Q&A: Is Richard Dawkins right?

Is Richard Dawkins right?

Question

Is Dawkins right when he says that Jesus, according to the Gospel of John, was not born in Bethlehem? See John 7:41-42.

Answer

In his book, "The God Delusion" (2006, New York: Houghton Mifflin) Richard Dawkins writes that, "the gospels are ancient fiction" (p. 97). He compares the Gospels to the fictional stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Dawkins wonders why any intelligent being could believe the Gospels (p. 94).

Dawkins gives several examples of what he considers a contradiction. In his first example, Dawkins addresses your question and supposes that the Gospel writers give contradictory accounts of Jesus' place of birth. He writes:

A good example of the colouring by religious agendas is the whole heart-warming legend of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. . . . John's gospel specifically remarks that his followers were surprised that he was not born in Bethlehem. . . . Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently, by deciding that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem after all (p. 93).

Dawkins' proof text is John 7:41-42. The text reads:

Others were saying, "This is the Christ." Still others were saying, "Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" (NASB).

Note, that John was not saying that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, some others in the crowd were saying it (Still others were saying). John is simply acting as a reporter of what others were saying! Just because we quote or report what someone else is saying doesn't necessarily mean that we agree with them. I quoted what Dawkins wrote above, but obviously I don't agree with him.

Jesus grew up in Galilee (Matt 2:22-23; Mark 1:24; 10:47; Luke 2:39-40; 4:16; John 1:45-46). While some may have been purposely been trying to spread unbelief (the fulfillment of prophecy was rather clear to many - Micah 5:2; Matt 2:4-6; John 7:41-43), others in the crowd possibly assumed that because Jesus was raised in Galilee that he was also born there. However, just because a person grows up in one place doesn't necessarily mean they were born there! Jesus grew up in Galilee, but was born in Bethlehem (Matt 2:1; Luke 2:4). This kind of thing happens all the time, even today. I personally grew up in England, Taiwan, Nevada, Washington State, Georgia, and Florida, but I was born in the great state of Texas. I was born in one city, but raised in several others.

For the record, the remainder of Dawkins' alleged "biblical contradictions" are as much in error as this one.

Related Topics:

Bible Rife with Contradiction

Contradictions in the Bible

Errors in the Bible

God's Flawless Word

More Inaccuracies and Mosaic Authorship

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).