Vince's "Why Believe?" Website

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This page has been created for two types of people: Christians who are struggling with their faith, and honest inquirers of any persuasion who are seeking spiritual truth. The articles below were selected for their outstanding quality. I have found them especially helpful in resolving difficulties for my own Christian belief. I hope you find them as useful as I did.


6. Is the Bible the Word of God or a human invention?

6.1 Which version should I read?     6.2 Why should I even bother to read the Bible?     6.3 How to read & interpret the Bible - and how NOT to
6.4 Who wrote the Bible? When? Were they truthful?   6.5 How did we get the Bible?    6.6 Biblical Morality - Is It Worthy of Respect?
6.7 Biblical Atrocities.                    6.8 Biblical Inspiration.                                         6.9 Biblical Inerrancy

6.1 Which version of the Bible should I read?

Easy-to-Read English Versions

The Contemporary English Version.
In translating the CEV, the translators followed three translation principles. They were: the CEV must be understood by people without stumbling in speech, the CEV must be understood by those with little or no comprehension of "Bible" language, and the CEV must be understood by all.

The Pod Bible: Contemporary English Version.
Hear the Bible read aloud in plain English on your iPod, at no cost.


Popular Contemporary Versions

The Holy Bible: New International Version.
This translation has become the most popular modern English translation of the Bible, having sold more than 215 million copies worldwide. It is considered by many Christians a good, modern supplement to more historic bible translations like the King James Version, or even as more accurate (since it draws from a wider range of source texts including the Dead Sea Scrolls). It is also highly readable.


The Most Accurate, Literal Versions

The New American Standard Version.
Since its completion in 1971, the New American Standard Bible has been widely acclaimed as "the most literally accurate translation" from the original languages. For the background and history of this version, click here.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version.
The English Standard Version is a new, essentially literal translation that combines word-for-word precision and accuracy with literary excellence, prose and readability. However, some readers may find the English a little stilted.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version.
Still popular in some quarters.


Catholic Versions

The New American Bible (NAB).
A popular version with American Catholics. Includes podcast.

The New Jerusalem Bible (NAB).
A popular version with Catholics outside the United States.


Versions Using the Byzantine Text

The World English Bible (WEB).
Unlike most versions, this one uses the Byzantine Majority text as the basis of its translation of the New Testament. In this respect, it is similar to the King James Version (see below).

The Holy Bible: King James Version.
Whatever you think of the accuracy of this version (click here for an online discussion), the beauty of its prose is undeniable.

Background Information on Different Versions

Bible-Researcher.com by Michael Marlowe, M.A.
Internet Resources for students of Scripture. The author of the site is a Bible studies instructor, who describes his personal mission in creating his Bible study Website:

Concerning the Bible, I believe that it is the inerrant, living and powerful word of God. God has used it to inspire and strengthen me for many years now, and it means everything to me. Over the years I have given much of my time and energy to studying it and helping others to understand and believe it.

Theologically I am conservative and Reformed. I consider the Westminster Confession of Faith to be an accurate summary of Biblical theology.

I created this website in order to publish some material that I thought would be helpful to students of the Bible. Much of the material on the site was either written or edited by me in the past few years. I have also added a few articles by reliable scholars, most of them in the public domain and others by permission...

My purpose in putting all this material online is simply to make it available to my fellow-learners at church and to whoever wants it, for the benefit of the body of Christ.

Background Information on the Bible for Muslims

Misunderstandings Explained: Injil - The Bible by Arabic Bible Outreach.
An excellent Arabic Christian Web site for Muslims who wish to learn about the Bible.


6.2 Why should I even bother to read the Bible? Why should we take its claims seriously?

How to Read the Bible and Why by Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) of Chelije.

Public Theology and Prophecy Data: Factual Evidence that Counts for the Biblical World-View by Professor Robert Newman, Professor John Bloom and Hugh Gauch.
This article uses Biblical prophecies to mount an impressive statistical argument that the Bible is the Word of God.


6.3 How to read and interpret the Bible - and how NOT to

6.3.1 How NOT to read the Bible: A Guide for Skeptics

A Quiz for Skeptics by James Patrick Holding.
A must-read for anyone who thinks the Bible is out-dated, immoral and full of contradictions.

Biblical versus Japanese Culture - A Comparison by James Patrick Holding.
Finds that Japanese culture is in many ways closer to the culture of the Bible than our own culture is.

Modern Biblical Scholarship, Philosophy of Religion and Traditional Christianity by Professor Eleonore Stump. Exposes the built-in philosophical biases of secularists who insist on reading the Bible through an anti-supernaturalist lens.


6.3.2 Catholic Statements on the Interpretation of Scripture

St Thomas' Method of Biblical Exegesis by Thomas Kuffel.

The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church - a document by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, presented on March 18, 1994.

What Did the Author Want to Say? Article by Fr. William G. Most, S.J.

Angels by Fr. William G. Most, S.J.
This article investigates the question of whether the Bible actually means to assert that angels are real. The essay serves as an excellent illustration of how the Catholic Church applies its principles for the interpretation of Scripture.

Basic Scripture by Fr. William Most, S.J. A Catholic perspective on how to read Scripture. See especially How to Interpret Inspired Scripture.

Scriptural Durcheinander by Fr. William Most, S.J. A Catholic perspective on how to read and interpret Scripture.



6.3.3 Orthodox Statements on the Interpretation of Scripture

How to Read the Bible and Why by Bishop Kallistos Ware. A collection of useful tips on how to read Scripture.
"We may distinguish four key qualities that mark an Orthodox reading of Scripture, namely: our reading should be obedient; it should be ecclesial, within the Church; it should be Christ-centered; it should be personal."


6.3.4 Protestant Statements on the Interpretation and Inspiration of Scripture

How to Read the Bible by Charles Spurgeon.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was the best-known preacher in Victorian England. In 1854, at the age of 20, he became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church (formerly pastored by the Baptist theologian John Gill). The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle, where the above sermon was preached in 1879.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics.


6.4 Who wrote the Bible and when? Were they truthful?

6.4.1 Who wrote the Bible?

The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible)

(a) The Documentary Hypothesis and the Problems that Attend It

The Documentary Hypothesis. Article in Wikipedia.

The Torah in Modern Scholarship by Rev. Ken Collins.
A matter-of-fact discussion of the Documentary Hypothesis and the problems attending it from a Christian point of view.

A Summary Critique of Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? by Dr. Gleason Archer.
Friedman's bestseller Who Wrote the Bible? popularized the "Documentary Hypothesis," a theory originating in the 18th and 19th centuries which denied that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and which claimed to find four major documents (J, E, P, and D), dating from after the reigns of David and Solomon, woven together in the Pentateuch. The rebuttal contained here, written by Dr. Gleason Archer, is simply devastating. Dr. Gleason L. Archer, Jr. was formerly professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Dr. Archer earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University, along with a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is best known for his books A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, 1964) and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, 1982). Responding to Friedman's claim that "at present, however, there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses - or by any one person," Professor Archer replies:

The fact is that there are Old Testament specialists who have been trained in schools like Harvard and Princeton and Chicago University, who have received earned doctorates, who have become skilled in all of the relevant languages and archeological discoveries, who have attended and participated in all of the leading scholarly conventions, and who have authored texts that are studied by college and seminary students all over the world, who still adhere to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.

(b) The Case for the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch

The articles below argue that although subsequent authors may have added explanatory glosses to the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch), much of the material is very ancient, going back to the time of Moses and beyond.

On the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch by Glenn Miller, M.S.

The making of the Old Testament: before Moses by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Was there not enough time for Hebrew to have developed? by Glenn Miller.

Did Moses Write the Pentateuch? by Don Closson.
Outlines the history of the Documentary Hypothesis, and the problems with it, before arguing for Mosaic authorship on Scriptural and textual grounds.

Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch - Tried and True by Eric Lyons, M.Min. and Zach Smith. Published by Apolgetics Press.
After rebutting the principal objections to the traditional belief that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the authors argue that believing in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is very important for believers, as the credibility of the Bible is at stake.

Should Theology, Religious Studies and Comparative Religion Students Take the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP System) Seriously? by Robin Brace.


(c) The Case for a Later Date for the Pentateuch

How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel. by Professor Schiedewind. Review by Professor Richard Hess.
In his bestselling book, Professor Schniedewind argues that the Pentateuch was written down in the late-pre-exile period (i.e. the late eighth century to seventh century).

Scholars converse with William Schniedewind, author of How the Bible Became a Book. by the Journal of Hebrew Studies.
In his latest book, Professor Schniedewind has set forth the case for the late-pre-exile (i.e. the late eighth century to seventh century) as a key point for the formation of many Biblical texts, including the Pentateuch.


The book of Daniel

Daniel Doings - A Defense of the Authenticity of the Book of Daniel by Kevin Closson and James Patrick Holding.
Outside of the Pentateuch, no book of the Old Testament has been subjected to as much scrutiny as the Book of Daniel. The detailed and accurate prophecies contained in that book have motivated many, skeptic and professed believer alike, to subscribe to the theory of a late date of composition for Daniel in the time of the Maccabees, around 168-165 BC. Other, more sophisticated skeptics allow that parts of Daniel were written earlier, but argue that it was put together in its final form at that time. The author of this article argues that no-one would doubt the convincing arguments for the authenticity of Daniel as a 6th century BC document, if it didn't contain any prophecies. The real reason why the Maccabean theory was proposed was because of a prior philosophical belief that genuine prophecies cannot occur in the real world.


The Book of Esther

Engaging Esther by James Patrick Holding.
Holding argues that the book of Esther contains a great deal of accurate information that seems unlikely for a much later writer, and that objections to the historicity of Esther are based not on solid evidence, but rather on improbabilities judged from our limited knowledge of the ancient world.


The New Testament

Who wrote the Gospels? by Glenn Miller.
The Gospels (especially Matthew and John) are widely regarded as pseudonymous works. Miller argues for the view that the Four Gospels were indeed written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, pointing out that available evidence shows that the authenticity of a book was a key issue for the early Church, when deciding whether a book belonged to the New Testament canon. The Church did not even consider the possibility that pseudigraphy was morally acceptable. Moreover, the Four Gospels do not manifest the defining trait of pseudigraphy - self-ascription to a hyper-famous author such as Peter or Mary Magdalene. For instance, Matthew was a rather obscure apostle, and "the disciple Jesus loved" in the fourth Gospel is never even named. Finally, the article questions the scholarly consensus which existed until recently, that the four gospels first circulated anonymously and that the present titles were first attached to them about A.D. 125. Now, however, this consensus has been vigorously challenged by the world-renowned New Testament scholar Martin Hengel, who contends in his book "The Four Gospels" that the unanimity of the attributions in the second century cannot be explained by anything other than the assumption that the titles were part of the works from the beginning.

The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ by Professor Martin Hengel. Review by Professor Craig Blomberg.
Martin Hengel, emeritus professor of New Testament and early Judaism in the University of Tubingen, Germany, may just be the most learned New Testament scholar alive in the world today. Hengel mounts a robust defense of the general trustworthiness of the early Church Fathers' testimony to the origins of the Gospels. Stronger cases can be made for Matthew, Mark and Luke as the actual authors of the first three Gospels than much modern scholarship allows.

Dating the New Testament by ChristianCadre.org.
A collection of scholarly articles arguing for an early dating of the books of the New Testament, on the basis of manuscript evidence.

The Dating of the New Testament by Professor Norman Geisler.
Critical scholars attempt to buttress their sceptical view of the New Testament by placing as much time as possible between the public ministry of Jesus and the date at which the story of Jesus was committed to writing. By arguing for a late first century or early second century date for the original manuscripts, they endeavour to prove that the New Testament documents, especially the Gospels, contain mythology. In this brief article, Professor Geisler lists dozens of reasons why Luke and Acts almost certainly date no later than 62 AD, and why 1 Corinthians was probably written around 55-56 AD.

Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraphy? Pseudo*.*? - Could the New Testament letters be forgeries? (Part One) by Glenn Miller.

Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraphy? Pseudo*.*? - Could the New Testament letters be forgeries? (Part Two) by Glenn Miller.
The alleged pseudonymity of the New Testament letters is of a very blatant sort: deliberate, carefully-crafted, and intentionally deceptive self-representation of an non-apostolic author as being an actual apostle, in the body of a letter. Miller adduces evidence that even at a literary level, such epistles would be considered forgeries in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Indeed, there is not a single example in antiquity in which a religious or philosophical pseudepigraphon was accepted as legitimate. Moreover, the deception involved in the conscious creation of such a document had to have been followed with a deceptive scheme to introduce the pseudonymous works into the Christian community's "working canon" of the time (e.g., slipping one such letter into Paul's collection, as it was being circulated.) However, this would not have been an easy thing to do: the massive critical apparatus and methodologies of antiquity arose to combat the equally as massive production of forgeries. Finally, there are NO cases of Jewish, pre-New Testament, epistolary pseudonymous works, to serve as exemplars for New Testament writers to emulate.

Are 1 and 2 Peter not by Peter, but by someone using his name? by Glenn Miller.


6.4.2 Were the authors of the Bible truthful people, or did they fabricate what they preached?

The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible)

Was the Pentateuch "adulterated" by later additions? by Glenn Miller.

Is Genesis merely a rip-off of other Ancient Near Eastern literature? by Glenn Miller.


Daniel

Was Daniel written after the events he foretold? by Glenn Miller.


The Gospels

The Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus, the Founder of Christianity by Professor R. T. France.
The author concludes that "at the level of their literary and historical character we have good reason to treat the gospels seriously as a source of information on the life and teaching of Jesus, and thus on the historical origins of Christianity.... [A]ny responsible reconstruction of Christian origins must find its starting-point in the first-century gospel records, not in the hints of an alternative view of Jesus contained in second-century literature from the Gnostic wing of Christianity, nor in the attempt to assimilate Jesus to non-Christian parallels in the history of religions."

Gospel Dates, Gospel Authors, Gospel Freedoms by James Patrick Holding.
Addresses the questions: Who wrote the Gospels? When were they written? And generally, is there any reason to suspect that they are full of fabrications?

Did the New Testament authors invent the miracle stories in the gospels? by Glenn Miller.
Argues that the miracle accounts were meant to be taken literally by the gospel authors, that the internal data for their general authenticity is abundant and compelling, and that the literary and historical trend data supports the belief that Jesus was widely accepted as having performed miraculous works.

The Jesus Seminar by Jimmy Williams.
This short article critically examines the widely publicised assertions that have been made by the Jesus Seminar, a committee of scholars which has published a list of what it claims to be the authentic sayings of Jesus. James F. Williams is the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International. He holds degrees from Southern Methodist University (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.).

The Corrected Jesus by Professor Richard Hays.
A critical review of The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, edited by Robert Funk, Roy Hoover and the Jesus Seminar. Richard B. Hays is Associate Professor of New Testament at the Divinity School, Duke University. Hays' conclusion: "[T]he case argued by this book would not stand up in any court... If you are interested in the problem, there are at least a dozen other books I would recommend in preference to this one. But their authors are less likely to be interviewed on the radio: no scandalous sound bites."

Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar by Professor William Lane Craig.
"The Jesus Seminar portrays itself to the media as the representative voice of New Testament scholarship today... They claim some 200 participants in the Seminar, who are supposed to be the embodiment of a scholarly approach to the New Testament... Well, the reality turns out to be much different... The real number of regular participants is only about 40. And what about the scholarly credentials of the members? Of the 74 listed in their publication The Five Gospels, only 14 would be leading figures in the field of New Testament studies. More than half are basically unknowns, who have published only two or three articles. Eighteen of the fellows have published nothing at all in New Testament studies! Most have relatively undistinguished academic positions, for example, teaching at a community college."


The New Testament Epistles (letters)

Paul and the Mystery Religions by Don Closson.
The author, who holds an M.A. in Biblical studies, concludes that "[t]he claim that the doctrines of Christianity had a strong dependency on the mystery religions stands on shaky ground."

Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraphy? Pseudo*.*? - Could the New Testament letters be forgeries? (Part One) by Glenn Miller.

Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraphy? Pseudo*.*? - Could the New Testament letters be forgeries? (Part Two) by Glenn Miller.

Were the Apostolic Fathers unable to distinguish between authentic and unauthentic books? by Glenn Miller.


6.5 How did we get the Bible?

6.5.1 Was the Bible faithfully transmitted down to us?

Are the Biblical Documents Reliable? by Jimmy Williams.
A short article which presents the key issues in a way that is accessible to the average reader. James Williams is the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International, a non-profit corporation whose mission is to reclaim the primacy of Christian thought and values in Western culture through media, education, and literature. James Williams holds degrees from Southern Methodist University (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.).

Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original? by Rich Deem, M.S.
A short article, which addresses the question: how do we know the Bible has been kept in tact for over 2,000 years of copying?

History of the Bible: How The Bible Came To Us by Wesley Ringer.

The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce.

Is the New Testament Text Reliable? by Greg Koukl.
An in-depth discussion of how accurate our manuscripts of the Bible are, after 2,000 years.

Inerrancy and the Text of the New Testament: Assessing the Logic of the Agnostic View by Daniel Wallace, Executive Director, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
This paper addresses a popular argument that is used against those who hold to an inerrant Bible. Essentially, the argument is posed as a question: "How can you claim to have an inerrant original text when we don't even have the original text?" On its face, this argument has seemed so compelling that some people never get beyond it. This paper shows what are the underlying assumptions behind this question, and why they are fallacious.

The alleged bias of the New Testament, and the issue of its reliability An exchange of views between James Still and Glenn Miller.


6.5.2 How were the books of the Bible chosen?

The Formation of the Old Testament Canon by James Patrick Holding.

The Development of the New Testament Canon.

The Christian Canon by Don Closson.
This essay chronicles the story of how we got the Christian Bible. Just how did the church decide on the books for inclusion in the New Testament? This discussion covers both how the Canon was established and the various ways in which theologians have viewed the Bible since the Canon was established.

What is unique about the Four Gospels of the New Testament? (Video.)
Demolishes the claim made in The Da Vinci Code, that there were dozens of Gospels written by the early Christians, and that the four Gospels of the New Testament were selected by the 4th century Church for purely political reasons.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewishness of the Gospels by Professor Craig Evans.
"The geography, topography, and demography of the Jesus story are thoroughly Jewish... The parallels between his teachings and activities and contemporary Judaism are so numerous that they fill more than 1500 pages in Paul Billerbeck's commentary on the Gospels, a commentary based on comparisons with Talmudic and midrashic literature."

What about the Gospel of Thomas?
A TV debate between Elaine Pagels and historian Mike Licona. Interesting viewing.

The Coptic Gospel of Thomas by Professor Craig Blomberg.

What should we think about the Gospel of Judas? by Professor Craig Evans.
The Gospel of Judas does not provide us with an account of what the historical Judas really did or what the historical Jesus really taught this disciple, but it may preserve an element of tradition - however greatly distorted and misrepresented - that could serve exegetes and historians, as we struggle to understand better this enigmatic disciple.

"The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus" by Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar. Book review by Rich Elliott, Simon Greenleaf University.


6.6 Biblical Morality - Is It Worthy of Respect?

6.6.1 Is Biblical Morality Out-dated?

Are Old Testament Laws Evil? by Paul Copan.

Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? by Dr. Paul Copan, Lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida.
A well-reasoned defence of the goodness of the God of the Old Testament, which squarely addresses the objections of the "new atheists".


Is the Bible racist?

Does God Approve Of Racism In The Bible? by Rich Deem, M.S.


Women and the Bible: Is the Bible sexist?

Sexism in the Bible: Is Christianity Sexist? by Rich Deem.

Women in the Bible by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Weren't women considered property in the OT, like cows or something? Didn't the Law say a father could even SELL his own daughter?!!" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Wasn't there a HUGE double standard in biblical sexual ethics? Weren't women supposed to be 'good', but men didn't have to?" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

The Bible and Rape by Matt Flanagan. Does the Bible teach that a rape victim has to marry her rapist?
Excerpt from the summary:

Once the genre is understood it is not hard to see the flaw in [atheist Michael] Martin’s argument. Martin assumes that the law is a rigidly literal rule that inflexibly applies to all cases. In fact, the law probably did not function this way nor was it intended to. Instead it functioned as kind of paradigm illustrating a principle. The principle was this; women who have sex with a man are not to be considered adulterers or immoral if they do not consent. If it cannot be established whether a woman consented to a sexual act then she should be presumed innocent. Rape is not adultery, it is rather a serious assault or an attempted murder. At a more general level the case law vividly illustrates the principle that culpability entails consent.

Are the laws in the OT about rape and virginity indicative of a God who is either unfair to women (or maybe even just unrealistic/ignorant)? by Glenn Miller, M.S.

The Bitter Water Test - Matthew Henry's (1721) Commentary on Number 5.
Matthew Henry's commentary contains a lot of valuable information about how this test was actually applied among the Jews, in practice. Some excerpts:

The rule they [the Jewish authorities - VJT] give is, "If the husband have said unto his wife before witnesses, 'Be not thou in secret with such a man;' and, notwithstanding that admonition, it is afterwards proved that she was in secret with that man, though her father or her brother, then he may compel her to drink the bitter water." But the law here does not tie him to that particular method of proving the just cause of his suspicion; it might be otherwise proved...

The Jews say that the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth, saying to this purport, "Dear daughter, perhaps thou wast overtaken by drinking wine, or wast carried away by the heat of youth or the examples of bad neighbours; come, confess the truth, for the sake of his great name which is described in the most sacred ceremony, and do not let it be blotted out with the bitter water." If she confessed, saying, "I am defiled," she was not put to death, but was divorced and lost her dowry; if she said, "I am pure," then they proceeded...

The Jews say that if, upon denouncing the curse, the woman was so terrified that she durst not drink the water, but confessed she was defiled, the priest flung down the water, and cast her offering among the ashes, and she was divorced without dowry: if she confessed not, and yet would not drink, they forced her to it; and, if she was ready to throw it up again, they hastened her away, that she might not pollute the holy place...

The water, with a little dust put into it, and the scrapings of a written parchment, had no natural tendency at all to do either good or hurt; but if God was thus appealed to in the way of an instituted ordinance, though otherwise the innocent might have continued under suspicion and the guilty undiscovered, yet God would so far own his own institution as that in a little time, by the miraculous operation of Providence, the innocency of the innocent should be cleared, and the sin of the guilty should find them out...

The Jewish doctors add that the waters had this effect upon the adulteress only in case the husband had never offended in the same kind; but that, if he had at any time defiled the marriage-bed, God did not thus right him against his injurious wife; and that therefore in the latter and degenerate ages of the Jewish church, when uncleanness did abound, this way of trial was generally disused and laid aside; men, knowing their own crimes, were content not to know their wives' crimes.

Naso - Rashi's commentary on Numbers 5.
A Jewish commentary on the bitter water test. Scroll diown to Numbers 5:12.

Objection: "Women were non-persons back then in the OT--they had NO legal rights in the system at all!" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Weren't Old Testament women WORSE off than even their Babylonian counterparts?" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Sure, women could be prophets, but they couldn't participate in government" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "God's choice to be incarnated as a man IMPLICITLY de-values women" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "The early church was 'by, for, about MEN--women were barely even there, much less significant players (and ESPECIALLY not leaders)." by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Women's Roles in the Early Church by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Paul and Women by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Doesn't the bible teach that God cursed women by making them subject/subordinate to men?" by Glenn Miller, M.S.

Objection: "Women are always pictured as being servile or passive or evil or stupid." by Glenn Miller, M.S.



Slavery in the Bible

Slavery, John Locke and the Bible by Dr. Matt Flanagan.
Excerpt from the introduction:

It is often affirmed, as an incontestable and obvious truth, that the Bible supports slavery. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong cites Leviticus 25:44 as evidence of this charge in "Why Traditional Theism is not an Adequate Foundation for Morality." Although Armstrong is not the alone in making this claim, I think the charge is mistaken; the Bible does not support slavery.

This claim was refuted by John Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, one of the founding texts of contemporary liberal political theory.

Does God Approve Of Slavery According To The Bible? by Rich Deem.

Does God condone slavery in the Bible? by Glenn Miller (Part One: The Old Testament).

Does God condone slavery in the Bible? by Glenn Miller (Part Two: The New Testament).


Was John (the Evangelist) Anti-Semitic? by Glenn Miller.

Is 1 Thess. 2 a seriously anti-Semitic passage? by Glenn Miller.
Argues that it is a mistake to view Paul (himself a Jew) as anti-semitic.


6.6.2 Is the God of the Bible Immoral?

Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? by Dr. Paul Copan, Lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida.
A well-reasoned defence of the goodness of the God of the Old Testament, which squarely addresses the objections of the "new atheists".

Does Isaiah 45:7 teach that God created metaphysical moral evil? by Glenn Miller.

What kind of a choice is THAT - Love Me or Burn?! by Glenn Miller.

God is Wrathful, Vengeful, Jealous, and Angry every day - and you want me to have a relationship with Him?! by Glenn Miller.

God apparently set humanity up for failure in the Garden, so doesn't this show Him to be cruel, schizoid, or psychotic? by Glenn Miller.

Did God harden Pharaoh's heart? by Glenn Miller.

Was God being evil when He killed all the firstborn in Egypt? by Glenn Miller.

Why did God strike down the man who touched the Ark of the covenant? by Glenn Miller.

Why did God punish the Canaanites for child sacrifice, when He personally ORDERED Abraham to do it? by Glenn Miller.

Why did God send a plague to kill 70,000 innocent people for King David's act of vanity in calling a census? by Glenn Miller.

Methodological question: How does one construct a 'portrait' of the heart and character of God from Scripture? by Glenn Miller.

Commentary on Leviticus 19 and Commentary on Leviticus 20 by David Guzik, Enduring Word Ministries.
Why does God command the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, occultism and cursing one's parents?


6.7 Biblical Atrocities

For sceptics, Biblical atrocities are a reductio ad absurdum for Judaism and Christianity: since the Bible says God commanded these atrocities, and they were obviously wrong, then the God of the Bible is either non-existent or evil. Oddly enough, it was reading the very books of the Bible in which these atrocities were narrated (especially the book of Deuteronomy) that finally convinced me that the God depicted in those pages was not a monster, but someone who was genuinely good. Having been convinced of that, I had to wrestle with the question: how could a morally good Being have commanded people to do the terrible things that the Bible says He commanded?

The position I shall defend here is that the Biblical passages detailing "atrocities" committed at God's behest cannot plausibly be allegorised away; in my opinion, they probably happened. Some Christians defend the "atrocities" on the grounds that God has the absolute and unqualified right to do as He pleases to His creatures. I argue that this defence is mistaken, and that God, as an omnipotent, all-loving Father, has certain duties towards creatures who are capable of knowing and loving Him: for instance, He may not deceive them about what is right and wrong, and He may not inflict harm on them simply for the fun of it. I conclude that the only reason which would justify God in issuing a command ordering the killing of babies is His desire to save them from an even worse fate, which God (being omniscient) knows will certainly befall them if they are not killed. (In the case of the tribes killed by the Israelites, that "worse fate" was abuse, which was rampant in those societies.) Even in this extreme case, God is, however, obliged to kill innocent human beings humanely, and then provide for them in the hereafter, as an Omnipotent, All-loving Parent should. This means that God must have miraculously ensured that the children killed by the Israelites died without experiencing any pain or distress. However, I shall argue below that this would not have required a major miracle on God's part; quite the reverse. Rather than having to specially intervene in order to prevent the Canaanite children from suffering pain, God would have actually had to do less than what He normally does: He could have achieved the desired effect by simply refraining from acting in his usual manner, as a concurrent cause.

It is one of the great ironies of history that the Jewish people, who were the first people to declare infanticide an abomination before God (Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10), possess a holy book which portrays God as ordering the killing of innocent women and children. As Professor William Craig graphically puts it: "According to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), when God called forth his people out of slavery in Egypt and back to the land of their forefathers, he directed them to kill all the Canaanite clans who were living in the land (Deut. 7.1-2; 20.16-18). The destruction was to be complete: every man, woman, and child was to be killed." How can these two facts be reconciled?

Before I address this objection, let's all take a deep breath. Suppose the objector is right. What does that prove? Does it prove God does not exist? No. Does it prove Jesus is not God? No. What the objection pertains to is the issue of biblical inerrancy. Professor William Lane Craig argues that there is no need for Christians to lose their cool when confronted with this question:

The question of biblical inerrancy is an important one, but it's not like the existence of God or the deity of Christ! If we Christians can't find a good answer to the question before us and are, moreover, persuaded that such a command is inconsistent with God's nature, then we'll have to give up biblical inerrancy.

A Christian could still consistently believe that God became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, while rejecting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. This was a position that I once adopted myself, when I first recovered my faith in the Incarnation after denying it for a period of 15 years. The main problem with this view is that the Jews before Christ, and the Christian Church after Christ, affirmed Biblical inerrancy. One would then have to suppose that our Saviour Jesus Christ knew that the Bible contained errors, but chose to say nothing on the subject, for reasons best known to Himself. (If Jesus had actually believed that the slaughter of the Canaanites was morally justifiable when in fact it was not, then He would have been morally deficient, and hence He could not have been God incarnate.) This would be a rather elitist form of Christianity, but still a tenable position, although it leaves unanswered the question of why Jesus didn't simply tell His disciples that the Biblical passages depicting God as commanding the slaughter of innocent woman and children were in fact not inspired by God.

What are the alternatives to this elitist form of Christianity? First, one could accept Biblical inerrancy, but argue that God never intended Christians to interpret literally the verses in which He commands the slaughter of women and children. On this suggestion, the verses were always meant to be taken allegorically, but Jews and Christians misinterpreted them for 3,000 years. (Interestingly, Mahatma Gandhi adopted a similar approach with the first book of Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna commands Arjuna to fight and kill people whom he loves. Gandhi suggested that the passage was actually an allegory about how we need to wage continual war with our animal passions.)

[UPDATE: In a two-part article below, Dr. Matt Flanagan and Dr. Paul Copan argue that blood-curdling Biblical language such as, "putting all the people to the sword", "leaving no survivors", "totally destroying", "striking all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword" are not intended to be taken literally but rather as hyperbole. Dr. Flanagan also contends that the Israelites living at the time would have all known this, and that this reading squares better with certain awkward facts about the book of Joshua. I will leave it to readers to judge whether Dr. Flanagan has made a satisfactory case. What follows is predicated on the "standard" literal reading of these troubling Biblical verses.]

For 21st century Christians, it is very tempting to try to allegorise the accounts of these Biblical massacres. However, this solution is very difficult to square with two awkward facts: first, Jesus, growing up as an Orthodox Jew, would have been taught that these massacres were actual historical events which took place at God's behest; and second, Christian theologians and Church Fathers unanimously interpreted these verses as revealing that God has complete sovereignty over human life. This does not mean that God can kill on a whim. God is not whimsical; as I pointed out at the beginning of section 1, God is someone whose nature is to know and love perfectly. God's sovereignty over human life means that He has the right to take a human life if taking that life is compatible with God's perfect love, and if God in His wisdom decides that this would be for the best. A consequence of the doctrine of God's complete sovereignty is that God could also order His human servants to take a human life, if there were justifiable reasons for doing so. If one wishes to reject a literal interpretation of the Biblical verses relating to massacres in favour of an allegorical one, one must therefore assume that Jesus as a Divine Person: (a) did not in fact believe that God has the right to order His servants to take innocent human lives; but (b) chose not to share this knowledge with His apostles, leaving it instead for subsequent generations to reach this conclusion - a supposition which appears fraught with theological difficulties. I suppose an "allegorist" might argue that Jesus didn't explicitly tell His apostles that slavery was wrong, either: he allowed His Church to subsequently deduce that conclusion, centuries later, from the theological datum that all human beings are made in God's image, coupled with the Golden Rule: "Do as you would be done by." However, I am not sure that this is a good parallel. Slavery (or more precisely, indentured servitude) was permitted in the Old Testament as a concession to human nature: God knew the Israelites would find it impossible to completely abandon the practice; whereas the slaughter of the Canaanites was expressly ordained by God, with terrifying penalties for those Israelites who failed to carry it out. The Old Testament, like the New, is supposed to teach us what God is like. God's character does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:18).

The alternative to the allegorical interpretation of these troubling Biblical passages is to accept the fact that the Bible actually means what it says, literally. The idea of God telling the Israelites to kill innocent children as well as combatants strikes us as something utterly evil and inhuman. "If that isn't immoral, nothing is," we might say. All right, then: why? If it's so wrong, this should be an easy question to answer. Let's look at some possible answers.

1. "It's wrong to kill babies for fun."
My reply: But where does it say in the Bible that these babies were killed for fun?

2. "It robs an innocent human being of life."
My reply: Ordinarily this would be a conclusive objection. But what if the human being in question is certain to suffer a life of abuse and degradation, which death would spare them from? We cannot know whether an innocent human being would be better off dying young, of course; but an omniscient Being (God) could know that, and could instruct the Israelites accordingly.

3. "It causes extreme pain and distress to an innocent human being, and kills them in the process. Causing extreme pain in the context of an act which saves someone's life (e.g. emergency surgery) is permissible; but causing extreme pain in the context of a life-destroying act never is."
My reply: This is certainly true. However, I shall argue below that the children killed by the Israelites did not suffer pain or distress when they were killed.

4. "It's wrong to blindly follow the commands of another person - even an entity who appears to be a supernatural being, such as the God of the Old Testament - when these commands appear to be evil. That's an abdication of reason. You have to think for yourself."
My reply: It would certainly be wrong for an isolated individual to have such blind faith in any such supernatural Being, as the Being in question might not be good. However, if the Being in question gives repeated signs, over a period of years, to an entire community (the Israelites) of its supernatural power, its knowledge and its goodness, then I claim that it would not be an abdication of reason to trust such a Being, if it ordered that community to perform an act which appeared to be evil in its consequences. The community might justly reason: "This action appears to be a horrific deed; but maybe the Being who has saved us will prevent it from being horrific, when we carry it out. In any case, He has given us many reasons on numerous occasions to trust Him, and has repeatedly manifested his goodness, so we'll do what He says."

There are six historical reasons which, when taken together, mitigate the harshness of God's command to slay innocent children.

First, according to the available archaeological evidence (see Glenn Miller's discussion in his articles below), the children who were killed belonged to utterly depraved societies, in which they would almost certainly have been abused. Israel could not co-exist with these societies, as they were implacably hostile to its very existence. In order to survive, Israel had to destroy them. "Then why not just kill the adults?" I hear you ask. But as Glenn Miller argues in his articles below, there was simply no practical means available to the ancient Israelites for taking in the children of the tribes defeated by Israel. Thus, had they not been killed, they would have died a slow, lingering death from starvation after the deaths of their parents in battle. (An atheist might retort, "But God could have miraculously rescued them." Yes, but such a rescue would have required an extraordinary series of miraculous interventions, extended over time: God, as their sole care-taker, would have had to miraculously nourish the children, teach them to walk and talk - remember, their parents had been killed - and teach them to distinguish right from wrong, without any human assistance. No creature has the right to demand an extended series of miracles from God.)

Second, the Church Fathers were unanimous that the slaying of innocent children could only be legitimised by a public command from God. (An unbeliever might object that by the same logic, a deranged religious fanatic who believed that God had commanded him to kill children would be justified in doing so. However, not only Judaism, but also the Christian Church, utterly condemns the notion that a mere private revelation would be a sufficient warrant for committing such a hideous deed, precisely because human beings can easily be deceived by evil spirits masquerading as angels of light. In the Bible, prophets sometimes order kings to kill indiscriminately, but we must not forget that in ancient Israel, a prophet needed to have a verifiable 100% track record of his/her predictions coming true, in order to be recognized.)

Third, the Church Fathers also agreed that the Israelite conquest of Palestine was a one-off situation, never to be repeated again. Israel would never have emerged as a nation unless it had wiped out the implacably hostile tribes that threatened its very existence. At that time, it was a fledgling nation, whose people had a very fragile grasp of what God required them to do. Had they been forced to live side by side with tribes that practiced the perversions described in the book of Deuteronomy, they would certainly have succumbed to paganism. As it turned out, many of the kings of Judah and Israel fell prey to the temptations of paganism; upright monarchs were the exception rather than the rule. The Church, by contrast, is founded by Christ, and has a 2,000-year history behind it, preceded by 1,500 years of Judaism. In no way can it be said to be in danger of annihilation; so there could never be any moral justification for engaging in indiscriminate massacres on behalf of the Christian faith.

Fourth, had Israel not emerged as a nation, it is very likely that we would still be stuck in a world where infanticide and the abuse of children were rife, where charity was absent, and where human beings could be bought, sold and used as commodities. Readers who doubt this should peruse the articles in section 3.1 (scroll down to section 3.1.6). It turns out that each of the three monotheistic religions - and none of the others - managed to eliminate the barbaric practice of female infanticide in the areas where they spread and flourished. Case in point: in the days when the Roman Empire was still pagan, the male head of the household could order any female living in his household to have an abortion. What's more, a married woman who gave birth had no legal right to keep her child unless the male head of the household picked it up and set it down on the family hearth. Otherwise the child had to be placed outside in the street, where it would either die of exposure or be picked up by some unscrupulous rogue and sold into slavery. Girls were exposed far more often than boys: research has shown that the ratio of men to women in the Roman Empire was at least 120:100. Given these facts, it's not hard to see why Christianity, a religion which inherited from Judaism an ethic which was utterly opposed to infanticide, proved immensely popular among Roman women. Islam also succeeded in drastically curtailing female infanticide; however, the pernicious practice continues in India and China to this day.

Here are some statistics: Population of the Roman empire: about 60 million people. Annual number of births (assuming say, 40 births per 1000 people per year): about 2.4 million, or 1.2 million boys and 1.2 million girls, of whom 200,000 were killed by exposure (female infanticide). Enter Christianity: up to 200,000 girls' lives saved per year, or 20 million per century, or 200 million over a period of a millennium. Do the same math in Arab countries as well, and you get even more girls' lives saved. Still think religion doesn't matter?

Sceptics should ask themselves: which world would I rather live in - the modern world, shaped by the Judeo-Christian ethic, in which regards children having the same right to life as adults, or the world of 3,000 years ago, in which parents had the legal right to kill their own children? I should add that more and more contemporary pro-choice philosophers are rejecting the view that newborn babies have the same right to life as adults do. Of course, they may say that killing babies is wrong in the vast majority of cases, but if you press them, you will find that they do not actually believe that babies have a right to life. In fact, I have yet to meet a pro-choice philosopher who thinks that newborn babies have the same right to life as adult human beings. The reason why many philosophers think that newborn babies have no right to life is that they lack a "concept of self". For an example of this kind of thinking, read the article, Death with a Happy Face: Peter Singer's Bold Defense of Infanticide by Scott Klusendorf. Sceptics who reject the Judeo-Christian God may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Fifth, we do not know the limits of God's providence. If we grant the possibility of miracles - as anyone who believes in a Creator God is logically compelled to do - then it is quite possible that God in His mercy miraculously intervened in such a way as to ensure that the innocent victims of these massacres experienced neither pain nor dread while they were being put to the sword by the Israelites. Indeed, I would argue that the goodness of God requires that He did indeed do such a thing: if He is God, then it is His duty to kill quickly and painlessly, if and when He ever has to kill an innocent human being. This would NOT have been a difficult miracle to bring about: as this article by Professor Alfred Freddoso argues, on the traditional Christian view, God is not a remote cause of events in the world (e.g. God -> X -> Y -> Z), but an immediate concurrent cause in addition to being a first cause (i.e. God -> X; God + X -> Y; God + Y -> Z). In other words, in the ordinary course of nature, God's manner of giving rise to natural effects is to act in co-operation with created agents as a concurring immediate cause of their own proper effects. Thus a natural action is an action of both God and secondary agents. Note that on this view: (i) God is an immediate, and not just a remote, cause of every natural effect; (ii) nevertheless, each material or corporeal substance possesses and exercises its own proper causal powers. The upshot of this view is that if God "turns off" His customary co-operation with a corporeal agent (e.g. fire) for some special reason, then that agent will fail to work as it normally does: it will be rendered powerless. For instance, if God chooses not to co-operate with the normal workings of some person's nervous system, then that person's nervous system will fail to send a "pain message" to his/her brain, so he/she will feel nothing. God would only have had to work this miracle of non-cooperation on those occasions when innocent Canaanite and Amalekite children were being slaughtered by the Israelites. God wouldn't have had to do anything to prevent these children feeling pain and distress in their last moments; all He would have had to do is choose not to do something which He normally does. Thus there would have been no need for the kind of massive, extended personal interventions required for God to rescue these children from the Israelites and bring them up without their parents, as some atheists have argued God should have done.

Sceptics will want to ask whether it would have been moral for an Israelite soldier to kill a Canaanite baby on God's command, had that baby been visibly hurt by the soldier's actions. I would answer: No. Driving a sword into the belly of a screaming baby in order to kill it is wrong, period. Since God is by nature just, we must therefore conclude that He could never have ordered such a thing, and that the Canaanite and Amalekite children suffered no pain or distress when killed. The sceptic's objection therefore contains an impossible counterfactual.

Sixth, a word of advice for those who criticise the God of the Old Testament for ordering massacres. If you really want to understand Judaism (and Christianity) then please, read the book of Deuteronomy. I suggest you read it more than once, as I can attest that reading it the second time is quite different from reading it the first. This book is the single most important book of the Old Testament - or Tanakh, as the Jews call it - as it sums up what it really means to be a Jew, and to follow the God of Judaism. Unbelievers who are brave enough to pick up this book will read of God as ordering the killing of whole tribes, but they will also read of a God who absolutely forbids child sacrifice (a common practice in the ancient Near East), and who asks His people to be kind to widows and orphans, to foreigners living in the land of Israel, and to indentured servants (strictly speaking, Israel had no slaves). If the God of Deuteronomy is such a heartless monster, then why, I ask, does He care about these people?

"This is all very well," I hear the unbeliever retort, "but what about the innocent victims of the massacres? Don't they have rights too?"

There are some Christians who would argue that nobody has any rights against God, but I consider this to be an absurd position for any believer in revealed religion. Here's why. If humans have no rights against God, then humans have no right not to be deceived by God, in which case God would do us no wrong by lying to us in any way He saw fit - in which case, the Divine authorship of Scripture would be no guarantee of its truth, and hence no reason to regard it as a book to live by. Thus, arguing for the absoluteness of Divine sovereignty is self-refuting for Christians who wish to uphold the Bible as an inspired and inerrant book.

I believe that God does have the right to intervene in the world, in order to end an innocent person's life, but only if he/she would certainly suffer an even worse fate than death if he/she had lived. To me, the only morally adequate response to the charge that the innocent victims of the massacres were wronged by God is that something worse would certainly have happened to them had they not been killed. Either they would have turned into bad people themselves, or they would have suffered some horrendous fate, such as being abused.

The foregoing proposal assumes that it makes sense to speak of what would have happened to the innocent victims of the massacres, had they lived - in other words, that we can meaningfully ascribe knowledge of counterfactuals to God, in addition to His knowledge of all actual events. This way of talking seems to imply the truth of Molinism, a very controversial theory about God's foreknowledge, which differs from other accounts in that it ascribes to God not only the knowledge of how each of us will act in the future, but also the exhaustive knowledge of how each of us would act in every possible circumstance. If God possessed such all-encompassing knowledge, then of course He could be absolutely certain that the innocent victims would have been worse off, had they lived. But as I have argued in my essay on God's omniscience, Molinism is a philosophically flawed theory: it says that God's knowldege of what I would choose in every possible situation is logically (and not just temporally) prior to His act of creating me. That makes no sense at all, if I am a genuinely free agent: it means that whatever I do, I could not have done otherwise.

However, another, much less contentious (and more reasonable) philosophical explanation of how God could have known with certainty that the Canaanite children slain by the Israelites would have been doomed to a life of abuse had they lived is that God foresaw that there was no possible set of natural circumstances in which the Canaanites, as a people, would turn away from their depravity. The evil was utterly entrenched in their society. This would mean that the Canaanite children would inevitably be abused, in the normal course of events. By cutting short their lives, God rescued them.

Professor William Lane Craig raises another objection to the justice of God's commanding the Israelites to slaughter the women and children of the Canaanites:

Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

Craig answers his own objection:

For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal. Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East. Evidence of this fact is that the people who told these stories apparently thought nothing of what the Israeli soldiers were commanded to do (especially if these are founding legends of the nation). No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers' having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes.

However, this response does not go far enough; it assumes that the Israelite soldiers were all tough, hardened warriors who could disembowel an infant without turning a hair or losing a moment's sleep. Somehow I doubt that. Every army has its share of faint-hearted soldiers who do not really want to kill, and human beings' revulsion at the very idea of hurting babies is both deep-seated and natural, as it should be. If God is good, then He must have prevented the Israelite soldiers from experiencing any mental trauma that would have normally arisen from the killing of innocent human beings. Perhaps the manner of these children's deaths was attended by some supernatural sign that proved to the Israelites that the children were not being emotionally harmed, even as they were being slaughtered. Maybe God caused them all to lose consciousness at the very moment that the warring Israelites approached. To some readers - even Christian ones - that may sound far-fetched, but it is surely no more far-fetched than the idea of a miracle itself. God's power is not limited by the laws of nature.

Four final objections that a sceptic might want to make to my proposed solution:

1. "The solution that you are proposing is a very strained reading of the Biblical text, which makes no reference to Canaanite babies dying painlessly when they were killed by Israelite soldiers."
My reply: I don't share your quaint Elizabethan belief in "the plain sense of Holy Scripture". That's too simplistic, when we consider that the Bible was written over a period of many hundreds of years, and in different languages. In any case, the Bible says nothing one way or the other on the subject. It is chiefly concerned to show that God was with the Israelites.

2. "If your solution is correct, why didn't God tell people that that's what happened, when He ordered the Bible to be written? Why didn't He write the Bible in a clearer, less confusing way? Wouldn't He have thereby prevented many pious believers from leaving the faith on account of these appalling Biblical passages, and wouldn't He have neatly cut the ground from under the feet of sceptics like Tom Paine, who fiercely criticized the cruel God of the Old Testament?"
My reply: the apostasy of pious believers is only a problem if you think God is going to automatically damn anyone who forsakes Judaism or Christianity on account of the Biblical massacres. I don't believe God is like that, as I explain in my essay on Hell. As for why God didn't write the Bible more clearly, I can only say: I don't know. But at least we can say that neither Judaism nor the Christian Church has appealed to these Biblical passages in order to justify any further massacres.

3. "The solution you have proposed is simply crazy. It's the product of an insane mind."
My reply: what are your criteria for judging a belief sane? In any case, why is it crazy to say that God must have been merciful in the way He arranged for the Canaanite children to be slaughtered, preventing them from experiencing pain and distress as they died? Being omnibenevolent and omnipotent, He was both willing and able to accomplish this, and we know of absolutely no evidence which suggests that He didn't.

Perhaps the sceptic means to say that my proposed solution violates some epistemological principle which any sane person would acknowledge to be true. Very well then; which one? Or perhaps the objection is that my solution is unparsimonious. However, if this were a valid objection, it would work equally well against any kind of miracle, but as the articles in section 4.2 (Are miracles possible?) show, the Humean appeal to parsimony as an argument miracles is philosophically flawed.

4. "If God can stop people from suffering pain just by not acting, then why doesn't He do it more often?"
My reply: How much more often would you like God to prevent pain? If you answer "All the time" (which is the only fair answer you could give), then I would argue that this would only serve to encourage brutal acts by sadistic people: "I'm going to try to hurt you. Now let's see if your God saves you from suffering the pain." In other words, a universal policy of preventing pain would only lead to greater human vice, and would foster desensitization. But if you only want God to prevent pain some of the time, then your own position is no less "unfair" than mine.

In any case, God had a special reason for preventing pain in the case of the slaughter of the Canaanites: has He not done so, then He would have been acting immorally in ordering the slaughter in the first place. With "standard" cases of human suffering the situation is different: the harm undergone by the individual affected has not been directly willed or intended by God, but is merely permitted by Him. Hence there is no moral obligation for God to alleviate the suffering.

Well, enough of my blathering. I invite readers to examine the evidence below for themselves.


How could God command the killing of the Canaanites? by Paul Copan.

Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites: Part One by Dr. Matt Flanagan.
Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites: Part Two by Dr. Matt Flanagan.
Excerpt from Part Two of the article:

In my previous post, Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I, I mentioned the position suggested by Alvin Plantinga and endorsed by Nicholas Wolterstorff that the passages in Joshua that appear to record the carrying out of genocide at God's command, such as, "putting all the people to the sword", "leaving no survivors", "totally destroying", "striking all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword" are not intended to be taken literally but rather as hyperbole.

Plantinga suggests that such phrases should "be understood more like a person who in the context of a boxing match states, "knock his block off, hand him his head" or in a football or baseball game where it is stated that the team should "kill the opposition" or that "we totally slaughtered them." In reading Joshua, Wolterstorff defends the thesis that the relevant passages are hyperbolic. He argues essentially that:

(a) the picture of total conquest and annihilation of populations is incompatible with what is said elsewhere in Joshua and Judges;
(b) this is obvious to anyone who reads the narrative straight through without artificially dividing the text into chapter divisions and verses;
(c) the redactors or authors would not have been so mindless as to accidentally put obviously contradictory accounts into one narrative;
(d) the annihilation language appears stereotyped and formulaic whereas the other passages read like more down-to-earth history.

Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? by Dr. Paul Copan, Lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida.
A well-reasoned defence of the goodness of the God of the Old Testament, which squarely addresses the objections of the "new atheists".

Murder by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 64).
In this section, Aquinas does not explicitly mention the massacres of other tribes committed by the Israelites, but nevertheless makes a few relevant points: (i) God sometimes slays sinners in order to deliver the good; (ii) therefore, "if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good"; (iii) only persons in public authority, charged with the care of the common good, have the right to put anyone to death; however, those individuals in the Old Testament who slew their own families and friends at the Lord's command were entitled to do so, for they were acting at God's behest; (iv) corporal penalties were a feature of the Old Law and have been superseded; (v) the life of righteous men preserves and promotes the common good, since they are the chief part of the community. Therefore it is in no way lawful to slay the innocent. This is hardly the language of an intemperate bigot.

Commentary on Numbers 31 by Matthew Henry (1706).
In Numbers 31, God tells the Israelites to slaughter the Midianites: not just combatants, but also every male child as well as every female who had had carnal knowledge of a man. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible was enormously popular in its day, and remains so. Henry's explanation of God's command to kill is well worth reading.

Commentary on Numbers 31 by John Wesley.
John Wesley's commentary on the same passage makes the additional point that the killing of the women and children of a defeated enemy tribe was normally forbidden to the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 20:14). The Midianites were an exception. Wesley's commentary is well worth reading.

How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites? by Glenn Miller.

Why did God punish the Canaanites for child sacrifice, when He personally ORDERED Abraham to do it?! by Glenn Miller.

Shouldn't the butchering of the Amalekite children be considered war crimes? by Glenn Miller.

Why couldn't Israel take in the Amalekites like they did foreign survivors in Deuteronomy 20? by Glenn Miller.

What about God's cruelty against the Midianites? by Glenn Miller.

Answering Michael Martin's 'Atheism, Theism and Rape' by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith.
Refutes the charge that Christianity is inherently immoral. Includes a discussion of Biblical atrocities.


6.8 Biblical Inspiration

6.8.1 Biblical Inspiration - a short background summary

Biblical inspiration.Article from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Provides a short account of the different views of Biblical inspiration.


6.8.2 Different views of inspiration, held by Christians who are orthodox on key doctrinal issues (see above section 5).

(a) A minimalist "neo-orthodox" view of inspiration: God speaks to us in our encounter with Scripture

Beyond Mere Christianity: An assessment of C. S. Lewis by Steven P. Mueller.
Discusses C. S. Lewis' view of inspiration, which Lewis envisaged as residing not in Scripture but in the believer's act of reading Scripture with an open heart. Lewis did not believe in Biblical inerrancy.


(b) Maximalist views: All Scripture is inspired by God, not only as regards its teachings on faith and morals but also regarding its whole subject matter.

Inspiration of the Bible. Article from The Catholic Encycolpedia of 1910.

The Divine Inspiration of the Bible by Arthur W. Pink. A Protestant classic.

God-Inspired Scripture by B. B. Warfield.
Discusses the meaning of the Greek term theopneustos in 2 Timothy 3:16 ("All Scripture is inspired by God..." in the context of the term's historical usage.

Jesus and the Inspiration of Scripture by Professor Gary Habermas.
Habermas argues that "the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is anchored to the teaching of Jesus Christ, and grounded in His resurrection." If God verified Jesus' message by raising Him from the dead, then perhaps the chief issue concerns whether Jesus taught the inspiE½EE½ration of Scripture. In fact, Jesus made many statements regarding the trustworthiness and even the inspiration of Scripture.


6.8.3 Philosophical problems: how can inspiration be harmonised with a belief in human free will?

Men Moved By the Holy Spirit Spoke From God (2 Peter 1:21): A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Biblical Inspiration by William Lane Craig.


6.9 Biblical Inerrancy

6.9.1 Is Biblical Inerrancy an Essential Part of Christianity?

6.9.1(a) The "neo-orthodox" view: inerrancy denied

Beyond Mere Christianity: An assessment of C. S. Lewis by Steven P. Mueller.

Christ Jesus and the Doctrine of Inerrancy by Richard Malina of Metadynamics Ministry.
Malina argues that at several points during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus actually taught that the Old Testament was in error and had been corrupted to some degree by human teachings. Malina's contention is that while God the Father's Holy Word permeates the Old Testament, it is not immune from error.


6.9.1(b) The Traditional Christian View: Inerrancy Defended

The Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy as Taught by the Catholic Church

Scripture Full of Errors? An article by Fr. William G. Most, S.J.

Scriptural Durcheinander by Fr. William Most, S.J. A Catholic perspective on how to read and interpret Scripture.


A Protestant Defence of Biblical Inerrancy

Are There Any Errors In The Bible? by Professor Norman Geisler.

Biblical Inerrancy by John Gerstner.

The Witness of the Bible to Its Own Inerrancy by Gleason Archer.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.


6.9.2 Problems with Biblical Inerrancy: Does the Bible contain false teachings and contradictions?

Resources for Christians wishing to defend Biblical inerrancy

Web sites dealing with alleged Bible "contradictions". A collection of useful online resources.

The Hallway of Questions by Glenn Miller, M.S. A comprehensive list of difficulties relating to the Bible, sorted by category.

Apologetics Encyclopedia by J. P. Holding. An encyclopedia of alleged contradictions in the Bible.

Countering Bible contradictions by Andrew Tong, Michael J. Bumbulis, MaryAnna White, Russ Smith, and others (1994-1995).


General Issues Relating to Alleged Contradictions

Are There Contradictions in the Bible? by Rev. Ken Collins.
Rev. Collins argues that the Bible contains plenty of discrepancies, but a discrepancy is not the same as a contradiction.

The Issue of Complementary Accounts by James Patrick Holding.
This thought-provoking article is worth reading. Instead of simply addressing alleged contradictions in the Bible, the author takes a step back and addresses the underlying issues involved in any attempt to harmonize allegedly contradictory accounts of the same event in Scripture. Among the issues discussed are the following: which sorts of attempts at harmonization are legitimate from an historian's perspective, and which sorts are not; and what kind of evidence would it take to show that Scripture actually contradicted itself?

False Teachings and Contradictions in the Bible? by Rich Deem.


Addressing Specific Alleged Contradictions

Apologetics Encyclopedia by J. P. Holding. A comprehensive encyclopedia of alleged contradictions in the Bible. In each case, the author makes a sustained attempt to show that the contradiction is only apparent and that the inerrancy of Scripture can be upheld.

127 Alleged Discrepancies in the Bible by Apologetics Press.

Two Creation Accounts, Or One? by James Patrick Holding.
Questions of scientific accuracy aside, many sceptics argue that the first two chapters of the Bible contradict each other. Holding argues that there is evidence of unity of authorship in the two creation accounts, and takes issue with supporters of the "documentary hypothesis", who argue that the first five books of the Bible are a cut-and-paste job, put together from four sources (JEDP). Additionally, Holding contends that even if two different people authored Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, the accounts are not contradictory at all, but complementary.

Did God like what Jehu did, or not? by Glenn Miller.

One Demoniac, Two Demoniacs by James Patrick Holding.

Problems in the Genealogies of Jesus by Glenn Miller.

Contradictions in the Infancy Narratives? by Glenn Miller.

Do the Resurrection Accounts Hopelessly Contradict One Another? by Glenn Miller.

How did Judas die - by Hanging or 'Explosion'? by Glenn Miller.

The Damascus Road Accounts of Saul's Conversion to the Christian Faith: Does Acts contradict itself? by Christopher Pope.


6.9.3 Problems with Biblical Inerrancy: Does the Bible Teach Scientific Errors in Genesis 1 to 11?

6.9.3.1 Why Does it Matter, Anyway?

The Effect of Scientific Error in Christian Apologetics by Glenn Morton.
Discusses the results of a listserv survey, which provides good prima facie evidence that the inability to harmonise science and Genesis is one of the main reasons why people leave the Christian faith.


6.9.3.2 The Correct Interpretation of Genesis 1: Literal Truth, Myth, or Higher Kind of Truth?

Background: Is Genesis merely a rip-off of other Ancient Near Eastern literature? by Glenn Miller.
No contemporary scholar adheres to the view that Genesis is a simply rehashed Babylonian epic. However, the view that it may have been composed as a theological counter-blast to pagan myths is still respectable. That being the case, one might argue that the intention of the author of Genesis was not to teach scientific truths but to teach truths about God and the universe He created.

Genesis and Evolution by Professor Peter van Inwagen: a short extract.
The author, a well-known philosopher, argues that it would be impossible to write a scientific account of origins that could speak to people from all cultures.

The Logical Framework in Genesis 1 from a homepage by Dr. Craig Rushbult.
The author, a former atheist, argues for a theological interpretation of Genesis 1. Dr. Rushbult is an eloquent advocate of the framework interpretation of the first creation narrative in Genesis.

PCA Creation Committee report by the Presbyterian Church of America.
A comprehensive discussion, from a Calvinist perspective, of the various interpretations of Genesis 1 which have been put forward over the past 2,000 years of Christian history - in particular, who propounds each of these interpretations, the chief arguments for the various interpretations, and what their respective strengths and weaknesses are. This report is well worth reading, both for its background material and for its summary of the pros and cons of each view.


6.9.3.3 Genesis 1 and the Age of the Earth

Radiometric Dating - a Christian Perspective by Dr. Roger C. Wiens.
Dr. Wiens has a Ph.D. in physics, with a minor in Geology. His Ph.D. thesis was on isotope ratios in meteorites, including surface exposure dating. Dr. Wiens makes a convincing case for the validity of radiometric dating and answers common objections from young-Earth creationists.

Appearance of Age - A Young Earth Problem by Rich Deem, M.S.
Many young earth creationists claim that the universe and earth just appear to be old, but are really young. The "appearance of age" school of creationist thought claims that God created a world with a false history. Such a claim is directly refuted by the Bible.

Why I Believe Genesis is Historically Accurate by Glenn Morton.
The worst thing we Christians can do is to tie the infallible Word of God to a falsified Scriptural interpretation. Morton presents data as to why the young-earth interpretation of the Scripture simply won't explain the geologic data. The silence on the part of the young-earthers is evidence that "Answers in Genesis" not only has no answers for this data, but also they never show their readers such things, leaving them totally and unfairly unprepared to deal with geology.

Early Church Fathers on Genesis by Glenn Morton.
Refutes the oft-repeated claim that the Church Fathers all interpreted Genesis as teaching that God made the earth in six 24-hour days.


6.9.3.4 Genesis 1, Evolution and Human Origins

Keynote Lecture: The Language of God - A Believer Looks at the Human Genome by Francis Collins.
Francis S. Collins is the Director of the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute. Professor Collins addressed the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a fellowship of Christians in science. In this talk, he makes a powerful case for theistic evolution and argues that it need not conflict with Genesis.

Does the Bible Teach Evolution? by Glenn Morton.
The author argues that the wording of Genesis 1 suports evolution.

Gert Korthof's review of "The Language of God" by Dr. Francis Collins.
Dr. Collins is a top geneticist, and also a believing Christian, who argues in his book that there is overwhelming evidence for the common descent of humans and other organisms. Korthof is not a Christian, but does an excellent job of summarising Collins's evidence for human evolution.


6.9.3.5 Genesis 1 and Monogenism: Were Adam and Eve real people?

Tempo and Mode in Evolution: Genetics and Paleontology 50 Years After Simpson (1995) by the National Academy of Sciences.
The article shows that human ancestral populations could never have been smaller than two or three thousand individuals at any time over the last several million years. Click on the chapter entitled "Molecular Genetics of Speculation and Human Origins" (pp. 187-212). While these findings are incompatible with monogenism (the belief that all human beings are descended from an original couple), they do not touch on the question of whether the actions of a particular couple, possibly the leaders of a clan (let's call them Adam and Eve) at the dawn of human history could have brought about a rupture between the entire human race and God, which Christians refer to as the Fall.

Molecular genetics of speciation and human origins by F. J. Ayala, A. Escalante, C. O'Huigin, and J. Klein. In Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91: 6787–6794.
Abstract:

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays a cardinal role in the defense of vertebrates against parasites and other pathogens. In some genes there are extensive and ancient polymorphisms that have passed from ancestral to descendant species and are shared among contemporary species. The polymorphism at the DRB1 locus, represented by 58 known alleles in humans, has existed for at least 30 million years and is shared by humans, apes, and other primates. The coalescence theory of populations genetics leads to the conclusion that the DRB1 polymorphism requires that the population ancestral to modern humans has maintained a mean effective size of 100,000 individuals over the 30-million-year persistence of this polymorphism. We explore the possibility of occasional population bottlenecks and conclude that the ancestral population could not have at any time consisted of fewer than several thousand individuals. The MHC polymorphisms exclude the theory claiming, on the basis of mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms, that a constriction down to one or few women occurred in Africa, at the transition from archaic to anatomically modern humans, some 200,000 years ago. The data are consistent with, but do not provide specific support for, the claim that human populations throughout the World were at that time replaced by populations migrating from Africa. The MHC and other molecular polymorphisms are consistent with a "multiregional" theory of Pleistocene human evolution that proposes regional continuity of human populations since the time of migrations of Homo erectus to the present, with distinctive regional selective pressures and occasional migrations between populations.

Monogenism and Science by Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin.
Addresses the theological implications of the scientific findings described above. Suggests that Adam may have been the acknowledged head of the human race at the time of the Fall. Thus "In Adam, all sinned." Also, Adam's genes would have passed down to all his descendants, so we all inherit original sin.

Rapid Evolution of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I Genes in Primates Generates New Disease Alleles in Humans via Hitchhiking Diversity by Takashi Shiina et al. In Genetics, Vol. 173, 1555-1570, July 2006, doi:10.1534/genetics.106.057034.
Excerpt:

"This result finally puts the MHC in line with the bulk of population and evolutionary genetics data which firmly conclude that a narrow bottleneck has occurred at the origin of our species (Cann et al. 1987; Hammer 1995), a fact inconsistent with massive flow of alleles from one species to the next as required by the transspecies postulate (Ayala et al. 1994)."

Adam and Eve - In Defence of Their Literal Existence. Article by the Catholic scholar Dr. Dennis Bonnette, author of Origin of the Human Species.
The article is on the Website of Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong. Dr. Bonnette defends belief in a literal Adam and Eve as reasonable, although he acknowledges that on purely scientific grounds, it would appear very improbable. However, he points out that Ayala's study, which ruled out the very possibility of monogenism, has been overturned by subsequent research by Shiina.

Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis? by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette.


6.9.3.6 Genesis 1 and the Antiquity of the Human Race

(i) The Short View: Fully Human Beings Appeared Relatively Recently (100,000-200,000 years ago)

Establishing Adam: Recent Evidences for a Late-Date Adam by Professor David Wilcox.
David Wilcox is professor of biology at Eastern University, where he has taught since 1976. He obtained a Ph.D. in population genetics from Penn State and has authored several publications on various theoretical aspects of evolution, from a Christian perspective. Here he summarises the evidence for a human genetic bottleneck, which he dates to between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, which is the time when Homo sapiens emerged. Wilcox doubts whether the Neanderthals were full human: he argues that despite their large brain sizes, their culture probably fell far short of ours in significant ways. Wilcox discusses evidence from studies of the FOXP2 gene (which regulates our ability to use grammar and to speak) in human beings and chimps. These studies appear to indicate that "speech probably began with a bang" around 150,000 years ago. Wilcox suggests that this is where we can place the Biblical Adam. He acknowledges that the available immunological data are incompatible with the traditional view that humanity is descended from one original couple, but suggests that we may be descended from a clan which could have arisen in Saudi Arabia or even Mesopotamia, and that Adam may have been the leader of his clan, who was tested by God as a representative of the new human species.

Religion a figment of human imagination by Andy Coghlan.
In New Scientist, 28 April 1998.
The article argues that human beings evolved religion because they are the only animals whose brains allow them to imagine things that don't physically exist - such as gods and spirits of dead people. Despite the article's sceptical tone, there is no reason to see its findings as inimical to religion. St. Thomas Aquinas also pointed out that human beings can imagine things that are not physically present - such as a golden mountain (Summa Theologica, Q. 78 Art. 4). All the article proves is that imagination is part of what makes us human.

Where is Human Evolution Heading? by Nancy Shute. In U.S. News and World Report, July 24, 2008.
According to the article, the pace of evolution has accelerated 100-fold in the past 5,000 to 10,000 years, contradicting the widely held view that evolution stopped 50,000 years ago. A couple of extracts:

Much remodeling has gone on since the dawn of agriculture about 10 millenniums ago. "People who lived 10,000 years ago were much more like Neanderthals than we are like those people," says John Hawks, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. "We've changed."...

Until recently, anthropologists thought that human evolution had slowed down. But last December, Hawks reported that it has actually accelerated 100-fold in the past 5,000 to 10,000 years.

The Homo erectus Genes in Us by Glenn Morton.
Many Christian apologists (like Hugh Ross) reject the notion that modern man has any genetic connection with the ancient hominids, such as Homo erectus. This is normally done based upon theological considerations in which they believe that modern man was created within the past 60-200,000 years ago. If the theological considerations are correct, then genetic data should show a genetic bottleneck, it should show no human genes which require longer than 60-200,000 years of coalescence time (the time for mutations to create the present observed diversity in modern populations) and we should have no non-functional retroviral insertions in common with the Old World Monkeys and chimps. If we find genes requiring greater times than this, it means that there was a genetic input from archaic humans into the modern gene pool and it means that we can not clearly separate modern humans from the archaics. This has profound implications to the above apologetical view.

The Flawed Anthropological Views of Reasons To Believe by Glenn Morton.
Discusses an article by three Christian scientists from Reasons to Believe, arguing for a recent origin for humanity. Like many apologetical works, their article has several factual flaws which end up misrepresenting the anthropological data. It also has a tendency to cite only those articles and authors who support their position without informing their readers of alternative positions which are validly held and then without discussing any data which contradicts their position, they feel they have proven their position. Morton examines several of these flaws in his paper.

(ii) The Intermediate View: Human Beings with a Genuine Morality and Spirituality Arose about 500,000 years ago

Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis? by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette.

Archaeology and cognitive evolution by Dr. Thomas Wynn, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado. A paper cited by Bonnette (see above). (As far as I know, Dr. Wynn has no theological views on this subject.)

Archaeology can provide two bodies of information relevant to the understanding of the evolution of human cognition - the timing of developments, and the evolutionary context of these developments. The challenge is methodological. Archaeology must document attributes that have direct implications for underlying cognitive mechanisms. One example of such a cognitive archaeology is that for spatial cognition. The archaeological record documents an evolutionary sequence that begins with ape-equivalent spatial abilities 2.5 million years ago and ends with the appearance of modern abilities in the still remote past of 400,000 years ago. The timing of these developments reveals two major episodes in the evolution in spatial ability, one 1.5 million years ago and the other one million years later. The two episodes of development in spatial cognition had very different evolutionary contexts. The first was associated with the shift to an open country adaptive niche that occurred early in the time range of Homo erectus. The second was associated with no clear adaptive shift, though it does appear to have coincided with the invasion of more hostile environments and the appearance of systematic hunting of large mammals. Neither, however, occurred in a context of modern hunting and gathering.

(iii) The Long View: Human Beings with a Genuine Morality and Spirituality Arose 2,000,000-5,500,000 years ago

Articles on Anthropology by Glenn Morton.
Glenn Morton studied to be a physicist, but ended up as a geophysicist. In this collection of articles, he argues that human beings with genuine intelligence and spirituality have been around for perhaps 5 million years, rather than 100,000-200,000 years as some Christian apologists contend.

The Humanity of Fossil Man by Glenn Morton.
The evidence would seem to say that spiritual man extends at least as far back as 2.6 million years ago.

Planning Ahead: Requirement for Moral Accountability by Glenn Morton.
Argues that the demonstrable planning depth of fossil hominids such as Homo erectus was clearly within the range of modern man and not within the range of the chimpanzee or other animals. Clearly hominids as long ago as 1.5 million years ago, had the capability to have understood God's command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. To consider the earlier members of the genus Homo as little more than bipedal animals, as some apologists have suggested, seriously underestimates their observed capabilities.

The Ancient Record of Religion Among Archaic Hominids by Glenn Morton.
Argues that there is evidence of religious practices by human beings living at least 600,000 years ago.

The Compassionate Homo Erectus by Glenn Morton.
Argues that this ancient hominid, who lived 2 million years ago, practised a brand of compassion very much like our own. Moreover, this compassion is unlike any behaviour observed in chimpanzees.


6.9.3.7 Biblical Chronology - The Origin of Civilisation: Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, and the archaeological problems raised by Genesis 4

Can We Use Genesis to Determine the Antiquity of the Human Race?

Primeval Chronology by Dr. William Henry Green, Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. Published in Bibliotheca Sacra April, 1890 (pp. 285-303).
Green begins his essay on Biblical chronology with a frank statement of the problem of reconciling the conclusions of science with Christian belief in the authority of Scripture:

The question of the possible reconciliation of the results of scientific inquiry respecting the antiquity of man and the age of the world with the Scripture chronology has been long and earnestly debated. On the one hand, scientists, deeming them irreconcilable, have been led to distrust the divine authority of the Scriptures; and, on the other hand, believers in the divine word have been led to look upon the investigations of science with an unfriendly eye, as though they were antagonistic to religious faith.
Green adduces compelling reasons to justify his central contention that "the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 were not intended to be used, and cannot properly be used, for the construction of a chronology," and concludes that "the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation prior to the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date either of the Flood or of the creation of the world."

The Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race Revisited by Professor Davis Young, professor of geology at Calvin College.
An open and honest discussion of the difficulties inherent in harmonising the findings of modern science (which suggests that rational, morally aware human beings arose at least 100,000 years ago) with the account in Genesis 4-5, which appears to support a much more recent origin for the human race, as Cain (Adam's son) is described as a farmer and also the founder of a city. Agriculture and cities are believed to have arisen around 10,000 years ago. The author concludes:

I suggest that a satisfactory solution of these issues will require close attention to the literary character of Genesis 2-4. Evangelicals have become increasingly accustomed to accepting Genesis 1 as a text that reports the creation even in a manner that utilizes ancient Near Eastern ideas about the structure of the universe in order to make valid theological points about the relationship between God and creation without either endorsing or refuting the physical conceptions about the universe. For example, Genesis 1 makes reference to the widespread belief about a solid firmament and waters above that firmament, not in order to affirm or deny the reality of a solid firmament but to make the theological affirmation that God is creator. Is something similar happening in Genesis 2-4? Is Genesis 2-4 perhaps adapting ancient Near Eastern conceptions about the beginnings of humanity and culture in order to make theological points about the relationship between God and humans and about the historical event of the fall without necessarily endorsing all the details? This avenue needs to be examined more thoroughly by evangelicals. I suspect that it will prove to be fruitful.


The Origin of Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Biological and Behavioral Origins of Modern Humans by Dr. Richard Klein.
Dr. Klein presents powerful evidence for an artistic and technological "quantum leap" in Africa around 50,000 years ago and shortly afterwards, in Europe. There is a paradox here: modern Homo sapiens appeared much earlier, around 150,000 years ago, but for the first 100,000 years of his existence, he failed to produce any real art or high technology. Dr. Klein speculates that a mutation may have triggered the cultural leap. Christians might see this rapid change as evidence for the appearance of the human soul.

No Last Word on Language Origins by Constance Holden. In Science 282: 1455 (1998).
The article discusses the Upper Paleolithic Revolution - an apparent technological and artistic "Great Leap Forward" in human history, as well as its implications for the origins of language. The anatomy needed for speech was in place before 150,000 years ago, but the cultural evidence of complex language (e.g. art, boat-building, sophisticated tool kits) doesn't proliferate until around 40,000 years ago. This remains an enigma. Some scientists have proposed that art, trade and sophisticated tools may have appeared in Africa over 100,000 years ago - but the dates of key sites remain controversial. The debate goes on.

First Impressions - What does the world's oldest art say about us? by Judith Thurman. In The New Yorker August 4, 2008.
In a nutshell: the earliest art is just as "advanced" in its techniques as art from thousands of years later. Indeed, the techniques used for painting hardly changed for 25,000 years. Additionally, paintings of a sexual nature are very rare, and despite Paleolithic artists' extraordinary talent for drawing animals, their drawings of people are crude and unsophisticated.

How Much Like Us Were The Neanderthals? by Constance Holden. In Science, 20 November 1998: Vol. 282. no. 5393, p. 1456.
Genetic data suggest a sizable gulf between Neandertals and modern humans. The question of whether they could speak and whether they had a brief technological golden age before vanishing remain controversial.

Art: Evolution or Revolution by Tim Appenzeller.
Human artistic ability burst forth in an explosion of creativity over 40,000 years ago in Africa and 38,000 years ago in ice age Europe - but was this the world's first flowering of artistic talent? And could the Neanderthals create art?


The Origin of Civilisation: Agriculture, Animal Domestication and Cities

The Discovery of Agriculture by Rochelle Forrester, a philosopher of history.
The author of this extremely fair-minded article contends that it was gradual improvements in human technology and human knowledge of the environment over time that led to the development of agriculture. Hunter-gatherers living 40,000 years ago would not have had the specialized knowledge required to cultivate plants successfully. This expertise might only have been acquired after a long period of gradually increasing knowledge.

A Theory of History by Rochelle Forrester.

A Problem with Some Philosophies of history by Rochelle Forrester.

Origin of agriculture and domestication of plants and animals linked to early Holocene climate amelioration by Dr. Anil Gupta. In Current Science, Vol. 87, No. 1, July 2004.
An extract:

That agriculture did not start during the Pleistocene can be explained from the fact that last glacial climates were extremely unfavourable to agriculture, being dry, low in atmospheric CO2, and extremely variable on short time scales. As the climate ameliorated, domestication followed. Indeed, in the Holocene, agriculture may have become necessary for the expansion of humans.


6.9.3.8 Noah's Flood

(i) Noah's Flood - Why It Wasn't Universal and Couldn't Have Destroyed All of the Human Race

History of the Collapse of 'Flood Geology' and a Young Earth by Professor Davis Young, professor of geology at Calvin College.
The idea of a universal deluge was the settled interpretation of the church for nearly seventeen centuries, but that changed as a body of compelling evidence undercutting that interpretation gradually accumulated. The cumulative pressure of general revelation can be ignored only so long. Christians must always be ready to reexamine even settled interpretations when a wealth of external data call these interpretations into question.

Noah's Ark. Article in Wikipedia.
A balanced discussion of the various beliefs held by Christians and people of other faiths regarding Noah's Ark. Explains why Christians came to abandon the belief that Noah took animals of every kind onto the Ark, so that by 1700, few natural historians could justify a literal interpretation of the Noah's Ark narrative. Also discusses objections relating to the logistics of the Ark (e.g. whether eight humans could have cared for the animals while also sailing the Ark; how the special dietary needs of some of the more exotic animals could have been catered for; questions of lighting, ventilation, and temperature control; hibernation; the survival and germination of seeds; the position of freshwater and saltwater fish; the question of what the animals would have eaten immediately after leaving the Ark; and how they could have travelled to their present habitats).

Why the Flood is not Global by Glenn Morton.
Lists Scriptural reasons for believing that the Flood need not have been global, as well as very convincing scientific reasons why the Flood could not have been global.

Noah's Flood by Glenn Morton.
A collection of scholarly articles, most of them arguing on scientific grounds that the Flood could not have been global.

Problems with a Global Flood by Mark Isaak.
A comprehensive refutation of the fundamentalist view that a Flood once covered the Earth.

Rapid Post-Flood Speciation: A Critique of the Young-Earth Model by Greg Moore.
An article by an old-earth creationist which demonstrates the absurdity of the young-earth model of the Flood, which assumes that every species of living thing alive on Earth today is descended from one of 8,000 or so species that Noah took with him on the Ark, a mere 4,000 years ago.

Noah's Ark in Iran? by Rick Lanser.
The article pours cold water on claims that Noah's Ark has been recently discovered in the mountains of Iran.


(ii) Noah's Flood - A Critique of Baumgardner's Hypothesis of a Global Flood

Global Flood - The online home of Dr. John Baumgardner's work related to the Genesis flood.
Dr. Baumgardner has a Ph.D. in Geophysics/Space Physics, and is a member of the American Geophysical Union Mineralogical Society of America. He is a vocal proponent of young-Earth creationism and a global Flood. He argues that "the Flood was one facet of a larger global-scale tectonic cataclysm. A key aspect of this catastrophe was the rapid sinking, in conveyor belt fashion, of the pre-Flood ocean tectonic plates into the earth's interior. The energy required for the process was derived from the earth's gravity acting on the excess weight of these cold ocean plates relative to the hotter and less dense mantle rock into which they slid." I have included his Web site because he is a serious scientist, although his theory appears to create as many problems as it purports to solve (see link below).

Baumgardner's flood theory by Glenn Morton.
The article exposes some serious problems with Baumgardner's model - the worst of which is that he routinely invokes miracles to get around awkward scientific problems, such as: where did all the heat that would have been generated by a global cataclysm go?


(iii) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been a Mediterranean Flood, 5 million years ago?

The Mediterranean Flood by Glenn Morton.
In this paper, a novel theory of Noah's flood is presented which is based upon the desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea Basin about 5.5 million years ago. This hypothesis assumes that Noah's flood was a local event which occurred in the Mediterranean basin when it was a desiccated desert. The prediluvial events are postulated to have taken place in the eastern Mediterranean. This hypothesis explains the biblical references to lack of rain, dividing rivers, and water coming out of the earth based on natural causes. The geological and anthropological data are incorporated. The boldest predictions the hypothesis make are that there were human beings living 5.5 million years ago who were capable of advanced boat building, and that all human beings at that time lived at the bottom of the Mediterranean basin.


(iv) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been the Toba Eruption?

The Toba Volcano. Online book by George Weber.
Describes a new theory - which is gaining adherents - that humanity was almost destroyed by a volcanic eruption 73,000 years ago, that wiped out Homo sapiens in Asia. The hardest hit area was the Middle East. The eruption triggered massive tidal waves around the globe, followed by a six-year volcanic winter and a prolonged drop in global temperatures. The result was a human population bottleneck. The total population of humanity eventually fell to only a few thousand people (mostly in Africa). All living humans are descended from the survivors of the eruption, who spread out from Africa and re-populated the globe. If the Flood account in Genesis was intended to describe an actual historical event which destroyed most of humanity, then this event is the best candidate. The tidal waves which would have hit coastal areas after the Toba eruption may explain the prevalence of flood myths around the world. It should be noted, however, that most of the people who died as a result of the Toba eruption were killed by the cold, not by the tsunami itself. Also, one would have to assume that a "racial memory" of this traumatic event managed to survive for some 73,000 years. That's a long time for a tradition to continue.


(v) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been a Black Sea Flood?

The Black Sea Deluge Theory. Article from Wikipedia.

Evidence for a Flood. Article from Smithsonian magazine (2000).
Sediment layers suggest that 7,500 years ago Mediterranean water roared into the Black Sea. An area the size of Florida would have been rapidly flooded. In a single day enough water came through the channel to cover Manhattan to a depth at least two times the height of New York's former World Trade Center, and the roar of the cascading water would have been audible at least 100 miles away. Anyone living in the fertile farmlands on the northern rim of the sea would have had the harrowing experience of seeing the boundary of the ocean move inland at the rate of a mile a day. Around this time, a number of people and new customs suddenly appeared in places as far apart as Egypt and the foothills of the Himalayas, Prague and Paris. The people included speakers of Indo-European, the language from which most modern European and Indian languages are derived. Some researchers suggest that these people might, in fact, represent a diaspora of Black Sea farmers who were driven from their homes by the flood, and that the flood itself might have been the cause of the breakup of Indo-European languages. This flood would not have destroyed all or even most of the human race.

Why the Black Sea is not the Site of Noah's Flood by G. R. Morton.
In 1997, William Ryan and colleagues suggested that the partial filling of the Black Sea 7150 years ago was the source of the legend for Noah's flood. They suggest that the flood spread farmers throughout Europe and moved people out of the Black Sea to the south, carrying the legend with them. The author lists several convincing reasons for rejecting this hypothesis:

(i) an ark would have been utterly unnecessary (all that farmers would have had to do is move their animals a mere 24 miles, in order to get them out of harm's way);
(ii) the modest, 400-foot rise in water level would not cover anything that could be described as a mountain;
(iii) the water level would have risen at the rate of a mere one foot a day;
(iv) there is much geologic data which is inconsistent with the Black Sea flood hypothesis;
(v) it is unlikely that the Indo-European languages split up before 3500 B.C. (that is, 2000 years after the Black Sea flood); and
(vi) the area was forested, not farmed, at the time of the alleged flood.


(vi) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been a Global 600-foot-high Tsunami in 2,807 B.C., caused by a 3-mile-wide comet striking the Earth?

Did a Comet Cause the Great Flood? by Scott Carney.
The article makes an interesting case for a comet impact in 2,807 B.C. generating a tsunami which would have wiped out 80% of humanity.

Noah's comet? Was Noah's Flood a tsunami caused by a comet impact? by Shaun Doyle.
A sceptical article from a creationist Web site.


(vii) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been a Large-Scale Mesopotamian Flood, which left the Ark on Mt. Ararat?

Why The Flood Can Not Be In Mesopotamia by G. R. Morton.
One major problem with the Mesopotamian Flood concept is that the water required to pick the ark up and place it on the lower levels of any mountain in the Ararat region, is far above that which can be contained by the natural basin. Another problem is that Ur was inhabited from the 5th millennium BC (at least 4000 B.C) until 400 B.C. The city existed uninterrupted over that period (even the famous flood layer at Ur did not cover the entire town). It is difficult to see how there could have been a flood of such a magnitude that would get special note, last a year etc. Ur was along the river bank right at the ocean's shore 6,000 years ago. If there had been a great flood during that period, it would have wiped Ur out.

The Physics of Noah's Flood by G. R. Morton.
Shows that it is impossible within the current laws of physics for an ark to be picked up at the topographically low delta region and to be deposited anywhere near Qardu (Mt. Ararat) in Turkey.


(viii) Noah's Flood - Could It Have Been a Small-Scale Mesopotamian Flood?

The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local? by Carol A. Hill.
Carol A. Hill is a consulting geologist who has authored the books Cave Minerals of the World, Geology of Carlsbad Cavern, and Geology of the Delaware Basin. She is currently pursuing geologic studies in the Grand Canyon. Carol has been an ASA Member since 1984 and a member of the ASA Affiliation of Geologists since its foundation. She and her husband Alan are members of Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Carol Hill argues that the flood covered a small region of Mesopotamia, and that Mt. Ararat was not the resting place of the Ark. The thrust of Dr. Hill's article can be summarised as follows:
(i) Biblical evidence for a universal Noachian Flood is the "universal" language of Gen. 6-8 - words like "earth," "all," "every," and "under heaven." However, these words are used in other places in the Bible to describe local or regional events and, therefore, cannot necessarily be taken as all-inclusive over the entire planet Earth;

(ii) Absolutely no geologic evidence exists for the canopy theory, flood geology, or a universal flood;

(iii) There is no archaeological evidence for a universal flood. Even regions close to or surrounding Mesopotamia do not contain correlative flood deposits;

(iv) Flood legends from around the world exist simply because flooding has occurred in most parts of the Earth at one time or another. All of these flood stories - except for those from within and surrounding Mesopotamia - are essentially different from the biblical narrative and have only a few indeterminate elements in common with it.

(v) The picture that emerges is that Noah's Flood was confined to Mesopotamia, extending over a vast alluvial plain as far as the eye could see, from horizon to horizon (under the "whole heaven" or sky).

(vi) There are both epigraphical and archaeological grounds for believing that Ziusudra (the Sumerian name for Noah) was a real prehistoric ruler of a well-known city, the site of which (Shuruppak, or the modern-day mound of Fara) has been archaeologically identified. Flood texts found in Mesopotamia and lands bordering it refer to a flood within Mesopotamia and to a righteous Mesopotamian man who survived the flood in a ship. The archaeological record thus definitely points to a flood within the confines of Mesopotamia, but not to a universal flood of planet-wide proportions.

(vii) Noah's flood probably occurred around 3,000 BC, and Noah's Ark probably came to rest on Jabel Judi, a mountain range near the border of Turkey and Syria. All recent claims of Noah's Ark having been discovered on Mount Ararat are either fraudulent or scientifically baseless.



6.9.4 Miracles That Create Problems For Biblical Inerrancy:
(1) Large-scale And/or Spectacular Public Miracles, For Which We Have No Contemporary Evidence in Secular Sources;
(2) Miracles Which Appear To Be Scientifically Absurd.

Miracles: "The Fivefold Challenge" by Robby Berry.

What about "The Fivefold Challenge"? by Glenn Miller (Part One).

What about "The Fivefold Challenge"? by Glenn Miller (Part Two).

Jonah in the Whale by Jimmy Williams, the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International.
Argues that the story of Jonah was indeed historical, and that the "great fish" that swallowed Jonah may have been a sperm whale or a tiger shark.


6.9.5 Archaeology and the Bible: is the Bible a truthful record of past events?

Biblical Archaeology: All Links by ArchNet.
ArchNet is hosted and maintained by the staff at the Archaeological Research Institute at Arizona State University. The Biblical Archaeology links are well worth checking out.

(a) General Issues

Archaeology: Biblical Ally or Adversary? by Professor Paul L. Maier.

Archaeology and the Bible: How archaeological findings have enhanced the credibility of the Bible by John McRay.
The books of the Bible were composed in the Hebrew and Greek languages in various geographical settings and different historical periods. Archaeological discoveries relating to these settings and periods have enlightened the cultural context in which many of the recorded events occurred and enhanced the credibility of the Biblical record, both the Old and New Testament periods.

Archeology and the Bible by Phillip Climer.
The author describes the inherent limitations of the science of archaeology, using two examples - Joshua's conquest of Jericho and Homer's Troy - to illustrate his case.

On the Reliability of the Old Testament by Professor Kenneth Kitchen. The first comprehensive defense by a major scholar of the historical truth of the entire Old Testament. This site contains a short list of tributes from other scholars. Order online here.

The Old Testament in Light of the Archaeological Evidence: A New Assessment for the Twenty-First Century.. Review of Professor Kenneth Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament by Richard Hess, Professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary.

Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable by Professor Gary Habermas.

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Professor Craig Blomberg.


(b) Questions relating to particular books and/or passages in the Bible

Sodom and Gomorrah

Evidence of Sodom and Gomorrah by Bryant Wood, of Associates for Biblical research.
The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have apparently been discovered, southeast of the Dead Sea.


The Exodus and Conquest of Palestine

General Overview

The Discovery Channel on Rameses by Robert Bowman, Jr., President, Center for Biblical Apologetics Inc.
Recently, the Discovery Channel aired a documentary entitled Rameses: Wrath of God or Man? that challenged the historical accuracy of the biblical account of the plagues that led up to the Exodus. In this article, Robert Bowman demonstrates that Discovery Channel's debunking of Exodus rests on shaky assumptions, and that the chronology of both ancient Egypt and Israel is fraught with uncertainties, making it difficult to determine when the Exodus actually occurred.

Professor Richard Hess' critical review of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Professor Israel Finkelstein and journalist Neil Silberman. Takes issue with the methodology of archaeologists who have recently sought to discredit the reliability of the Old Testament.

The Exodus out of Egypt: Archaeology Confirms Biblical History by Rev. R. Totten.
This well-researched and balanced article by a non-specialist provides an overview of the archaeological literature on the Exodus and concludes that since there is there is good archaeological evidence for the presence of Semitic Canaanites (which would include the Apiru / Hebrews) in Egypt at the time in question for the biblical Exodus story, as well as for the Apiru/Hebrews invading Canaan by 1200 BC, an Exodus must have taken place. As Richard Elliott Friedman, professor at the University of California at San Diego, puts it: "If you're making up history, it's that you were descended from gods or kings, not from slaves."

Doesn't the archaeological record in Palestine TOTALLY CONTRADICT (and hence, DISPROVE) the Bible's claims about Joshua's "Conquest" of the Land? by Glenn Miller, M.S.


Good and Bad Arguments in Favour of an Early Date for the Exodus (15th or 16th century B.C.)

The Exodus Conquest Dating Fiasco by Dr. David Livingston.
Argues that an earlier date for the Exodus, around 1400 B.C., fits in well with the archaeological evidence at Jericho.

The Plagues of Exodus by Dr. David Livingston.
Discusses the significance of the plagues of the Exodus. They would have utterly discredited the gods of ancient Egypt. Also argues that the Egyptians would not have been likely to record such an event.

Locating Ai by Dr. David Livingston.
Argues that Khirbet Nisya may be the site of biblical Ai.

The Battle Against Ai by Dr. David Livingston.
Reconstructs the conquest of Ai under Joshua.

Extended Review of The Exodus Decoded by Professor Christopher Heard.
A detailed critique of claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and director James Cameron, that the Exodus took place during the reign of Ahmose I, which they date to about 1500 B.C. There are very good reasons for thinking that Ahmose I's reign ended at least 25 years earlier. Also, the grounds adduced for identifying Ahmose as the Pharaoh of the Exodus appear questionable.

Exodus Debated by Walter Mattfield.
Argues for an earlier date for the Exodus, around 1540 B.C., which fits in well with the date of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and also accord with the generally accepted date for the reign of Ahmose I.

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Part 2 Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Part 3 by Debunking Atheism.
Argues that the Exodus can be dated to between 1446 and 1437 B.C., and that either Thutmose III or Amenhotep II, NOT Rameses II or Ahmose I, is the most likely candidate for the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Amenhotep II as Pharaoh of the Exodus by Professor William Shea.
An excellent summary of the arguments regarding the chronology of the Exodus. Professor Shea provides some interesting circumstantial evidence identifying Amenhotep II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, which Shea dates to 1446 B.C.


Arguments in Favour of a Later Date for the Exodus (13th century B.C.)

Ancient Israel in Sinai by Professor James K. Hoffmeier. An excerpt fron his new book, published by Oxford University Press.
James K. Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archaeology, Trinity International University. He is the author of Israel in Egypt (OUP 1997).

Review of Ancient Israel in Sinai, by Professor James K. Hoffmeier by Professor Richard Hess.

Israel in Egypt: Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition by Professor James K. Hoffmeier. Review by Edwin Yamauchi, Miami University.


The Kings of Israel and Judah

Professor Richard Hess' critical review of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Professor Israel Finkelstein and journalist Neil Silberman. Takes issue with the methodology of archaeologists who have recently sought to discredit the reliability of the Old Testament, including its historical assertions regarding the Israelite monarchy, from David to the time of the Exile.

Old Testament Dates of Solomon and Egyptian King Shishak Confirmed by Carbon-14 Dates from Tel Rehov by Rich Deem, M.S.


The book of Daniel

Daniel Doings - A Defense of the Authenticity of the Book of Daniel by Kevin Closson and James Patrick Holding.
The article defends the historicity of the events recorded in Daniel, as well as its authenticity.


The Book of Esther

Engaging Esther by James Patrick Holding.
Holding argues that the book of Esther contains a great deal of accurate information that seems unlikely for a much later writer, and that objections to the historicity of Esther are based not on solid evidence, but rather on improbabilities judged from our limited knowledge of the ancient world.


The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of St. Luke - Its Accuracy. Article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910.


The Birth of Jesus Christ: the Census

Luke and the census. Article in Conservapedia.
This article defends the scholarly view, proposed in 1938 by historian F. M. Heichelheim and subsequently championed by Nigel Turner, F. F. Bruce, Brook W. R. Pearson, Ben Witherington III, H. W. Hoehner and many others, that Luke 2:2 should be translated as: "This census was the first before (in Greek, prote) that under the prefectureship of Quirinius in Syria." Thus Luke intended to place the events around the birth of Jesus before Quirinius's governorship and census in A.D. 6.

The Census under Quirinius in Luke's Gospel - did Luke make a mistake? by Glenn Miller.

The Date of the Nativity in Luke by Richard Carrier.
A sceptical but very well-researched article, which endeavours to show that Luke got it wrong on the Census under Quirinius.

The census of Quirinius and the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth by Professor J. F. McGrath.
Another sceptical article, which succinctly summarises most of Carrier's arguments against the historicity of the census recorded in Luke's gospel.

Miller vs. Carrier on the Lukan census by James Patrick Holding.

The Birth of Jesus - Hype or History? by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts.

Luke and the Census of Quirinius by Debunking Atheism.


The Birth of Jesus Christ: The Death of Herod

Most scholars have dated the death of Herod the Great to 4 BC. Recent evidence suggests that the correct date may have been 1 BC, and that Jesus Christ was actually born in 2 or 3 BC. This undermines SOME of Carrier's arguments against the factual accuracy of the Gospels, although problems remain.

Millennium already history? by Richard Ostling (Associated Press).
More evidence that Herod died in 1 BC, not 4 BC as commonly supposed.

When did Herod the Great reign? by Andrew Steinmann, Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois.
A scholarly article which presents cogent arguments against the consensus view that Herod was named king of Judea by the Romans in 40 B.C., began his reign in Jerusalem after conquering the city in 37 B.C. and died in 4 B.C. The author argues:

The consensus about the reign of Herod that is built around Schurer's interpretation of Josephus is fraught with difficulties. It fails to fit any of the verifiable chronological data external to Josephus and must resort to unlikely readings of Josephus chronological data and dismissal of other data as mistaken. A reexamination of the data demonstrates that Herod actually reigned from 39 B.C. to his death in early 1 B.C. The only readjustment required by this revised chronology is that Josephus made mistakes in Antiquities 14.389, 487 when reporting the consular and Olympian dating of the beginning of Herod's reign. (In that case of Antiquities 14.384, even the defenders of the Schurer consensus concede that there is a mistake in at least the Olympian date given by Josephus.) Apparently, Josephus calculated these dates one year too early and then assigned them to the wrong consular years. Since these two events were clearly three years apart, the mistake in the first passage (Ant. 14.389) lead to the parallel mistake in the second (Ant. 13.487).
Against this background, the author argues that Jesus was born in late 2 B.C. and baptized by John the Baptist in A.D. 29. Steinmann also presents evidence that Archelaus reigned as co-regent with Herod from 4 B.C. to 1 B.C.

Errors in Harold Camping's Biblical Calendar of by Bruno Kolberg.
Kolberg is NOT a scholar, and I do not wish to endorse any of his theological conclusions. The sole reason I have included this link is because it provides detailed evidence (contra Carrier) that Josephus does not assert that Herod died in 4 BC; rather, it is more likely that he asserts Herod died in 1 BC. Scroll down to "The Year of Jesus' Birth" and have a look at section 518, from which I quote here:

As cited just above ([section] 516), the currently known text of Josephus's Ant. 18.106 states that Philip died in the twentieth year of Tiberius (A.D. 33/34; for the regnal years of Tiberius see Tables 151ff., especially 158, 167) after ruling for thirty-seven years. This points to Philip's accession at the death of Herod in 4 B.C. (4 years B.C. + 33 years A.D. = 37 years). But Filmer suspected that a figure had dropped out and that the text should probably read the twenty-second, rather than the twentieth, year of Tiberius (A.D. 35/36). Barnes rejected this reading as "comparatively ill-attested," although he agreed with Filmer that it was a pivotal point of the debate. In fact, however, already in the nineteenth century Florian Riess reported that the Franciscan monk Molkenbuhr claimed to have seen a 1517 Parisian copy of Josephus and an 1841 Venetian copy in each of which the text read "the twenty-second year of Tiberius." The antiquity of this reading has now been abundantly confirmed. In 1995 David W Bever reported to the Society for Biblical Literature his personal examination in the British Museum of forty-six editions of Josephus's Antiquities published before 1700 among which twenty-seven texts all but three published before 1544, read "twenty- second year of Tiberius," while not a single edition published prior to 1544 read "twentieth year of Tiberius." Likewise in the Library of Congress five more editions read the "twenty-second year," while none prior to 1544 records the "twentieth year." It was also found that the oldest versions of the text give variant lengths of reign for Philip of 32 and 36 years. But if we still allow for a full thirty-seven-year reign, then "the twenty-second year of Tiberius" (A.D. 35/36) points to 1 B.C. (1 year B.C. + 36 years A.D. = 37 years) as the year of death of Herod. This is therefore the date which is accepted in the present book. Accordingly, if the birth of Jesus was two years or less before the death of Herod in 1 B.C., the date of the birth was in 3 or 2 B.C., presumably precisely in the period 3/2 B.C., so consistently attested by the most credible early church fathers (see above Table 139). Furthermore, we have seen evidence for a time of Jesus' birth in the mid-winter (Beckwith, our n. 473), therefore mid-winter in 3/2 B.C. appears the likely date of the birth of Jesus.

Birth of Christ Recalculated by Maranatha Church Inc.
A well-researched article which argues that Jesus was born in 3 B.C. and attempts to explain BOTH the Star of Bethlehem AND the Census under Quirinus.


The Birth of Jesus Christ: The Star of Bethlehem

The Star That Astonished the World by Professor Ernest Martin.
An online book, lauded by scholars, which contains a promising theory about the Star of Bethlehem: that it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 3 or 2 BC (probably September of 3 BC).

The Bimillenary of Christ's Birth: The Astronomical Evidence by Dr. William P. Bidelman.
A short summary of Professor Martin's promising theory about the Star of Bethlehem.

Birth of Christ Recalculated by Maranatha Church Inc.
A well-researched article which argues that Jesus was born in 3 B.C. and attempts to explain BOTH the Star of Bethlehem AND the Census under Quirinus.

What was the Star? (a Web site run by Professor Frederick Larson and Julie Larson).
Contains a detailed explanation of the Star of Bethlehem (which would have made its final appearance on 25 December 2 B.C.) and the astronomical phenomena observed at the time of the crucifixion. See below for Dr. Bohlin's critical comments.

The Star of Bethlehem by Dr. Ray Bohlin.
An alternative theory of what the Star of Bethlehem was.

"Your Star of Bethlehem Article is Wrong"by Dr. Ray Bohlin.
Dr. Bohlin responds to readers who argue for a different theory (see above).

The Star of Bethlehem: a Type Ia/Ic Supernova in the Andromeda Galaxy by Dr. Frank Tipler.
Professor Tipler argues that the account in Matthew's Gospel suggests the Star of Bethlehem may have been a Type Ia supernova or a Type Ic hypernova, located either in the Andromeda Galaxy, or if Type Ia, in a globular cluster of this galaxy. Matthew's account may give the SN remnant to within 10 in declination, and should be detectable with current techniques: the remnant should be 60 in radius, and if Type Ia, possibly visible in the Fe I absorption line at 3860 Angstroms. Professor Tipler suggests a date of either 22 March 8 B.C. or 21 September 6 B.C. for Jesus' birth. He also discusses problems associated with the date of Luke's census (suggesting that Joseph may have been required to go down to Bethlehem in 8 B.C. for an empire-wide census because he was in actual fact a Roman citizen), and offers a testable hypothesis for verifying the Star of Bethlehem account in Matthew. Additionally, he discusses the date of Jesus' crucifixion.


The Genealogies of Jesus

Problems in the Genealogies of Jesus.
Attempts to harmonise the genealogies of Jesus given in Matthew's and Luke's Gospels.


Places Mentioned in the Gospels

Archaeologists identify traces of 'miracle' pool by Associated Press (MSNBC report).
Describes how archaeologists have uncovered the Pool of Siloam, where the Bible says Jesus cured a blind man.


The Trial, Death and Burial of Jesus

Jesus, Israel and the Cross by Bishop N. T. Wright.
This article addresses the question: what sense can be made of Jesus' suffering and death? The article proposes a sensible resolution of the historical difficulties associated with the alleged grounds on which Jesus was crucified, according to the Gospels.

The Biography of an Invented Man by Ann Wroe.
One of the most intolerant acts of the state in history - the decision of the fifth Roman prefect of Judea (Pontius Pilate) to crucify Christ - was itself in the end, perhaps, an act of faith.

The Time of the Crucifixion by Assistant Professor Johnny Miller.
The purpose of this article is to reconcile or harmonize the apparently conflicting accounts of Mark 15:25 and John 19:14 as to the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. Mark seems to say that Jesus was crucified approximately three hours earlier than John says he was.

Crucifixion in Antiquity by Joe Zias.
Describes what was undoubtedly one of the cruelest and most humiliating forms of punishment and eventual death in the ancient world.

Jesus and Jehohanan: An Archeological Note on Crucifixion by Rev. Dr. J. H. Charlesworth.
"...[W]e now have empirical evidence of a crucifixion. Death on a cross could be prolonged or swift. The crucifixion of Josephus' acquaintance who survived should not be projected to the crucifixion of Jesus. The major extrabiblical paradigm for crucifixion is no longer Josephus; it is the archaeological data... The crucifixion of Jesus, who did not possess a gladiator's physique and stamina, did not commence but culminated when he was nailed to the cross."

Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus by Professor Craig Evans.
"It is concluded that it is very probable that Jesus was buried, in keeping with Jewish customs, and was not left hanging on his cross, nor was cast into a ditch, exposed to animals. It is further concluded that it is very probable that some of Jesus' followers (such as the women mentioned in the Gospel accounts) knew where Jesus' body had been placed and intended to mark the location, perfume his body, and mourn, in keeping with Jewish customs. The intention was to take possession of Jesus' remains, at some point in the future, and transfer them to his family burial place."

Ossuaries and the Burial of Jesus and James by Dr. Jodi Magness.
"Jesus came from a family of modest means that presumably could not afford a rock-cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered Jesus a spot in his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts), Jesus likely would have been disposed of in the manner of the poorer classes: in an individual trench grave dug into the ground."

Compilation of Gospels on Jesus's Suffering & Death by Nathan Mates.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Historical Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Ashby Camp.

A harmony of the resurrection accounts by R. Forster & P. Marston.
Based upon the outline given in Reason and Faith, R. Forster & P. Marston, Monarch Publications, 1989, pp. 79 - 108.

Do the Resurrection accounts HOPELESSLY contradict one another? by Glenn Miller, M.S.

A Suggested Harmonization of the Resurrection Narratives by Murray J. Harris.


The Acts of the Apostles

The Book of Acts and Archaeology by Professor Craig S. Hawkins.


The Early Christians

Jerusalem Burial Cave Reveals Names, Testimonies of First Christians by Jean Gilman.
A first-century catacomb, uncovered by archaeologist P. Bagatti on the Mount of Olives, contains inscriptions clearly indicating its use "by the very first Christians in Jerusalem."

Have St. Paul's remains been unearthed? Associated Press report (MSNBC, December 7, 2006).
Describes how Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul, buried beneath Rome's second-largest basilica.

DNA test pinpoints St. Luke the Apostle's remains to Padua by Olga Craig, writing for The Daily Telegraph.
Describes how a population geneticist and life-long atheist identified the remains of St. Luke.