The Bible is Inerrant
I. Definition of inerrancy:
A. A basic definition:
1. The word itself means: without error.
2. David Dockery gives this definition: “The Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted in light of which culture and communication means had developed by the time of its composition will be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation” (64).
B. Some components of inerrancy:
1. Inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts.
2. Inerrancy applies to all parts of the Bible.
a. One wrote: “The chronology, geography, and history of the Bible are often woven together like strands of a basket with vital spiritual truths. As you cannot start pulling strands out of a woven basket without doing damage to the whole, so it is with the Bible” (Keathley).
(1) Inerrancy “includes not only all that the Bible explicitly teaches, but also everything the Bible touches” (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 13).
(2) Basically, “historical reality and the theological doctrine stand or fall together” (13).
b. One needs to keep in mind that “the language of scripture in describing physical facts is the language of common life, the language of appearances” (Manley 187).
c. Further, the Bible is written in various genres (Humphreys 51).
3. In regards to inerrancy, the Bible accurately tells everything, but not all of the statements made are true (e.g., Gen. 3:4 – “You will not die”) (Saucy 157).
4. Inerrancy goes hand in hand with the infallibility of the Bible (Packer 111).
a. Gleason A. Archer compares this to a court of law in which a witness’ testimony is thrown out if he/she is not a consistently truthful person (23).
b. In other words, to reject inerrancy is to reject the authority of the Bible (Shelly, Prepare 152).
5. “Inerrancy is a logical result of inspiration” (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 13).
6. There can be no such thing as “limited inerrancy,” because one cannot believe that which cannot be verified to be truthful when one believes that which can be verified to contain errors (Saucy 158).
C. What inerrancy does not include (Gilmore):
1. Omniscience on the part of Biblical authors (i.e., their declarations are true without always being complete)
a. The Bible “does not speak all its mind on a subject in one place” (Ramm 204).
b. Therefore, one should be aware of progressive revelation, which can clarify and supplement (Humphreys 50).
2. A mechanical and stilted formality of style
3. Absolute identity of parallel passages
4. Literal interpretation of all parts of Scripture
II. Basic Argument for inerrancy (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 11):
A. God cannot err.
1. “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num 23:19).
2. “In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2).
3. “So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18).
4. Basically, “whatever God utters is true and without error” (Geisler, Christian Apologetics 363).
B. The Bible is God’s Word (see Roman numeral III).
C. Therefore, the Bible cannot err.
1. “If, then, the Bible is from God and his character is behind it, it must be inerrant and infallible” (Feinberg 143).
2. “To deny the inerrancy of scripture is to impugn either the integrity of God or the identity of the Bible as the Word of God” (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction 55).
III. Biblical proof of inerrancy:
A. Old Testament claims for inspiration/inerrancy:
1. The Old Testament makes 3, 808 claims like “thus says the Lord” (Isa. 43:1), “the word of the Lord came to me” (Jer. 1:4), and “then the Lord spoke […] saying” (Exod. 25:1) (Evans 203).
2. In Isaiah alone, Isaiah makes 80 similar claims (Lipe).
3. Psalm 119 alone has 175 claims for divine inspiration (Jackson, Fortify 50).
4. David claimed, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2).
5. One mark of a divine message is total and absolute truthfulness
(cf. Deut. 13:1-5; 18:20-22).
6. As David aptly said, “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Psa. 19:7).
a. It is free from all impurities (Psa. 12:6).
b. It is eternal and unchanging in heaven (Psa. 119:89).
B. Christ’s view of scripture:
1. “Christ always assumed the unquestionable truthfulness and complete trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures” (Lightner 11).
a. Jesus said: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).
(1) The smallest letter is the Hebrew letter yodh and the smallest stroke was a tiny projection on some letters that helped distinguish similar letters (Morris, Matthew 109-10).
(a) “Jewish tradition mentions the Hebrew letter yod (y) as being irremovable; adding that, if all people in the world were gathered to abolish the least letter in the law, they would not succeed. The guilt of changing those little hooks which distinguish between certain Hebrew letters is declared to be so great that, if such a thing were done, the world would be destroyed!” (Vincent).
(b) Hence, “even the smallest details of God’s law are essential” (Keener, Matthew 178).
(2) The force of this statement:
(a) “It is evident from this that our Lord regarded the law of God very highly” (Hendriksen, Matthew 292).
(b) “Jesus expresses here in the strongest manner His conviction that the whole Old Testament is a Divine revelation, and that therefore every minutest precept has religious significance” (Bruce 104).
(c) “Jesus, while on earth, insisted that God’s Word means exactly what it says and says exactly what it means, and that the message is concrete and eternal” (Mosher 98).
(d) Jesus affirms “the absolute authority of all of the Scriptures down to the smallest components of individual words” (Blomberg 104).
b. Jesus also said, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
(1) He is saying that “it is impossible for the Scripture to be annulled, its authority to be withstood, or denied” (Warfield 139).
(a) “It is absolutely indestructible […] is inspired, infallible, authoritative” (Hendriksen, John 128).
(b) F. F. Bruce points out the similarity to Mark 7:13 and states that “it cannot be set aside when its teaching is inconvenient. What is written remains written” (John 235).
(2) Raymond Brown emphasizes that this means “that Scripture cannot be kept from fulfillment” (410).
(a) However, D. A. Carson stresses that while the word may be understood that way, John did not use it that way (John 397-98).
(b) Leon Morris is correct in saying “it means that Scripture cannot be emptied of its force by being shown to be erroneous” (John 468).
3. Therefore, “to construe Christ’s teaching of Scripture as anything less than complete inerrancy and absolute infallibility is to accuse either Him, the Gospel writers, or both, of the crassest sort of ignorance and hypocrisy” (Lightner 74).
C. New Testament claims for inspiration/inerrancy:
1. The New Testament makes over 90 claims such as “it is written” (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 12).
2. Jesus declares that everything God reveals is truth (John 17:17).
3. The New Testament uses the Old Testament in an inerrant way when arguments are made based upon a tense of a verb (e.g., Matt. 22:32) and based upon the difference between singular and plural (e.g., Gal. 3:16).
4. 3 key scriptures:
a. “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:10-13).
(1) “Paul's point is simply that the Holy Spirit fully comprehends the depth of God's nature and his plans of grace and so is fully competent to make the revelation here claimed” (Robertson).
(2) “The Spirit’s activity extends to providing the actual words, and is not confined to the supplying of ideas” (cf. Mk. 13:11)” (Morris, 1 Corinthians 58).
(3) What about “sugkrivnontes?”
(a) 3 possibilities:
1) In 2 Corinthians 10:12, the word means “compare.”
2) The LXX usage is that of “explaining/interpreting.”
3) The classic sense in the Greek is that of “combining.”
(b) “The most satisfactory interpretation is ‘combining spiritual things with spiritual words’” (Vincent).
(4) Spiritual words or spiritual men?
(a) “Spiritual” comes from the Greek “pneumatikois.”
(b) It is used here in the dative case, which has 2 well-known uses: 1) to express the instrument; and 2) to express the indirect object.
1) The context is the determining factor, which, in this case, would allow “words” or “men” to be possible depending upon if one takes the context as the previous verses or the following verses (Lewis 119-22).
2) The more likely choice is “words” because it best flows with the previous verses and avoids opening the door to the false doctrine of illumination.
b. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
(1) All or Every? – “It is not true that the absence of the article compels us to adopt the translation of the A.R.V., ‘every scripture.’ The word Scripture can be definite even without the article (1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 1:20). Similarly pa}s ’Israhvl means
‘all Israel’ (Rom. 11:26). . . . But even if the rendering “every
scripture” be accepted, the resultant meaning would not differ
greatly, for if ‘every scripture’ is inspired, ‘all scripture’ must be
inspired also” (Hendriksen, Timothy 301).
(2) Scripture? – “grafh/;” – used some 50 times in the NT only in reference of holy scripture (Schrenk 751ff.)
(a) In the context, the reference is to the OT Scriptures (William Mounce 565).
(b) However, the NT books are also thought of as Scripture (e.g.,
2 Pet. 3:16; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 2:13; Gal. 4:4).
(3) Inspired by God (qeo,pneustos)?
(a) The word itself basically means “breathed out by God or God-breathed” (Warfield 245-96).
1) “The idea the term presents is that God has breathed his character into Scripture so that it is inherently inspired […] The Scriptures owe their origin and distinctiveness to God himself” (Lea and Griffin 236).
2) “God breathed His truth into the hearts and minds of the writers of Scripture” (409).
3) Paul is saying that “every part of them is inspired of God” (Wuest, Pastoral 150)
4) The term used here is best understood as a predicate adjective (i.e., “scripture is God-breathed”) (Knight 446).
Note: The translators of the KJV, NKJV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, TEV, NIV, Amplified Bible, Living Bible, NLT, ESV, NCV agree.
(b) A good overall definition of inspiration is “that inexplicable power which the Divine spirit put forth of old on the authors of holy scripture, in order to their guidance even in the employment of the words they used, and to preserve them alike from all error and from all omission” (Gaussen 34).
(c) This type of inspiration is verbal (i.e., pertaining to words) and plenary (i.e., full, complete, entire, extending to every part)
(4) One has said, “the point of the verse is not the nature of Scripture in itself, but the nature of Scripture for the purpose of aiding the Christian life” (Achtemeier 107).
(a) However, others disagree saying that Paul “intended to emphasize that the Scripture […] is in its totality God-breathed […] that is, of divine origin […] in so doing he is not offering a theory of inspiration; he is, rather reflecting the common tradition of Judaism” (Fee 279, emp. in original).
(b) Regardless, the main point of the verse does not take away from the other points made in the verse.
c. “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”
(2 Pet. 1:20-21).
(1) In these verses, Peter denies “that the prophets themselves were the originating source of their message” (Bauckham 234).
(a) “Peter is not here warning against personal interpretation of prophecy as the Roman Catholics say, but against the folly of upstart prophets with no impulse from God” (Robertson).
(b) As the prophets received the message from God, “inspiration could protect the inspired agents from error” (Keener, IVP).
(2) “Moved” is from “ferovmenoi,” a Greek passive participle meaning, “to cause to follow a certain course in direction or conduct […] be moved, let oneself be moved” (BDAG).
(a) This word was used of a ship being carried along by the wind in its sail in Acts 27:15, 17 (Keathley).
(b) Charles Ryrie points out:
Though experienced men, the sailors could not guide it so they finally had to let the wind take the ship wherever it blew. In the same manner as that ship was driven, directed, or carried about by the wind, God directed and moved the human writers He used to produce the books of the Bible. Though the wind was the strong force that moved the ship along, the sailors were not asleep and inactive. Similarly, the Holy Spirit was the guiding force that directed the writers who, nevertheless, played their own active roles in writing the Scriptures. (Basic Theology)
(c) Michael Green correctly observed that “revelation was not a matter of passive reception: it meant active co-operation” (103).
(3) Simon Kistemaker correctly states that the “stress laid here is […] on the divine trustworthiness of Scripture” (Peter 274).
IV. Objections to inerrancy:
A. The term “inerrancy” is not used in the Bible (Cukrowski 39).
Response: The term “trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but the teaching about it is still true.
B. “To err is human” (Lipe).
Response: True, but the Bible writers were inspired.
C. The Biblical authors claim to write by their own merit, at times (e.g., Luke 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 7:12 – “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord”).
Response: The authors were completely inspired during the writing process. However, the Holy Spirit allowed them to do research (Luke 1:1ff.). The Holy Spirit allowed them to express their opinions, at times (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:6f. – Paul’s statement concerning marriage). The Holy Spirit allowed them to make personal requests/statements (e.g., “bring the cloak” – 2 Tim. 4:13). Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit ensured that the finished product was exact.
D. Inerrancy necessitates a mechanical dictation view of inspiration, which is a false view of inspiration (Abraham 29-35).
Response: Kenneth Wuest wrote:
As led by the Holy Spirit, they searched their vocabularies for the exact
word which would adequately express the truth they wished to record. By
the process of comparing the word with the truth they wished to write down, they rejected all those words which the Holy Spirit showed them would not correctly express the thought, and finally chose the word to which the Holy Spirit led them and upon which the Holy Spirit put His stamp of approval. Thus the Holy Spirit allowed the writers the freeplay of their personalities, vocabulary, and training, while at the same time guiding them to make an infallible record of truth infallibly revealed. (42)
Further, while the process is important, the chief concern is the product.
E. The purpose of the authors was to produce faith and not to act as investigative journalists (Cuckrowski 41).
1. Some will allow a various “imprecision” that they deem compatible with the “intended purpose of the Bible” (Marshall 69-70).
2. Robert H. Mounce suggests that twentieth century standards of accuracy should not be imposed on the ancient world (18).
Response: How can one be asked to believe in the things that cannot be verified when the things that can be verified may be shown to be false/inaccurate?
F. The Biblical authors admit that they had no intention of exactness (e.g., Luke 3:23 and John 6:19).
1. In Luke 3:23, Luke says that Jesus was “about thirty years old.”
2. In John 6:19, John states that they had rowed “about three or three and a half miles.”
Response: The authors are exact to the degree of precision that they intended.
V. Implications of an errant Bible:
A. Either the Bible is not from God and therefore just another book or God is not truthful and therefore not God.
B. “When inerrancy is not held, one by one certain Bible doctrine (deity of Christ, etc.), historical facts (such as the literal creation), and other biblical views (on issues such as homosexuality or woman’s roles) are denied” (Litke).
C. Further, consider these verses in light of an errant Bible:
1. Jesus said that we can know the truth (John 8:32).
a. However, only parts of the Bible are truthful.
b. Therefore, we will need a hermeneutic to decide truth.
2. Jesus said that we must do the will of God in order to enter heaven (Matt. 7:21-23), but how will we know for sure that will is with an errant Bible?
3. We are to be ready to give an answer (1 Pet. 3:15), give a defense
(Phil. 1:16), or test/try all things by the Word of God (cf. Acts 17:11;
1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1), but how can this be done with an errant Bible?
4. We must have faith in order to please God (Heb. 11:6), but how can we have this by hearing an errant Word of God (Rom. 10:17)?
5. The Bible is to be our guide (Psa. 119:105), but of what value is an errant guide?
6. Jesus told us that we will be judged by His words (John 12.48), but how can we know which words are accurate?
D. Since the Bible is inspired, “logic dictates that the hallmark of divine origin – total accuracy and infallibility – be ascribed to the Bible as the product of God” (Witmer 162).
E. Finally, Wayne Grudem suggests 4 key problems that arise when inerrancy is denied (Systematic Theology 100):
1. If we deny inerrancy, a serious problem confronts us: “May we imitate God and intentionally lie in small matters also?”
2. If inerrancy is denied, we begin to wonder if we can really trust God in anything He says.
3. If we deny inerrancy, we essentially make our human minds a higher standard of truth than God’s Word itself.
4. If we deny inerrancy, then we must also say that the Bible is wrong not only in minor details but in some of its doctrines as well.
VI. How to handle “alleged contradictions:”
A. Gleason A. Archer gives 8 helpful recommendations (15-17):
1. Be fully persuaded in your mind that an adequate explanation exists, even though you have not yet found it.
a. “If you begin with the assumption that the Bible is full of contradictions, you are going to find contradictions” (Boice 92).
b. Also, “recognize that our inability to solve a difficulty does not mean that it cannot be solved. We simply may not have enough information at the present” (Kearley 13).
2. Avoid the fallacy of shifting from one a priori to its opposite every time an apparent problem arises.
3. Carefully study the context and framework of the verse in which the problem arises until you gain some idea of what the verse is intended to mean within its own setting.
a. Three questions to ask at the start are (Jackson and Bromling, “Alleged” 2):
(1) Is it the same thing or person?
(2) Is it the same time reference?
(3) Is it the seemingly conflicting language employed in the same sense?
b. The answer may be found by noting such things as changes in circumstances (e.g., Gen. 1 & Gen. 6) (Shelly, Simple 70).
4. Remember, no interpretation of Scripture is valid that is not based on careful exegesis, that is, on wholehearted commitment to determining what the ancient author meant by the words he used.
5. In the case of parallel passages, the only method that can be justified is harmonization.
a. “Two statement are contradictory not when they differ, but when they cannot both be true” (McGarvey 32).
b. Also, an omission does not constitute a contradiction (Kearley 3).
6. Consult the best commentaries available, especially those written by Evangelical scholars who believe in the integrity of Scripture.
7. Many Bible difficulties result from a minor error on the part of a copyist in the transmission of the text.
a. Norman Geisler and William Nix suggests 2 main ways that a copyist may make an error (A General Introduction 468-73):
(1) First, a copyist may make unintentional changes. These include:
(a) Errors of the eye (b) Errors of the ear (c) Errors of memory
(d) Errors of writing (e) Errors of writing
(2) Second, a copyist may make intentional changes. These include:
(a) Grammatical and linguistical (b) Liturgical changes
(c) Harmonizational changes (d) Historical and factual changes
(e) Conflational changes (e) Doctrinal changes
b. For a detailed explanation, consult Archer (33-42).
8. Whenever historical accounts of the Bible are called in question on the basis of alleged disagreement with the findings of archaeology or the testimony of ancient non-Hebrew documents, always remember that the Bible is itself an archaeological document of the highest caliber.
B. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe points out some mistakes that are made when dealing with “alleged contradictions” (When Critics Ask 15-26):
1. Assuming that the unexplained is not explainable
2. Presuming the Bible guilty until proven innocent
3. Confusing our fallible interpretations with God’s infallible revelation
4. Failing to understand the context of the passage
5. Neglecting to interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones
6. Basing a teaching on an obscure passage
7. Forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics
8. Assuming that a partial report is a false report
9. Demanding that NT citations of the OT always be exact quotations
10. Assuming that divergent accounts are false ones
11. Presuming that the Bible approves of all it records
12. Forgetting that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language
13. Assuming that round numbers are false
14. Neglecting to note that the Bible uses different literary devices
15. Forgetting that only the original text, not every copy of Scripture, is without error
16. Confusing general statement with universal ones
17. Forgetting that latter revelation supersedes previous revelation.
C. In regards to science, Harry Rimmer suggests (qtd. in Mosher 131-32):
1. The Bible contains scientific truth stated in non-scientific
(i.e., 20th-century) language.
2. The Bible does not contain the errors common to the Biblical times.
3. The Bible is in harmony with modern science.
4. The Bible contains scientific foreknowledge.
VII. Examples of handling “alleged contradictions:”
A. Matters of science:
Is the mustard seed the smallest seed?
(1) In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus refers to the black mustard seed.
(2) However, the orchid seed is even smaller than the mustard.
Jesus is referring the mustard seed being the smallest of all the seeds used in Palestine during that time and not necessarily the smallest of all the seeds in all places at all times (Archer 329).
B. Variances in narratives:
1. The raising of Jairus’ daughter –
(1) In Mark 5:23, Jesus is told that the daughter is at the point of death.
(2) In Matthew 9:18, Jesus is told that the daughter has died.
“Jairus may have made both statements. He could have said she was at the point of death when he first came to Jesus, and then upon arriving at the house with Jesus and learning more exactly concerning the situation, he could have said that she was dead” (Kearley).
2. Sermon on the mount or on a plain?
(1) In Matthew 5:1, Jesus is said to have given his famous sermon on the mount.
(2) However, in Luke 6:17, Jesus is said to have given his famous sermon on a plain.
It is possible that Jesus gave this sermon on 2 different occasions. However, even if Luke and Matthew refer to the same occasion, they can be reconciled by noting that the mountain only refers to the general area where everyone was, while the level place denotes the particular spot from which Jesus spoke. It says, He stood on a level place.” It does not say all the people were seated in a level place. A level place from which to preach to a multitude on a mountain side would make a natural amphitheater...as far as the variance between Matthew and Luke about standing and sitting…these references may be of slightly different times during the same event (e.g., Matthew’s reference being at the beginning of the event and Luke’s being when the multitude approached). (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 387-89).
3. Take staff and sandals … or not –
(1) In Matthew 10:10, Jesus seems to say that the disciples should not take a staff.
(2) In Mark 6:8, Jesus seems to allow the disciples to take a staff.
A closer examination reveals that the account in Mark declares that the disciples are to take nothing except a staff, which a traveler would normally have. Whereas the account in Matthew states that they are not to acquire another staff…Mark’s account is saying that they may take the staff they have, while Matthew is saying that they should not take an extra staff or tunic. The text reads “Provide neither … two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs” (plural: vv. 9-10). It does not say that they should not take a staff (singular). (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 339).
4. Who spoke to Jesus? The centurion or the elders?
(1) In Matthew 8:5, the centurion is said to be the one who sought the help of Jesus.
(2) However, in Luke 7:3, elders from the centurion are said to be the ones who should the help of Jesus.
In the 1st century, it was understood that when a representative was sent to speak for his master, it was as if the master was speaking himself. Even in our day this is still the case. When the Secretary of State meets individuals from other countries, he goes out in the name of the president of the United States. In other words, what he says, the president says. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 334).
5. Animals at the triumphal entry –
(1) In Matthew 21:2, Jesus asked 2 disciples to go into a village and get 2 donkeys.
(2) However, in Luke 19:30, Jesus asked the 2 disciples to get the colt.
Both animals were involved in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There is no mistake in the accounts because Mark and Luke mention just the colt, and Matthew refers to the colt and its mother. The passage in Matthew is pointing out the literal fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 which states, “Behold your king is coming to you … humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The Greek version of the OT uses the same word for colt as the NT passages. Matthew literally states that once the disciples placed their garments on the donkeys, Jesus sat on them, that is, on their garments. Matthew does not say that Jesus rode on both the mother and colt. It merely states that Jesus sat on the garments that the disciples had placed on the donkeys. Perhaps they placed some garments which were placed on the colt, and Jesus say on those garments on the mother and others on the colt, and Jesus sat on those garments which were placed on the colt. The fact is the text of Matthew simply does not say on which donkey Jesus sat. Mark and Luke focus on the colt on which Jesus rode, while Matthew mentions the presence of the colt’s mother. Her presence may have been necessary because the colt was so young. Mark 11:2 states that no one had ridden on the colt, and that the colt would be taking a passenger through a noisy crowd (Mark 11:9). Perhaps the mother was brought along in order to be a calming influence upon her young. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 353-54).
6. What did the centurion really say about Jesus on the cross?
(1) In Matthew 27:54, the centurion is reported to have said: “Truly this was the Son of God.”
(2) However, in Luke 23:47, the centurion is reported to have said: “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
He may have said both. The centurion’s words need not be limited to one phase or sentence … It is also possible that Luke may have been paraphrasing or drawing an implication from what was actually said. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 364-65).
7. Peter’s denial of Jesus –
(1) In Mark 14:30, 72, Jesus predicts that Peter would deny Him 3 times before the cock would crow twice.
(2) However, in the other gospel accounts (i.e., Matt. 26:34, 74-75; Luke 22:34, 60-61, and John 13:38), Jesus predicts that Peter would deny Him 3 times before the cock would crow once.
If a rooster crows twice, he has at least crowed once…To add or include additional information does not amount to a contradiction of the testimony of a witness who has given a somewhat briefer account. Such variation is observed in the lecture notes taken by students in a classroom: some include more details than others. But that does not mean they are not equally valid witnesses to what their instructor said. The same observation applies to the account of the triple denial itself. Each synoptist includes some items of information not included by the others, and John furnishes many details not found in the Synoptics at all. (Archer 339-40).
8. Judas’ field –
(1) In Acts 1:18, we are told that Judas bought the field.
(2) However, according to Matthew 25:5-7, we are told that Judas returned the money and the field and that the chief priests bought the field after Judas’ death (Matt. 27:3-10).
Luke means that Judas bought the field in a figurative sense in that Judas was the reason that the field was bought. The money had been
withdrawn from the treasury and the decision was irreversible (Matt. 27:6); thus, Judas or his family was/were still the legal owner of the field. (Jackson and Bromling)
(1) The reference to Michael is probable from a work known as the Assumption of Moses or the Testament of Moses. The prophecy of Enoch comes from the work of 1 Enoch 1:9.
(2) Jude quotes from the pseudepigrapha (i.e., Jewish works, mostly from the period of 100 B.C. to A.D. 100, which no modern Christian group has included in their canon) as if as authoritative as the recognized canonical books.
Truth is truth regardless of the source. The portion that Jude quotes from these works is truthful just as the poems from which Paul quotes (e.g., Epimenides in Titus 1:12-13; Acts 17:28; and 1 Cor. 15:33). However, a quotation from a source does not give full endorsement to the whole source being completely accurate, “it only guarantees the truth it cites” (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 549-50).
C. Historical “inaccuracies:”
1. The Census –
(1) History tells us that this census took place under Quirinius around A.D. 6 or 7 (Josephus, Antiguities 17.13.15).
(2) However, Luke tells us that this census took place before the death of Herod, who died in 4 B.C. (Luke 2:2).
Luke says this was a “first” enrollment that took place under Quirinius. A “first” surely implies a second one sometime later. Luke was therefore well aware of that second census, taken by Quirinius again in A.D. 7, which Josephus alludes to in the passage cited above. We know this because Luke (who lived much closer to the time than Josephus did) also quotes Gamaliel as alluding to the insurrection of Judas of Galilee “in the days of the census taking” (Acts 5:37). The Romans tended to conduct a census every fourteen years, and so this comes out right for a first census in 7 B.C. and a second in A.D. 7. (Archer 365)
2. Theudas and Judas in Gamaliel’s speech –
(1) In Acts 5:36-37, Gamaliel refers to the uprisings by Theudas and Judas and that .
(2) However, Josephus, the Jewish historian, refers to the revolt by Judas occuring before the one by Theudas and seems to allude to the fact that the revolt by Theudas took place after the probable occasion of the speech by Gamaliel (most likely, around A.D. 33).
(1) The Theudas referred to by Josephus revolted in A.D. 44 while the Theudas referred to by Gamaliel revolted before the census, which took place around A.D. 7 (cf. Acts 5:37).
(2) Josephus and Gamaliel refer both to the same Judas who arose during the days of the second cesus (c.a. A.D. 7); therefore, Josephus’ account of Judas’ revolt (A.D. 7) occurring before the Theudas’ revolt referred to by him(A.D. 44) is precisely correct. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 432).
D. Variances in the sequences of events:
1. The Cleansing of the temple –
(1) In John 2:13-17, we are told that this event occurred at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry.
(2) However, in the synoptic gospels, we are told that this event occurred during His last week upon earth.
It is possible that Jesus cleansed the temple on both occasions (Johnson 71-74).
2. The Cursing of the fig tree –
(1) In Matthew 21:12-19, we are told that the cursing of the fig tree took place after the cleansing of the temple.
(2) However, in Mark 11:12-24, we are told that the cursing of the fig tree took place before the cleansing of the temple.
(1) Mark discusses two trips of Jesus to the temple. The first being on the day of His triumphal entry where Jesus did not make any proclamations against any wrongdoing. The second being on the next day in which Jesus cursed the fig tree before He cleansed the temple.
(2) Matthew, however, addresses the two trips of Christ to the temple as though they were one event. This gives the impression that the first day Christ entered the temple He drove out the buyers and sellers as well. Mark’s account, however, gives more detail to the events, revealing that there were actually two trips to the temple. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 354)
E. Numerical differences:
1. 23,000 or 24,000?
a. Problem –
(1) Paul mentions that 23,000 died in 1 day (1 Cor. 10:8).
(2) However, the account to which he referred notes that 24,000 died (Num. 25:8, 9).
(1) If the reference is to Numbers 25, the most plausible explanation is that Paul gave the total for 1 day while Moses gave the total overall (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 459).
(2) Gleason Archer suggests that the reference is not to Numbers but rather to Exodus 32:27-36 where 3000 died by the sword and a # of people died by a plague (the # is not given by Moses but rather by Paul who, including the 3000 in the # for the overall total, indicates that 20,000 died by the plague) (401).
2. 430 years?
a. Problem –
(1) Paul mentions that the Law was introduced 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham (Gal. 3:16-17).
(2) However, Moses states that the Low was introduced 430 years after the Israelites left Egypt (Exod. 12:40-41).
b. Solution –
The time that Paul refers to is not the initial giving of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12-15), but the later confirmation of the covenant to Jacob (Gen. 46), which as about 1877 B.C. Since the Exodus occurred around 1447 B.C. (cf. 1 Kings 6:1), this would be exactly 430. There is good indication that Paul is referring to the confirmation to Jacob, not to the initiation of the covenant to Abraham. The text clearly dates the 430 years from “the covenant that was confirmed” (Gal. 3:17). Thus, the time period is the final reaffirmation of the Abrahamic promises to the descendants (seed) of Abraham which takes place in Genesis 46:2-4 to Jacob, a descendant of Abraham, which was 430 years before the children of Israel came out of Egypt. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 473-74).
F. Name variations:
1. Abiathar or Ahimelech –
(1) In Mark 2:26, we are told that David ate the showbread in the sanctuary at Nob in the time of Abiathar the high priest.
(2) However, according to 1 Samuel 21:1, Ahimelech the father of Abiathar was really the high priest at the time.
Mark doesn’t say that David ate the showbread with Abiathar but, rather, during the time of Abiathar. Ahimelech was slaughtered, along with several other priests, by Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 22:18-19). Abiathar, the only one to escape, was appointed high priest by David after being anointed king. Therefore, Mark correctly states that this took place “in the time of” Abiathar. (Archer 362)
2. Jacob or Heli –
(a) In Matthew 1:16, Jesus’ grandfather is said to be Jacob.
(b) However, in Luke 3:23, Jesus’ grandfather is said to be Heli.
Matthew and Luke trace 2 different lines of ancestors, one traced through His legal father, Joseph and the other through His actual mother, Mary. Matthew gives the official line, since he addresses Jesus’ genealogy to Jewish concerns for the Jewish Messiah’s credentials which required that Messiah come from the seed of Abraham and the line of David (cf. Matt. 1:1). Luke, with a broader Greek audience in view, addresses himself to their interest in Jesus as the Perfect Man (which was the quest of Greek thought). Thus, he traces Jesus back to the first man, Adam (Luke 3:38). (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 385-86).
3. Which Zechariah?
(1) In Matthew 23:34-35, Jesus is believed to referred to Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (cf. 2 Chron. 24:20-22).
(2) However, if so, then the time span from Abel to this Zechariah (who died about 800 B.C.) would not cover the OT period, which extended to 400 B.C.
The Zechariah referred to by Jesus is the minor prophet, Zechariah the son of Berechiah, which would make a better sweep of the OT period. Since many Zechariahs are mentioned in the OT, it would not be too difficult to imagine two Zechariahs dying from similar circumstances. (Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask 357-58).
4. Quote attributed to the wrong prophet?
(1) In Matthew 27:9, we are told that Judas’ purchase of Potter’s Field is a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy from Jeremiah.
(2) However, the actual prophecy is found in Zechariah 11:12-13.
(1) The whole point of the quotation in Matthew is directed toward the purchase of the field. The Zechariah passage says nothing at all about purchasing a field; indeed, it does not even mention a field at all.
(2) In Jeremiah 32:6-9, we find the prophet purchasing a field in Anathoth for a certain number of shekels. Jeremiah 18:2 describes the prophet as watching a potter fashioning earthenware vessels in his house. Jeremiah 19:2 indicates that there was a potter near the temple, having his workshop in the Valley of Hinnom. Jeremiah 19:11 reads: “Thus say Yaweh of hosts: ‘Even so I will break this people and this city as one breaks a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet.’” It would seem, therefore, that Zecheriah’s casting of his purchase money to the potter dated back to the symbolic actions of Jeremiah. Yet is is only Jeremiah that mentions the “field” of the potter – which is the
principal point of Matthew’s quotation. Matthew is therefore
combining and summarizing elements of prophetic symbolism
both from Zechariah and from Jeremiah. But since Jeremiah is the
more prominent of the two prophets, he mentions Jeremiah’s name
by preference to that of the minor prophet. (Archer 345)
(1) “It never is legitimate to assume a contradiction until every means of harmonization has been exhausted” (Jackson and Bromling).
(2) “Hundreds of texts encourage God’s people to trust Scripture completely, but no text encourages any doubt or even slight mistrust of Scripture. To rely on the “inerrancy” of every historical detail affirmed in Scripture […] is to follow the teaching and practice of the biblical authors themselves” (Grudem, “Scripture’s Self-Attestation” 59).
(3) Some believe that these “alleged contradictions” are in the Bible for a reason.
(a) John Haley wrote: “The seeming contradictions in scripture are too numerous not to be the result of design; and doubtless were designed, not as mere difficulties to try our faith and patience, but as furnishing the most suitable mode of instruction that could have been devised, by mutually explaining and modifying or limiting or extending one another’s meaning” (31).
(b) James Meadows suggests 4 purposes that are served by this supposed design (“Clarifying” 70):
1) They become strong incidental proof that there was no conclusion among the sacred writers (i.e., the writers did not get together and conceive a plan to deceive the world).
2) They stimulate the human intellect.
3) They give evidence that the Bible and nature came from the same source (i.e., in both we see a self-revealing, self-concealing God, who makes himself known only to those who earnestly seek him).
4) They test the moral character of individuals.
(4) Listen again to Christ’s view of Scripture:
(a) In Luke 24:25, Christ rebuked some for not believing “all that the prophets have spoken.”
(b) In John 5:47, Christ equates Moses’ writings to the same degree of exactness and truthfulness as His very own words – “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
(5) Indeed, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God!
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