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Dawkins’ argument against Scripture – Internal contradictions

July 28, 2010

It has been a while, but we’re ready for our analysis of Richard Dawkins’ argument against Scripture.

We’re planning to go through Richard Dawkins’ argument against Scripture as presented in the God Delusion. We’re planning to determine if his conclusions are truly evidence based. The method we propose is to outline the assertion and then present the evidence Dawkins uses. We’ll then assess the evidence to see if it demonstrates the assertion.

Assertion #1: Internal contradictions between Gospel accounts demonstrate them inaccurate at recording history.

Evidence presented: Dawkins presents some evidence to support this assertion; most of it centres around the narratives of Jesus’ birth. He presents three main contradictions as his evidence. These contradictions are:

1. The birthplace of Jesus. Dawkins suggests that the Gospel of John says Jesus was not born in Bethlehem whereas Matthew and Luke both say Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

2. The hometown of Mary and Joseph. Dawkins asserts that Matthew says it was Bethlehem and Luke claims it was Nazareth.

3. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke. There are different names and numbers of generations in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.

Dawkins also offers the work of Mike Flynn of Free Inquiry as further support for his position (the argument to authority) . However Dawkins’ use of Flynn is questionable as it is unclear that Dawkins actually understands Flynn’s article (to be explained in another post in the future).

Analysis: The key question here is, has Dawkins presented enough evidence to demonstrate the Gospels as recording inaccurate history. I would venture to suggest that he has presented some, but it is hardly conclusive.

Unfortunately the first contradiction he proposes may not actually be a contradiction. I’ll need to explain further, but the question revolves around whether John employed irony in the section Dawkins has quoted. I would suggest John has used irony meaning that John believes the crowd are ignorant and John actually believes Jesus as born in Bethlehem hence there is no contradiction, but that must wait for another post.

This notwithstanding, Dawkins has presented two contradictions are difficult to resolve without entirely satisfactory solutions i.e. the genealogies and the hometown of Mary and Joseph.

So, if these are genuine contradictions does this prove the assertion? Two possible contradictions do not prove the entire document as unreliable. Dawkins would need to present many more obvious contradictions covering many other parts of the narrative, i.e. contradictions in the infancy narratives do not automatically demonstrate unreliability in the passion narrative (particularly as there may be a 30 year time difference between the events happening and them being recorded).

These possible contradictions may provoke further questions, particularly into the nature of historical recording and the standards of evidence required i.e. if any contradictions exist in other ancient historical documents do we automatically reject both? It may provoke further questions into determining which one of the Gospels is recording accurate history and which one isn’t. This is a standard way of dealing with apparent contradictions between ancient historical documents. It seems a little extreme to reject both as unreliable because there appears to be a contradiction. Both may have been fabricated, but this can’t be the automatic conclusion.

Conclusion: So our conclusion here is that Dawkins has presented some evidence to support his assertion but it is not conclusive.


From → New atheism

  1. The third message from heaven…

    If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

    • Thanks again for your comments Pete. However I would please request that you please keep them relevant to the blog posts. Thanks for your co-operation.

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