In its two-thousand year history, the Christian faith has endured persecution. It has survived heresy, and dissention in the ranks. It has persevered in the face of war, famine, and disease. The Church has been proof against all these things. What it has not been proof against, however, is scrutiny. Close scrutiny by educated scholars, be they archaeologists, paleontologists, biologists, geologists, or just about any other -ologist there is has been the bane of the Christian faith. More and more begin to explore the fruits of atheism and agnosticism, or wander to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hindu.
It is with great honor that I ennumerate a few of the many failings of the Bible, and Christianity in general, to stand up to logical reasoning.
The Old Testament
As an attempt to understand natural phenomena and to create a basis for a code of law by a 6000 year-old, pre-literate, desert nomadic culture, it's not a bad job. The curious thing is that, despite its proven lack of relevance, there are people who still believe that the stories are literal truth. This is a rather harmless belief. But the basis for legal structure is also believed to be a valuable source. This belief is just silly. While it may have had value then, the Torah (let's call an ace an ace) has no value as a basis for a system of law today.
The simple fact is, the laws as written down in the Old Testament (and described as the word of God by all Christians) have never been practiced by Christians. There has never been a Christian man who sacrificed a goat, or an ox, to appease his God. But if you want silly...
* Someone who works on Sunday is to be killed. (Exodus 31:15)
* Forbidden foods: camel, rock badger, rabbit, pig, eagle, owl, rat, gecko. Permitted animals include locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets. (Leviticus 11)
* Having sex during a woman's menstrual period yields exile for the couple. (Leviticus 20:18)
* And let us not forget the most important item. So important, in fact, that God named it as part of his his first Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5): "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them." Yet Christianity is fraught with idols. Every sect worships the crucifix, and others expand to include such things as paintings, bits of cloth, stained glass images, statues, and slivers of wood purported to be remnants of the cross. In the modern era, potatoes or gelatin figures bearing vague resemblances to biblical figures become objects of worship.
Since Christians cannot be bothered to follow these laws, I believe we can forget about them, as well. As for the rest of the Torah, it's filled with histories, folklore, and false prophecy. I don't see that we need to discuss it further.
The New Testament
This is the heart of the Christian religion. It's the story of Jesus, and his disciples. Then it wraps up with the ravings of a psychopath, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. The story of Jesus is the absolute linchpin of the Christian religion. His saga is told in the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many churches will tell you that every word in the Bible, and especially these gospels, is the word of God himself, and it's been preserved intact throughout the ages.
The sad truth is, in certain instances, the Gospels contradict each other. In other instances, contemporary historians and religious tracts reveal a different picture than the one the Bible paints.
Conclusive Evidence of Tampering With the Bible
This exists in the form of a copy of a letter discovered in 1958 in the library of Mar Saba, an isolated Eastern Orthodox Church community near Jerusalem. The copy dates back to sometime shortly after 1648, but the names indicate that the original was written by one Clement of Alexandria, a Catholic Church father of some renown from the second century AD. Paleographic evidence proves conclusively that Clement was the original writer, as it contains all of his known idiosyncracies.
The content of the letter is advice to someone named Theodore about what to do about the Carpocratian heresy that was florishing in the south of France. This heresy's beliefs were based on a few lines in the Gospel of Mark that had been edited out of the Church's copies. Clement even gives the lines removed. An entire section which deals with the raising of Lazarus was the heart of the heresy. Six days after Lazarus is raised, he comes to Jesus wearing only a linen cloth, and they spend an entire night together undisturbed. The Carpocratians took this to be a divine sanction for homosexual love, and they pursued this ardently.
But let's get on with examination of the Gospels themselves, as they exist today, beginning at the beginning. Two of the Gospels deal directly with Jesus's birth, Luke and Matthew. They both contain diametrically opposed stories. They each have a lineage for Jesus, but they have almost nothing in common. Matthew's genealogy, from David to Jesus, is just 28 generations. Luke's is 43. Only five names are common to the genealogies, but they don't necessarily appear in order. They are David, Jesus, Joseph, Salathiel, Zerubabbel, and Eliakim. The significance of David, Jesus, and Joseph are obvious. Zerubabbel is the name of the individual who restored the worship of Yahweh to the Jerusalem temple when the Babylonian Captivity ended, thanks to Cyrus I of Persia. His father was Salathiel. Eliakim may be a random name match, since his name appears as a grandson of Zerubbabel in Matt's lineage, and Luke has him appearing 17 generations before Zerubbabel.
While certain errors in a genealogy could be forgiven, the fact that they have only 5 common names out of a possible 43 is unforgiveable. Any person today could fail to construct a genealogy going back that many generations, but these don't even agree on the identity of Jesus' own grandfather. Luke says that the father of Joseph was named Heli, but Matthew names him Jacob.
Both lineages connect Jesus to David, and the assumption is that Jesus is the heir to the Jewish throne. But if that's the purpose, then why does Luke's geneology fail to follow the royal line? Matthew's lineage passes from David to Solomon, and on through all the kings we know from the Old Testament histories. Luke's passes from David to Nathan, who did not inherit the throne.
And this doesn't even address the most obvious question: if Joseph is not the father of Jesus, if Mary conceived him without Joseph's involvement, then why should we care about Joseph's ancestry? The simple answer is, he was involved.
But getting on with the childhood story, you'll find things getting even more contradictory. Luke's account of the birth is fairly simple. The child is born in a manger, and some shepherds come to look in on the boy. The family remains in the Bethlehem area until Mary has completed the prescribed purification, then goes to Jerusalem to have the boy blessed at the temple. They then return home to Galilee.
Matthew's account of the birth goes like this: Jesus is born in a manger, and three astrologers from the East come to bring him gifts. Herod learns of the boy through them, and wants the kid killed. The astrologers find him in a house, present their gifts, and Joseph is warned about the danger. He immediately takes the family to Egypt, to remain until Herod's death.
Once again, these stories are incompatible. Even if we take a bit of license and grant that the astrologers visited after the family had been in town for some time, and been able to secure lodging, we still have no way to bring the later actions into coherence. Either the family fled to Egypt, or they didn't. We have no historical evidence for a purge of two-year olds by Herod, so we can assume that that account is wrong.
The likeliest scenario is that both stories are fabrications, as would fit with their mythological context. After all, there is very little scientific basis for a star over the city of Bethlehem, either. Apologists have proposed the idea that a shooting star hung over the city, but if it pointed directly at Bethlehem, it would have had to have hit it. But even the Bible doesn't mention one. If it were headed elsewhere and it only seemed to indicate Bethlehem from some great distance, then when the astrologers got to Bethlehem, it would have looked like it was over Egypt. Any child who has ever watched the moon out the back window of the car or tried to chase a rainbow is familiar with this phenomenon.
Common Misconceptions about Jesus
Promulgated by the Holy Mother Church, but not actually anywhere in the scriptures (but easily discredited by a critical eye to them) are the following myths:
Jesus Was a Simple Carpenter
Never mentioned in the Bible, except to say that Joseph was a carpenter, but there is clear evidence against it. Jesus is frequently called "Rabbi" and "Teacher," titles that are not casually tossed about in Jewish culture. He even taught in the temples, rather than confining himself to street lecturing (Matt 13:54). Nobody teaches in the temples without becoming an ordained rabbi. Nobody. In order to achieve that status, quite a bit of education is required, and in those days, education is quite expensive. Joseph would have had to build a lot of cabinets to put his son through school.
Now there is still room in this argument to disagree, but a bit of word etymology can put the entire subject to rest. The original Aramaic word for carpenter is "naggar." This word has more than one use, however. In the proper context, it also means "scholar" or "learned man." Jesus is obviously the proper context, since his encyclopedic knowledge of the scriptures is well documented.