Bible Errors...

July 07, 2019
Written by: Ted Martin
I've been sitting on writing this for a bit... I've completed Bart Ehrman's Jesus Interrupted and don't really know where to start. Nothing really shocked me in this book. I studied and was aware of many of its points in my time at the seminary. At that time, I exercised tortured mental gymnastics to explain away the 'difficulties' found in the Scriptures. We would often quote Saint Augustine:

If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.

However, it is clear that the Scriptures contain additions in the face of Revelation 22:18's fiery warning, errors, and much more, to say nothing of the horror of genocide, slavery, outright misogyny, etc... in the Old Testament. Some classic examples are the day and time on and at which Jesus died (John's Gospel contradicts the Synoptics here), the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, the addition of the story of the woman caught in adultery (cf. John 8), the addition of the resurrection account in Mark's Gospel, etc...

I would not have dared admit, let alone say such a thing as what I have written above when I was in ministry. I would have feared for my eternal soul. It was cognitive dissonance regarding the deepest existential parts of my life. On the one hand I wanted desperately to know, grasp, and live the truth, while on the other hand I was convinced that I couldn't openly follow truth in certain areas as defined doctrine - the inerrancy of Scripture in this case (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 20; The Council of Trent, etc...) - precluded my coming to any other conclusion than that of the Church's traditional doctrine.

To be clear, the Church, many would argue, has 'developed' her understanding on this matter and now considers calmly the reality of errors, additions, etc... into the Scriptures. I think most Catholic biblical scholars would happily admit and teach that and they are yet to be excommunicated, disciplined, etc... So what is the big deal?

The big deal is that if the Church can so fundamentally 'relax/develop' a prior conviction that was taught almost unanimously by Church Fathers, Ecumenical Councils and Pope's, what else can be changed? Some people are not aware that a substantial minority in the Catholic Church labeled 'Traditionalists/Conservatives' are extremely concerned and invested in just these types of questions and particularly in upholding Traditional Church teaching. The proof, we are told, that Catholicism is true is that it cannot change in matters of faith and morals.

When I look back now, it seems so absurd to me. Not the people who believe it because so many of them are wonderful people. What seems so absurd is the inability to acknowledge that the Church's teachings have changed. That the Church has taught many a doctrine and moral principles that today are rejected by the Church is impossible to deny. (E.g. torture, capital punishment, usury, that Jews committed deicide, etc...).

I am okay with that. My faith and I would say most people's faith is not contingent upon what one period of Church history considered dogma on pain of eternal damnation as much as finding a deeper well of life in the broader narrative of the Church's teaching, the Sacraments, Prayer, and concrete love for our neighbor.

This book  was a joy to read as it was for the most part straight forward, academic albeit popularized, and confirms that people will always be ready to jump through any and all mental hoops to make their understanding of faith the right one. In the end, Faith is much more about transformation in love than having the right answers. Jesus' parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25 and the wisdom of the beatitudes are much more nerve racking and healing than our fights about who is right and wrong. This book made me love Jesus more.
Ted Martin

Husband, father, writer of software, and reader of books.