I friend pointed me to this article by Bart Ehrman – Who Wrote the Bible and Why It Matters. It didn’t start off so well:

Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors — a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place.

Unfortunately those “rabid fundamentalists” are more common that Ehrman suggests. One third of Americans believe the Bible is literally true.

But is it possible that the problem is worse than that — that the Bible actually contains lies?

Uh, duh? Okay, that’s the atheist in me talking – I understand he’s using this lead in for journalistic reasons. The middle part of his article is pretty good, explaining how certain parts of the Bible that are claimed to be written by certain people are actually forgeries. But I found one of his specific examples intriguing:

This may all seem like a bit of antiquarian curiosity, especially for people whose lives don’t depend on the Bible or even people of faith for whom biblical matters are a peripheral interest at best. But in fact, it matters sometimes. Whoever wrote the book of 1 Timothy claimed to be Paul. But he was lying about that — he was someone else living after Paul had died. In his book, the author of 1 Timothy used Paul’s name and authority to address a problem that he saw in the church. Women were speaking out, exercising authority and teaching men. That had to stop. The author told women to be silent and submissive, and reminded his readers about what happened the first time a woman was allowed to exercise authority over a man, in that little incident in the garden of Eden. No, the author argued, if women wanted to be saved, they were to have babies (1 Tim. 2:11-15).

Largely on the basis of this passage, the apostle Paul has been branded, by more liberation minded people of recent generations, as one of history’s great misogynists. The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing. And why does it matter? Because the passage is still used by church leaders today to oppress and silence women. Why are there no women priests in the Catholic Church? Why are women not allowed to preach in conservative evangelical churches? Why are there churches today that do not allow women even to speak? In no small measure it is because Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant. Except that the person who taught this was not Paul, but someone lying about his identity so that his readers would think he was Paul.

So…if Paul really had said these things about women, they would be fine? I understand that Ehrman is using the Bible to try to argue that churches need to stop doing these things, but my point is it doesn’t matter who wrote it or where. If Jesus himself had said those quotes, they would still be unethical.

But maybe that’s just my point of view as an atheist. Whether it’s written by a particular dude or some random other dude, God still doesn’t exist and Jesus still wasn’t resurrected.

But what about the devout believers – the ones who actually base their lives off of these passages? Will this type of argument be enough to change their minds? Maybe that of some individuals, but I doubt it will affect the major institutions. Fundamentalists think the Bible is the literal word of God – it’s contrary to everything they believe to accept that whole passages could be lies. To them, the Bible can’t be wrong.

43% of Americans are young earth creationists. They’re prepared to ignore all scientists in order to keep the Bible infallible – you think they’re suddenly going to change their mind because of a couple of historians?

Maybe I’m being cynical, but I not adopting this as my new tactic to promote equality of the sexes.

EDIT: Case in point. Saw this link from the SSA immediately after writing this post. Campus Crusade for Christ already has a whole website devoted to refuting him. At least he’s freaking the Christians out – that’s always a good start.