Saturday, April 6, 2013

How Likely Is It? (1)

The following is a very thought-provoking post by the late Farrell Till (1933-2012) from the Errancy discussion list from May 2, 1997. I will be posting a lot of the comments of Farrell Till from the Errancy discussion list and elsewhere. Till was a former Church-of-Christ preacher; and being a former member of the Church of Christ myself, I appreciate his perspective on the errancy of the Bible. I hope to preserve many of his scholarly, insightful thoughts on this blog:
The postings I have been sending about absurdities in the stories of the
exodus and subsequent wilderness wanderings have not been intended to
establish contradiction but to show that the stories are so obviously
unreasonable that no rational person can believe that they actually
happened. Since ancient literature in particular is characterized by
widespread references to miraculous events, the only reasonable way to
assess the events is to critically examine each one in terms of how likely
it is that such events did indeed happen. When this principle is applied to
the conduct of the Israelites throughout the exodus and the wilderness
wanderings, rational people must conclude that it is not very likely that
most of these stories happened as recorded in the Bible.

A detailed analysis of Israelite behavior during and after the exodus may
take as many as two or three postings, but before I begin them, let's first
make a comparison that will help illustrate the problem. On this list, we
have seen that biblical inerrantists will cling to their belief in their god
and the inerrancy of the Bible no matter how much compelling evidence
to the contrary is presented. When confronted with glaring biblical
inconsistencies or discrepancies, they will simply fabricate some
how-it-could-have-been interpretations and stubbornly insist that biblical
errancy has not been proven. Not a one of them has ever seen their god,
talked to him, or seen him perform miracles like the parting of the Red
Sea, bringing water from rocks, sending manna from heaven, and such
like, yet despite the absence of such convincing evidence as this, they
still maintain their belief that this god exists and that he verbally inspired
the Bible.

Only very rarely is the faith of an inerrantist shaken badly enough to cause
him to reject his belief. On the other hand, we have the Israelites who had
their god going before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night,
coming down and speaking to them, and performing all sorts of wondrous
miracles. Despite these amazing demonstrations of their god's presence
in their midst, they were constantly bellyaching and rebelling. My postings
that follow this one will be designed to show that it is not at all likely that reasonable people would have behaved as the Israelites did; hence,
it is not at all likely that these stories happened as they are recorded in
the Bible.

Farrell Till

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