Word of God vs. Eyewitness Accounts

October 2, 2010

Christian groups, like Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and others, accept the Bible as the literal Word of God. This view is often summed up as:

“God said it, I believe it, that settles it”.

In other words, any passage in the Bible should be taken as if the words proceeded directly from God’s mouth. They don’t all agree on how words from God got written into the Bible. Some theorize that God dictated the text word-for-word to the various authors of the Bible and the authors faithfully recorded the words.

Other theories, like Verbal, Plenary Inspiration, are a bit more nebulous in that no one is really willing to say exactly what they mean by “inspiration”. Nevertheless, this theory also holds that every word in the Bible proceeds (somehow) directly from God. The Christian Faith website presents a succinct summary this belief.

These same Christian groups claim that the Gospels are first-hand eyewitness accounts. They believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are reporting their own first-hand, eyewitness accounts of their encounters with Jesus. They are reporting what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Since eyewitness accounts virtually always vary from person to person, the accounts in the different Gospels are different as we should expect. These accounts, though different and at times conflicting, are nevertheless compelling evidence of the historicity and the nature of Jesus. You and I should believe that Jesus is the Son of God based in part on these eyewitness accounts.

An eyewitness account by its very definition cannot be the Word of God.

If the words in the eyewitness accounts come from God, then the words are not the evangelist’s own eyewitness account. If the words are the evangelists own personal account, then the words are not God’s words. The two claims are incompatible: either all words in the Bible are from God (and there are no eyewitness accounts from the Evangelists), or the Bible contains eyewitness accounts which are not God’s words.

Of course it is also possible that words in the Bible do not come from God and that the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Those two claims are perfectly compatible.

How the Animals Got Their Names

June 9, 2008

Gen 2:19-20 explains how animals got their names:

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

Let’s assume for the moment that the above passage was written by mere mortals (the Elohist source to be exact) who lived around 850 bce in the Land of Israel. The statement that Adam named all of the birds and land animals sounds reasonable enough – there simply weren’t that many different animals in that area which the writer would have been familiar with. Now let’s assume that the above passage was written under divine inspiration (the verbal, plenary inspiration theory) where God guided the author to transmit his divine message exactly as he intended it. Suddenly, the statement seems ludicrous because we would expect God to know how many animals he created. For example, God would surely be aware of the Giant Pandas he created that are native only to China, or the Capivara found only in Brazil, or Beluga Whales and Polar Bares found only in the Arctic Ocean, or the Platypus found only in Australia. Adam would have his work cut out for him naming the myriad of animals found world wide – and the Beluga Whales would have died of dehydration and heat exhaustion in the process! But it gets worse. What about trilobites that died in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago (there are more than 10,000 fossil species of just trilobites alone!)? Did Adam name them? What is the ancient Hebrew word for it (or a word for it in any ancient language)? What about all of the other millions of extinct species of animal? What about the microbes (e. coli, amoebae, extremaphiles, etc., etc.)?

Walk me through it one more time: why should I believe that the first chapter in Genesis (for starters) is the divine Word of God?

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