In his two videos, Deconversion—the Bible (part 1 & part 2), Chris, a young atheist from Kansas, explains how he came to see the Bible as a book written by men and couldn’t be the work of an all knowing God. He admitted that he had never read the Bible from cover to cover, although he had read parts of the Bible while studying it and presumably hearing it read in a church service. Nevertheless, he had never really read the Bible for its own sake, and implied he never even read a single book in the Bible from start to finish until he felt the Holy Spirit tugging on his heart to do so (cir. age 20), and this just before his correspondence with the professor.
Chris’s story about his growing disenchantment with the word of God reminds me of the experience of a young Bart Ehrman. He tells us of a similar experience he had gone through concerning Abiathar, the high priest, in Mark 2. Ehrman’s epiphany that the Bible is full of errors came when he understood from Mark 2:26 that Abiathar was not the high priest when David came to him for food (cf. 1Samuel 21:1-6). It is just a simple statement, and it would never be questioned, unless one began comparing verses. Once one begins to compare verses with one another for authenticity’s sake, one needs to remember that an explanation is nearly always more complicated than a simple reading of the text, and this seems to be what both Chris and Bart Ehrman had forgotten.
In Bart’s case the answer could come from a number of explanations. First of all, the names Abiathar and Ahimelech (his father) may have been used interchangeably for although Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech (1Samuel 22:20; 23:6; 30:7) he was also his father (2Samuel 8:17; 1Chronicles 18:16). A second explanation might be Ahimelech was old and although he was the high priest (senior, but retired), Abiathar was the officiating high priest as so often is the case in the New Testament (cf. Luke 3:2). Finally, an explanation can be found in that Abiathar was the most famous of the two, and as Ahimelech’s son he was living, so what was done was done in his days. So, there is no contradiction.
For Chris his enlightenment came when he read the two differing accounts of Judas’ death in Acts 1:18 and in Matthew 27:5. In Acts Judas’ fell headlong and his bowels gushed out, but in Matthew he simply went out and hanged himself. For Chris this seemed to be an insurmountable contradiction and he says:
“My tongue caught in the back of my throat…Adrenalin rushed through my body, and my heart pounded. It felt as if the very fabric of reality itself was tearing apart. It felt like the paint on the walls surrounding me would tear open and reveal an empty darkness. Everything I had believed lay vulnerable on an alter waiting to be pierced, waiting to be sacrificed to this horrifying moment of realization.”
While he accepted an apologetic explanation he found on the internet that claimed Judas’ body fell from the rope and his partially decomposed body broke open upon hitting the ground, his outlook on the Bible was never quite the same afterward. Nevertheless, it must be noted here that all of Chris’ decisions concerning the Bible came not by studying the Bible for answers to his questions, but through failing to prove its authenticity through the works of other men (usually scientists) and by believing what other men claimed concerning how the Bible was written, viz. the liberal Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP). Chris claimed that the explanations he found “…didn’t explain the feelings I had from the Holy Spirit.” I have to wonder about his conclusion “…from the Holy Spirit?” How would Chris know his feelings came from the Holy Spirit? He never explains, but he uses this and other similar methods of guidance to show he was doing what he was supposed to do in the way he was supposed to do it. Yet, he came away not trusting the word of God. How could the Holy Spirit have done that?
My own explanation for the apparent contradiction in Judas’ death accounts can be found HERE, but suffice to say that I believe “his bowels gushed out” is a Hebrew idiom for his despair. The Hebrew language is very vivid and physical, and it would be unwise to translate it literally in all cases. For example, “my liver is poured out” and “my bones melted” is not to be taken literally, but as metaphorical expressions to show fear and distress. It would be unwise to compare verses and discovering an apparent contradiction and simply believe we can know what is going on by judging from a modern perspective without reading it through the eyes of an ancient Jew. The Bible is a Jewish book after all, and not a gentile one.