Whenever you attack someone on the inconsistencies in the Bible, they will often retreat to the realm of possibility. But the point I always make is “Why should we care about possibility?” It’s possible that you are reading a blog post typed by a large, green rodent. It’s possible that you will wake up tomorrow only to discover that you’re on a Vogon ship and you forgot your towel. Shouldn’t we instead be concerned with what is likely – with what is probable? With that in mind, let’s consider the issue of biblical inerrancy and discuss probability.
I’d like to be overwhelmingly generous to those who support inerrancy. I’m going to grant you two things:
1. We will say there are only 40 alleged inconsistencies in the whole Bible*
2. We will grant an extremely high probability to each inconsistency and say that there is a 95% probability that a resolution is correct
The way to determine the collective probability (the probability that all of these inconsistencies are merely apparent and would be resolved if we knew the right context, language, etc.) is to multiply the probabilities together. If, for example, you posited two simultaneous events, one with a probability of 50% and another with a probability of 35%, the probability of both together would be 17.5% (0.5 x 0.35 = 0.175). If there were only two inconsistencies in the Bible, each with a probability of 95%, then your collective probability would be 90.25% (0.95 x 0.95 = 0.9025). Are you following me so far? It’s pretty simple, really.
Now for the big question. What is the collective probability, given (1) and (2) above? It is only 12.85%, and that is with my very generous concessions. Conversely, there is over an 87% chance that the position of inerrancy is incorrect. How can that possibly be defended?
*I’ve never actually counted, but this number wasn’t random. I recently saw a book written by an apologist attempting to counter the 40 most popular alleged inconsistencies. So, I think we can assume there are at least 40.
[EDIT: I provided an updated calculation based on a better estimate of the number of alleged contradictions (457) in the bible in the comments. It doesn’t look good for inerrantists – 0.95^457 = 0.00000000660218389726311%]
- How to use Bayes’ Theorem
- Gospel Truth: Important Contradictions
- Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence