Some atheists love to stump Christians (particularly fundamentalists) with the question, “How did Judas die?” This is a pretty good one, since the Bible contains 2 completely different accounts.
In one version (Matthew 27:5), Judas hangs himself, after throwing away the “blood money” he was paid for betraying Jesus. In another (Acts 1:18), his belly spontaneously splits open and he falls over dead, in the field he bought with the blood money he was paid for betraying Jesus. That would seem to be an airtight contradiction (especially given that one version has him throw away the money, while the other has him spending it), but fundamentalist Christians can be remarkably creative about interpreting a book they claim needs no interpretation.
They’ll claim he threw the money away and later picked it up, or just threw some of it away, and then they’ll claim that he hung himself and then his belly split open after his body rotted. No contradiction at all! Just 2 stories emphasizing different details. Don’t believe me? Try it in a forum and just see what answers you get.
I prefer to ask the simple question, “How many times did Peter deny Jesus before the rooster first crowed?” (I prefer to say “rooster” because I don’t want people thinking I’m just looking for an excuse to say “cock”). The thing is, there are 2 different versions of that story too, and they directly and unequivocally contradict each other. They simply can’t both be true.
In the better-known version (related in Matthew, Luke and John), Jesus says Peter will deny him 3 times before the rooster crows, and that’s what happens — 3 different people come up to Peter asking if he knows that guy they just arrested, and each time Peter says he doesn’t know him — and then the rooster crows.
But in the book of Mark, it’s a different story. Jesus says Peter will deny him 3 times before the rooster crows twice, and then Peter’s very first denial is followed by the rooster crowing, then 2 more denials, then the second crow.
This might seem like a trivial quibble. But remember, fundamentalists don’t merely claim the Bible is highly accurate — they say it’s authored by God His own Self, and contains no errors or inaccuracies. Lots of contradictions can be waved away by dedicated fundamentalists who say that each version tells part of the story, but you just can’t do that with the contradictory accounts of Peter’s denial.
If Jesus said Peter would deny him 3 times before the rooster crowed, and if that actually happened, then any account that has a rooster crowing before Peter’s third denial — in Mark’s case, actually even before the second denial — must simply be false.
And if Mark’s version is true, then the other three versions are false. There’s just no way around it — the Gospels contain at least one story that is, at least in the details, just plain false. If God authored all of the Gospels, then He really should have had a fact-checker or a copy editor or one of the other support staff employed to help fallible authors keep their stories straight.
(Don Addis cartoon via Friendly Atheist)