Listed by Guinness as the best-selling non-fiction book of all time with over 5 billion copies sold, the Bible has undeniably influenced human history. While the interpretation of its contents varies across faiths, the world’s approximately 2.92 billion Christians generally agree on the Bible’s central message of God’s undying love and consider the collection of texts as an important moral guide. In fact, most Christians uphold the inerrancy of Scripture, meaning that the Bible “must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted to put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.” But are all the teachings of the Bible truly unquestionable?
Before diving into the pool of the Bible’s questionable passages, however, it must be noted that Scripture is undeniably riddled with inconsistencies in its teachings. Many of these contradictions are between the Old and the New Testament, with the second half of the Christian biblical canon often being more in line with modern mainstream values. Not always, though. Several teachings contained in the New Testament would cause even today’s most devout Christians to cringe.
Here are ten Bible teachings that raise serious doubts on Scripture’s inerrancy:
10. Women should be subservient to men and are often unclean.
While there are a few Bible passages that are supportive of male and female equality, such as this one,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
many more Bible passages run counter to the principles of gender equality. These two passages, in particular, are often quoted as justifications for having only male priests:
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:11-13)
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
There is also a passage that discusses the impurity of woman during her menstrual discharge:
When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:19-20)
And in fact, even giving birth to a female child is said to make a woman unclean:
If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. (Leviticus 12:5)
9. Marriage and monetary compensation absolve sexual abuse.
In Deuteronomy, it is declared that a man who forces himself upon a married woman should be punished by death. However, a man who does so to an unmarried woman deserves no punishment. Instead, the rapist must marry the victim and pay the victim’s father the brideprice (fifty shekels).
If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
8. Slaves should submit to their masters.
Considering that God loves the downtrodden the most, one would expect that slavery would be unacceptable to Him. But on the contrary, several Bible verses make slavery seem okay:
As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you…. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another. (Leviticus 25:44-46)
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. (1 Peter 2:18)
And how about the following passage on beating a slave?
If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property. (Exodus 21:20-21)
7. Extreme violence is justified against various “sinners.”
The Bible enumerates various “violations” — some of them dumbfounding — when extremely cruel punishments can be imposed:
Working on the Sabbath
For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2)
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
A Woman Defending Her Husband… in a Strange Manner
If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
The Women and Children of One’s Enemies
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)
The Infants of One’s Enemies
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock. (Psalm 137:9)
Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2:23-25)
6. Animal cruelty can be justified.
As if violence against women and children weren’t terrible enough, the Bible also portrays God as ordering the execution of the animals of enemies, even animals victimized by bestiality.
Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. (1 Samuel 15:3)
If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal. (Leviticus 20:15)
5. Irrationally losing one’s temper is acceptable.
This one proves that it’s not only the Old Testament that contains strange teachings. In fact, it was Jesus himself who carried out the strange act… against a fruitless tree, no less.
Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)
4. The handicapped and the deformed should be treated as outcasts.
On numerous occasions, Jesus showed kindness towards all sorts of outcasts, including the handicapped. However, in Leviticus, God told Aaron that the handicapped and the deformed should not come to His altar in praise.
For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. No man among the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a defect is to come near to offer the Lord’s offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the food of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, so that he will not profane My sanctuaries. (Leviticus 21:17-23)
3. Illegitimate children carry the sins of their parents.
The Bible considers bearing children outside the context of marriage unacceptable, which is in line with today’s mainstream values. However, the Bible goes as far as to attach the sins of such parents to their children, even to the descendants of such children.
No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 23:2)
2. Random rules can be established for no good reason.
The Bible contains several teachings, which though not considered morally reprehensible today, are nevertheless downright strange. Of course, the context behind the establishment of these rules during their times must be considered. But really, what good reason could have been behind these gems?
You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. (Leviticus 19:19)
You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. (Leviticus 19:27)
These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you. (Leviticus 11:9-10)
Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19)
1. God intends to bring family members against each other.
In Chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus selects his twelve disciples and warns them that all sorts of conflict, including within their families, will arise as a result of the work that they will do. Given the revolutionary nature of many of Jesus’s teachings during their time, the expectation of conflict is fully understandable. However, in several verses of Chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus appears to intentionally desire familial conflict.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. (Matthew 10:34-36)