Infographic of the Day: What The Bible Got Wrong

The Bible was wrong. For evidence look to, well, the Bible.

Such is the conclusion of this stunning, provocative infographic, which maps contradictions in the Bible, from whether thou shalt not commit adultery down to the color of Jesus’s robes. Career skeptic Sam Harris commissioned the chart for his nonprofit foundation Project Reason, with graphic design by Madrid-based Andy Marlow. Whatever your religious views, it’s an incredible testament to the power of data visualization. It’s managed to make an ancient text — over which men have fought wars and women have sacrificed babies — look downright silly.

[Click image for larger view]

The organization here is pretty simple. You’ve got bars at the bottom representing the 1,189 verses of the King James Bible. White’s for the Old Testament, gray’s for the New Testament. Then a red arc links all the verses that contradict each other.

Steve Wells, the guy who compiled the data, cites 439 — 439! — questions the Bible equivocates on, often in several places. Even something as seemingly incontrovertible as how old Abram was when Ishmael was born has more than one answer (see Genesis 11:26; Genesis 11:32; Genesis 16:16; and Acts 7:2-4). For the full key, download the chart as a PDF.

So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself.

[Via I Love Charts]

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20 Comments

  • Paulman Chan

    Short answer: Something like the Bible is more complicated than just treating it as a legal document. Many genres spanning historical narrative (written in ancient "before Christ" or even 1st century styles), Hebrew poetry, ancient biography style, theological dictates and dogma, and prophecy means that you can't treat it like a modern newspaper or journalistic article. Granted, I think the Christian side of the camp can tend to brush off these inconsistencies too quickly. But there are a lot of different angles to consider (e.g. the standard first things to consider are round numbers versus exact numbers, forefathers mentioned instead of immediate father, differing accounts that mention different details or persons but that aren't mutually exclusive).

    Oh, and something like #2 where Abraham was said to have been justified by works in James and implied to have NOT been justified by works in Romans 4:2 is actually a very profound "contradiction". I don't think it's actually a contradiction, but a very sharp tension that tells us a lot theologically about how Abraham actually was justified (basically, declared guiltless in front of God). The point in Romans is that Abraham didn't earn his way to friendship with God by being a good person (i.e. doing good works), while the point in James - as I read/understand it, anyways - is that Abraham didni't just have "faith" (or talk like he believed in God) while not doing the actions (i.e. work) to back it up. In other words, faith in God and your life's actions should be viewed as extensions of each other's body, so to speak?

    Anyways, #2 is to me not the most difficult thing to resolve. I would think a lot of the other ones in the infographic would stump me more. But all I'm saying is that don't view it too simplistically and be like, "well A obviously doesn't match exactly with B so the whole thing should just be ignored." Exhibit A might be from almost a written sermon in Greek in the 1st century, while Exhibit B might have been written more than a thousand years earlier in Hebrew poetry, or maybe a rough sketch type of historical record.

    OH, but important point: there are some flat out errors in the earliest copies of certain texts that Christian scholars wouldn't dispute. The understanding there is that it's a scribal error (copying error), and because we don't have the originals and we don't have enough copies that contain the original word or number, the earliest copy we have is just wrong on that item.

    And then there's also a more "liberal" Christian scholarly view that would say that you can still believe God directed and inspired the human authors that ultimately made up the Bible without having to believe that it has to mean that everything the authors ever wrote, mentioned, or implied could ever be wrong. For example, if they mentioned something about biology or someone's father or who knows. I'm not too sure how to describe that viewpoint, exactly, but it's basically the view that the Bible doesn't have to be an airtight legal document in every detail for you to believe that God still directed it and sovereignly got His message through.

    So much for the short answer :P

  • LOLMEMBER

    Sam Harris is jewish.  Many jews take an anti-Christian positions to undermine Christianity.  The reason?  The Bible implicates them in the murder of God's only Son.  I think this is the main reason for their positions to abolish God from every facet of human experience, whether it's taking prayer out of school, bibles out of school, the 10 commandments off of government buildings,  stopping businesses from saying Merry Christmas etc. etc. etc.

    Everyone has something to gain from the positions they take, remember that.  He's on a mission to end Christianity in an attempt to wash the blood off of his tribe, when they cried "His blood be upon us, and upon our children." to Pontius Pilate.

    Always consider the source and their motives.

  • denniseburg

    God lied? What an uninformed and ridiculous statement. God never said, "You will die IMMEDIATELY". He was speaking to those who would have never tasted death and so his statement, "you will surely die" meant that they would one day taste death (It literally says in the Hebrew, "You will certainly die die". In Hebrew, anything repeated twice denotes force) and guess what, unless you've got Greatx30 Grandfather Adam playing Xbox in your basement while Grandma Eve is cookin' snicker doodle in the kitchen then you are unequivocally wrong.

    Great posts everyone else! So true!

  • jimmyvalentine

    Don't forget God Lied. In Genesis he clearly states that if Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil THEY WOULD DIE IMMEDIATELY. They ate the fruit and Lived for a long time after. That is a LIE when you tell something to someone and it is not TRUE.

  • Sam Onyechi

    This ridiculous, silly and unneccessary attack on The Bible is what makes Christianity great; any one can do or say what he or she likes to and about Christians and The Holy Bible and smile his way to the Bank knowing that Christians bear the cross calmly like Christ did and also commanded them to. But there should be less irreverent ways of making dirty money without annoying people and offending their sensibilities.

    THE CROSS

    It is not the wood, nor the weight
    Not even the gold of the crucifix
    But a burden of the heart
    The yoke on the conscience
    The loud whisperings of the Spirit
    Preaching calm in the face of provocation
    Singing peace in the face of war
    Whispering joy in the face of sorrow
    Saying …..in all things give praise,
    That all things worketh together for good
    To them that love the Lord

    Oh, what sweet agony
    To bear the cross
    When stabbed straight at heart
    Bleeding from Human agony
    As the Spirit counsels, recalling……………
    Reminding……………..
    That the other cheek is still available

    Published in “Great Poems of the Western World” Anthology USA.

  • Mike Sechler

    This is really quite funny. Here is a little hint that this chart is a biased atheist hit piece verses a real piece of biblical scholarship. They are using the King James Version. Modern Bible scholars use the original Hebrew and Greek or at least a good word for word modern English translation like the New American Standard or the English Standard Version, which are based on a much comprehensive manuscript tradition. As some other posters have pointed out there are also many other problems with the chart, but this one stuck out to me as a blatant evidence of bias.

  • Davidmorse127

     Mike,

    Please take this for what it's worth because I'm in agreement with you as far as this being a joke... I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. But I must tell you that your statement is wrong. The translators of the KJV used Greek and Hebrew manuscripts for their translation. The difference is they based their translation largely on the Textus Receptus which was simply a different text stream. It may not have been the best text, but it was certainly the original languages.

    Sincerely

  • Michael Anderson

    This is extremely lazy scholarship.

    To quote the article: This has managed to make this publication "look downright silly."

    I'll keep my subscription, but wow. Just wow.

  • Ocie

    "Career skeptic Sam Harris commissioned the chart for his nonprofit foundation Project Reason, with graphic design by Madrid-based Andy Marlow."

    It's a curios thing when a "career skeptic" (who makes tons of cash doubting stuff and writing about it) commissions a graphic designer to make a visual graphic to inform the public once and for all of the supposed contradictions of the Bible through "data visualization".

    (here comes the sarcasm) Of course! All we needed was a really cool picure. Debate settled.

    When did data visualization replace intellectual discussion and contextual understanding? Thank you Fast Company for contributing to the ignorance.

    The picture is cool though. I might make it my desktop background.

  • Casey Case

    Seriously, Suzanne?

    First, what does this have to do with Fast Company? I read your "About Us" section. Here is an excerpt -
    -------
    "Fast Company sets the agenda, charting the evolution of business through a unique focus on the most creative individuals sparking change in the marketplace."
    -------
    Where does the Bible come into that? Are you now "setting the agenda" on what faith entrepreneurs should choose as well?

    Second, anyone who has actually read the Bible would see that the majority of these so-called "contradictions" are laughable at best.

    You say, "Whatever your religious views, it’s an incredible testament to the power of data visualization."

    I guess that depends on what you consider "data." Also, it seems that you have chosen to decide what our "views" should be, in this quote (and others) - "The Bible was wrong. For evidence look to, well, the Bible."

    A shameful, misrepresented, non-researched, undeserved, irrelevant attack. That is what this article is. Especially when you add your commentary. Thanks for giving me a good reason to cancel my subscription and use that cash to buy a magazine that is useful and chooses not to randomly and unnecessarily bash faith.

  • Yusaq M'dique

    The difference between the imaginary and the supernatural is the level of delusion within the imaginer's imagination.

  • Tobe Hester

    Wow...so the gentlemen at Fast Company decided to get a know skeptic, Mr. Sam Harris to comment on the trustworthiness of The Bible? Then Mr. Sam Harris decides to COPY (steal) what two Christians brain-iacs put together (http://www.chrisharrison.net/p... in order to prove that the Bible is untrustworthy and contradicts itself? WOW!!!!

    I took #8 and did the research...only Gen 16:16 comments on Abram's age (86)...the other verses speak of where Abram lived and when his father died??? Maybe I'm missing something but Sam appears to be 0-1 already!

    Check this out for more answers to the difficult verses...(from the Resurgence website)

    http://www.amazon.com/Big-Book...

    Not sure but the above Fast Company article appears purposefully misleading and maybe even malicious...

  • JD Longmire

    It was worth signing up to give props to the commenters, thus far! :)

    The Resurgence's response is great!

  • JLSpradlin

    "So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself."

    Makes me think of another quote much more trustworthy than Suzanne's...

    John
    "1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

    Oh, and by the way -- it didn't take long for a response from The Resurgence:

    "Why Fast Company & Sam Harris need to do their homework"
    http://theresurgence.com/2010/...

  • Nathan

    10 years ago I said "I am 15 years old". Today I say "I am 25 years old". I guess that makes me a complete fool because looking solely at those two statements disregarding any context, I have no clue how old I really am. Any intelligent person should know, no matter what you believe, that you can't take things out of context. As Tim says, very UN-reasonable!

  • Richard

    This infographic contains an 'error' (item #7 and #9 in the image above are duplicates). Because of this I declare the entire infographic to be completely untrustworthy and having no authority whatsoever!

    So to anyone who thinks this infographic is the last word on anything...blah, blah, blah. ;)

  • Tim Todd

    It is amazing how "Project Reason" can lack so much reason! For instance the supposed disagreement about money.#286. One place talks about the use of money i.e. having money, the other talks about the love of money i.e. greed.
    Others of these "disagreements" are in different time frames. Oh so UN-reasonable!
    Well it was good for a laugh!