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Problems With The Bible?

Last Sunday, some of the material in the agreed readings led, for me, to more questions than answers.

The Genesis text had:

the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Well – firstly, God didn’t tell the truth: they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and… whilst God said that they would die the same day they did that – they didn’t!

And the serpent was telling the truth: they did not die on the day they ate it, and their eyes were opened, knowing good and evil.

The story is reinforced by Paul:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

There’s several issues with this. Death coming through the transgression of one man – you can’t hold to that and evolution: evolution is driven by death; I’m sorry to shock you, there was death before the first human!

Secondly, the “Eve Hypothesis” notwithstanding (and that has its own problems, taking the second creation story as history), linking the historical individual, Jesus, to the (sorry for those I offend) mythological Adam devalues and confuses the historicity of Jesus.

OK – they may not have understood the question, but I suspect if they did, that Paul (and Jesus) would have thought Adam an historical person. You might argue that this contention is not explicit in the Bible, but to suggest the opposite (that Paul and Jesus understood Adam as mythological in the sense we understand that today) would be very difficult to demonstrate.

So, are we left, after reading those texts together last Sunday, with one option: if we want to retain any integrity in our world, maybe we have to be honest – once we have ascertained what the writer is saying (exegesis), might we find some biblical texts that we would now acknowledge as being erroneous? Would acknowledging that the Bible is not inerrant conflict with the belief that that the Bible contains all that is essential for our salvation, and reveals God’s living word in Jesus Christ? Or would acknowledging that the Bible is not inerrant, and honestly grappling with the consequences of that, open evangelism more in a world that finds it ludicrous if, for example, we insist, following Sunday’s readings, that the first death of a living thing happened about 6,024 years ago?

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