Part 4 in a continuing series
Of Water or of Land?
Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem: Fact or Fiction?
Of Water or of Land?
Those who reject the inspiration of the Bible have searched it tirelessly for hundreds of years in attempts to find a legitimate contradiction or discrepancy. Time and again their efforts have done nothing to strengthen their case, but have done much to strengthen the Bible’s credibility. In what appears to be skeptics “grasping for straws,” one of their latest allegations has been to assert that a contradiction exists between Genesis 1:20-22 and 2:19. These infidels claim that 1:20-22 teaches that birds were formed out of the water, whereas 2:19 teaches that they were formed out of the ground. What, if anything, can be said about their allegations?
The simple fact of the matter is that those who claim such a contradiction exists have misquoted the text and misunderstood its wording. We readily admit that Genesis 2:19 teaches that “out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.” However, contrary to skeptics’ accusations, Genesis 1:20-22 does not contradict this statement. Rather, it reads: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters abound (swarm, ASV) with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.’ So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind… And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’ ” (NKJV). Where does this passage say that birds were formed from the water? It does not. It simply teaches that God caused some living creatures to appear in the water, and He caused birds to fly above the Earth. This passage does not teach that the waters were the cause of the fish, but the element of the fish, just as the air is the element of the birds (Barnes, 1997).
Bible scholars and apologists consider this “alleged Bible contradiction” such a lame attempt to disprove the Bible as the Word of God that relatively few have even bothered responding to it. Surely, they recognize that at some point in time common sense will allow everyone to see the shallowness of the critics’ accusations. The only reason this brief article was written is so that those who are contemplating the Bible’s inerrancy will not blindly swallow the critics’ allegations without first carefully reading what the passage says and what it does not say.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem: Fact or Fiction?
According to the world’s most celebrated atheist, Richard Dawkins, “the gospels are ancient fiction” (2006, p. 97). They “[a]ll have the status of legends, as factually dubious as the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table”—full of “invented, made-up fiction” (pp. 96-97). Dawkins wonders why the “many unsophisticated Christians…who take the Bible very seriously indeed as a literal and accurate record of history and hence as evidence supporting their religious beliefs,” do not “notice those glaring contradictions” in the gospel accounts? (p. 94). What kind of “contradictions,” exactly? Consider the very first one that he mentions, regarding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
Supposedly, Matthew, Luke, and John give conflicting information about where Jesus was born. Dawkins wrote:
A good example of the colouring by religious agendas is the whole heart-warming legend of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem…. John’s gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem…. Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently, by deciding that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem after all (p. 93, emp. in orig.).
Exactly where did the apostle John indicate that Jesus was “not born in Bethlehem?” Dawkins quoted from John 7:41-42, wherein the apostle recounts how, “Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (KJV, emp. added). Does this passage teach that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem? Not at all. John merely pointed out that some in the crowd who were listening to Jesus asked if the Messiah would come from Galilee or Bethlehem? These individuals knew that Jesus had grown up in Galilee (just as all of the gospel accounts teach: Matthew 2:22-23; Mark 1:24; 10:47; Luke 2:39-40; 4:16; John 1:45-46; 7:27). This group simply made the assumption that, because Jesus had grown up in Galilee, he was born in Galilee. But, that simply was not true (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4). These individuals were ignorant of the place of Jesus’ birth.
Similarly, Richard Dawkins is ignorant of what constitutes a genuine contradiction, if he actually believes that this statement in John’s gospel account really contradicts what Matthew and Luke wrote. Were John to write that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, or that Jesus was born in Galilee, only then would there be a contradiction. But John never wrote that he believed that Jesus was born in Galilee rather than Bethlehem. The apostle merely reported how some of those who listened to Jesus imagined that He was born in Galilee.
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
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