{6}           Scriptures (2): Difficulties in the Bible

24.            Is the Bible without errors?

a.  Original manuscripts: Any argument for inerrancy (the absence of errors in the Bible) applies only for the original manuscripts, none of them extant.

b.  Attitude of Jesus: Jesus affirmed the OT Scripture is true (Mt 5:17-18; Lk 24:25-27,44).

C.  Many atheists have tried to attack the Bible from different sides for many centuries. But even today, there is still no definitive proof that any part of the Bible is in error.

25.            What is the proper attitude when faced with difficulties in the Bible?

a.  If difficulties or contradictions appear in the Bible, we should try to explain difficult passages and to harmonize apparent contradictions, using books or consulting more mature Christians.

b.  When no harmonization is apparent, it is not necessary to then declare that the Bible is in error. The proper attitude would be to leave the matter temporarily in suspense.

c.  Today’s main problem: Today, one of the main problem among Christians is the denial of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. This leads to the loss of faith or unsolvable doubt.

26.            Are there errors in the Hebrew and Greek Bibles we have today?

A.  Hebrew Old Testament Bible: The OT we have today is from 5th to 10th century. There are only 7 ancient manuscripts left. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947 and dated from 2nd century BC to 1st century AD, confirm that the OT is extremely accurate.

B.  Greek New Testament Bible: There are over 5000 existing Greek manuscripts from 2nd to 15th century. The standard text derived from the comparison of manuscripts assures us a reliable New Testament practically the same as the original manuscripts.

C.  Irregularities:

(1)  In rare occasions, minor details were missing from our present Bible, eg. the age of Saul when he became king was missing (1Sa 13:1) but the length of his reign was recorded in Ac 13:21.

(2)  In rare occasions, errors on the part of copyists were found, such as the number of stalls for Solomon’s chariot horses (1Ki 4:26; 2Ch 9:25); the verse in 2Ch is probably accurate.

     However, copying errors are rare and in most cases we know the correct version from the context. Further, these mistakes do not affect the meaning of the message.

(3)  There are some passages and verses that may have been appended to the original manuscripts, eg. Mk 16:9-20; Jn 7:53-8:11. Such verses should not be used to derive doctrine or practice.

d.  In all, the Bible contains adequate accuracy and can be regarded as the very Word of God.

27.            Are there errors in the translations we use today?

a.  Many translations: There are of course minor variations with different translations, some of them depending on the original text used and the time of translation.

B.  Recent threat to accurate translation: Recently, many English translations are called gender neutral translations. The objective is to follow the social trend of political correctness and to avoid offending women. So these new translations attempt to eliminate all male-only references in the Bible. The result is that hundreds of verses were changed and some of these changes actually alter the original meaning of the Bible and become inaccurate. Chinese translations have not been threatened by this trend.

C.  Translations published by cults are inaccurate and should never be used. Gender neutral translations are mostly inaccurate. They can be used for reference but not for Bible study.

28.            How do we handle apparent internal contradictions in the Bible?

§        There are 3 types of internal contradictions within the Bible: [1] supposed self-contradictions, [2] doctrinal contradictions, [3] ethical contradictions.

A.  Supposed self-contradictions: (1) a lack of modern precision (using round numbers), (2) irregularities of grammar or spelling, (3) the use of hyperbole, (4) variant materials in parallel accounts, (5) the use of free citations. Inerrancy of the Bible is not negated by these.

B.  Doctrinal contradictions: There are apparent doctrinal contradictions but they can all be adequately explained. For example, God is changeless yet He can change His plans because of changes in man such as repentence of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10) or prayers of Amos (Am 7:1-6).

C.  Ethical contradictions: Apparent contradictions involving moral actions can all be adequately explained, such as psalms containing curses and genocide in the OT.

D.  Explanation of internal contradictions: All apparent contradictions in the Bible can be solved.

(1)  A lack of modern technical precision is not an error, eg. round numbers (Lk 24:13). Ancient documents rarely claimed exact numbers. We must not impose our modern standards of accuracy on material that was never intended to have it.

(2)  The use of hyperbole (exaggerations to convey the central message such as those in a parable) is not an error, eg. Mt 5:30 (cutting your hand if it leads to sin).

(3)  The use of variant selections of material in parallel accounts is not an error. The apparent contradiction may be the result of separate emphasis on different aspects of the same situation.

        The notice on the cross of Jesus (Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; Lk 23:38; Jn 19:19): the whole notice could have read: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” or there might be variations with the different languages used on the cross: Hebrew, Greek, Latin.

(4)  The use of free citations is not an error, eg. Ro 14:11 citing Isa 45:23 yet different, because Paul used the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (this is true for most New Testament citations). In the gospels, Jesus’ words were spoken in Aramaic but were later recorded in Greek. Thus, the same saying may be recorded differently.

(5)  Expressing truth in an understandable way is not an error. God is described in the Bible to have arms (Isa 40:40-42), eyes, etc. because the Bible author is trying to explain God in human terms.

(6). Apparent contradictions may not be real contradictions.

        In the four gospels, events in the life of Jesus are recorded in different sequences because the events were not intended to be arranged chronologically. Only Luke weakly claimed anything like chronological order (Lk 1:3).

        There are two different genealogies of Jesus in Mt 1:2-17 and Lk 3:23-38. They separately record the ancestors of Joseph and Mary.

(7)  Apparent unscientific passages may represent truth, eg. Jesus affirms Noah and the flood (Mt 24:37-39), and Jonah in the belly of a huge fish (Mt 12:40). We must not dismiss them simply because of their incredibility based on human standard. Supernatural events do happen.