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Biblical errancy/inerrancy

Indicators of biblical errors: Part 2

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Indicators 1 to 4 are contained in a separate essay

Indicator 5: The personality of God as described in the Bible:

bulletPossibility 1: One of the generally accepted attributes of God is that he is not subject to change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Thus, if the Bible is inerrant, then the authors' description of God would also be consistent, from Genesis through to Revelation.
bulletPossibility 2: The Bible is not inerrant. Various authors promoted their concept of God. God is described differently throughout the Bible.
bulletWhat the Bible Shows:

In fact, the bible is replete with examples of God's contradictory behavior."

bulletIn the Pentateuch, Jehovah is frequently described as an angry deity who committed genocides and mass murder. He killed people for trivial reasons (e.g. Onan for practicing birth control; Lot's wife for looking the wrong way). He exterminated all of the men, women, girls, boys, infants and newborns in Sodom and Gomorra because the men were inhospitable towards strangers. He killed all of humanity in a great flood, saving only eight people: Noah and his family. He hardened the heart of the Pharaoh of Egypt, thus necessitating great loss of life before the Egyptian leader would release the Hebrews from bondage. The Gnostic Christians, one of the three main movements in the early Christian Church, considered Jehovah to be an evil and fickle deity, who they called the Demiurge.
bulletIn the Gospels, Jesus often refers to God as Abba, which is probably closest to the English word "papa." Jesus stresses God's love for humanity, his concern for justice and his readiness to support and encourage each believer. He urged individuals to develop a close, intimate, loving relationship with God through private prayer.
bulletIn Revelation, God is once more described as a vengeful deity who inflicts massive worldwide death, destruction, and torture on men, women, boys, girls, infants and newborns. Martin Luther felt that Revelation should be removed from the Bible for this reason. He included it in an appendix to his German translation of the Bible.
bulletA visitor to this website emailed us with the following comment:

"The Bible describes God as a being given to contradictions. God is:

bulletAngry, but slow to anger;
bulletForgiving, but unforgiving;
bulletMutable, but immutable;
bulletVisible, but invisible;
bulletContingent, but omniscient;
bulletMerciful, but merciless;
bulletOmnipresent, but local;
bulletPartial, but impartial;
bulletVengeful, but loving, and, finally, jealous.
bulletConclusion: One can argue from the lack of consistency in the Biblical authors' concept of God that they are portraying very different and mutually exclusive concepts of God. Again, this is not a proof of Biblical errancy, but is a significant indicator.

Indicator 6: Jesus' status as described in the Bible:

bulletPossibility 1: One of the fundamental dogmas of the Christian religion is the Incarnation -- that Jesus is the Son of God. The recognition of Jesus as God's son would have occurred at a specific time in Jesus' life. If the Bible is inerrant, then various New Testament writings would agree on when this time happened.
bulletPossibility 2: The Bible is not inerrant. Various authors promoted their understanding of when Jesus became the son of God, as taught by the religious group to which they belonged.
bulletWhat the Bible Shows: By arranging the books of the New Testament in chronological order, we find the following:
bulletRomans: This was probably written by St. Paul circa 55-59 CE. In Romans 1:3-4, Paul writes: "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Paul believed that Jesus became the Son of God at his resurrection, circa 30 CE.
bulletMark: This is generally recognized to be the first gospel to be written, circa 70 CE. It describes Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist as the time when he became the Son of God. The current wording of Mark 1:10-11 says: "...he saw...the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.' " The original words attributed to God in this passage were partly suppressed during ancient times. Judging by the writings of early Christian authors, the original words stated definitively that his transition to Son of God happened at the time of baptism. The words were edited out of Mark perhaps decades after the Gospel was written, probably because they contradicted the theological belief of the time.
bulletMatthew was written in the early to mid 80's CE. It contains a birth narrative which implies that Jesus was conceived during an interaction between the Holy Sprit and Mary. Jesus is described as becoming the Son of God at his birth, circa 6 BCE.
bulletLuke was probably written about 90 CE. Luke 1:35 described that "the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." Again, the transition occurred at birth.
bulletActs was probably written in the 90's CE by an unknown author -- the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. He writes in Acts 13:33 that Jesus became the son of God when God raised Jesus from the dead.
bulletJohn was probably written after Christians were expelled from the Synagogues, starting circa 90 CE. It may have been cited in some writings by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch circa 115 CE. So about 100 CE may be an accurate date of composition. The author(s) of John state that Jesus (the Word) existed with God "in the beginning." i.e. before creation.
bulletConclusion: The time when Jesus was considered to have become the Son of God thus changed from:
bulletafter his death in the earliest Christian writings, to
bulletat or before the creation of the universe in the last Gospel to be written.

We are obviously seeing a gradual development in Christian theology from the writings of Paul (55 CE and later) to the writings of the author(s) of the Gospel of John (circa 100 CE). The lack of consistency indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.

Indicator 7: The nature of the afterlife as described in the Bible:

bulletPossibility 1: The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to describe accurately the destination of persons who have died. Each of the authors of the Bible described heaven and hell (and who would go where) in a consistent manner.
bulletPossibility 2: The Bible is not inerrant. The oldest passages in the Hebrew Scriptures would represent beliefs about the afterlife which are similar to what the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and similar surrounding Pagan societies believed at the time. Biblical authors who wrote after the invasion of Palestine by the Greeks in 332 BCE would incorporate Greek pagan beliefs about the afterlife. Various authors from the Christian Scriptures would describe beliefs about the afterlife that their own Christian groups taught, and which were similar to the other 23 or so Jewish religious groups in Palestine during the first and second centuries CE, when the Christian Scriptures were written.
bulletWhat the Bible Shows:
bulletIn ancient Hebrew scripture writings: The authors described the dead as leading a shadowy existence in a great cavern under the earth, called Sheol. This was similar to the beliefs of the surrounding Pagan cultures. Everyone went to Sheol, regardless of whether they had led a good or an evil life while on earth. All were isolated from God.
bulletAfter the Greek invasion: Greek Pagan ideas began to be incorporated into those Hebrew Scriptures that were written after 332 BCE. The authors talked about resurrection and eternal rewards for people who had followed the Law and been kind to their fellow humans. Evil people would be punished.
bulletPaul wrote about a heaven for those who had been saved by trusting and believing in Christ's resurrection. He was apparently unaware of Hell; he believed that the unbelievers and those who had committed certain prohibited acts would be simply annihilated at death and exist no more. "The wages of sin are death", not everlasting punishment.
bulletThe Synoptic gospels: The authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke described Jesus as telling of a glorious eternal rest in heaven for those who behave kindly towards the poor and needy. The writers talked about a Hell of eternal punishment: fire, worms, thirst for those who did not support needy fellow humans. This forms one of the main themes of the Gospel of Matthew. Again, salvation is based on works.
bulletJohn: The author of the gospel of John described a glorious heaven as a reward for those who believed that Jesus is the Son of God. He seems to have rejected the concept of Hell entirely. People who did not believe in the Incarnation simply died and were annihilated.
bulletConclusion: The writers of the Bible have entirely different concepts of the afterlife. The most ancient passages talk about a depressing location where all people lead the same, shadowy life. The authors who wrote after the Greek invasion described various concepts of rewards or punishment. They differ as to whether evil people will simply be destroyed at death or will be eternally punished in Hell. They differ as to whether people are selected for an eternal life in heaven on the basis of their belief in Jesus' divinity, or their belief in Jesus' resurrection, or their good deeds while on earth. The Bible is hopelessly inconsistent on all aspects of the afterlife. Biblical authors are largely reflecting beliefs absorbed from surrounding tribes or invading armies. This indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.
bulletMore info: See our essays on the afterlife

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Indicator 8: Criteria for salvation:

bulletAssumption: One's eventual destination or state after death is arguably the most important topic covered in the Bible. After all, even a century of living on earth is a drop in the bucket compared to all of eternity. If the Bible is inspired by God, then one would expect that the criteria by which ones is routed to either Heaven or Hell would be clearly and unambiguously described
bulletPossibility 1: The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to describe accurately and unambiguously the precise criteria by which an individual's final location or state will be after death.
bulletPossibility 2: The Bible is not inerrant. Authors would disagree as to whether one's final destination was determined by good and bad works, by specific beliefs, on the basis of a religious ritual, on the basis of other criteria, or by some combination of the above.
bulletWhat the Bible Shows:
bulletIn ancient Hebrew Scriptures: The authors stated that everyone would go to the same place after death: Sheol. They would be isolated from God. It would not matter whether one had led a good or an evil life while on earth.
bulletMore modern Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. Daniel): People who had followed the Mosaic Law and been kind to their fellow humans would enjoy rewards after death. Evil people would be punished. So, one would expect that individuals guilty of mass murder or genocide would go to Hell. If a person had led a life of self-sacrifice and service to others, like Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, they would go to Heaven.
bulletPaul wrote that those who believed in Christ's resurrection would go to Heaven.
bulletThe Synoptic gospels: The authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke taught that salvation is based on a person's good and bad works.
bulletJohn: The author(s) of the gospel of John taught that the criteria was based on belief: those who believed that Jesus is the Son of God would go to Heaven.
bulletNumerous other locations in the Christian Scriptures described how one is saved by repentance followed by the ritual of baptism.
bulletConclusion: The writers of the Bible have entirely different concepts of what one must do in order to be routed to Heaven after death. The Bible is inconsistent on whether the decision is made on the basis of good works, specific beliefs, baptism, avoiding certain behaviors, or some combination of the preceding. This lack of consistency indicates, but does not prove, biblical errancy.
bulletMore info: See our essays on criteria for salvation

Indicator 9: The causes of mental illness:

bulletAssumptions: Mental illness is caused by emotional disturbances, chemical imbalances in the brain, and other natural factors. Mental health specialists (other than those who are also Evangelical Christians) abandoned the concepts of demonic possession and exorcism many generations ago. Jesus is recorded as having encountered and healed many individuals with mental or emotional problems. See: Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 9:32-33, Matthew 15:22-28, Matthew 17:14-18, Luke 4:33-36.
bulletPossibility 1: The Bible is inerrant. God has inspired authors of the Gospels to accurately describe the nature of mental illnesses in the above passages. The Bible would not contain references to demonic possession.
bulletPossibility 2: The Bible is not inerrant. The authors would have interpreted the cause of mental illness in accordance with what they knew about 1st century medicine. At that time, mental illnesses were believed to have been caused by demonic possession.
bulletWhat the Bible Shows: In the gospels, particularly Matthew and Luke, Jesus is described as expelling demons in order to cure the mentally ill people that he encountered.
bulletConclusion: The Gospel writers were mistaken about the causes of mental illness. This indicates, but does not prove, that their writings contain errors.


Although it appears to be impossible to absolutely prove the errancy or inerrancy of the Bible, there appear to be at least nine strong indicators that it is errant in at least some places. 

Related essays on this web site:

bulletTwo inconclusive indicators of Biblical inerrancy/errancy.
bulletFour additional indicators of Biblical errancy

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 Home page > ChristianityInerrancy > here

or Home page > Christianity  > Bible topicsInerrancy > here

or Home page > Religious information > Inerrancy > here

Copyright 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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