Can We Hear the Voice of God? (Part 7)
Does Scripture Contain Errors and/or Contradictions?
We believe what the Bible teaches is true, so we come to the Bible with what J. I. Packer calls “an advance commitment to receive as truth from God all that Scripture is found on inspection actually teach.” This has been the universal affirmation of the church until the time of Enlightenment, when acceptance in the secular academy led some biblical scholars to base their conclusions on culturally misguided reason rather than on revelation and reality.
The affirmation of the truthfulness of the Bible is inextricably tied to the character of God. He is a truthful God who does not lie! Therefore, because God is ultimately the author of scripture, it is perfect, unlike every other uninspired writing or utterance.
The Bible claims to be wholly true! We find such explicit statements in passages such as 2 Samuel 7:28, “O Lord God, You are God and Your words are true”; Psalm 19:7-10, which uses words such as perfect, sure, right, pure, true, and righteous; Psalm 119: 42-43, 142, 151, 160, 163, which uses the specific word truth or true; and John 17:17, “Your word is truth.” Second Timothy 3: 16 rightly says “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”
Unlike the Bible, however, those of us who read and study it are not inerrant in our understanding of it. The Bible itself gives us much cause for humility as we approach the Scriptures because:
- God’s thoughts are much loftier than ours;
- God has secrets that He has not revealed to anyone;
- sometimes we see the truth as if through a dirty and fogged window;
- we are prone to resist God’s truth because it forces us to repent, and sometimes we are simply hard-hearted;
- we know in part;
- some parts of the Bible are just hard to understand.
Therefore , if it appears that there is a contradiction in Scripture, we should first dig deeply into our Bible to see if what appears to be an error is, in fact, not an error once we have examined it more closely. In the end, it is perfectly acceptable to admit that we don’t have an answer for every question we may have, though in the future we may discover the answers.
A telling example of the Bible’s accuracy is in the transliteration of the names of foreign kings in the Old Testament as compared to contemporary extra-biblical records. The bible is accurate in every detail in the thirty-six instances of comparison, a total of 183 syllables. To see how amazing this is, Manetho’s ancient work on the dynasties of the Egyptian kings can be compared to extra-biblical records in 140 instances. He is right 49 times, only partially right twenty-eight times and in the other sixty-three instances not a single syllable is correct!
Those parts of the Old Testament that are most commonly rejected as error are also those sections that Jesus clearly taught. This includes creation, the literalness of Genesis 1 & 2, Cain and Able, Noah and the flood, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot Isaac and Jacob, manna in the desert, and Jonah in the belly of the whale.
Because Scripture is God speaking to us because He wants us to understand, we also believe Scripture speaks accurately on ordinary language. The writers used ordinary language rather than technical terminology. There are figures of speech, summaries and approximations. When we study the Bible, we must take into account the author’s intent when we interpret the story.
This does not mean that there are no questions to explore. The Bible has kept scholars working for centuries and will for centuries more.
See Also: Can We Hear the Voice of God