For millennia, religious liberals, secularists, agnostics and atheists have torn through Bibles—at times, literally—to uncover all its presumed, hidden errors and inconsistencies. Hoping to counter the prejudice of faith, such free-thinking folks believe, without question, in a vast, ancient, Judeo-Christian conspiracy to protect the Scriptures from open scrutiny.
"Through the tedious process of hand-copying manuscripts, generation after generation, onto scrolls, then paper," say such free-thinking skeptics, " the scribes obviously made mistakes, both in translating and in transcribing tens of thousands of ancient words thousands of times."
Scientific Versus Prejudiced Skepticism
In answer to such assertions, Dr. Robert Dick Wilson once stated, "When a man says to me, 'I don't believe in the Old Testament, he makes no impression upon me. When he points out something there that he doesn't believe, he makes no impression upon me. But if he comes to me and says, 'I've got the evidence here to show that the Old Testament is wrong at this or that point' then that's where my work begins! I'm ready for him!"*
Dr. Wilson bore an insatiable curiosity about ancient history, and more specifically, the histories of Old Testament peoples and lands. Yet, ever skeptical about the assertions modern histories present as absolute fact, Dr. Wilson set about to learn the ancient languages so he could conduct his own primary research without the influence of other scholars' hearsay accounts. His quest led him to a thorough familiarity with forty-five ancient tongues, whereby he consumed thousands of ancient, original language texts as handily as most literate people consume their native tongue's popular fiction.
Therein lies the difference between the arbitrary, prejudicial skepticism of the atheistic or agnostic Bible critic and the truly open-minded, scientific curiosity of the scholar. As schoolyard bullies pick fights with kids they know they can beat, intellectual bullies pick controversies with ignorant opponents, hoping to make them and their beliefs a complete laughingstock. Somehow, the intellectual pursuit has become a personal vendetta; the refusal of faith has become its own, quite emotional, belief system.
Simple Question ... Simple Answer?
When leveling the telescopic sight of literary and historical criticism on the Bible, critics must be willing to question their own preconceptions as diligently as they do the Bible texts. Any critic must be willing to ask himself one question before challenging the Bible's accuracy: Why, through the millennia it took to finalize the Biblical canon, did thousands of scribes and scholars allow so many obvious textual contradictions and inconsistencies to remain uncorrected? In other words, if, as critics assert, ordinary men wrote the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, then assembled them into today's Bible simply to subjugate the superstitious, unwashed masses, why would they have not produced a more believable hoax?
* Is the higher criticism Scholarly? By Robert Dick Wilson, Ph.D., D.D. (Chicago: Sunday School Times, 1922)