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What the Bible got WRONG?!

That is just a portion of the chart that famous atheist Sam Harris commissioned to be created for his nonprofit foundation Project Reason.

The whole chart looks like this…

You can learn more about the chart here. OR, if you want, you can download the chart as a PDF. (via.)


Some of the contradictions are less “contradictions” and more or less a misunderstanding of the biblical text. But of course, when you’re trying to inspire skepticism, “understanding the text” as well as the point of the biblical literature isn’t what’s important. Pointing out apparent “fallacies” works if you’re simply trying to… 1) Preach to the “choir” (albeit an atheist choir) or 2) Discredit scripture.

However, the chart-makers do make quite a few good/interesting points…

For instance, point # 257: Was Keturah Abraham’s wife or concubine? Gen 25:1 ≠ 1 Chronicles 1:32


Genesis 25:1 says: Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. (NIV)

and 1 Chronicles 1:32 says: The sons born to Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. (NIV)

According to my friend Adam, a pastor and theologian who sent me the link to the chart, the biggest challenges for some (mostly fundamentalists?) will be the discrepancies of factual information and detail that the chart points to.


“What will most likely mess with people are the detail inaccuracies,” Adam said. “For example, there is one place where Jesus talks about an event in the Old Testament and he mentions who was the High Priest at the time. If you look up the event in the Old Testament, you find that either Jesus was wrong or that the Old Testament writer was wrong, because the text clearly says that someone else was the High Priest.” (You can read Adam’s blog here.)

I’ve long knew that the Bible contained contradictions as well as several factual inaccuracies, so this “chart” doesn’t do much for me or my faith.


But how does a believer who is convinced that the Bible is inerrant respond? If you believe every word and detail of the Bible is God-breathed, what does a chart like this do to that person’s faith? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps they just chalk it up to “translations,” I don’t know. Or maybe they just give God the benefit of the doubt.

What does a chart like this make you feel? Anger? Doubt? Frustration? Confusion? Does it challenge your faith? Were you aware of these “errors”? How should Christians respond?


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posted November 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

made you read the bible didn’t it? maybe that is his goal all along.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

You may want to change that last part from “how does a believer who is convinced the Bible is infallible…” to “inerrant.” There is a theological distinction – in brief, inerrant means no mistakes at all. Infallible means there are apparent “mistakes,” but the text as a whole is trustworthy even if details are missed. By saying “infallible,” you’re implying a completely different meaning to what you’re actually asking.

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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted November 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for the catch…

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      posted November 12, 2010 at 10:06 am

      No problem. The theology major in me notices these things. :)

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:02 am

I’m a believer that knows fully of the errors of translations from one generation of text to the next — and as such, I don’t take many things in the Bible at face-value like I used to. So to see this chart, my thoughts are: 1) are any of these really important or detrimental to the overall meaning of the text? and 2) wow, this guy must have had nothing better to do than to commission this to be made.

Although the Word of God is divinely inspired, I’m not going to put all my faith into the hands of men and centuries of translations without a bit of healthy skepticism involved.

tl;dr This chart — so what?

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Erik Deckers

posted November 12, 2010 at 10:04 am


I still have my faith, I still have my relationship with Jesus. And just because some Christian naysayer has read the Bible more deeply than I have doesn’t shake me in the least.

Personally, I have more than enough to do than waste my time on a guy who’s made it his mission to undermine something other people believe in. Let him shake his fist all he wants. I believe what I believe, and will continue to believe it.

I’ve often heard it said that ministers/pastors will frequently preach on the subject that they struggle with the most. That is, sex addicts will preach on the evils of porn, etc. It makes me wonder what the atheists of the world are struggling with.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

I think I would have to pour over the list and the Bible before I even knew how it affected me. Seeing how much of it was inaccuracies verses contradictions. That would be an interesting study.

By chance, do you have the reference of Jesus mentioning the high priest? I don’t see it on the list.

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    posted November 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I agree with you Danny-I do think it would be really interesting.

    MPT, do you have the reference to Jesus mentioning the high priest?

    (btw, u write it correctly when copying from the list, but later, u get a lil dyslexic on us – it’s Gen. 25:1 not Gen. 1:25)

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      Matthew Paul Turner

      posted November 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      In Mark 2:26 Jesus names Abiathar as being the High Priest when David stole the bread from the temple…
      In 1 Sam 21:1-7 we find that the priest mentioned is actually Abiathar’s Father…

      Abiathar does eventually become a High Priest…but much later and after this incident…

      And thanks for the catch!

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        posted November 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

        Thanks for sharing this! I was searching and not finding.

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        Trevor from Excellerate Church Membership Software

        posted November 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm

        Thanks for that verse. I was also wondering.

        After looking at it, I can see how a skeptic could say that was a contradiction there, and he’d have enough logic that it wouldn’t be worth arguing the point.

        However, from the way I read the verse there, and the one about Abraham’s wife (or was she concubine), it really seems to get more at a flaw in linguistic definitions in human language.

        I guess then, it comes down to whether you believe EVERY Bible in existence is inerrant, or whether you believe the original text was inerrant, but mistakes in translation or copying could occur. Since I know a mistake in Jerome’s Vulgate translation left the church believing Moses had horns, until the older texts were found and re-translated, I tend to take the stance that the originals were inerrant, but inconsequential translation and typographical errors could enter the picture.

        The simplest example of that is the Abraham one. What is the actual distinction between a wife and a concubine? Both are women you sleep with, provide food shelter etc. for, in those days wives didn’t get any real legal rights other than their children were heirs (but if you weren’t the first wife that benefit was minimal). A wife required a bride price be paid, the other was a slave you paid for. So, is the line really that clear that it’s some damaging contradiction that a scribe somewhere confused the two? Isn’t that like calling someone a liar for referring to an African-American sharecropper living in Mississippi in 1868 as a slave.

        The example from Mark seems less easy to explain, but it’s still not that damaging. After all, Abiathar did become high priest, and the event did seem to happen while he was alive (during his days, as the NIV translates that Mark scripture) and he was probably serving as priest, so there’s no way to trace whether Jesus was wrong, whether Jesus knew he wasn’t high priest but gave him the title anyway (same as if I said President Grant defeated Robert E Lee, knowing full well Lincoln was in office at the time, but I give Grant the title just out of honor for the achievement to come), or a scribe could have known Abiathar was a High Priest under David and to add clarity the scribe erroneously explained that Abiathar was High Priest at the time of the bread distribution.

        So, my feeling is that these are just areas that require a more well thought out understanding of scripture and it’s origins, not some major point that proves conclusively that the Bible can’t be true in points that matter.

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Matt from OH-IO

posted November 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

I won’t bore you with answering any of the supposed truths this chart present, 10 minutes of google could give the same explanations I could, and much of it way more articulate. What I will say is that, it honestly doesn’t bother me at all.

While I don’t agree with any of this information, even if it were true, so what? Like Rob Bell said in Velvet Elvis (sorry for the Bell reference to those who are not a fan) if you faith is built like a house of cards and you find out that one of them should be taken away (meaning facts you base your life on about the Trinity or the scriptures themselves), does that mean the whole thing needs to come crashing down?

For me, the concept that they would get facts wrong here and there is actually a little comforting in a strange way. It truly drives home that God uses screw-ups to help make the world beautiful and allow his work to be complete. Thats why I love the fact that he didn’t use the N.T. Wrights or the C.S. Lewis types of the world to write these 66 books, he used poor homeless guys with little to no education who basically no one would respect or listen to today if they spoke at your typical hip or intellectual church.

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Adam Whitley

posted November 12, 2010 at 10:16 am

I’m actually in the middle of reading “In Praise of Doubt” which is (so far) a really good (if VERY dry) read. A big point the authors make is that fundamentalism isn’t necessarily tied to a set of beliefs, but an attitude. Traditionalists take certain historically Christian tenants and accept them as concrete fact, while fundamentalists work feverishly to believe and defend those beliefs.

I don’t force myself to believe anything, so this chart doesn’t bother me at all. I think embracing doubt as a counterpart to faith is vitally important. I knew about most of these already, but since I learned about them, I participated in my church’s Homeless Ministry and their Fight Against Sex Trafficking Walk and have seen lives changed every week.

The fact is, I didn’t see God initiate His creation and I have no empirical evidence proving that Heaven exists, but I embrace that doubt and realize that even if I am completely wrong about my religious belief, the Kingdom of God that I am participating in is bringing peace and justice to a chaotic and unjust world and that is worth following.


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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

I personally believe that the Bible is written, and even translated, how God intended it. Why would He allow His word to fall to poor translations? I also do not think the Bible is written as a history book, but more of in allegory or parable. I’m not saying Jesus is a parable, but I think the reasons for mentioning certain stories throughout the Bible (especially those of the Old Testament) are clearly only for us today to use in reference to our lives, or to be referenced to in the New Testament. That being said, these “inaccuracies” aren’t necessarily important because the Bible isn’t written to be a history book. I’m sure important, historical events happened during those times that aren’t referenced to at all in the Bible.

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    posted November 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Why would He allow His word to fall to poor translations?

    I would agree, but God gave man free-will and the ability to think on his own. If through that free-thinking bad translations arise, then it’s in the fault of man, not God — and it’s the responsibility of us all to likewise think for ourselves and see past the errors and search for the truth.

    If everything, and I mean everything about us, was part of God’s plan, then that would negate free-will because it was all planned from the start. That then leads to ideas of predestination and God lying about the freedoms He gives us, etc., etc.

    But otherwise, I do agree with you in that the Bible was more allegory than literal.

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      posted November 12, 2010 at 10:40 am

      But, isn’t it supposed to be the living Word of God? And isn’t the Word with God and isn’t the Word God? So, how could it be imperfect?
      Maybe He wrote it how He did on purpose? Maybe there’s a reason some of it doesn’t seem to fit?
      And, I don’t think God lies about the freedoms we have. The flesh is free to do whatever it wants, but the spirit is made whole by God. The spirit is pure and gets the eternal life. Our flesh doesn’t really matter. Yes, my flesh sins, but I believe my spirit doesn’t. That’s the part of me that’s created in His image.
      I think God has a plan for us all (and that it’s been planned from the beginning) and that nothing happens that isn’t supposed to happen.

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        posted November 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

        But it’s still contradictory. God gives us the freedom to do and act how we will, but if all that happens within “God’s plan for us”, then how free are our choices? If we’re making choices that were already planned out, then that’s not freedom — that’s following a predetermined path of life while thinking otherwise.

        I believe God can set things in motion, but how we interact with others and our world is ultimately up to us. If God didn’t plan for the Bible to be misinterpreted, then why wouldn’t he likewise prevent suffering of man at the hands of others due to that very misinterpretation? Or, if he purposed the imperfections, then that means he also “purposed” things like the Crusades and religious genocide, because those arose from man’s interpretations of what religion is and what God wants, and I refuse to believe suffering at the hands of others is anything other than man-made.

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          posted November 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

          Maybe the Bible wasn’t written for everyone? Maybe it was only written for the church (and by “church” I mean the saved, not the organization)?
          The freedom comes in knowing that no matter how bad I mess up, I’m still good in the long run. It’s not my good works or bad works that determines my salvation. And, by believing that, I feel free. That doesn’t mean I should just go around doing every evil deed possible because I’m saved. It does mean that, even knowing I’m messing up, the pressures are gone. I’m not bound by these rules of saying a certain prayer to keep my salvation or doing certain things. And recognizing that I’m going to mess up alleviates some of the pressures, too.
          I don’t want to speak on God’s behalf and say he purposed the Crusades or religious genocide, but He knew they would happen and He definitely allowed them to happen. Those misinterpretations were mostly based on doctrinal beliefs and God is very clear in the Bible about false or misleading doctrines.
          When it really comes down to it, the main point of the Bible is to tell those who are saved to continue to love no matter what. God is love. The greatest of the fruits is love. So, if you are saved, if you are in the spirit, then faith will be there, joy, peace, etc., but the greatest is love. And love can do no wrong. So, in essence, if you’re living in love, you’ll probably be less likely to go around doing as many evil things as possible.

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          posted November 13, 2010 at 8:02 am

          I would suggest that the apparent contradiction that we are free and God is sovereign is just that…an apparent contradiction that is nevertheless true. And if God is big enough to be God…than He is big enough to operate in a way that we cannot understand. In other words, our not understanding does not philosophically mean that it cannot be true.

          isaiah 45:7 is one verse that seems pretty clear and amazing when you think about it…and then prov 16 has a lot of verse that seem to say that while we make choices in freedom but never are apart from God’s sovereignty…somehow.

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        posted November 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

        I have to go to work, but thank you for the discussion. :)

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          posted November 12, 2010 at 11:18 am

          haha. no problem. always a nice way to start the day. haha. :)

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        posted November 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

        No. Christ is the living word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us. The “holy bible” is just letters on a page.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:24 am

How does this in any way change the central message of freedom in Christ? God knew what He was doing when He picked those He did to write His Word.

I’ve found that humans are frail creatures, prone to mistakes & contradictions, but God–He isn’t, and doesn’t make any. There’s no way He didn’t know that involving people in writing, transcribing, and translating wouldn’t introduce some interesting variables.

So, no, my faith isn’t threatened at all. Consider the source of the chart–dude has an axe to grind.

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Sean R Reid

posted November 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

I have to chime in with the others here and say that this is only a problem if you want the Bible to be something it was never designed to be. In this case, a historical tome. While the stories themselves have a historical “bent” to them they were never written to be what Western, modern, culture understands as history. Take a look at any ancient works -my particular experience is with Welsh and Old English lit- and you’ll notice similar “contradictions.” The point is not to get CNN-like coverage of an event but to pass along some truths that are relevant beyond a singular instance.

Amusingly, I used to be an agnostic who used these types of “contradictions” to bolster my lack of faith. After finishing up my English degree, and having a Christ experience, I’ve found that these examples actually help me have a deeper understanding.

That, and I’m not an inerrantist. =)

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    posted November 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Exactly right. The writers of the texts could never have imagined recording history the way it is in modern times. The bible, to me, is a collection of theological reflections to a certain person, or group of people at a particular time.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:53 am

I don’t get freaked out. If understanding everything (even a lot)in the Bible relies on my intellect or even that of N. T. Wright, I am screwed.

I didn’t get saved by believing every passage of history, allegory, poem, song, prophetic utterance, form, shadow, or type – or incorrectly translated Greek or Hebrew word. I got saved because I started a relationship with Jesus by faith. In this realtionship he speaks to my spirit. He gave this Holy Spirit so that I could know him, not figure out everything in the word.

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Sarah Mae

posted November 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

“I am convinced that there are many things in religion and the Scriptures that are made difficult on purpose to try men, and to exercise their faith and scrutiny, and to hinder the proud and self-sufficient.” – Jonathan Edwards

Read your post, then randomly came across this quote. Seems fitting. :)

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:56 am

If you read the Bible and ask yourself “Did it really happen this way?”, you’re asking the wrong question.

Try “What is the author trying to communicate with his reader?”

The Bible does not have to be inerrant in order to communicate truth.

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    posted November 13, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Well said. Faith will always be a part of…faith. It is what makes faith different than science. Btw, can we make a chart of the history of scientific inaccuracies? It would make you have to have “faith” that science is right in its current view of existence.

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      posted November 13, 2010 at 11:30 am

      WRONG!!!!! You clearly don’t understand what science is. Science is a method of gathering facts that self-corrects. It is NOT dogma. Further, the correct position of a scientist is always one of skepticism until a fact has been adequately demonstrated with evidence. As the evidence improves, so do the accuracy of the facts. Scientists (myself included) do not have faith in science. It really irks me when people criticize science and scientists (like me) because they are too invested in their dogmas to listen to reason.

      What evidence do you have for your dogma? (And you don’t get to use “the Bible says so”, as that is circular reasoning.)

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        posted November 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm

        I’m curious to know what evidence you have for yours? ie what is your evidence for the statement that “the correct position of a scientist is always one of skepticism until a fact has been adequately demonstrated with evidence”? It doesn’t seem to me that you can go from science being a method of gathering facts which is self-correcting (which seems correct to me) to the statement I quoted above. As a scientist myself, I don’t see why skepticism has to be the default position.

        It seems to me that many scientists firmly assert that this is true without providing evidence fot it. Among scientists there also seems to be the assumption that all evidence must be empirical in nature or that empirical statements and beliefs are the only statements and beliefs that can be tested for truth (which is easily refuted as the statement itself cannot be proven except by non-empirical reason and evidence). I’m not saying whether or not you have this assumption since I can’t tell by your post, but just pointing out a common assumption that people of our sort often have.

        Speaking as one scientist to another, I think there is evidence that the bible is true that doesn’t essentially depend on the bible saying so. I think there is evidence and reasons in history, in our own human nature, in the natural world, in philosophy, in literature and other aspects of our world that point to the truth of what the bible is saying; that there is a good God who created the world, that man went against this goodness and ruined the creation, but that God is in the process of redeeming and saving us and the rest of creation despite our sin nad brokeness (which nearly all biblical characters show at many times or another).

        Just some things to think about.

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          posted November 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm

          Obviously, I cannot discuss fully the philosophical arguments necessary to build a complete case for my position… that would take a book. However, let us start with epistemology.

          If knowledge is justified, true belief (and taking that this is a simple account that does not include the Gettier counter-examples and some other arguments about the components of knowledge), then how do we come to believe a proposition, how is it justified, and how is it verified? All knowledge has a basis in sense perception, even so-called a priori facts (like mathmatics) are not knowable without some kind of sense experience to underpin them. Modern neuroscience has shown the idea of “innate” knowledge to be wrong (as Babinski reflexes and other instincts don’t count as knowledge per se), and so all the things that we know are things we learn from experience.

          Given this argument I have just made, then question becomes how to define knowledge as justified, true, belief based in experience. Faith requires only belief, and possibly justification; however, it is not verified as true in any meaningful way. I can’t demonstrate, for instance, that there is even a God, let alone that he is the God of the Bible and other such claims that the Bible makes. Thus, the proper position for me (or anybody for that matter) to take is one of skepticism. Some believers do sort-of take this position, simply stating that when it comes to metaphysical matters, they simply don’t know.

          Quite often, however, believers take science to be a threat to their beliefs because they don’t like the idea that science raises the bar as far as what can be called factual. Science has demonstrated, for instance, that the Global Flood myth is, in fact, a myth, that evolution is the paradigm for biodiversity on this planet, and that the universe is many billions of years old. They will then accuse science of being a kind of faith, which is silly because the default position of a scientist is skepticism as I already pointed out.

          As a skeptic, the onus is not on me to prove a negative… no one can prove a negative and to think so is a logical fallacy. The onus is on you believers to prove your positive, but you have failed to do so and must rely on “faith” to continue in the way you shape your world view. (Which to me is illogical). The problem, then, is one of epistemology. You make a “factual” claim that is not, in fact, “factual” at all. It would be something like saying that there is no evidence for alchemy (and there may even be pretty reliable evidence contrary to alchemy), but you are going to take it on “faith” that it is true anyway.

          Also, I might add that just because the Bible fails on epistemological grounds doesn’t mean it is worthless. It is clearly a force that shapes our culture and our literature, and so it has value as far as that goes. Even so, I would challenge people to think through the things they believe more carefully and not to attack science, because science simply isn’t the problem. Faith is.

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          posted November 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

          ps. For a very interesting discussion on the role of evidence in religion, I would recommend the following:

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 8:15 pm

          This is to LRA, even though I am technically commenting on my own comment.

          Glad to see you seem to know what you’re about philosophically. So many scientists seem to think they need no philosophy training at all and just jump right into these arguments sounding so stupid because they don’t have any foundation for the subject at all. Certainly everyone is a philosopher at some level but a Philosopher at the PhD level is surely going to know more then an ameteur scientist who has just read a few books and none of the relevant literature.

          I still disagree with your skeptical comment. I don’t see how arguments for God are the same as empirical, scientific arguments. Is there reason to think that the evidence would be similar? It seems to me that it wouldn’t. I think this is where philosophy and science differ significantly. In science, in order to prove something you must have at least a 90% (or higher depending on the subject) confidence level that your data proves your hypothesis, which is why you must be skeptical and adopt disbelief so much more often then belief in a hypothosis. For philosophy it is much less cut and dry. It would be reasonable for someone to believe some proposition if there was only a 51% confidence level, granted they might not hold the belief very firmly but logic says that it is reasonable for them to beleive rather than disbelief or suspend judgement on it. So a skeptical or attitude of disbelief should only be taken if your evidence is less then 50%, or you have less reasons to think that God exists then reasons that he doesn’t exist.

          I also disagree about not needing to prove a negative. If you were trying to argue that Godzilla was rampaging through NY I could easily disprove this by pointing out that there is no Godzilla like creature in NY right now because if there was we would surely be able to see him. But what about something like a mosquito? It would seem seriously unreasonable for a person to say that because they could’t see any mosquitos in NY right now they concluded that there weren’t any mosquitos in NY. So the question now is, is God more like godzilla or a mosquito? If he is more like godzilla, then you are right about the negative not needing to be proved in the case about God because if it were true you would easily be able to see that it was true. But if God is more like a mosquito then it seems you would have to prove the negative moreso then the positive statement that there is a mosquito in NY because it seems that you would need to prove this conclusion with more evidence because it is not obvious that you could see that there were no mosquitos.

          Thanks for the link I’ll have to check it out when I’m not drowning in school work. In return I’ll share a link. :)

          Nothing specific, just a very good blog covering all kinds of interesting topics on ethics, religion,epistemology, science, reason, the bible and christianity.

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        posted November 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

        I appreciate your noble stance in upholding a true scientific spirit, but you have to be kidding me if you want me to believe that the default stance of scientists as a whole is skepticism. In a perfect world this would definitely be true and theists would also be at the leading edge of science. There are just as many arrogant narrow minded scientist out there as there are who hold your convictions.

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 11:09 am

          Perhaps you have misunderstood me. The default position of a scientist (or indeed anyone) when it comes to *epistemological claims* is one of skepticism. Or do you like buying snake oil? Is gullibility fun?

          The point is that religion has a place in cultural studies which do not generally deal with epistemological claims about reality, but rather people’s interpretations and creative representations (mimesis) of their world.

          Big difference.

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

          Ah, yes. I see. You are saying that scientists are people who may hold dogmatic beliefs in their personal lives. That is true. However, to do their jobs effectively, they can’t just accept every new study that comes along without first thoroughly checking it out. In their areas of expertise, especially, scientists must be skeptical of new information until it has withstood vigorous examination and re-examination by multiple scientists.

          This sort of practice generally makes scientists more skeptical in other fields outside of their area of expertise. A physicist may be more skeptical of a connection between autism and vaccines because he knows he can go over to pubmed and read up on the biological research rather than taking Jenny McCarthy’s word for it.

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

          BTW, two theist scientists who I greatly respect are Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins. They both have demonstrated a great ability to not let their religious commitments interfere with their scientific commitments.

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        posted November 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

        Sorry, I am not someone who throws science out the window in place of my personal ‘dogma’…but when a person argues against my personal beliefs because they don’t meet their ‘scientific’ need for evidence…than that, to me, is a kind of dogma on their part. And the only point I meant to make was that to base your concept of the universe and existence on the evidence available (science) does take an amount of personal faith, I would think, considering that science has not yet completed its work of explaining the universe. I admit as a Christian that my beliefs about the universe and our existence takes faith…don’t you say the same for yourself?

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        posted November 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

        I also think that when you refer to ‘religion’ you are referring to a cultural entity that actually has little or nothing to do with my personal beliefs concerning the universe and our existence. It is really no more connected to me than it is to you. I don’t make a factual claim, but a personal belief that is based on faith. And if science operates as you say it does, logically…you cannot ever have a belief that you hold to because it is always subject to change as new information is revealed. So therefore, any belief about the universe that you have currently, is based upon faith that it is true. And that is the whole point…I am not the only one who has to have faith in order to hold beliefs about the universe and my own existence. It is not just ‘because the bible says so’…neither is it…because a group of scientists have sufficiently examined the evidence.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

*shrug* is it interesting and worthy of a look? sure. does it shake the foundation of who Jesus is and my connection to God through Him? nope.

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Charlie Chang

posted November 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

I think 2 years ago this would have really bothered me to the point of anger. Like, “This can’t be true God, you are not the God of confusion.”

But honestly, this doesn’t bother me. God had lazy and forgetful humans to write his word so if it comes out confusing and contradictory, then it makes sense that we have what we have.

I think just like some people pray to give the “spirit” to the pastor for the message, the pastor still can say something confusing or not make sense. So I see the bible as the same way.

Case for Christ anyone??!? j/k I used that book as toilet paper.

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Jesse W

posted November 12, 2010 at 11:09 am

What surprises me is not this chart, but the fact that this post has been up more than five seconds and no one has told you you’re going to hell yet. Progress?

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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted November 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Ha! Perhaps so… :)

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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted November 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

if this is Sam’s best attack on Christianity then it is pretty week – point out minor detail errors. I can understand how it could hurt a fundamentalist’s faith, but the atheist trying to poke hole’s in the faith is only doing so to a fringe minority. And its not difficult to do that.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

As someone who used to be a hardened atheist, although now a rather happy Lutheran, i think this chart proves exactly why it was so hard for me to find god. And it all comes down to both biblical innerancy and biblical infalablity. Neither holds weight to any sort of scientific scrutiny. So when the bible is used, as it is so often, to prove a point or to discriminate against or to justify hate towards a group (oh wait sorry, to justify loving the sinner and hating the in), well, then I can’t buy into it. Because I do think the chart above shows that the bible is demonstrably wrong when used as specific source of history, and an innerant tool of oppression.

But Christ is not the bible. Not even close. Nor is the holy spirit.

That being said, the best thing I think the chart can do for Christians is to make them wake up, stop worshiping the bible, and start worshiping god instead.

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    posted November 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    That being said, the best thing I think the chart can do for Christians is to make them wake up, stop worshiping the bible, and start worshiping god instead.

    Great observation; I can only hope it does exactly that. The problem you highlighted is one of the reasons I dislike going to church, where discussions like this blog promotes are largely seen as sacrilegious and blasphemous.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm

@ Scottie and anyone else who makes this mistake. The Word that is with God etc is Christ, not the Bible. It refers to Christ. The title ‘The Word’ alway refers to Christ and if used to refer to the Bible should not be in caps. In the beginning was The Word refers to Christ and not a book that was written a considerably long time after ‘the beginning’. I suspect you come from a tradition that practises idolatry of the written word. The Bible is not God.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Whether Abraham had another wife or a concubine instead isn’t really a central point to my faith.

Same reason why I don’t really engage in discussions what would happen to babies who never hear about God and all those other pseudo discussions that just exist so the people discussing can deflect the more central points that actually would require them to think and act upon.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Just a couple of thoughts on the proposed contradiction: I guess the assumption would have to be made that the reference in Genesis took place before the reference in 1 Chronicles. There is always the possibility that Abraham had first taken Keturah as his concubine and later as his wife. We all know the Bible does not give every specific detail of how everything transpired for every story written.

Other theologians and apologists have pointed out that in certain periods the word wife and concubine were used interchangeably, and they’ve provided scripture to back up their claims, for which I don’t have time to go research and list them all, I’ll leave that to curious minds to do for themselves.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Catholics get a bad rap for supposedly not putting enough stock in Scripture, but this is why when people say that I’m not really bothered. We don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and as far as I know we never have. Traditions have the place that they do in our faith because as far as we can tell, they came first – and Scripture came out of that. The texts are incredibly old, yes – but they are also much younger than the events they describe.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

@Erik – psychological projection much?

That said, pointing out factual errors is probably not the best way to conclude that the writings which comprise the Bible have not been inspired by any deity. However, it does help to start eliminating the differentiation between the Bible and other holy books. If this is really something which Harris wishes to undertake, he should consult a few biblical scholars.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I put things like factual problems down to the fact that the only way records were passed down back then were either in oral tales or a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Someone was bound to misread something at some point, and that has long been accepted for some secular texts, but apparently we Christians are held to a higher standard of record keeping!

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posted November 12, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Wow that’s a busy chart. What we know as the bible is gathered translations of old documents found over thousands of yrs that don’t always agree with each other, written by different people, who didn’t have our modern version at hand nor google to fact check. Who knows which documents they did use and if those are still available anywhere. You can’t exactly call Abe up and ask whether he thought of Keturah as more of a wife or concubine. I can’t remember my 2nd grade teacher’s name. How can ya know which high priest did what. Maybe Jesus learned off a different scroll as a kid, or maybe he got the name one off.

Does the chart make me angry? No. Takes more than a busy chart to rile me up.
Create doubt? Not really. I haven’t believed the literal translation since 5th grade.
Frustrated? Nah.
Confused? No
Challenged? Not really.
Did I know there are discrepancies already? Yes. Though I’ve never been compelled to find and chart them.
How should Xians respond? Well, you may be preaching to your own wrong choir. I think everyone should know his or her own history. You got a pretty smart group here though. Not sure it’ll bother any of them

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joel k

posted November 12, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Seems like it might not be a bad Bible Study tool. I looked at a few of them, and they seem to be a stretch to me. But, considering what the Bible is (a collection of books by various authors written over thousands of years), even if every single thing on the list is a bona fide contradiction, I’d still be pretty impressive that all of the contradictions can be summarized on one page, of albeit very tiny print.

Another interesting resource:

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posted November 12, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I quite like Sam Harris but this work isn’t new. In fact, the visualisation and the data appear to have been directly taken from here:

It looks like the work involved in making this “commission” was really only to change the colours to red and include some of the data underneath (incidentally, the Chris Harrison website actually offers to send you the data, too). So, very cool but … plagiarized?

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posted November 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Don’t miss this little gem of a citation from the lower left corner of the chart:

“The King James Bible was used due to its popularity, perceived authenticity, lack of copyright restrictions and the fact that it has not been subjected to cosmetic editing, as have some of the more modern versions of the Bible.”

In other words: “We based our data on a piece of scholarship that is 400 years out of date. But we think it’s more authentic and reliable than any of the recent work that scholars in ancient languages have done. If nodern translations don’t have most of these contradictions, clearly it’s because of, um, cosmetic editing (those sneaky editors!), not advances in the study of historical linguistics or the discovery of more reliable ancient manuscripts!”

The big lesson I take away from this? Fundies aren’t the only KJV-Onlyists!

(Imagine the heyday Sam Harris would have if some Creationist published a chart saying science is false because in the 1600s scientists still believed the theory of bodily humours. Yeah.)

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    posted November 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    that’s what Jack Chick said

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      posted November 13, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Ha, should have known. Yay Poe’s Law!

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    posted November 13, 2010 at 11:38 am

    So the translation is the problem and not the incorrect or discordant facts? Really?

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      posted November 15, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Where the “incorrect or discordant facts” only appear in a 400-year-old Olde Englishe translation, yea verily.

      Notice Harris’s appeal to “cosmetic editing” in “more modern versions.” Meaning if you look up many of these verses in a current translation, you won’t find a contradiction. Is that because sneaky editors are trying to cover up the fact that the Bible is incorrect, or might today’s scholars be working from older and more reliable Greek and Hebrew manuscripts than they had in 1611?

      I’m not saying that’s the case for all of them; there are real issues to deal with of course. I’m just amused that Harris & Co., like many fundies, seem to be willingly ignorant of the past four centuries of scholarship. Who knew Sam Harris had so much in common with Gail Riplinger?

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        posted November 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

        Yes, but translation issues don’t take away some of the more incredulous claims made in the Bible. One may say that the translation of almah in Isaiah means “young woman” and betula in Matthew means “virgin”, but the fact is that there are problems that arise with these claims above and beyond the translation issues.

        I agree that perhaps Harris should have disincluded translation issues in order to get a better picture, but the fact remains that the Bible is not a wholly consistent document. For example, a comparison of the Genesis accounts of creation (with translation issues aside) reveals two very different stories of how things came about. Moreover, I think Sam’s larger point is that one cannot take the Bible to be a source of literal claims about what happened, and this point is valid given 150 years of scientific evidence that demonstrates the Genesis account to be false on the literal level (but I suppose it could be true on the metaphorical level– but that is another issue).

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

          Sure. My annoyance is that it’s hard to hear (and thus harder to discuss) any larger point behind the chart’s seeming attitude of “Ehh, homework isn’t important since any stick is good enough to beat the Bible with.” Discussions about literalism and literary genre and poetic expression and Ancient Near Eastern cultural attitudes and hermeneutics and textual criticism can be fascinating; beating 400-year-old horses, not so much.

          Most current writing I’ve seen on Bible interpretation specifically avoids the word “literal,” by the way, because it’s just too ambiguous– does it mean “factual,” “word-for-word,” “without figure of speech,” “taking metaphors at face value,” “disallowing the function of poetry,” “absolute”….. Now that would make an interesting chart!

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          posted November 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

          I have read in a few places that several of these inconsitentcies are merely a literary device meant to point out the main ideas in a story. In looking at the genesis account the author was not concerned as much about the exact facts of creation but what implications these stories had on morality and theology. Clearly the author couldn’t be so stupid as to not realize they had said the same thing twice. So for one story the author is showing how man was created specifically in the image of God and was not like the rest of the animals while in the second account the author was concerned with showing that man was part of the created order and is to be in charge of taking care of it.

          So basically the author took the basic fact “God created man and nature” and expanded it into two parallel stories that were to teach two different things about the nature of man and the rest of creation. The two stories weren’t meant to contradict each other but just show two different things. This can be seen in other areas of genesis as well (the story of Josephs brothers going back to Isaac and finding their money twice). I think several of the more serious contradictions can be traced back to this type of literary device.

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posted November 12, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I’m more on the infallible side anyways, so it bothers me when someone who claims to be a Biblical scholar claims the Bible is inerrant – it let’s me know they haven’t really done much study. As for the contradictions, I still believe the Bible is “God breathed”, but that doesn’t mean that God literally (audibly) told Moses, Joshua and all the other authors what to write, word for word. I view “God breathed” the same as “inspired”, which leaves room for human error. Kind of like the scene in “Life of Brian” where the people in the back of the crowd can’t understand/hear everything he’s saying, so they fill in the blanks with their own ideas. I could see the author of Mark misunderstanding or even not fully hearing or remembering what Jesus said concerning Abiathar and penning a contradiction.

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S. James Wright

posted November 13, 2010 at 1:07 am

I have grown up believing and still do believe that the “Bible is the truth.”

One little point/question that this all brings up. Is having all the FACTS make it the TRUTH? OR Can the Truth be present without all the Facts?

So many people I talk to think like a court of law, facts mean what really happened so that is the truth.

However, aren’t we (Christians) suppose to think different then the world, not rely on facts but faith. Truth can exist outside of our understanding.

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posted November 13, 2010 at 11:36 am

The point of the chart is to point out that the Bible is not inerrant. There are lots of errors in the Bible. And, no, these are not errors of translation, they are errors of fact.

If you are not a Biblical literalist, then you must claim that the Bible has allegorical or metaphorical parts. If that is the case, then what makes Jesus’ death and resurrection anything more than an allegory or a metaphor (especially if you claim that the events of creation as described in Genesis didn’t literally happen that way, ie, the fall of man didn’t literally happen that way)?

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    posted November 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

    The Bible is not the only document that supports (I didn’t say prove, this will obviously not ever be proven, it’s not possible) the death and resurrection story of Jesus. There are other old texts talking about it.

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posted November 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Great post &great comments everyone, I have to resist the urge to post a dozen more comments, but my time’s short…

here’s my take.
I used to be very worried about what was true and not true in the Bible. The major question I kept asking was “is it true??”
I don’t ask that question all the time anymore.
The big question – the question I love – is “is it important?”
And the Bible says a lot to me about what’s important.

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posted November 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I’ve read Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman an many other Biblical scholars and scientists. It’s caused me to think much deeper about where I place my place my faith and who or what I worship. Understanding the contradictions in the Bible and learning about the convoluted process the scriptures went through to become the Bible we have today has been an incredibly stimulating learning experience for me. It’s challenging to some, I realize, and many people lose their faith when they learn that the Bible isn’t what they thought it was. I haven’t lost my faith, but then, I never really bought into the inerrancy of the Bible in the first place, so I wasn’t heavily invested in it as the bedrock of my spirituality.

The Bible as a whole tells a story that is full of life-giving wisdom. I also think it’s full of myth and metaphor, which can capture truth better than any set of facts. So on that basis, I believe the Bible tells a true story and leads us to the heart of God.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I tend not to look into things like this because I’m scared of what it might do to my faith, which speaks of the weakness of the belief I say I have…

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posted November 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm

For what its worth the chart is a stunning example of poor scholarship. The chart is a rip off of Chris Harrison’s beautiful work showing the CROSS-REFERENCES of Scripture within the Bible.

Frankly, Sam’s graphic has nothing to do with the text. The text is about contradictions the chart is about cross-references. Since Sam’s group has put the chart in red it is nearly impossible to trace the various lines (even in the monster PDF.) The chart makes no sense and is spurious.

Adding in that Sam will only use the KJV (not 1611 here but the update from 1769) and not modern translations that are better informed by biblical/theological scholarship should be a red flag. Any good apologist can challenge every single contradiction effectively with modern translations and utilizing tools and texts of the original languages. There are some theological points to be understood too. I wonder how Sam would reply if we challenged his cosmology using scientific data and tools from 1769?

Now as for the objection betwen Mark 2 and 1 Samuel 21…for what it’s worth the grammar of the Greek in Mark is the suspicious as it is not a construction found often in the NT. ἐπὶ ᾿Αβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως is a difficult phrase and is likely utilizing a tentative preposition with future action intended. That is pretty technical and I guess it would be better to say that you can render the phrase to point out that Jesus was speak about the next high priest. There is some good scholarship out there about this. But don’t let it be the card that topples your house of faith…get your foundations secured.

Hope it is helpful. :)

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posted November 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm

We had an old pastor once who used to read the sermon’s scripture and say “Listen for the Word of God in today’s passage.” In other words, the Word of God was in there somewhere, amid all the legends passed on by word of mouth for generations before being written down. No one is without their own interpretation and bias and neither were the authors of our Holy Book. There simply isn’t an infallible text out there but rather the “Word of God” is the Holy Spirit imprinting the message on our hearts of love, justice, mercy, kindness, faith, and hope. My faith is in the Living God who reveals himself there in my heart and says, “Feed the poor, do justice, love your enemies, walk humbly,” and so on. There are no contradictions or inaccuracies in the living “Word of God.”
In my humble Mennonite opinion, of course! 😉

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posted November 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm

It’s important to keep several factors in mind.
1. The bible’s point is theology, it is the revelation of God to us. It is not a history book, nor a science textbook, nor a biography, and it should not be treated as such.
2. There are certain theological contradictions. But we have a very western way of reading the bible, which is silly. It is an Eastern book, and in Eastern thought apparent contradictions are actually good things. In Japanese martial arts there are the simultaneous concepts of Zanshin and Mushin, meaning All-mind and No-Mind, respectively. To a westerner, it would be impossible to posses both. To an Eastern Philosopher, classical reason is a bit silly. My advice: read the Bible like an Easterner.

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posted November 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I’d point out that much of this requires a magical view of Biblical composition. Take, for instance, the two creation stories in Genesis. There are two options: they dropped out of heaven as is and were accepted because they dropped out of heaven, or they were put together in the same text by a person who thought they harmonized and were then accepted by a large body of people who agreed that they harmonized. If the first Harris is wrong. If the second Harris is still probably wrong because the people closest to the original texts didn’t think these things contradicted. This may be because they read the texts differently than modern fundamentalists (in fact, this is nearly certain) but it does mean that the texts can be read together.

As a note about Keturah: there’s no specific word for “wife” in Biblical Hebrew. If the text said that Keturah was Abraham’s wife it would say that she was Abraham’s woman, from which you would infer that “wife” was meant. But the text actually says (in English) that Abraham took another wife, Keturah. So the Hebrew (which I’m looking at now) reads “And again Abraham took a woman/wife and her name was Keturah”. The later mention of concubine (for which there is a specific word) would seem only to specify the exact marital relationship between Abraham and Keturah – but the Genesis 25:1 mention does not make it explicit.

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posted December 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

The Abiathar question is simple if you aren’t an “every word” person. Simply put, Abiathar was indeed a priest at the time of the event in question and he later became the high priest. Jesus says the event happened “in the days of” Abiathar (KJV & TNIV) So much like I might talk about something that happened in President Obama’s childhood… I still use his title regardless of his standing at the time.

If you have doubts about God I would encourage you to read “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. Awesome book that will make you think even if you don’t believe.

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