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In short, there are no contradictions, errors, or mistakes in the Bible, but there are Bible difficulties. Basically, Bible Difficulties are difficulties that arise because the Bible was written in Hebrew, some Aramaic, and Greek over 1,600 years by some forty+ authors, in dozens of different historical settings that require much Bible background knowledge. The above is not enough to satisfy a doubting or an unbeliever; you need a basic understanding of what they are, how to explain them, how to approach them, procedures in dealing with them, and how you should view them, as well as some examples.
IT SEEMS THAT the charge that the Bible contradicts itself has been made more and more in the last 30 years. Generally, those making such claims are merely repeating what they have heard because most have not even read the Bible, let alone done an in-depth study of it. I do not wish, however, to set aside all concerns as though they have no merit. There are many who raise legitimate questions that seem, on the surface anyway, to be about well-founded contradiction. Sadly, these issues have caused many to lose their faith in God’s Word, the Bible. The purpose of this article is, to help its readers to be able to defend the Bible against Bible critics (1 Pet. 3:15), to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), and help those, who have begun to doubt. – Jude 1:22-23.
Before we begin explaining things, let us jump right in, getting our feet wet, and deal with two major Bible difficulties so we can see that there are reasonable, logical answers. After that, we will delve deeper into explaining Bible difficulties.
Is God permitting Human Sacrifice?
Judges 11:29-34, 37-40? Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the sons of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to Jehovah and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be Jehovah’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them, and Jehovah gave them into his hand. 33 He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer as far as Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter.
37 And she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 And he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. 39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow that he had made; and she never known a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
It is true; to infer that having the idea of an animal sacrifice would really have not been an impressive vow, which the context requires. Human sacrifice will be repugnant if we are talking about taking a life. Jephthah had no sons, so he likely knew it was the daughter, who would come to greet him.
First, the text does not say he killed his daughter. The idea of some that he did kill her is concluded only by inference. While it is not a good policy to interpret backward, using Paul on Judges, he does say humans are to be “as a living sacrifice.” Therefore, Jephthah could have offered his daughter at the temple, “as a living sacrifice” in service, like Samuel.
This is not to be taken dismissively, because, under Jewish backgrounds, it is no small thing to offer perpetual virginity as a sacrifice. This would mean Jephthah’s lineage would not be carried on, the family name, was no more.
Second, the context says she went out to weep for two months, not mourn her death. It says, “she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity.”
If she was facing imminent death, she could have married and spent that last two months as a married woman. There would be absolutely no reason for her to mourn her virginity if she were not facing perpetual virginity. – Exodus 38:8; 1 Samuel 2:22
Third, it was completely forbidden to offer a human sacrifice. – Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10
Imagine an Israelite believing that he could please God with a human sacrifice that was intended to offer up human life. To do so would have been a rejection of Jehovah’s Sovereignty (the very person you are asking for help), and a rejection of the Law that made them a special people. Worse still, this interpretation would have us believe that Jehovah knew this was coming, allowed the vow, and then aided this type of man to succeed over his enemies.
The last point is simple enough. If such a man as one who would make such a vow, in gross violation of the law, and then carry it out; there is no way he would be mentioned by Paul in Hebrews chapter 11 among the most faithful men and women in Israelite history.
In review, there is no way God would have granted and helped in Jephthah’s initial success knowing the vow that was coming because both Jehovah and Jephthah would be as bad as the Canaanites. There is no way that God would accept such a vow and then go on to help Jephthah with his enemies yet again. Then, to allow such a vow to be carried out, to then put Jephthah on the wall of star witnesses for God in Hebrews chapter 11.
Does Isaiah 45:7 mean that God Is the Author of Evil?
|Isaiah 45:7 King James Version (KJV)
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
|Isaiah 45:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 I form light and create darkness,
Encarta Dictionary: (Evil) (1) morally bad: profoundly immoral or wrong (2) deliberately causing great harm, pain, or upset
QUESTION: Is this view of evil always the case? No, as you will see below.
Some apologetic authors try to say, ‘we do not understand Isaiah 45:7 correctly because there are other verses that say God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot look approvingly on evil (Hab. 1:13), and cannot be tempted by evil. (James 1:13)’ Well, while all of these things are Scripturally true, the question at hand is not: Is God evil, can God approvingly look on evil, or can God be tempted with evil? Those questions are not relevant to the one at hand, as God cannot be those things, and at the same time, he can be the yes to our question. The question is, is God the author, the creator of evil?
We would hardly argue that God was not just in his bringing “calamity” or “evil” down on Adam and Eve. Thus, we have Isaiah 45:7 saying that God is the creator of “calamity” or “evil.”
Let us begin simply. When God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, he sentenced them and humanity to sickness, old age, and death. (Rom. 5:8; i.e., enforce the penalty for sin), which was to bring “calamity” or “evil” upon humankind. Therefore, as we can see “evil” does not always mean wrongdoing. Other examples of God bringing “calamity” or “evil” are Noah and the flood, the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and the destruction of the Canaanites. These acts of evil were not acts of wrongdoing. Rather, they were righteous and just, because God, the Creator of all things, was administering justice to wrongdoers, to sinners. He warned the perfect first couple what the penalty was for sin. He warned the people for a hundred years by Noah’s preaching. He warned the Canaanites centuries before.
Nevertheless, there are times, when God extends mercy, refraining from the execution of his righteous judgment to one worthy of calamity. For example, he warned Nineveh, the city of blood, and they repented, so he pardoned them. (Jonah 3:10) God has made it a practice to warn persons of the results of sin, giving them undeservedly many opportunities to change their ways. – Ezekiel 33:11.
God cannot sin; it is impossible for him to do so. So, when did he create evil? Without getting into the eternity of his knowing what he was going to do, and when, let us just say, evil did not exist when he was the only person in existence. We might say the idea of evil existed because he knew what he was going to do. However, the moment he created creatures (spirit and human), the potential for evil came into existence because both have free will to sin (fall short of perfection). Evil became a reality the moment Satan entertained the idea of causing Adam to sin, to get humanity for himself, and then acted on it.
God has the right and is just to bring the calamity of or evil down on anyone that is an unrepentant sinner. God did not even have to give us the underserved kindness of offering us his Son. God is the author or agent of evil regardless of the sourcebooks that claim otherwise. If he had never created free-will beings, evil would have never gone from the idea of evil to the potential of evil, to the existence of evil. However, God felt that it was better to get the sinful state out of angel and human existence, recover, and then any who would sin thereafter; he would be justified in handing out evil or calamity to only that person or angel alone.
Who among us would argue that he should have created humans and angels like robots, automatons with no free will? The moment he chose free will, he moved evil from an idea to a potential, and Satan moved it to reality. God has a moral nature that does not bring about evil and sin when he is the only person in existence. However, the moment he created beings in his image, which had the potential to sin, he brought about evil. The moment we have a moral code of good and evil that is placed upon one’s free will; then, we have evil as a potential.
In English, the very comprehensive Hebrew word ra‛ is variously translated as “bad,” “downcast (sad, NASB),” “ugly,” “evil,” “grievous (distressing, NASB),” “sore,” “selfish (stingy, HCSB),” and “envious,” depending upon the context. (Gen 2:9; 40:7; 41:3; Ex 33:4; Deut. 6:22; 28:35; Pro 23:6; 28:22)
Evil as an adjective describes the quality of a class of people, places, or things, or of a specific person, place, or thing
Evil as a noun defines the nature of a class of people, places, or things, or of a specific person, place, or thing (e.g., the evil one, evil eye).
We can agree that “evil” is a thing. Create means to bring something into existence, be it people, places, or things, as well something abstract, for lack of a better word at the moment. We would agree that when God was alone evil was not a reality; it did not exist? We would agree that the moment that God created free will creatures (angels and humans), creating humans in his image, with his moral nature, he also brought the potential for evil into existence, and it was realized by Satan?
Inerrancy: Can the Bible Be Trusted?
If the Bible is the Word of God, it should be in complete agreement throughout; there should be no contradictions. Yet, the rational mind must ask, why is it that some passages appear to be contradictions when compared with others? For example, Numbers 25:9 tells us that 24,000 died from the scourge, whereas at 1 Corinthians 10:8, the apostle Paul says it was 23,000. This would seem to be a clear error. Before addressing such matters, let us first look at some background information.
Full inerrancy in this book means that the original writings are fully without error in all that they state, as are the words. The words were not dictated (automaton), but the intended meaning is inspired, as are the words that convey that meaning. The Author allowed the writer to use his style of writing, yet controlled the meaning to the extent of not allowing the writer to choose a wrong word, which would not convey the intended meaning. Other more liberal-minded persons hold with partial inerrancy, which claims that as far as faith is concerned, this portion of God’s Word is without error, but that there are historical, geographical, and scientific errors.
There are several different levels of inerrancy. Absolute Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is fully true and exact in every way; including not only relationships and doctrine, but also science and history. In other words, all information is completely exact. Full Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible was not written as a science or historical textbook, but is phenomenological, in that it is written from the human perspective. In other words, speaking of such things as the sun rising, the four corners of the earth, or the rounding off of number approximations are all from a human perspective. Limited Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is meant only as a reflection of God’s purposes and will, so science and history are the understanding of the author’s day and is limited. Thus, the Bible is susceptible to errors in these areas. Inerrancy of Purpose is the belief that it is only inerrant in the purpose of bringing its readers to saving faith. The Bible is not about facts, but about persons and relationships, thus, it is subject to error. Inspired: Not Inerrant is the belief that its authors are human and thus subject to human error. It should be noted that this author holds the position of full inerrancy.
For many today, the Bible is nothing more than a book written by men. The Bible critic believes the Bible to be full of myths and legends, contradictions, and geographical, historical, and scientific errors. University professor Gerald A. Larue had this to say, “The views of the writers as expressed in the Bible reflect the ideas, beliefs, and concepts current in their own times and are limited by the extent of knowledge in those times.” On the other hand, the Bible’s authors claim that their writings were inspired by God, as Holy Spirit moved them along. We will discover shortly that the Bible critics have much to say, but it is inflated or empty.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be fully competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Peter 1:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 for no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
The question remains as to whether the Bible is a book written by imperfect men and full of errors, or is written by imperfect men, but inspired by God. If the Bible is just another book by imperfect man, there is no hope for humankind. If it is inspired by God and without error, although penned by imperfect men, we have the hope of everything that it offers: a rich, happy life now by applying counsel that lies within and the real-life that is to come, everlasting life. The Bible is inspired by God and free of human error, although written by imperfect humans.
Before we take on the critics who seem to sift the Scriptures looking for problematic verses, let us take a moment to reflect on how we should approach these alleged problem texts. The critic’s argument goes something like this: ‘If God does not err and the Bible is the Word of God, then the Bible should not have one single error or contradiction, yet it is full of errors and contradictions.’ If the Bible is riddled with nothing but contradictions and errors as the critics would have us believe, why, out of 31,173 verses in the Bible, should there be only 2-3 thousand Bible difficulties that are called into question, this being less than ten percent of the whole?
First, let it be said that it is every Christian’s obligation to get a deeper understanding of God’s Word, just as the apostle Paul told Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 Practice these things, be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Paul also told the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but powerful to God for destroying strongholds. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
Paul also told the Philippians:
Philippians 1:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
In being able to defend against the modern-day critic, one has to be able to reason from the Scriptures and overturn the critic’s argument(s) with mildness. If someone were to approach us about an alleged error or contradiction, what should we do? We should be frank and honest. If we do not have an answer, we should admit such. If the text in question gives the appearance of difficulty, we should admit this as well. If we are unsure as to how we should answer, we can simply say that we will look into it and get back to them, returning with a reasonable answer.
However, we do not want to express disbelief and doubt to our critics, because they will be emboldened by their disbelief. It will put them on the offense and us on the defense. With great confidence, we can express that there is an answer. The Bible has withstood the test of 2,000 years of persecution and interrogation and yet it is the most printed book of all time, currently being translated into 2,287 languages. If these critical questions were so threatening, the Bible would not be the book that it is.
When we are pursuing the text in question, be unwavering in purpose, or resolved to find an answer. In some cases, it may take hours of digging to find the solution. Consider this: as we resolve these difficulties, we are also building our faith that God’s Word is inerrant. Moreover, we will want to do preventative maintenance in our personal study. As we are doing our Bible reading, take note of these surface discrepancies and resolve them as we work our way through the Bible. We need to make this part of our prayers as well. I recommend the following program. Below are several books that deal with difficult passages. As we daily read and study our Bible from Genesis to Revelation, do not attempt it in one year; make it a four-year program. Use a good exegetical commentary like The Holman Old/New Testament Commentary (HOTC/HNTC) or The New American Commentary set, and The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman L. Geisler, as well as The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer.
We should be aware that men under inspiration penned the originally written books. In fact, we do not have those originals, what textual scholars call autographs, but we do have thousands of copies. The copyists, however, were not inspired; therefore, as one might expect, throughout the first 1,400 years of copying, thousands of errors were transmitted into the texts that were being copied by imperfect hands that were not under inspiration when copying. Yet, the next 450 years saw a restoration of the text by textual scholars from around the world. Therefore, while many of our best literal translations today may not be inspired, they are a mirror-like reflection of the autographs by way of textual criticism. Therefore, the fallacy could be with the copyist error that has simply not been weeded out. In addition, we must keep in mind that God’s Word is without error, but our interpretation and understanding of that Word is not.
It should be noted that the Bible is made up of 66 smaller books that were hand-written over a period of 1,600 years, having some 40 writers of various trades such as shepherd, king, priest, tax collector, governor, physician, copyist, fisherman, and a tentmaker. Therefore, it should not surprise us that some difficulties are encountered as we casually read the Bible. Yet, if one were to take a deeper look, one would find that these difficulties are easily explained. Let us take a few pages to examine some passages that have been under attack.
This chapter’s objective is not to be exhaustive, not even close. What we are looking to do is cover a few alleged contradictions and a couple of alleged mistakes. This is to give us a small sampling of the reasonable answers that we will find in the above-recommended books. Remember, our Bible is a sword that we must use both offensively and defensively. One must wonder how long a warrior of ancient times would last who was not expertly trained in the use of his weapon. Let us look at a few scriptures that support our need to learn our Bible well so will be able to defend what we believe to be true.
When “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” were causing trouble in the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote that under such circumstances, we are to tear down their arguments and take every thought captive. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; 11:13–15) All who present critical arguments against God’s Word, or contrary to it, can have their arguments overturned by the Christian, who is able and ready to defend that Word in mildness. – 2 Timothy 2:24–26.
1 Peter 3:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect;
Peter says that we need to be prepared to make a defense. The Greek word behind the English ‘defense’ is apologia, which is actually a legal term that refers to the defense of a defendant in court. Our English apologetics is just what Peter spoke of, having the ability to give a reason to any who may challenge us, or to answer those who are not challenging us but who have honest questions that deserve to be answered.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
24 For a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be kind to all, qualified to teach, showing restraint when wronged 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to accurate knowledge of the truth,
Look at the Greek word (epignosis) behind the English “knowledge” in the above. “It is more intensive than gnosis (1108), knowledge because it expresses a more thorough participation in the acquiring of knowledge on the part of the learner.” The requirement of all of the Lord’s servants is that they be able to teach, but not in a quarrelsome way, but rather in a way so as to correct his opponents with mildness. Why? Because the purpose of it all is that by God, and through the Christian teacher, one may come to repentance and begin taking in an accurate knowledge of the truth.
Inerrancy: Practical Principles
to Overcoming Bible Difficulties
Below are several ways of looking at the Bible that enable the reader to see he is not dealing with an error or contradiction, but rather a Bible difficulty.
Different Points of View
At times, you may have two different writers who are writing from two different points of view.
Numbers 35:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 You shall give three cities across the Jordan and three cities you shall give in the land of Canaan; they will be cities of refuge.
Joshua 22:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 And now Jehovah your God has given rest to your brothers, as he spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of Jehovah gave you beyond the Jordan. [on the other side of the Jordan, ESV]
Here we see that Moses is speaking about the east side of the Jordan when he says “on this side of the Jordan.” Joshua, on the other hand, is also speaking about the east side of the Jordan when he says “on the other side of the Jordan.” So, who is correct? Both are. When Moses was penning Numbers the Israelites had not yet crossed the Jordan River, so the east side was “this side,” the side he was on. On the other hand, when Joshua penned his book, the Israelites had crossed the Jordan, so the east side was just as he had said, “on the other side of the Jordan.” Thus, we should not assume that two different writers are writing from the same perspective.
A Careful Reading
At times, it may simply be a case of needing to slow down and carefully read the account, considering exactly what is being said.
Joshua 18:28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
28 and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin according to their families.
Judges 1:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.
Joshua 15:63 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
63 But as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the sons of Judah could not drive them out; so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.
Judges 1:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 And then the sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the sons of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the Shephelah.
2 Samuel 5:5-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, “You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away”; thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” 9 And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward.
There is no doubt that even the advanced Bible reader of many years can come away confused because the above accounts seem to be contradictory. In Joshua 18:28 and Judges 1:21, we see that Jerusalem was an inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin, yet the Benjamites were unable to conquer Jerusalem. However, in Joshua 15:63 we see that the tribe of Judah could not conquer them either, with the reading giving the impression that it was a part of their inheritance. In Judges 1:8, however, Judah was eventually able to conquer Jerusalem and burn it with fire. Yet, to add even more to the confusion, we find at 2 Samuel 5:5–8 that David is said to have conquered Jerusalem hundreds of years later.
Now that we have the particulars let us look at it more clearly. The boundary between Benjamin’s inheritances ran right through the middle of Jerusalem. Joshua 8:28 is correct, in that what would later be called the “city of David” was in the territory of Benjamin, but it also in part crossed over the line into the territory of Judah, causing both tribes to go to war against this Jebusite city. It is also true that the tribe of Benjamin was unable to conquer the city and that the tribe of Judah eventually did. However, if you look at Judges 1:9 again, you will see that Judah did not finish the job entirely and moved on to conquer other areas. This allowed the remaining ones to regroup and form a resistance that neither Benjamin nor Judah could overcome, so these Jebusites remained until the time of David, hundreds of years later.
Intended Meaning of Writer
First, the Bible student needs to understand the level that the Bible intends to be exact in what is written. If Jim told a friend that 650 graduated with him from high school in 1984, it is not challenged, because it is all too clear that he is using rounded numbers and is not meaning to be exactly precise. This is how God’s Word operates as well. Sometimes it means to be exact, at other times, it is simply rounding numbers, in other cases, the intention of the writer is a general reference, to give readers of that time and succeeding generations some perspective. Did Samuel, the author of judges, intend to author a book on the chronology of Judges, or was his focus on the falling away, oppression, and the rescue by a judge, repeatedly. Now, it would seem that Jeremiah, the author of 1 Kings was more interested in giving his readers an exact number of years.
Acts 2:41 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
As you can see here, numbers within the Bible are often used with approximations. This is a frequent practice even today, in both written works and verbal conversation.
Acts 7:2-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’
If you were to check the Hebrew Scriptures at Genesis 12:1, you would find that what is claimed to have been said by God to Abraham is not quoted word-for-word; it is simply a paraphrase. This is a normal practice within Scripture and in writing in general.
Numbers 34:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 The two and a half tribes have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho, eastward toward the sunrising.”
Just as you would read in today’s local newspaper, the Bible writer has written from the human standpoint, how it appeared to him. The Bible also speaks of “to the end of the earth” (Psalm 46:9), “from the four corners of the earth” (Isa 11:12), and “the four winds of the earth” (Revelation 7:1). These phrases are still used today.
Unexplained Does Not mean Unexplainable
Considering that there are 31,173 verses in the Bible, encompassing 66 books written by about 40 writers, ranging from shepherds to kings, an army general, fishermen, tax collector, a physician and on and on, and being penned over a 1,600 year period, one does find a few hundred Bible difficulties (about one percent). However, 99 percent of those are explainable. Yet no one wants to be so arrogant to say that he can explain them all. It has nothing to do with the inadequacy of God’s Word but is based on human understanding. In many cases, science or archaeology and the field of custom and culture of ancient peoples has helped explain difficulties in hundreds of passages. Therefore, there may be less than one percent left to be answered, yet our knowledge of God’s Word continues to grow.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
This is exactly the perception that the critic has of God’s Word. The legal principle of being “innocent until proven guilty” afforded mankind in courts of justice is withheld from the very Word of God. What is ironic here is that this policy has contributed to these Bible critics looking foolish over and over again when something comes to light that vindicates the portion of Scripture they are challenging.
Daniel 5:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.
Bible critics had long claimed that Belshazzar was not known outside of the book Daniel; therefore, they argue that Daniel was mistaken. Yet it hardly seems prudent to argue error from absence of outside evidence. Just because archaeology had not discovered such a person did not mean that Daniel was wrong, or that such a person did not exist. In 1854, some small clay cylinders were discovered in modern-day southern Iraq, which would have been the city of Ur in ancient Babylonia. The cuneiform documents were a prayer of King Nabonidus for “Bel-sar-ussur, my eldest son.” These tablets also showed that this “Bel-sar-ussur” had secretaries as well as a household staff. Other tablets were discovered a short time later that showed that the kingship was entrusted to this eldest son as a coregent while his father was away.
He entrusted the ‘Camp’ to his oldest (son), the firstborn [Belshazzar], the troops everywhere in the country he ordered under his (command). He let (everything) go, entrusted the kingship to him and, himself, he [Nabonidus] started out for a long journey, the (military) forces of Akkad marching with him; he turned towards Tema (deep) in the west.”
Ignoring Literary Styles
The Bible is a diverse book when it comes to literary styles: narrative, poetic, prophetic, and apocalyptic; also containing parables, metaphors, similes, hyperbole, and other figures of speech. Too often, these alleged errors are the result of a reader taking a figure of speech as literal, or reading a parable as though it is a narrative.
Matthew 24:35 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
If some do not recognize that they are dealing with a figure of speech, they are bound to come away with the wrong meaning. Some have concluded from Matthew 24:35 that Jesus was speaking of an eventual destruction of the earth. This is hardly the case, as his listeners would not have understood it that way based on their understanding of the Old Testament. They would have understood that he was simply being emphatic about the words he spoke, using hyperbole. What he was conveying is that his words are more enduring than heaven and earth, and with heaven and earth being understood as eternal, this merely conveyed even more so that Jesus’ words could be trusted.
Two Accounts of the Same Incident
If you were to speak to officers that take accident reports for their police department, you would find that there is cohesion in the accounts, but each person has merely witnessed aspects that have stood out to them. We will see that this is the case as well with the examples below, which is the same account in two different gospels:
Matthew 8:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, imploring him,
Luke 7:2-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some older men of the Jews asking him to come and bring his slave safely through.
Immediately we see the problem of whether the centurion or the elders of the Jews spoke with Jesus. The solution is not really hidden from us. Which of the two accounts is the most detailed account? You are correct if you said, Luke. The centurion sent the elders of the Jews to represent him to Jesus, so; that whatever response Jesus might give, it would be as though he were addressing the centurion; therefore, Matthew gave his readers the basic thought, not seeing the need of mentioning the elders of the Jews aspect. This is how a representative was viewed in the first century, just as some countries see ambassadors today as being the very person they represent. Therefore, both Matthew and Luke are correct.
Man’s Fallible Interpretations
Inspiration by God is infallible, without error. Imperfect man and his interpretations over the centuries, as bad as many of them have been, should not cast a shadow over God’s inspired Word. The entire Word of God has one meaning and one meaning only for every penned word, which is what God willed to be conveyed by the human writer he chose to use.
The Autograph Alone Is Inspired and Inerrant
It has been argued by conservative scholars that only the autograph manuscripts were inspired and inerrant, not the copying of those manuscripts over the next 3,000 years for the Old Testament and 1,500 years for the New Testament. While I would agree with this position as well, it should be noted that we do not possess the autographs, so to argue that they are inerrant is to speak of nonexistent documents. However, it should be further understood that through the science of textual criticism, we can establish a mirror reflection of the autograph manuscripts. B. F. Westcott, F. J. A. Hort, F. F. Bruce, and many other textual scholars would agree with Norman L Geisler’s assessment: “The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book―a form that is 99.5 percent pure.”
An example of a copyist error can be found in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus at Luke 3:35–37. In verse 37 you will find a Cainan, and in verse 36 you will find a second Cainan between Arphaxad (Arpachshad) and Shelah. As one can see from most footnotes in different study Bibles, the Cainan in verse 36 is seen as a scribal error, and is not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, the Samaritan Pentateuch, or the Aramaic Targums, but is found in the Greek Septuagint. (Genesis 10:24; 11:12, 13; 1 Chronicles 1:18, but not 1 Chronicles 1:24) It seems quite unlikely that it was in the earlier copies of the Septuagint because the first-century Jewish historian Josephus lists Shelah next as the son of Arphaxad, and Josephus normally followed the Septuagint. So one might ask why this second Cainan is found in the translations at all if this is the case? The manuscripts that do contain this second Cainan are some of the best manuscripts that are used in establishing the original text: 01 B L A1 33 (Kainam); A 038 044 0102 A13 (Kainan).
Look at the Context
Many alleged inconsistencies disappear by simply looking at the context. Taking words out of context can distort their meaning. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines context as “the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning.” Context can also be “the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place.” If we were to look in a thesaurus for a synonym, we would find “background” for this second meaning. At 2 Timothy 2:15, the apostle Paul brings home the point of why context is so important: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not from works, so that no man may boast.
James 2:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
So, which is it? Is salvation possible by faith alone as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, or is faith dead without works as James wrote to his readers? As our subtitle brings out, let us look at the context. In the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul is speaking to the Jewish Christians who were looking to the works of the Mosaic Law as a means to salvation, a righteous standing before God. Paul was telling these legalistic Jewish Christians that this is not so. In fact, this would invalidate Christ’s ransom because there would have been no need for it if one could achieve salvation by meticulously keeping the Mosaic Law. (Rom. 5:18) But James was writing to those in a congregation who were concerned with their status before other men, who were looking for prominent positions within the congregation, and not taking care of those that were in need. (Jam. 2:14–17) So, James is merely addressing those who call themselves Christian, but in name only. No person could truly be a Christian and not possess some good works, such as feeding the poor, helping the elderly. This type of work was an evident demonstration of one’s Christian personality. Paul was in perfect harmony with James on this. – Romans 10:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 5:15, 21–33; 6:15; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 10:23-25.
Inerrancy: Are There Contradictions?
Below I will follow this pattern. I will list the critic’s argument first, followed by the text of difficulty, and conclude with an answer to the critic. What should be kept at the forefront of our mind is this: one is simply looking for the best answer, not absoluteness. If there is a reasonable answer to a Bible difficulty, why are the critics able to set them aside with ease? Because they start with the premise that this is not the Word of God, but only a book by imperfect men and full of contradictions; thus, the bias toward errors has blinded their judgment.
Critic: The critic would argue that there was an Adam and Eve, and an Abel who was now dead, so, where did Cain get his wife? This is one of the most common questions by Bible critics.
Genesis 4:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 Cain had sexual relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son, Enoch.
Answer: If one were to read a little further along, they would come to the realization that Adam had a son named Seth; it further adds that Adam “became father to sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4) Adam lived for a total of 800 years after fathering Seth, giving him ample opportunity to father many more sons and daughters. So it could be that Cain married one of his sisters. If he waited until one of his brothers and sisters had a daughter, he could have married one of his nieces once she was old enough. In the beginning, humans were closer to perfection; this explains why they lived longer and why at that time there was little health risk of genetic defects in the case of children born to closely related parents, in contrast to how it is today. As time passed, genetic defects increased and life spans decreased. Adam lived to see 930 years. Yet Shem, who lived after the Flood, died at 600 years, while Shem’s son Arpachshad only lived 438 years, dying before his father died. Abraham saw an even greater decrease in that he only lived 175 years while his grandson Jacob was 147 years when he died. Thus, due to increasing imperfection, God prohibited the marriage of closely related people under the Mosaic Law because of the likelihood of genetic defects.—Leviticus 18:9.
Critic: If God is here hardening Pharaoh’s heart, what exactly makes Pharaoh responsible for the decisions he makes?
Exodus 4:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 Jehovah said to Moses, “When you go and return to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Answer: This is actually a prophecy. God knew that what he was about to do would contribute to a stubborn and obstinate Pharaoh, who was going to be unwilling to change or give up the Israelites so they could go off to worship their God. Therefore, this is not stating what God is going to do; it is prophesying that Pharaoh’s heart will harden because of the actions of God. The fact is, Pharaoh allowed his own heart to harden because he was determined not to agree with Moses’ wishes or accept Jehovah’s request to let the people go. Moses tells us at Exodus 7:13 (ESV) that “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.” Again, at 8:15 we read, “When Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.”
Critic: The Israelites had just received the Ten Commandments, with one commandment being: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Therefore, how is the bronze serpent not a violation of this commandment?
Numbers 21:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
Answer: First, an idol is “a representation or symbol of an object of worship; broadly: a false god.” Second, it should be noted that not all images are idols. The bronze serpent was not made for the purpose of worship, or for some passionate devotion or veneration. There were times, however, when images were created with absolutely no intention of it receiving devotion, veneration, or worship, yet were later made into objects of veneration. That is exactly what happened with the copper serpent that Moses had formed in the wilderness. Many centuries later, “in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”—2 Kings 18:1, 4.
Critic: Deuteronomy 15:11 (NET) says: “There will never cease to be some poor people in the land; therefore, I am commanding you to make sure you open your hand to your fellow Israelites who are needy and poor in your land.” Is this not a contradiction of Deuteronomy 15:4? Will there be no poor among the Israelites, or will there be poor among them? Which is it?
Deuteronomy 15:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 However, there will be no poor among you, since Jehovah will surely bless you in the land which Jehovah your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess,
Answer: If you look at the context, Deuteronomy 15:4 is stating that if the Israelites obey Jehovah’s command to take care of the poor, “there should not be any poor among” them. Thus, for every poor person, there will be one to take care of that need. If an Israelite fell on hard times, there was to be a fellow Israelite ready to step in to help him through those hard times. Verse 11 stresses the truth of the imperfect world since the rebellion of Adam and inherited sin: there will always be poor among mankind, the Israelites being no different. However, the difference with God’s people is that those who were well off financially were to offset conditions for those who fell on difficult times. This is not to be confused with the socialistic welfare systems in the world today. Those Jews were hard-working men, who labored from sunup to sundown to take care of their families. But if disease overtook their herd or unseasonal weather brought about failed crops, an Israelite could sell himself into the service of a fellow Israelite for a period of time; thereafter, he would be back on his feet. And many years down the road, he may very well do the same for another Israelite, who fell on difficult times.
Critic: Joshua 11:23 says that Joshua took the land according to what God had spoken to Moses and handed it on to the nation of Israel as planned. However, in Joshua 13:1, God is telling Joshua that he has grown old and much of the Promised Land has yet to be taken possession of. How can both be true? Is this not a contradiction?
Joshua 11:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Jehovah had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes, and the land had rest from war.
Joshua 13:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and Jehovah said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.
Answer: No, it is not a contradiction. When the Israelites were to take the land, it was to take place in two different stages: the nation as a whole was to go to war and defeat the 31 kings of this land; thereafter, each Israelite tribe was to take their part of the land based on their individual actions. (Joshua 17:14–18; 18:3) Joshua fulfilled his role, which is expressed in 11:23 while the individual tribes did not complete their campaigns, which is expressed in 13:1. Even though the individual tribes failed to live up to taking their portion, the remaining Canaanites posed no real threat. Joshua 21:44, ASV, reads: “Jehovah gave them rest round about.”
Critic: The critic would point out that John 1:18 clearly says that “no one has ever seen God,” while Exodus 24:10 explicitly states that Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel.” Worse still, God informs them in Exodus 33:20: “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” The critic with his knowing smile says, ‘This is a blatant contradiction.’
John 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Exodus 24:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under his feet was what seemed like a sapphire pavement, as clear as the sky itself.
Exodus 33:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 But he [God] said, “You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live!”
Answer: Exodus 33:20 is one-hundred percent correct: No human could see Jehovah God and live. The apostle Paul at Colossians 1:15 tell us that Christ is the image of the invisible God, and the writer informs us at Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the “exact representation of His nature.” Yet if you were to read the account of Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul), you would see that a mere partial manifestation of Christ’s glory blinded Saul – Acts 9:1–18.
When the Bible says that Moses and others have seen God, it is not speaking of literally seeing him, because first of all, He is an invisible spirit person. It is a manifestation of his glory, which is an act of showing or demonstrating his presence, making himself perceptible to the human mind. In fact, it is generally an angelic representative that stands in his place and not him personally. Exodus 24:16 informs us that “the glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai,” not the Lord himself personally. When texts such as Exodus 24:10 explicitly state that Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel,” it is this “glory of the Lord,” an angelic representative. This is shown to be the case at Luke 2:9, which reads: “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them [the shepherds], and they were filled with fear.”
Many Bible difficulties are cleared up elsewhere in Scripture; for example, in the New Testament, you will find a text clarifying a difficulty from the Old Testament, such as Acts 7:53, which refers to those “who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Support comes from Paul at Galatians 3:19: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” The writer of Hebrews chimes in at 2:2 with “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution. . . .” As we travel back to Exodus again, to 19:19 specifically, we find support that it was not God’s own voice, which Moses heard; no, it was an angelic representative, for it reads: “Moses was speaking, and God was answering him with a voice.” Exodus 33:22–23 also helps us to appreciate that it was the back of these angelic representatives of Jehovah that Moses saw: “While my glory passes by . . . Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Exodus 3:4 states: “God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” Verse 6 informs us: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Yet, in verse 2 we read: “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” Here is another example of using God’s Word to clear up what seems to be unclear or difficult to understand at first glance. Thus, while it speaks of the Lord making a direct appearance, it is really an angelic representative. Even today, we hear such comments, as ‘the president of the United States is to visit the Middle East later this week.’ However, later in the article, it is made clear that he is not going personally, but it is one of his high-ranking representatives. Let us close with two examples, starting with,
Genesis 32:24-30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
24 And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my soul has been preserved.”
It is all too obvious here that this man is simply a materialized angel in the form of a man, another angelic representative of Jehovah God. Moreover, the reader of this book should have taken in that the Israelites as a whole saw these angelic representatives, and spoke of them as though they were dealing directly with Jehovah God himself.
This proved to be the case in the second example found in the book of Judges where an angelic representative visited Manoah and his wife. Like the above-mentioned account, Manoah and his wife treated this angelic representative as if he were Jehovah God himself: “And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?’ And the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?’ Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” – Judges 13:3–22.
Inerrancy: Are There Mistakes?
I have addressed the alleged contradictions so it would seem that our job is done here, right? Not hardly. Yes, there are just as many who claim that the Bible is full of mistakes.
Critic: Matthew 27:5 states that Judas hanged himself, whereas Acts 1:18 says, “Falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.”
Matthew 27:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
Acts 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.
Answer: Neither Matthew nor Luke made a mistake. What you have is Matthew giving the reader the manner in which Judas committed suicide. On the other hand, Luke is giving the reader of Acts, the result of that suicide. Therefore, instead of a mistake, we have two texts that complement each other, really giving the reader the full picture. Judas came to a tree alongside a cliff that had rocks below. He tied the rope to a branch and the other end around his neck and jumped over the edge of the cliff in an attempt at hanging himself. One of two things could have happened: (1) the limb broke plunging him to the rocks below, or (2) the rope broke with the same result, and he burst open onto the rocks below.
Critic: The apostle Paul made a mistake when he quotes how many people died.
Numbers 25:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 The ones who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.
1 Corinthians 10:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Neither let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed sexual immorality, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.
Answer: We must keep in mind the above principle that we spoke of, the Intended Meaning of the Writer. We live in a far more precise age today, where specificity is highly important. However, we round large numbers off (even estimate) all the time: “there were 237,000 people in Time Square last night.” The simplest answer is that the number of people slain was in between 23,000 and 24,000, and both writers rounded the number off. However, there is even another possibility, because the book of Numbers specifically speaks of “all the chiefs of the people” (25:4-5), which could account for the extra 1,000, which is mentioned in Numbers 24,000. Thus, you have the people killing the chiefs of the people and the plague killing the people. Therefore, both books are correct.
Critic: After 215 years in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob arrived at the Promised Land. As you recall they sinned against God and were sentenced to forty years in the wilderness. But once they entered the Promised Land, they buried Joseph’s bones “at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem,” as stated at Joshua 24:32. Yet, when Stephen had to defend himself before the Jewish religious leaders, he said that Joseph was buried “in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor.” Therefore, at once it appears that we have a mistake on the part of Stephen.
Acts 7:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 And Jacob went down to Egypt and died, he and our fathers. 16 And they were brought back to Shechem and buried in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
Genesis 23:17-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were in all its border around, were made over 18 to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
Genesis 33:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred qesitahs.
Joshua 24:32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
32 As for the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred qesitahs. It became an inheritance of the sons of Joseph.
Answer: If we look back to Genesis 12:6-7, we will find that Abraham’s first stop after entering Canaan from Haran was Shechem. It is here that Jehovah told Abraham: “To your offspring I will give this land.” At this point Abraham built an altar to Jehovah. It seems reasonable that Abraham would need to purchase this land that had not yet been given to his offspring. While it is true that the Old Testament does not mention this purchase, it is likely that Stephen would be aware of such by way of oral tradition. As Acts chapter seven demonstrates, Stephen had a wide-ranging knowledge of Old Testament history.
Later, Jacob would have had difficulty laying claim to the tract of land that his grandfather Abraham had purchased, because there would have been a new generation of inhabitants of Shechem. This would have been many years after Abraham moved further south and Isaac moved to Beersheba, and including Jacob’s twenty years in Paddan-aram (Gen 28:6, 7). The simplest answer is that this land was not in use for about 120 years because of Abraham’s extensive travels and Isaac’s having moved away, leaving it unused; likely it was put to use by others. So, Jacob simply repurchased what Abraham had bought over a hundred years earlier. This is very similar to the time Isaac had to repurchase the well at Beersheba that Abraham had already purchased earlier. – Genesis 21:27–30; 26:26–32.
Genesis 33:18–20 tells us that ‘Jacob bought this land for a hundred pieces of money, from the sons of Hamor.’ This same transaction is also mentioned at Joshua 24:32, in reference to transporting Joseph’s bones from Egypt, to be buried in Shechem.
We should also address the cave of Machpelah that Abraham had purchased in Hebron from Ephron the Hittite. The word “tomb” is not mentioned until Joshua 24:32, and is in reference to the tract of land in Shechem. Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say that Abraham bought a “tomb.” The cave of Machpelah obtained by Abraham would eventually become a family tomb, receiving Sarah’s body and, eventually, his own, and those of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. (Genesis 23:14–19; 25:9; 49:30, 31; 50:13) Gleason L. Archer, Jr., concludes this Bible difficulty, saying:
The reference to a mnema (“tomb”) in connection with Shechem must either have been proleptic [to anticipate] for the later use of that shechemite tract for Joseph’s tomb (i.e., ‘the tomb that Abraham bought’ was intended to imply ‘the tomb location that Abraham bought”); or else conceivably the dative relative pronoun ho was intended elliptically [omission] for en to topo ho onesato Abraam (“in the place that Abraham bought”) as describing the location of the mnema near the Oak of Moreh right outside Shechem. Normally Greek would have used the relative-locative adverb hou to express ‘in which’ or ‘where’; but this would have left onesato (“bought”) without an object in its own clause, and so ho was much more suitable in this context. (Archer 1982, 379–81)
Another solution could be that Jacob is being viewed as a representative of Abraham, for he is the grandson of Abraham. This was quite appropriate in Biblical times, to attribute the purchase to Abraham as the Patriarchal family head.
Critic: 2 Samuel 24:1 says that God moved David to count the Israelites, while 1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan, or a resister did. This would seem to be a clear mistake on the part of one of these authors.
2 Samuel 24:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 Now again the anger of Jehovah burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
1 Chronicles 21:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.
Answer: In this period of David’s reign, Jehovah was very displeased with Israel, and therefore he did not prevent Satan from bringing this sin on them. Often in Scripture, it is spoken of as though God did something when he allowed an event to take place. For example, it is said that God ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’ (Exodus 4:21), when he actually allowed the Pharaoh’s heart to harden.
Inerrancy: Are There Scientific Errors?
Many truths about God are beyond the scope of science. Science and the Bible are not at odds. In fact, we can thank modern-day science as it has helped us to better under the creation of God, from our solar system to the universes, to the human body and mind. What we find is a level of order, precision, design, and sophistication, which points to a Designer, the eyes of many Christians, to an Almighty God, with infinite intelligence and power. The apostle Paul makes this all too clear, when he writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20.
Back in the seventeenth century, the world-renowned scientist Galileo proved beyond any doubt that the earth was not the center of the universe, nor did the sun orbit the earth. In fact, he proved it to be the other way around (no pun intended), with the earth revolving around the sun. However, he was brought up on charges of heresy by the Catholic Church and ordered to recant his position. Why? From the viewpoint of the Catholic Church, Galileo was contradicting God’s Word, the Bible. As it turned out, Galileo and science were correct, and the Church was wrong, for which it issued a formal apology in 1992. However, the point we wish to make here is that in all the controversy, the Bible was never in the wrong. It was a misinterpretation on the part of the Catholic Church and not a fault with the Bible. One will find no place in the Bible that claims the sun orbits the earth. So where would the Church get such an idea? The Church got such an idea from Ptolemy (b. about 85 C.E.), an ancient astronomer, who argued for such an idea.
As it usually turns out, the so-called contradiction between science and God’s Word lies at the feet of those who are interpreting Scripture incorrectly. To repeat the sentiments of Galileo when writing to a pupil–Galileo expressed the same sentiments: “Even though Scripture cannot err, its interpreters and expositors can, in various ways. One of these, very serious and very frequent, would be when they always want to stop at the purely literal sense.” I believe that today’s scholars, in hindsight, would have no problem agreeing.
While the Bible is not a science textbook, it is scientifically accurate when it touches on matters of science.
The Circle of the Earth Hangs on Nothing
Isaiah 40:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.
More than 2,500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote that the earth is a circle or sphere. First, how would it be possible for Isaiah to know the earth is a circle or sphere, if not from inspiration? Scientific America writes, “As countless photos from space can attest, Earth is round–the “Blue Marble,” as astronauts have affectionately dubbed it. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Planet Earth is not, in fact, perfectly round.” Scientifically speaking, the sun is not perfectly, absolutely 100 percent round but in everyday speech, this verse is both acceptable and accurate, when we keep in mind it is written from a human perspective, not from a scientific perspective. Moreover, Isaiah was not discussing astronomy; he was simply making an inspired observation that man came to realize once he was in space, looking back at the earth, it is round. See the section about title, “Intended Meaning of Writer.”
Job 26:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 “He stretches out the north over empty space
and hangs the earth on nothing.
Here the author describes the earth as hanging upon nothing. Many have never heard of the Greek mathematician and astronomer Eratosthenes. He was born in about 276 B.C.E. and received some of his education in Athens, Greece. In 240 B.C., the “Greek astronomer, geographer, mathematician and librarian Eratosthenes calculates the Earth’s circumference. His data was rough, but he wasn’t far off.” While man very early on used their God given intelligence to arrive at some outstanding conclusion that was actually very accurate, we learn two points here. Eratosthenes was a very astute scientist, while Isaiah, who wrote some 500 years earlier, was no scientist at all. Moreover, Moses, who wrote the book of Job over 1,230 years before Eratosthenes, knew that the earth hung upon nothing.
How Is the Sun Standing Still Possible?
Joshua 10:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.
The Canaanites had besieged the Gibeonites, a group of people that gained Jehovah God’s backing because they had faith in Him. In this battle, Jehovah helped the Israelites continue their attack by causing “the sun [to stand] still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.” (Jos 10:1-14) Those who accept God as the creator of the universe and life can accept that he would know a way of stopping the earth from rotating. However, there are other ways of understanding this account. We must keep in mind that the Bible speaks from an earthly observer point of view, so it need not be that he stopped the rotation. It could have been a refraction of solar and lunar light rays, which would have produced the same effect.
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his lovingkindness is everlasting;
4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that Jehovah will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of Jehovah on the third day?” 9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from Jehovah, that Jehovah will do the thing that he has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet cried to Jehovah, and he brought the shadow on the steps back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.
How is it that the stars fought on behalf of Barak?
Judges 5:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.
15 And Jehovah routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot.
In the Bible, you have Biblical prose, and Biblical poetry.
Prose: language that is not poetry: (1) writing or speech in its normal continuous form, without the rhythmic or visual line structure of poetry (2) ordinary style of expression: writing or speech that is ordinary or matter-of-fact, without embellishment.
Poetry: literature in verse: (1) literary works written in verse, in particular verse writing of high quality, great beauty, emotional sincerity or intensity, or profound insight (2) beauty or grace: something that resembles poetry in its beauty, rhythmic grace, or imaginative, elevated, or decorative style.
We have a beautiful example of both of these forms of writing communication in chapters four and five of the book of Judges. Judges, Chapter 4 is a prose account of Deborah and Barak, while Judges Chapter 5 is a poetic account. As we have learned from the above, poetry is less concerned with accuracy than evoking emotions. Poetry has a license to say things like what we find in of 5:20, which is in the poetry chapter: “from heaven the stars fought.” This can be said, and the reader is expected not to take the language literally. What we can surmise from it though, is that God was acting against Sisera in some way, there was divine intervention.
Procedures for Handling Biblical Difficulties
- You need to be completely convinced a reason or understanding exists.
- You need to have total trust and conviction in the inerrancy of the Scripture as originally written down.
- You need to study the context and framework of the verse carefully, to establish what the author meant by the words he used. In other words, find the beginning and the end of the context that your passage falls within.
- You need to understand exegesis: find the historical setting, determine author intent, study key words, and note parallel passages. You need to slow down and carefully read the account, considering exactly what is being said
- You need to find a reasonable harmonization of parallel passages.
- You need to consider a variety of trusted Bible commentaries, dictionaries, lexical sources, encyclopedias, as well as books on Bible difficulties.
- You should investigate as to whether the difficulty is a transmission error in the original text.
- You must always keep in mind that the historical accuracy of the biblical text is unmatched; that thousands of extant manuscripts some of which date back to the second century B.C. support the transmitted text of Scripture.
- We must keep in mind that the Bible is a diverse book when it comes to literary styles: narrative, poetic, prophetic, and apocalyptic; also containing parables, metaphors, similes, hyperbole, and other figures of speech. Too often, these alleged errors are the result of a reader taking a figure of speech as literal, or reading a parable as though it is a narrative.
- The Bible student needs to understand what level that the Bible intends to be exact in what is written. If Jim told a friend that 650 graduated with him from high school in 1984, it is not challenged, because it is all too clear that he is using rounded numbers and is not meaning to be precise.
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 I.e., never had relations with a man
 Or lament
 See Jeremiah 18:11, Lamentations 3:18, and Amos 3:6
 Gerald Larue, “The Bible as a Political Weapon,” Free Inquiry (Summer 1983): 39.
 That is merely human
 That is tearing down false arguments
 Textual criticism is the study of copies of any written work of which the autograph (original) is unknown, with the purpose of ascertaining the original text. THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: The Science and Art of Textual Criticism by Don Wilkins and Edward D. Andrews
 Or argument; or explanation
 Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Electronic ed. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993), S. G1922.
 I.e. South
 I.e., lowland
 I.e., held
 J. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1974), 313.
 That is Jesus
 I.e., army officer over a hundred solderiers
 Lit to whom he was honorable
 Or Jewish elders
 I.e., save the life of his slave
 Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix: A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, Moody Press, 1980), 367. (Emphasis is mine.)
 Jewish Antiquities, I, 146 [vi, 4].
 Merriam-Webster, Inc: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2003).
 Or breath
 Lit knew
 I.e., pole
 Merriam-Webster, Inc: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
 Jn 1:18: “only-begotten god”, P66א*BC*Lsyrhmg,p; [V1] “the only-begotten god,” P75א133copbo; [V2] “the only-begotten Son.” AC3(Ws)QYf1,13 MajVgSyrc
 Or at the Father’s side
 Meaning he contends with God
 Meaning face of God
 Or pieces of money; money of unknown value
 Or pieces of money; money of unknown value
 Letter from Galileo to Benedetto Castelli, December 21, 1613.
 Charles Q. Choi (April 12, 2007). Scientific America. Strange but True: Earth Is Not Round. Retrieved Monday, August 03, 2015.
 Alfred, Randy (June 19, 2008). “June 19, 240 B.C.E: The Earth Is Round, and It’s This Big”. Wired. Retrieved Monday, August 03, 2015.