The Instigator
Amarandum
Pro (for)
The Contender
Sidetrack
Con (against)

The Bible is Not an Authoritative Document

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/25/2017 Category: Religion
Updated: 12 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 328 times Debate No: 99238
Debate Rounds (5)
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Amarandum

Pro

I challenge you to debate me on the topic of Biblical inerrancy. I hold that the Bible is vastly self-contradictory and filled with obvious mythology. I was a young-earth creationist for more than a decade before rejecting Christianity wholesale. I hope to draw you to the same conclusion. This debate will be about the Bible ONLY; not the existence of a deity.

R1 - Acceptance Only
R2 - Opening Arguments
R3 - Question Round.
R4 - Answer Round.
R5 - Closing Arguments
Sidetrack

Con

I'm an athiest, so you don't have to convince me. I will play devil's advocate. I will make it more fun for you. Anyway, you can't convince them in a simple debate like this. You should already realize it takes a very very long time to just to begin to understand. And I think you are missing something I will argue in this debate, they don't need to understand.
Debate Round No. 1
Amarandum

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for agreeing to debate as a devil's advocate. Best of luck to him.

The foundation of modern Christianity rests upon the Bible. Nearly half of the adult population of America believe that everything it says is literally true, and that it comes straight from the hand of the creator of the universe. In this debate, the burden of proof for this extraordinary claim will fall to my opponent. Though this debate is about biblical authority, if the Bible can be shown to be authoritative that would mean it is in fact what it claims to be. Since the Bible makes many claims which are exclusive to other religions (that there is one god, that his name is Yahweh, etc.) if the Bible is authoritative that would mean all it's claims are true in their entirety. There can't be one god named Yahweh and also one god named Allah, and also many gods who live on Mt. Olympus. Therefore, any debate about the validity of the Bible is inevitably a debate on why this particular book, which was thrown together so haphazardly in the second century, is the word of the creator of the universe. Why not the Koran? Why not the Ramayana? Why not "The Catcher in The Rye"? My opponent will have to argue this, as well as justify it's inerrancy to prove his point. To prove my point, I'll be focusing on the preposterous claims of the New Testament, it's direct ties to the war crime and myth infested Old Testament (despite Christian objections that there are none), and the evolution of the Biblical conception of God throughout the ancient world.

To begin, let's consider the creation narrative of Genesis. A literal interpretation will lead one to believe that the world was created in six days, six thousand years ago by a God who constantly refers to Himself in the third person (In Genesis, God says "Let us make mankind in our image" because the Hebrew word used here is "elohim", which literally means "many gods". This is because the ancient Israelites originally believed in several gods, not one. They stole this myth, and the Flood myth, and the Tower of Babel myth from the polytheistic Babylonians, but we'll get to that in a moment).

I sincerely hope that my opponent doesn't really believe in the literal reality of Genesis, since geological, biological, and cosmological science have demonstrated it to be false. The book is filled with obvious mythology, referring to demons, giants, talking animals, world-consuming floods, and non-existent patriarchs that lived for nearly a thousand years. But if my opponent doesn't believe all of this, why did Jesus? Jesus clearly believed Genesis to be true, as evidenced by his references to Adam and Noah within the book of Matthew (chapter 24: "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away." - NIV). Did he know they were myths and not say anything? Why would the Son of God want to propagate a half truth? Right at the outset we have dispelled the popular and often used Christian myth that the Old Testament and the New Testament deserve to be read with a different pair of eyes. Christ, the focal point of Christianity who is claimed to be divine, behaves exactly how we would expect an illiterate, myth-believing peasant to behave. Why is this? Maybe it's because Jesus was not divine, and that he was in fact an illiterate, myth-believing peasant. If not, why would he refer to Genesis as if it were true?

And what about the life of this Jesus character? I will grant the opposition that the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth can be validated, but I would add that the existence of the Prophet Muhammad can be equally affirmed. This does not lend any validity to whether or not their claims were true, especially when we know so very little about Jesus. In his book "How Jesus Became God", New York Times bestselling author and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Chapel Hill Bart Ehrman shows just how little we know about Christ. Ehrman points out that while the vast majority of Christians believe that the Gospels were written as first person accounts a few years after Jesus died, this is almost certainly not the case. The language spoken by Jesus and his disciples was Aramaic, and he lived at a time when only the most wealthy individuals could read or write. The four canonical Gospels were written in Greek at a much later period (many decades after Christ's death by the majority opinion) by authors who were very highly educated. This reduces the likelihood that the accounts were written in the first person down to almost nothing, and raises the probability that the oral traditions they were based on were urban legends by an exponential margin. To avoid the risk of a cliche, I'll skip the often quoted "telephone game" analogy and simply say that oral traditions thrive on more extravagant retellings over a period of time, and several decades is a very long time.

In another of his works, Ehrman provides but three examples of the many absurdities, contradictions, and flat out historical inaccuracies that are to be found in the New Testament. This one is concerning the well-known scene of the birth of Jesus:
"...we have relatively good records for the reign of Caesar Augustus, and there is no mention anywhere in any of them of an empire-wide census for which everyone had to register by returning to their ancestral home. And how could such a thing even be imagined? Joseph returns to Bethlehem because his ancestor David was born there. But David lived a thousand years before Joseph. Are we to imagine that everyone in the Roman Empire was required to return to the homes of their ancestors from a thousand years earlier? If we had a new worldwide census today and each of us had to return to the towns of our ancestors a thousand years back, where would you go? Can you imagine the total disruption of human life that this kind of universal exodus would require? And can you imagine that such a project would never be mentioned in any of the newspapers? There is not a single reference to any such census in any ancient source, apart from Luke. Why then does Luke say there was such a census? The answer may seem obvious to you. He wanted Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, even though he knew he came from Nazareth ... there is a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Micah that a savior would come from Bethlehem."
This next quotation, from the same source, shows the level of discontinuity between the various sayings of Jesus:
"In Matthew, Jesus declares, "Whoever is not with me is against me." In Mark, he says,"Whoever is not against us is for us." Did he say both things? Could he mean both things? How can both be true at once? Or is it possible that
one of the Gospel writers got things switched around?"
This one concerns the fact that we know many books of the Bible were not written by their claimed authors:
"Students taking a college-level Bible course for the first time often find it surprising that we don't know who wrote most of the books of the New Testament. How could that be? Don't these books all have the authors' names attached to them? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the letters of Paul, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John? How could the wrong names be attached to books of Scripture? Isn't this the Word of God? If someone wrote a book claiming to be Paul while knowing full well that he wasn't Paul, isn't that lying? Can Scripture contain lies?"
The incompatibility and inconsistency of these Bible books and passages are, to my eye at least, irreconcilable. I'd like to hear my opponent argue why we should discount all other historical evidences and common sense in favor of this one book of self contradicting fairy-tales.

If the life and authority of Christ have been called into serious question, what can be said about his father, Yahweh? Aside from being the most boringly simplistic character in all fiction, the God of Abraham is a total paradox. A genocidal God of love. A jealous source of righteousness. A homophobic paragon of tolerance. A dictatorial champion of free will. Is there no end to the madness to be found within the Old Testament? From sanctioning rape and genocide against children (Numbers 31) to commanding non-believers be put to death (Deuteronomy 13). From commanding priests to immolate their sexually active daughters (Leviticus 21) to stoning anyone who commits blasphemy (Leviticus 24). What moral lesson or divine wisdom is to be found here? How is the Christian claim that "God is Love" compatable with the God who chose to smite two cities and drown a planet because they angered Him? I'd like to know whether or not my opponent still believes the Bible is authoritative even when confronted with the evidence (from the Bible itself no less!) to the contrary.

But, (to end on a positive note) fear not. Yahweh is almost certainly a fictitious figure. In his book "How God became God", religious scholar Richard Smoley shows the evolution of the Near-Eastern conception of God through the ages. Every world mythology has a flood myth. In ancient Greece, the analogue of the biblical Noah was Deucalion. For the Mesopotamians, it was Utnapishtim. Every world mythology has a fall-of-man myth. The most well known counterpart to the biblical Eve is the Greco-Roman Pandora, who opened a box forbidden by the gods and released sin upon the world (notice how both have a covert message that women are the source of all evil). It's also easy to see how Bible stories were influenced by Babylonian religion, as the ancient Israelites experienced a captivity in that area for a period of time. In many ways, Yahweh is a rehashed form of the god Marduk, who was the chief deity of Babylonia for several hundred years.

I'd be happy to clarify any points made above in the Q&A.
Thank you for your attention.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 5
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