Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and Daniel

Those that know me well know that I spend just as much time studying the “opposition” as I do studying my own views. So much so that I can probably argue against my positions just as easily as I argue for them. I also seek out the best opponents I can find, not just the famous or infamous. For instance, if I were an atheist I would not just read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, come up with a few simple arguments against it, and be able to sleep at night. Lewis’ work is good enough on the surface, but as my friends and family can attest, I’ve been quite outspoken about how bad it actually is for several years now. I do this not because I hate C.S. Lewis. I do this because maintaining intellectual integrity is of supreme importance if we are going to genuinely search for truth.  That is why I am regularly astounded by the blatant lies and misrepresentations found in “skeptical” works on the bible. For instance, I have started to read the often cited (on the internet anyway) “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible” which is available online for free (link). I decided to check a couple of the more potent parts of the bible to see what they could possibly say about those sections of scripture.

I started with Daniel chapter 9. Anyone who knows the bible will know why I picked this book and this chapter. It predicts the Messiah’s first coming and His death to the very day and was written hundreds of years before the events. It’s a pretty shocking display of God’s power and authority over time, and it is also an undeniable proof of the authenticity of scripture and Jesus being the Son of God. So what did these skeptics say about Daniel 9? They quote almost the entire section between v. 21-27, file it under the “absurd” category and call it “compete gibberish” from Gabriel. Well gee, I’m convinced!

So I decided to check a few other things to see if I could find some “good stuff” that stumped me and forced me to do some research. In the Gospels I came across the usual attacks on the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, the same tired arguments that totally ignore the differences in the types of genealogies that are being presented and to whom and for what purpose. As well as other such arguments not meant to convince anyone who actually knows the bible, but to make those that don’t know it and don’t believe in it feel warm and fuzzy. So I went back to Daniel and started with chapter 1 verse 1. There’s a lot of history in Daniel and I wanted to see what, if anything, they could pick apart.

1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, 
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

Their issue with verse 1?

“The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim would be 606 BCE, at which time Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon. It was 597 BCE that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem for the first time (without actually destroying it). By that time Jehohiakim was dead and his son, Jehoiachin, was ruling.”

That seems like a pretty good one. The problem with it is that it’s a bold-faced lie. The first issue is with the 606 b.c. date. The first year of Jehohiakim’s reign was 607 b.c. according to the accession-year system (which was the system used in Babylon and would no doubt be the system Daniel used since he was living in Babylon and trained in Babylonian schools) making 605 b.c. during the third year of his reign not 606 as they claim.

That still does not get us to 597 b.c. though. But what did happen in 605 b.c.  was Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of all of the king of Egypt’s territories in Syria and Palestine. Although, other than Daniel 1:1, we don’t have a direct reference to Nebuchadnezzar attacking Jerusalem in 605 b.c. we do know that at the time he was in fact in Palestine with an army conquering, and that Jerusalem did belong to the king of Egypt at the time because its king (Jehohiakim) had been put in place by the king of Egypt. So it’s pretty safe to assume from the historical record and the biblical account that Nebuchadnezzar did besiege several cities in Palestine (including Jerusalem) even though they are not directly mentioned. Can you blame the Babylonians for not writing down “oh and we conquered Jerusalem too!” and just simply recording the fact that they took the whole land?  For instance, when we talk about Hitler’s invasion of Poland we don’t mention every town and city he went through, because there’s no point it’s just assumed he was there by proxy of his army.

Oh and by the way, Nebuchadnezzar did invade Jerusalem in 597 b.c and Jehohiakim was dead at the time. His son Jehoiachin was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old at the time. So hey, they got that part sort of right. Good for them.

So what the people that have put together the “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible” have ended up doing is proving themselves to be, at best, embarrassingly ignorant. As I continued to examine other passages from this mess of a website it became pretty clear that this was not the best material for trying to critique the bible. In fact, it was more of the same old garbage that I read again and again. My search for decent skeptical material on the bible continues and to no avail. The pure hatred for God and the bible from Atheists is astounding. They attack it and mock it relentlessly and in increasingly creative ways, and yet none of them can offer an actual argument against it. So keep it up atheists, because the only thing you’re succeeding in doing is creating that awkward moment when your attacks don’t destroy your opponent but instead fortify their position.


Archer, Gleason. "Daniel" The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985
Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974.
Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1978.
The Babylonian Chronicles at the British Museum
2 Chronicles and 2 Kings in the bible

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