In addition to internal contradictions, a host of problems present themselves when the biblical texts are related to historical and scientific research.
At left: The Tower of Babel
The biblical view of the “universe” is that the earth is a flat expanse, held up by pillars, with a hard bowl (“the firmament”) over the top that constitutes the sky and holds the waters above away from the earth below. The stars are lights that have been placed in that firmament. The sun passes across the expanse, around the earth. This, of course, is NOT the view of modern physics and astronomy. (The spacecraft we have sent up over the last forty years did NOT crash into the firmament.)
The Age of the Earth
James Usher, an Irish bishop in the seventeenth century, using biblical time references in the times of the kings of Judah and Israel as a starting place, and working backwards using the genealogical age references of the biblical figures, came to the conclusion that the earth was created in 4004 B.C.E. This makes the age of the earth 5994 years today. This disagrees with geological datings, radioactive datings, and carbon datings established by modern methods. Currently, physicists date the age of the universe at 15 billion years, the age of modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens) at around 30,000 years, and even the development of cities at around 11,000 years ago.
Without question, the Exodus (Exodus 1-15) is the constitutive moment in the history of the people of Israel. Yet no reference is made in Egyptian records of such a cataclysmic event.
The Years in the Wilderness
One million Hebrews who came out of Egypt were told that, because of their complainings, they would not enter the Promised Land of Canaan, but die instead in the wilderness. For forty years they wandered the wilderness, until at last the original slaves had all died and their children and grandchildren were taken across the Jordan. To date, no substantial human remains have been found in the area they wandered, and no other evidence of such a large wandering people has been unearthed.
Joshua’s Entrance into Canaan
Thirty-one times the Hebrews were commanded to slaughter whole villages–men, women, children, and animals–all the people of the land which the Hebrews had been promised. However, no archaeological evidence from the era around 1200 B.C.E. has been found to substantiate such a large-scale bloodbath. According to archaeological dating, the most well-known of the cities mentioned in this undertaking, Jericho, was not even standing at the time. It had been abandoned centuries before, and was rebuilt centuries after.
In Genesis 7:11-8:5 the waters of the deep were unleashed on the earth and the highest mountains were covered. Even should a massive global warming occur (for which there is no evidence in the time around 1900 B.C.E.) there is some question as to whether it could generate this much water.
In Joshua 6, Jericho is destroyed. But the entrance into Canaan took place around 1200 B.C.E. Archaeological evidence indicates that at that point Jericho had been a pile of rubble for over 200 years. It was not rebuilt until the early 800s B.C.E.
In Joshua 10:12-13, Joshua commands sun and moon to stand still while the Hebrews slaughter the people of Jerusalem and Hebron. Not only does this argue that the sun and moon revolve around the earth, it presents another problem: if the earth’s orbit around the sun stopped, the centrifugal force needed to keep it in orbit would also stop, and the earth would be pulled off-course directly toward the sun–we’d be destroyed.
In 2 Kings 2:11-12, Elijah is taken by a whirlwind upward into heaven. We know that the atmosphere extends only a certain distance above the earth. Elijah would have died either from the cold as he reached the highest levels, or of a lack of oxygen.
The New Testament
In Matthew 2:16-18, King Herod orders the death of all male children two years old and younger. Herod was indeed a tyrant, but nothing outside of Matthew hints at such a massacre of children.
Luke 2:1 tells of a decree from Caesar Augustus that everyone should return to ancestral homelands for a census. No such Roman decree (or anything like it) is ever mentioned outside of Luke.
The trial of Jesus is said to have taken place at night on the first night of Passover before the Sanhedrin. The members of the Sanhedrin were the leading rabbinic figures of the time. It is nearly incredible that they would violate their own rabbinic Law to meet in trial at night or on the Passover, let alone both. There is no corroboration of this apart from the gospel stories.
Finally, much work has been done on memory. The findings of the studies raise overwhelming doubt that a variety of individuals, forty years after the events, would remember those events with 100% accuracy. Yet this is the process often claimed for the New Testament Gospels.
Paul wrote fairly soon after the events, (around 50 C.E. and after)–but he never mentions the birth to a virgin, the sermon on the mount, the walking on water, Jesus’ healings, parables, trial, or Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s obstruction, or any other historical detail. Were these things being circulated, and if so, why didn’t Paul mention them, especially when Jesus’ own words or actions would have “proven” Paul’s case beyond a doubt for the Christians he was writing to? Or are they not memorie