The work that I have been reading a great deal about is that of Christina Hayes, who is absolutly brilliant. Also, the work of Naham Sarna is another of my favorite biblical scholars. They both are finding many examples of symbolism and contridictions.
You say that these things are simply not true, but I have to correct you here. There are examples of multiple sources with different stories in the OT. An example is the story of Noah, which is full of contridictions. The number of animals is different in different places, the number of days is different in different places.
Also, the sins of the father being passed to the son:
ISA 14:21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
DEU 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
Creation. In the Priestly Tradion:
Day 1: Sky, Earth, light
Day 2: Water, both in ocean basins and above the sky(!)
Day 3: Plants
Day 4: Sun, Moon, stars (as calendrical and navigational aids)
Day 5: Sea monsters (whales), fish, birds, land animals, creepy-crawlies (reptiles, insects, etc.)
Day 6: Humans (apparently both sexes at the same time)
Day 7: Nothing (the Gods took the first day off anyone ever did)
In the Yahwest Tradition:
Earth and heavens (misty)
Adam, the first man (on a desolate Earth)
Eve, the first woman (from Adam’s rib)
I am so sorry to say it, but you simply are wrong: there are clear contriditions in the Bible. Now my question: why shoud I gamble my eternity on something that is inspired by a god who allows discrepencies? How do I know if everything that I read is simply doctored to suite the agendas of humans? Is the Book holy, or was it ever holy? I am 16, and I have faced death so many times, I want to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God that I serve is the same God who is the king of the universe. Are you sure? How are you sure.
Wow! I am so impressed!!! A 16 year old who thinks so deeply on such things. My daughter is 18. She is a bit older but you have so much in common. Someone like you must not disregard rational evidence. Your personality is of one who must have evidence. You remind me of the folks from Missouri (their state motto is "Show Me"!). This is to be commended. You misunderstand me if you think that I believe there are not multiple sources. I agree that almost without a doubt the two creation accounts are from different authors. There may well be two authors of Isaiah as well. I do believe that authors such as those you are reading tend to find more of this stuff than is really there. They find any excuse to say there are multiple authors even when a reasonable analysis says this is extremely speculative. They make assumptions such as that the author will use the same writing style and vocabulary in all they write. This assumption is not true. All this is to some extent beside the point. The real question is whether the scriptures are inspired by God. I think you see this quite clearly as the main question, not the question of who God used to write the Bible.
Yes, I certainly must agree that all of us carry biases into our questioning of the data. I certainly am biased. I do not deny that for an instant.
About the sins of the fathers passing to the son, one finds this concept quite often in scripture. Here the scripture is discussing the physical consequences of sin, not the eternal consequences. Ezekiel 18 says that the son does not carry the sin of the father and the father is not responsible for the sin of the sin. This does not contradict Exodus 20:5-6 or Isaiah 14 which describe the punishment for sin falling on the children. Deuteronomy 24 and Isaiah 14 are talking about two different things. One is discussing eternal consequences (look at the context) while the other is discussing immediate consequences. Physical consequences for national sins fall on all, including the (relatively) righteous. This does not contradict free will. It does not contradict the teaching on justice in Ezekiel 18. God is big enough to create a world with free will and a world in which he determines that his people should have a land and that his Son should die on a cross. All this is evidence of God’s plan and his inspiration. You should (in my opinion) not lose the forest for the trees. The evidence for inspiration is overwhelming. Just because a skeptical scholar can produce an example for which you have no answer does not mean that all evidence of inspiration is not irrelevant.
The problem with some of the authors you are reading (and I am assuming somewhat, as I have not read these particular authors) is that their entire point of view is based on an assumption that just so happens to be false. If one assumes that there is no God and that the Bible is an entirely human composition then there are two problems there:
1. They are flat wrong.
2. The biases they are reading into things is bound to go in the wrong direction.
I strongly disagree that the story of the flood is entirely contradictory. I have read these people’s criticisms and found them to be entirely unconvincing. It is quite easy to see how these supposed "contradictions" are not contradictions at all if one simply gives the benefit of the doubt and asks how they might be seen to not contradict. I see no contradition between Genesis 1 and 2. One is an account of the creation of the entire world. The other is an account of the creation of Adam and Eve. Of course they focus on almost entirely different things. Genesis 1 is somewhat chronological (althought not strictly so), whereas the point of Genesis 2 is not chronological but theological. Have you gotten a copy of my book "Is There a God?" It is available at www.ipibooks.com. I address the flood and Creation in some detail there.
Yes, it is entirely possible that there are two different traditions behind the two Genesis creation accounts. Whether one is "priestly" and "Yahwist" is rather speculative. I do not trust these depictions. Nevertheless, the essential point is whether they are in obvious contradiction. I do not believe they are at all. In fact, Genesis 1 is in basic agreement with what we know about science (unlike any other culture’s creation story). This ought not to be ignored.
So, although there may be some brilliant scholarship in the things you are reading, given that their assumptions are wrong, this should give you cause to pause when they claim blatant contradictions.
You are wise to struggle with these questions. My daughter did this for several years. She questioned (and still questions) everything. Finally she came to the conclusion that in the big picture there is no doubt about the basic reality of God and of inspiration for the Bible. She was baptized just three weeks ago.
Have I answered every question? No. Are there remaining unresolved issues? Of course. Am I absolutely sure, beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists, that Jesus was raised from the dead and that in the big picture, the Bible is inspired by God? Absolutely. I have to accept the clear and obvious implication of the overall case.
That is my conclusion, and I am a major skeptic. It took me many years of questioning doubting and even attacking Christianity, but I had no choice in the end but to accept the obvious.
John Oakes, PhD