One of the worst Christian arguments I have ever had the displeasure to argue against

Recently, I posted a piece on biblical contradictions and how Christians harness cognitive dissonance to help them find desperate ways in which to defend ideas of inerrancy. I looked to show that they use a circular approach without realising it:

1) The Bible never makes contradictions
2) All alleged contradictions can be harmonised
3) Since the Bible never makes contradictions, all harmonisations are inherently more probable than the idea that there are contradictions
4) All harmonisations stand
C) Therefore, there are no contradictions in the Bible.

The example of contradiction I gave in the original post was this:

Mark 5:1-2
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

Matt 8:28
When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

Luke 8:26-7
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons;

Now for this post i am not interested in the contradiction of place, which seems fairly cut and dry as explained in the previous post. I would like to concentrate on the number problem:

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs.

He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons;

So let us move on to this rather obtuse defence (and that is being generous). It comes in the form of a blog post from Marcus McElhaney who was, as far as I can make out, once banned from this site. Since then, he has taken it upon himself to devote most of his blogging to attempting to debunk DC, so to speak. Except he monumentally fails. And he does so with aplomb here. As ever, he continually illustrates Danth's Law, defined here:
States: “If you have to insist that you've won an internet argument, you've probably lost badly.” Named after a user on the role-playing gamers’ forum Danth’s Law was most famously declared in “The Lenski Affair”, between microbiologist Richard Lenski and the editor of, Andrew Schlafly, who cast doubt upon Prof Lenski’s elegant experimental demonstration of evolution. After what is widely held to be one of the greatest and most comprehensive put-downs in scientific argument from Prof Lenski, Mr Schlafly declared himself the winner.

The exchanges we have are heavy on the rhetoric due to the long and annoying history we have of arguing stuff. Marcus plays a numbers game, as follows, to circumvent the problem that one Gospel claims there was one demoniac whilst the other claims there were two:
As for the number of men Jesus met and healed. Mark and Luke definitely says that there was one one guy while Matthew says there were two. The thing is how is this a contradiction? A contradiction would be if Mark and Luke had said that there was only one man. They don't. Each of the Gospel contains details that are not in the others. But none of those details contradicts the details in the others. If I tell you that Jack and Jill went to the mall and bought a DVD, but I tell another person that Jill went to Walmart and bought a DVD, did I contradict myself? Nope. I just didn't give the same detail. A contradiction would be if the mall did not have a Walmart. You don't have such a thing in this case.

To which I replied, somewhat rhetorically:
This is the funniest defence I have seen. This was the JP Holding defence I warned you not to use. This is ridiculous because no two claimed numbers that are different can ever be a contradiction because one number is always smaller than the other, and is thus claimed to be a subset of another.

If I said i played football against a team of 10 men the other day (when there should be eleven), you would claim, "that's OK, you obviously meant 11 men since 11 men includes 10 men. Just because you said 10 doesn't mean there weren't 11!"

Ridiculous, silly. You would only see this from someone who can't bear for the accounts to differ. This is so ad hoc and improbable as to literally be laughed at. I laughed at this.

So, as mentioned, you reasons are incredibly improbable and would require redefining language into being used in ways it is not...

Your Jack and Jill analogy is simply a false analogy. it is not numerical.

If I say yesterday in a news report "1 person was shot at a bank robbery" that does not leave the possibility that I could mean "2 people were shot yesterday in a bank robbery".

I would simply be wrong in my first claim.

To which Marcus opined:
I would have said the football team must be 11. You don't know how many men Jesus met unlike you know how many people there should be on a football team. You have to go on what the text says. Again they don't conflict because neither tells you there was only one man. Just because Mark and Luke does not tell us about both of them does not mean they didn't know about him.

I chipped in:
Wow. I can't believe you really believe your own shit. You were unable to rebut my football analogy. In order for you to claim you understanding you would have to qualify. This is absolutely empirically true. If you claim what you do in all seriousness (I honestly don't think you really believe that) you would have to, and I now expect you to, when told any number in any context, ask the commentator to qualify themselves.

Jim: Hey Marcus, I just ate 2 donuts.
Marcus: That's great Jim, but i was having this argument about inerrancy and now I have to ask you whether by 2, you mean 3...or 4... or 5... or 5001...

Jane: Hey Marcus. I just stayed in Vancouver for 6 nights.
Marcus: That's lovely. but by 6 nights, did you actually mean 7... 8... 9... 2546...

Marcus' mum: Marcus, can you go and buy me 2 chairs?
Marcus: Sure.... Here you are.
Mum: Why have you bought me 56 chairs?
Marcus: Well, 56 includes 2 right? So I am technically not wrong.
Mum: Marcus, did I teach you to be such an idiot?

Etc Etc
Marcus is claiming that whenever someone is in a pickle (in danger of contradiction) and they make a numeric claim, then that number can be interpreted as being of any value higher than the actual number quoted. The problem with this is as follows:

1) With the language used, there is no precedent for this happening in normal conversations.
2) There is no reason to believe, and no evidence to believe, that this would be the case in this instance, unless one was desperate enough to want it to be true.
3) This would make no sense, would invalidate, any conversation involving number that people have had and do have.
4) No two numbers can contradict unless, as Marcus claims, the word "only" is utilised.

I am not arguing against numerical contradiction. I am arguing that Matthew chose to include then number of the demon possessed men Jesus healed on this occasion and Mark and Luke only talks about one of them, I don't know why but this not the only occasion that the gospels differ in details. Different details do not equal a contradiction. I know people like you will disagree but this makes sense. Of the three, which one would be most likely be an eyewitness of the event? Matthew. Notice he was one of the twelve and most likely would have been present and seen the two men with his own eyes. Mark and Luke were not eyewitness to the event and they only spotlighted...

Different details do not make a contradiction if those details do not contradidict. Omitting one man form the account is not a coNtadiction because neither Mark or Luke says that there was only one man there. Don 't like it? Too bad.

Prove that the apostle named Matthew is not the author of the Gospel that bears his name. I dare you.

I am not saying Mark or Luke got anything wrong. You are and nothing to show for it.

Notice a slight move away towards now defending it in the context of Matthean priority. What Marcus is pleading is that one of the Gospel writers had no need to mention two demoniacs since it must be that only one of them was doing interesting enough stuff to warrant being mentioned. However, given that the other Gospel writer mentioned him, it looks like both warranted mention.
I STILL can't believe you believe that stuff. I think you are merely paying lip service to your own cognitive dissonance.

Your numerical defence is so shoddy it makes me laugh.

If , in a court of law, I claimed I was assaulted by 3 men, and then the defence claimed, or a witness claimed, there were two men who assaulted me, this would be a contradiction that called into question at least one of the accounts. They would NOT SAY "well, three includes the number 2!"

When skeptics deny AGW (sadly misrepresenting science), they use different numbers than the climate scientists. This is to contradict the scientists. You DON'T hear people claiming "well the larger number includes the smaller number!"

I could go on with these analogies which you have failed to defend.

THEY ARE NOT DIFFERENT DETAILS such that one claimed he was wearing sandals and another witness claimed he had blonde hair such that the two pieces of information could be pieced together. There are two claims of the same subject - the numerical value of the demoniacs. If you don't get this, and keep making your rather embarrassing defences, then there is no hope for you... you need to give me concrete examples where people writing history say one thing but mean another, numerically speaking. Tell me where a quote when someone says "the army was 10,000 strong" actually meant something like "the army was 150,000 strong" because 10,000 is a subset of 150,000! You are utterly bastardising the English language. I have illustrated this with many analogies which you have simply ignored.

You are using understanding of the language that is not only not used, but highly improbable, and you don't even have the gall to admit it.

Marcus again:
Neither would a court of law conclude that no assault happened or that either witness is a liar. This is the kind of thing you would expect from eyewitness testimony. Of the three accounts Matthew gives less information about the even than the others - Mark and Luke. The only detail given in Matthew that isn't in Mark or Luke was that there was a second man who was healed. The man who is detailed in Mark and Luke is quite busy in the story and maybe he was only mentioned because he wanted to go with Jesus and the other man didn't ask to go with Jesus. Here is an important point that might help you

"In any case, no contradiction exists. A contradiction occurs only if one statement makes the other impossible and there is absolutely no way for them to be reconciled. For example, let's say we put two apples on a table. Statement 1: There are two apples on the table. Statement 2: There is only one apple on the table. These two statements contradict each other. Now read these two statements: Statement 1: There are two apples on the table. Statement 2: There is an apple on the table. These two statements do not contradict each other. In the same way, the biblical accounts do not represent a contradiction. All three accounts describe demon possession and the power that Jesus has over the spirit world. All three tell us that He made a point to cross the sea to save someone from the demons. All three affirm that there was at least one man who was plagued by demons. The fact that the three accounts differ in some minor details only proves that they were written by three different authors, each of whom chose to focus on a different aspect of the account."

And me again:
Look how you change the frame of the conversation here. I am NOT denying the event happened. I am claiming that one account contradicts the other. In the court case, this would be hugely important, because in one case (3) we have one more person than the other case (2) such that if we believed the 2, and 3 was true, there would be a guilty person walking free. If we believed the 3, and 2 was true, then we would have incarcerated an innocent person.

The point about the biblical accounts is to get someone like you to admit that some of the details might be wrong. They may or may not be important details (this one isn't). But if one can show that unimportant details could be wrong, how can we be sure that important ones are correct?

You are literally defining an ad hoc hypothesis ( and you don't seem to understand this.

The problem is, and your next point clearly proves this, is that you depend on the fallacy of equivocation in order to sustain your argument. Your are conflating "immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him" with meaning "at least one". If he meant that, he would have said that. I have shown rather conclusively that by utilising that logic, you would not be able to have sensible conversations normally. I have clearly shown above where equivocation gets you.

You elucidate a pragmatic contradiction similar to a zen koan.

Taken with a traditional and sensible understanding of the words used, it is contradictory. Your attempts to get yourself out of this position is fairly amusing, but it doesn't cut the mustard.

Do you ever, in you everyday life, use this understanding of language? Because you could never have a sensible conversation involving numbers, and you certainly couldn't do maths.

But if it makes you happy that to think this allows you to still hold that Mark 5 and Matthew8 don't contradict each other, then go for it. You are only deluding yourself.

Marcus then starts to get even more ridiculous, claiming that early Christians would have had a different understanding of number. Of course, he does this whilst providing no supporting evidence:
As for how this plays out in how we talk to one another today. We don't. But for centuries, this was not a problem. Because in that culture it would not have been looked at the way we see it today. The bottom line neither Matthew, Luke, or Mark tells us anything about the event that makes either account false...

You haven't shown that either Matthew, Mark, or Luke are wrong. All you have managed to prove is that they tell the story with different details. The details do not conflict, but taken together you get a complete picture about what happened. What part of Matthew saying that there were two men, make anything that Mark or Luke said impossible to have happened? Nothing. Ont top of that for there to be something wrong in either account you would have to show that Mark and Luke did not know about the second man. You can't. Sorry, but going against the Word of God invites failure.

Notice the complete lack of any supporting evidence for his claims. And finally, for this post, though it goes on, me again:
"As for how this plays out in how we talk to one another today. We don't. But for centuries, this was not a problem. Because in that culture it would not have been looked at the way we see it today. "

What a load of ad hoc BS. Please provide evidence of this. By the way, I ran a little experiment the other day. I heard, in conversation, numbers used about 47 times throughout the day. Of them, not a single conversation would have made sense with your understanding of the language.

Not 1.


I have never before seen such flagrant flailing. It's dishonest, to be honest.

I actually used this thread in teaching someone about logical fallacies. I copied and pasted the replies. He sent me back emails saying how much he laughed at your answers. That they define ad hoc.

Dude, you are so far out on this, it's not funny. You have 0% evidence that people use language like this and then try to assert they do.

Maths depends on numbers having different and discrete numerical value.

Language depends on it.

You don't realise that in order to claim that a number is a subset of another number, you HAVE to talk about the set to begin with.

15 hooligans were hanging around the football ground. One of the hooligans...


a hooligan...

walked up to the policeman.

The second option is still stretching it. YOU CANNOT without any context at all simply say:

A hooligan walked up to the policeman...

When another account says:

2 hooligans walked up to the policeman...

and expect people not to see a contradiction. This is how language works. You are SPECIAL PLEADING your case for a use of language for which you are providing no proof of it being probable (or even possible without equivocation).
It's all so obviously petty. I realise it has no great consequence. What is fascinating is the cognitive dissonance on show. You really get a feel, in a conversation like this, for how the Christian mind works. The answer is irrationally, a priori siding with the non-contradictory theory even if it is inherently far less plausible (and arguably impossible) than the theory that the bible may well be errant.

Rather than accept that one and two are contradictory in any normal understanding of the sentences, Marcus' dissonance makes it far more plausible that:

1) Any use of a number can actually mean any number higher than the quoted number
2) This is the case irrespective of surrounding grammatical constructions (or lack thereof)
3) That this wouldn't cause undue conversational confusion, even though we can clearly see it does
4) That people actually do this, even though I have anecdotally shown that they don't
5) That early Christians had a different numeric understanding than modern ones
6) Matthew priority
7) That there were two demoniacs, but one was just not doing a lot
8) That Christians who did not have access to both accounts would still have an accurate understanding of what went on

So on and so forth. He HAS to believe all of the above is more plausible than:

1) The two accounts are contradictory in that claim.

Whoah, bring in good ole Ockham for a shave with his Razor, please. What an elegantly simple hypothesis I just brewed up! It is sad to see potentially rational beings be so evidently irrational. Just remember, if anyone uses a number in conversation of writing tomorrow, that according to Marcus, they could be inferring any number higher than the one provided. Who needs accuracy!