I haven’t done a post like this for ages. Reading, as I mentioned in a previous post, a book sent to me for review, Franz Kiekeben’s The Truth About God, the author takes a whistle-stop tour through inconsistencies in the Bible (not so much to list them all, as he only mentions a few, but to illustrate the types of defences that Christians typically use). He details the inconsistency which starts the Bible off, namely the six day creation story.
Genesis 1 has God making plants on the third day, aquatic and flying animals on the fifth and land animals and humans on the sixth.
However, Genesis 2 has him creating man when there was no plant to be seen:
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
And after Adam, he then creates non-human animals.
Genesis 1 = Plants, animals, humans
Genesis 2 = Humans, plants, animals
This is a clear contradiction which is best explained by the renowned Documentary Hypothesis (which does good job of explaining multiple Genesis issues as different sources seem interwoven into the one account). The evidence for some form of DH, in some manner, makes something about the hypothesis pretty much indubitable (the finer details are often argued over vociferously, though many Christians deny it lock, stock and barrel).
One particularly disingenuous ways in which Christians can get around this issue is by attempting to retranslate the issue away. What better version that the wholly disreputable New international Version (NIV).
Let’s look at the NASB (as above):
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
And this is the NIV, emphasis added:
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
You can see that the addition of had completely changes the ordering. However, in all other instances of this verb form the NIV doesn’t translate it as had.
What makes this tack even more incoherent is that it is internally inconsistent within the passage itself. As Kiekeben states:
What’s worse is that it really doesn’t seem their way of interpreting the above passage can be correct. God’s stating “I will make a helper suitable for him,” after all, makes little sense if the animals were already around. This solution, then, does not appear entirely adequate.
Another defence of this inconsistency is to claim that Genesis 2 isn’t about an accurate account of the creation (hi)story (such as defended by people like Norman Geisler, Thomas Howe and Gleason Archer) but taking the creation of man and expanding on the ideas. The focus is on, say, naming the animals, not in creating them.
These tacks are evidently weak and still prompt the question as to why Genesis 2 should be haphazard with wording veracity of the claims therein.
This all looks like what John Loftus would call the problem of divine miscommunication leading to people like modern day atheists being able to harness these problematic verses an using them as ammunition against theists. Surely this would not be a worthy corollary of the progressive revelatory nature of the holy book in question?