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List of literally false statements in the Bible

-13 Post author: Academian 20 May 2011 08:10AM

Jehova's Witnesses aim to interpret the Bible literally, which is in some sense admirable because that is the only way it can serve much to constrain one's anticipations about reality.  By contrast, if one aims to interpret a religious text only "metaphorically", then there are so many possible meanings that it does essentially nothing to constrain one's anticipations.

For example, when one accepts the best scientific knowledge about the origin of Earth, one believes that it was not in fact created in 6 days, and that the literal meaning of the English Bible is false in this case.  Christians who accept the true age of Earth are not usually bothered by this, and resort to a "metaphorical" interpretation wherein "days" are metaphors for longer periods.

But if you only believe that each statement in the Bible has some metaphorical interpretation which is true, it doesn't tell you much about the world at all.  The Bible asserts that God exists... but since we're only taking things metaphorically now, maybe God doesn't actually literally exist.  Maybe He's pretend.  Maybe there in fact is no God, but there is a rainforest, and God is a metaphor for the rainforest.  Or for the sun.  Who knows.  Since there is no way to tell which metaphor is the right one, believing that the Bible is "metaphorically true" basically tells you nothing.

Jehova's Witnesses seem to understand this, so they're not going there.  They're sticking to the literal Word of the Lord.  Which makes me interested:

What verses of the Bible can we cite that are false in their literal interpretation, according to accepted scientific or well-founded historical knowledge?

Thanks to anyone who contributes!

Comments (8)

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 May 2011 12:03:34PM 15 points [-]

The only people who would care are people who take the Bible literally. I doubt if we have any of those here on LessWrong.

What next, a decisive refutation of astrology?

Comment author: Will_Newsome 20 May 2011 12:41:09PM 5 points [-]

Agree. Comparative advantage, opportunity cost, every other word I learned in AP Microeconomics...

Comment author: ewang 21 May 2011 10:16:50PM 0 points [-]

We need a list of failed predictions, then.

Comment author: FAWS 20 May 2011 12:09:56PM *  11 points [-]

Post this on richarddawkins.net or something. We are neither especially qualified for nor interested in making such a list. It's not the sort of thing LW is optimised for.

Comment author: XiXiDu 20 May 2011 09:21:37AM *  5 points [-]

Jehova's Witnesses aim to interpret the Bible literally...

I have been born into a family of Jehovah's Witnesses and can assure you that this is false. They cherry-pick what is to be interpreted literally and what not. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe into hell.

ETA:

It would be less wrong to say that they actually use verses whose literal interpretation would condradict each other and cherry-pick which one of those verses has authority over the other.

ETA #2:

I suppose you could say that Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to derive the coherent extrapolated volition of God by weighing all of the contradictions in the Bible against each other.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 20 May 2011 09:56:47PM 3 points [-]

You might want to check out The Skeptic's Annotated Bible.

Comment author: mutterc 20 May 2011 07:06:12PM 1 point [-]

I like Ebon Musings: Foundations of Sand for this application; it lists many verses that nontrivially contradict one another.

Comment author: XiXiDu 20 May 2011 09:14:27AM 1 point [-]