Argument from scripture

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The argument from scripture is the argument that something is true because it is written in scripture, for example, that God exists because the Bible says God exists. It assumes that the scripture and its interpretation are reliable.

This argument is often justified with a related (and circular) argument, that the scripture is to be believed because God inspired it.

A similar argument can be made for passages in other holy books.

Contents

Counterarguments

  • "Trying to prove God exists with the Bible is like trying to prove Superman exists with a comic book." - Robgene

In order for this argument to be sound, one must demonstrate that the scripture is reliable. That is, one must show that if the Bible says something, then that statement is likely to be true.

  • The Bible has been shown to be scientifically wrong. Geological evidence shows no trace of Noah's flood, and that the human race (to say nothing of the earth) is far older than the 6,000-10,000 years predicted by adding up the ages of people in Biblical genealogies. Astronomical evidence shows that the sun does not revolve around the Earth, and that the Earth is not flat or that it ever has been flat which is contradictory to scripture.
  • The Bible has been shown to be historically wrong. Exodus finds no historical backing. There's no archeological evidence that Jews were enslaved in Egypt or millions of people wandered the desert. There's no historical evidence of a large empire of David and Solomon. The nation of Israel appears to have begin as a more political movement out of the general Canaanite populations.
  • The Bible contains contradictions between the four gospels (and other Bible books) that cast doubt on biblical reliability.
  • The Bible contains forgeries. Many of the letters of "Paul" are pseudepigrapha (fake writing) and clearly not written by Paul. This includes the following line in 2 Timothy which says all of scripture is true, and which is generally recognized as a forgery:
    • 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Archeological confirmation

Apologists sometimes claim that archeological research has confirmed many of the Bible's claims, including the existence of cities and kings mentioned in the Bible. For instance, tablets discovered in Ebla, in Syria, allegedly contain references to cities mentioned in Genesis, including Sodom and Gomorrah.

Such discoveries do confirm parts of the Bible. However, we must be careful not to commit what might be called the Spider-Man fallacy. Suppose that a few thousand years from now, an archeologist discovers a cache of Spider-Man comic books. Judging by the backgrounds, the stories are clearly set in New York. New York is a real place, as confirmed by archeology. However, this does not mean that Spider-Man exists.

Similarly, the fact that Bible stories are set in real places does not mean that the stories themselves are real. The Red Sea is a real sea, but that does not mean that Moses parted it.

Secondly, there is reason to believe that many of the stories in the Bible are not true. For instance, there is no archeological evidence that Hebrews were ever enslaved in Egypt in significant numbers, as recounted in the book of Exodus. The Bible's track record as a historical book is certainly imperfect, and therefore its claims must be considered skeptically, one at a time.

Scriptural Reliability

A second apologist argument is that the scriptures are honest depictions of the originals: that the Bible was copied very meticulously and so we can be confident that what we have are not substantively different than the originals. Some apologists argue that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm that the Biblical manuscripts vary very little. Others include stories of multiple independent translations which differed by only a few words. They generally argue that:

  • The texts we have today are very similar to the originals.
  • They were not changed much by editing or translation.
    • Therefore we can accept what they say as true.

The problems with this argument are many:

  • The texts do vary greatly. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a prime example of how vastly different versions were.
  • The translation and editing changed the works greatly over the years and religious texts are rife with theological disagreement, editing, and editing of editing.
  • The conclusion and argument itself is entirely a red herring: Even a perfect copy of a work of fiction is still a work of fiction.

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