and yet the “God breathed” Bible is full of errors, contradictions, and inconsistencies.
I have often heard Christians say, “But cities mentioned in the Bible are real, therefore it must be right about God!” New York City is real, so does that mean Snake Plisken is real since he is in a book called “Escape from New York?” Authors of books use historical references all the time to help their reading audience understand the theme and context of their writings. Using characters and locations known by the audience helps the readers submerge themselves in the story.
Bottom line is that a book is not proof of existence for an exceptional claim because it is not exceptional proof and is not exceptional (or acceptable) evidence. If the Bible-God is as great as the Christians and Jews claim, then it should be easy for apologists and theologians to prove the existence of their Bible-God. For that matter, it should be easy to prove the existence of the Koran-God, Vedas-God, and any other god that the different religions believe in.
The Bible is not proof nor evidence considering it is full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and errors. Even the history of the Bible itself keeps it from being a reliable source. I often find it amazing how many Christians do not know the history of their sacred text. The history of the Bible (compared to the Christian view of the Bible as history) is a testament (pun intended) to the invalidity of the book as proof of anything: especially proof of the Bible-God.
In his book The Light of Reason, Schmuel Golding states,
GOLDING: “First the NT was not written by any of the disciples of Jesus not by persons who even lived in that era. … When the church fathers compiled the NT in the year 397, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. They decided by vote which of the books out of the collections they had made should be the word of God and which should not. They rejected several, they voted others to be doubtful, and those books which had a majority of votes were voted to be the word of God.”
Imagine what your Bible would look like today if the early councils had voted different. What does this say about the Bible? It says that MEN, not god, composed the Bible. What happened to the books that the Old Testament mentions? Numbers 21 mentions the Book of the Wars of the Lord. Joshua 10:13 mentions the Book of Jasher. First Chronicles mentions the Book of Nathan and Gad while Second Chronicles mentions the Book of Acts of Solomon. Where did they go? Why did the councils not choose them? Did the councils find the books not to be the word of their god? If that is so, then why do other books chosen by the councils to be the “word of God” mention them?
What happened to the extra books from the New Testament era? Books like the Gospels according to Hebrews, Judas Iscariot, Peter, Marcion, Matthias, Eve, and Philip. We collectively call many of the books that missed the vote by five ballots the Apocrypha. Why did the Church vote against the books of the Apocrypha? Fundamentalist and apologist Josh McDowell has an answer in his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict,
MCDOWELL: “They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms.”
Apologist E. M. Blaiklock in his book Jesus Christ, Man or Myth says,
BLAIKLOCK: “…the wildly extravagant stories found in the so-called Apocryphal gospels.”
Apologists like McDowell and Blaiklock can make excuses all they want, but the Council kept the books out because they did not have the political alliance behind them that the others did. The other books only had a five-point edge. How different the Bible would be today if the Apocryphal gospels had been included. If the vote had swung the other way, your Bible would be the Apocrypha and the Apocrypha would be the current books of the Bible. Voting chose the 66 canon of the Bible – a vote no different from a modern vote on legislation; either it has political support or it does not and it only needs a majority vote (not a landslide vote) to pass.
Christians often ask me to look at the original Bible to verify accuracy and errors. The reason is that the person asking me to do such is attempting to blame the Bible’s problems on translation errors. What original Bible? There is no original Bible. Even today, no original writings exist. What scholars have today are copies. Even the famed Dead Sea Scrolls are copies and they provide more variants and discrepancies to sort out.
The next time you pick up a Bible think to yourself, “This is a book of writings that was put together by a group of men who read some ancient manuscripts that purportedly were accurate representation of the originals, which no longer exist.”
The Fundamentalist book Biblical Criticism states,
BIBLICAL CRITICISM: “For over 1,400 years the NT was copied by hand and the copyists, the scribes, made every conceivable error as well at times intentionally altering the text. Such errors and alterations survived in various ways with a basic tendency to accumulate. Scribes seldom left out anything lest they omit something inspired. There are now in existence, extant, in whole or in part, 5,338 Greek manuscripts as well as hundreds of copies of ancient translations, not counting over 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate.”
Even if we had a million copies how do we know that the original is located among those million? Where is the original within those variances? Which wording is correct? Which translation is correct? How do we know that copying of the million was not from another variant? While it is true that the more transcripts you have the greater your chances are of having the original, it is also true that the greater number of transcripts you have the chances of not finding the original increases exponentially.
The kicker? Not a single two are 100% alike. There are over 200,000 variants in those 5,300 manuscripts. Then there are the versions that are derivatives of these variants. Fundamentalists often like to say that the variants do not affect the material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice. Is that so true? Perhaps an example would be pertinent here. Let us take Second Timothy 3:16:
* NIV: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
* NASB: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
* KJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
* DARBY: Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
* YLT: Every Writing [is] God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that [is] in righteousness.
* WE: All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.
They are not all saying the same thing. The KJV says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”. The ASV and NEB say, “Every Scripture inspired by God is also profitable for teaching.”
The KJV is saying that “EVERY scripture is inspired”, while the ASV and NEB are saying “Scripture that is inspired by God” which of course implies that other scripture is not divinely inspired. If you ask a Fundamentalist to show that scripture is the inspired word of God they usually direct you to Second Timothy 3:16 (KJV). Yet in other interpretations and translations, that same verse does not say every scripture is divinely inspired. Other interpretations and translations state that God inspires some scripture, but not all scripture is inspired. This of course implies that there are scriptures that are not divinely inspired.
This goes back to the variances and “what did the original actually say.”
Another example is First Timothy 6:10. Everyone has heard “The love of money is the root of all evil” at least once in his or her life. Notice that it says THE LOVE of money is THE ROOT of ALL EVIL. That is in the KJV and a few other versions. However, the NIV says, “For the love of money is a root.” It does not say THE ROOT; it says A ROOT meaning one among several. The quote goes on, “of all kinds of evil” (not ALL EVIL).
Another version says, “For the love of money is a root of all evil.” In addition, a fourth version found, for instance, in the NWT, says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” That does not necessarily mean it has to do with evil at all. So we have four different versions of the same verse, all of which have differences, some small and some large.
Mark 16:9-20 has a footnote in the NIV that states, “The two most reliable early manuscripts don’t even have these verses.” Biblical scholars still cannot agree whether or not these verses should even be included in the Bible.
Talk about variations and versions!
Fundamentalists often look to the Dead Sea Scrolls to confirm the accuracy of the Bible. You hear an awful lot about how the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the book of Isaiah.
The accuracy of the book of Isaiah makes for an impressive argument for “passing the text without error.” However, Biblicists have diligently ignored the findings in cave Qumran 4. In Qumran cave 4, they found 157 fragmentary biblical texts. Among these fragments was every book of the Hebrew canon except Esther and Nehemiah (which scholars considered to as one book with Ezra at the time).
In some cases (significantly in 1-2 Samuel, Jeremiah, and Exodus), the fragments show a recession of biblical books that are different from the Masoretic tradition. They found a shorter form of Jeremiah in Hebrew, only known before in the Greek version in the Septuagint. It has becomes clear to Biblical scholars studying the Dead Sea Scrolls that most of the Masoretic tradition is a Palestinian rewording of the book.
Another fragment found at Qumran 4 is a paleo-Hebrew script dated in the early second century BCE. On the fragment is an expanded form of Exodus previously only known in Samaritan writings.
Biblical inerrantists go out of their way to ignore the differences that true Biblical scholars have identified in Qumran cave 4. The findings in cave 4 put to rest the silly notion that scribes copied the manuscripts meticulously and scrupulously without making any mistakes. The fragments at Qumran show biblical scholars made many mistakes and textual alterations were deliberate with many insertions made.
Scholars knew before the discovery at Qumran that the Masoretic version of Jeremiah was significantly different from the Greek version in the Septuagint. There are entire sections of the Masoretic text that are missing from the Septuagint. The arrangement of many sections is different. Jeremiah 27:19-22, 33:14-26, 39:3-14, and 48:45-47 are examples of sections in the Masoretic version and some modern English versions, but are not in the Septuagint. Scholars have identified at least thirty differences in the arrangements. Another example is that chapter 25:15-38 in the Masoretic text is chapter 32 in the Septuagint and the Masoretic chapter 27:1-19 appears in chapter 34 of the Septuagint.
Apologists and biblical inerrantists explained away variations to errors in translation for many years. The discovery of Qumran, especially cave 4, has made this excuse impossible to defend. The number of variants discovered and identified, the discovery of the major discrepancies, and evidence of adding and subtracting at will by scribes, makes the claim that errors are translation issues a ridiculous claim.
No matter how you cut it, you cannot use the Bible as proof of God. The Bible is not exceptional proof: it is full of errors, inconsistencies, contradictions, and its source is highly questionable (at best).