by Rob Lundberg
If someone were to tell you that the Bible is full of lies and laced with contradictions, how would you handle that? Are there lies in the Bible? Yes, if you take into consideration that both Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20; Genesis 20:1-18), Issac (Genesis 26:1-35); and let’s not forget Jacob (Genesis 27:5-29) all lied to someone. But the content itself is not full of lies.
What about “errors” and “contradictions?” I think a lot of Christians are challenged by this one when someone skeptical of the Bible “throws down” the idea that it is full of contradictions. In fact this objection has grown into one of the standard misconceptions of our time. In fact, repeating it is someone of an obligation. One response that a Christian can ask is to hand the challenger making the claim your Bible and show us one. Most are only repeating what they have heard from a professor or a skeptic that they are following or modeling.
Let’s admit it, we need to be prepared for the occasional person thinking that they can cite one or more alleged mistakes. We need to recognize that problem passages do exist. At the same time, there are answers, and Peter commands us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
Who has the burden of proof?
If you were to look at this question from a forensic perspective, in a court of law the burden of proof always lies with the one making the accusation. Remember, despite what we see in the media, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The same approach should dictate how we evaluate the sources of information which have a long track record of being right.
Claims of the Bible being proven wrong fall short of that boast. What most critics mean is that the Bible includes passages that they cannot figure out. And we should be concerned about this? Why? Christians know better than the skeptics do..
Critics would do well to make sure they know what the text says and what it means, in its context, before they question the accuracy of the passage. Many do not take this into consideration. (Christians are responsible to do the same.) Alleged biblical mistakes usually result from a violation of a principle of interpreting literature. In the case of biblical interpretation this is the discipline known as hermeneutics. However before we delve into some of those mistakes, let’s ask a question
What do we as Christians really claim about the accuracy of the Bible?
As Bible believing Christians, we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture; and that inerrancy applies to the autographs — the original documents from the authors’ hands. Since copies can and do include mistakes, we do not claim inerrancy for them. Furthermore translations and translation committees do not always capture the exact meaning of the words and phrases in the original language (i.e., idioms). Many alleged mistakes in the Bible can be resolved by better understanding what the original text truly said.
What do these “mistakes” look like? Mistakes are more like textual variances ranging from spelling, usage of the definite article, word order, and adding a (movable) “n” (nu) for smoothness in reading. With reference to this last one, we do not say, “a apple.” We say “an apple.” The koine Greek is inflective like this as well.
What mistakes do the skeptics make?
Typical mistake in interpretation made by the skeptics are the following:
1. They assume that what they cannot understand cannot be understood. But a difficult passage does not imply that it cannot be understood.
2. They often ignore or totally miss the context. We understand almost nothing in any text if we ignore the context.
3. Sometimes a skeptic will take New Testament references to the Old Testament as quotes when they are parentheses or summaries.
4. They also play the numbers game, pointing out number differences between accounts of the same incident, not realizing that one author may be rounding off the numbers.
5. Lastly they judge the Bible by modern technical standards when it speaks to the common language of ordinary people at the time the text was penned.
In closing, the Bible enjoys a much better track record than the critics of Scripture. There are answers that have proven their objections many times over and again. Even though criticized for centuries, the Bible has stood the test of time.
But skeptics place a constructive role. How so? Their challenges cause you and I to study and sometimes re-evaluate our preconceived interpretations, and even sharpen them. But until the skeptic improve their game, you and I need not worry about their accusation that “the Bible is full of errors and contradictions.”
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