Problems with the Bible
as a Moral Guide

Joseph F. Alward
October 19, 2000
The Bible is often cited as the a guide for moral behavior, but its contradictory teachings have
bewildered man for centuries.  The following are just a few examples.


Thou Shalt Not Murder ?

Thou shalt not murder. (Exodus 20:13, New International Version)

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translates this as, "Thou shalt not kill," but the Bible used more commonly by fundamentalists, especially younger ones, is the New International Version (NIV), which translates this verse as, "Thou shalt not murder." Even if we give the Exodus writer the benefit of the doubt and translate this as "murder," the writers still paint a picture of a god which contradicts itself.

On the one hand, the Exodus writer above tells us God wanted the Hebrews to know that murder is wrong, but on the other hand the writers of Samuel and Ezekiel (see below) tell us that God himself orders the murder of innocent old men, infants and suckling babes. These contradictory passages leave the careful reader wondering about the morality of the god described in the Bible and whether killing--even the avoidable killing of innocents--in the eyes of the Bible-writers--is always wrong.

The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.  (1 Samuel 15:1-3)

And the Lord said unto him, Go through...the midst of Jerusalem, and... smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women... (Ezekiel 9:4-6)


Honor thy Father and Thy Mother ?

Honor thy father and thy mother  (Exodus 20:12)  

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death. (Leviticus 20:9)

Thus, the Exodus writers tells us that the Hebrews were to honor their parents, and the Leviticus writers tells us respect for parents is so important that the penalty for cursing them is death. However, the writers of Matthew have Jesus telling listeners that they will gain everlasting life if they abandon their parents to follow him.  

Then said Jesus unto his disciples….And every one that hath forsaken...father, or mother....for my name's sake...shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 19:23-29)

The authors of Matthew say that Jesus tells his disciples to "Honor your father and mother" (Matt 19:19), but the Luke authors think that Jesus requires his followers to hate their parents: "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother. . .cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14.26)

When a disciple begs for permission to bury his father, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father.", the Matthew authors tell us Jesus told him to let him rot:  "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."  (Matthew 8:21-22)

Thou Fool

If the authors of Matthew and Luke are correct, then taken together their books teach that God is in danger of hell fire for accusing others of stupidity:

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment...but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:18-20)


The Sins of the Fathers

One part of the Bible teaches that sons are not to be held accountable for their fathers having made God angry, but another part makes it clear that God didn't hold to that principle at all:

Sons Are Not to Be Punished

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.  (Ezekiel 18:19-21)

Yet he did not put their sons to death, but acted in accordance with what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins."  (Chronicles 25:3-5)

Sons Are Punished

And God spake all these words, saying... Thou shalt have no other gods before me... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (Exodus 20:1-6).

The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. (Num. 14:18).


What are we to believe?


Eye for an Eye

The Old Testament teaches revenge, but Jesus doesn't believe in it.  If the Old Testament is the
word of God, as fundamentalists believe, how could the son of God go against the Father?  Here is
the evidence:

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
(Deuteronomy 19:20-22 )
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)

Hate Thine Enemy

The Old Testament teaches destruction of one's enemies, but Jesus urges complete submission to

Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them. (Samuel 22:40-42)

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:38-44)