Ed. Note. This article is excerpted from our series, “Is the Bible Unique or Just Another Religious Book?,” and slightly modified for publication.
We conclude our look at mistakes critics make when they look at the Bible.
Another mistake: Neglecting to notice that the Bible uses different literary devices. For example, the Bible being a human book speaks in poetry: the book of Job, Psalms are written in poetry. It also uses allegories like in Galatians 4. It uses parables in the first three Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, filled with parables. Even uses hyperbole. Paul said in Colossians 1:23, “I preach the Gospel to every creature under heaven,” meaning he evangelized the then known world. So the Bible speaks in human literary devices because it’s a human book.
Another mistake you’ll find critics using is, Forgetting that only the original text, not every copy of Scripture, is without error. We don’t believe that God inspired every copy. We believe He inspired the original and the copies are good, they’re adequate, they’re sufficient. But there are minor errors that crept in. Let me give you an example of one: 2 Kings 8:26 gives the age of King Ahaziah as 22, but in 2 Chronicles 22:2 it says he was 42. The latter number can’t be correct or he would have been older than his father. This is obviously a copyist error, but it does not alter the inerrancy of the original. There are many of these copyist errors in the Bible. It says 4,000 stalls for Solomon’s horses in one passage, another says 40,000. That’s the kind of error you like on the end of your paycheck, an extra zero. The Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts, but not every copy is inerrant. Some of the minor errors are in the copying.
But I’d like you to notice something very important here. Take a look at this graphic.
OU HAVE WON $10 MILLION.
YOU HAVE WON $10 MILLON.
YOU HAV WON $10 MILLION.
YOU HAVE WON $10 MILLION.
The first line has an error in it. The second line has an error. The third and the fourth lines all have an error, but the error is in a different place. Now, if you had received a telegram with that first line, would you pick up your 10 million dollars? Of course you would. Well, how do you know? Well, from the context it looks like the first letter should be a “Y” and “Y” means “you” and “you” means “me” and that means 10 million dollars. Well, good reasoning.
But if you got a telegram that had those four lines on it and the error was in a different place, you’d be absolutely sure what it said. In fact, the more errors in the copies, the more you’re sure of what the original said. We have over 5,000 copies of the New Testament, and there are little errors in different places. But the more errors, the more we’re sure of what the original said. So minor errors in the copies do not affect us getting 100 percent of the truth from the original and it certainly doesn’t prove there was an error in the original. No one has ever found an original manuscript with an error in it.
Now, I know the skeptic might be saying, “Well, look, what could be an error in the Bible?” Well, if you could find an original manuscript with an error in it, that would prove the Bible is not inerrant. Or, if you can find a good copy with an error in it. In other words, our view can be disproven, but it’s based on facts. Show me the facts. Show me a good copy that has an error in it, or find an original with an error in it before you can tell me that the original Bible can’t be the inerrant word of God.
Let me put it another way. The Bible says Jesus rose from the dead. It says Christianity is based on it. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:16-19) we are still in our sins and our faith is vain and we are of all men most miserable. Christianity is something that is based on facts. If you could produce the body of Jesus, you could disprove Christianity. But the fact is, there are over 500 people who saw Jesus after the resurrection; put their finger in His hand, their hand in His side. The Bible is based on fact and history that can be verified.
Look at this mistake the critics make: Confusing general statements with universal ones. You can find all sorts of alleged errors in the Bible. Proverbs 16:7 says, “If a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes his enemies to be at peace with him.” And then you look over at Paul, who was pleasing the Lord and his enemies were stoning him in Acts 14. Or Jesus who was pleasing the Lord and His enemies crucified Him. Well, Proverbs is just general statements, not universally true. In general, if you please the Lord your enemies will be at peace with you. Don’t confuse a general statement and a universal one.
Or last, a mistake critics make: Forgetting that later revelations supersede previous ones. You can read the Bible says, “Bring a lamb to the temple.” And then later on in the Bible it says Jesus is our Passover Lamb slain for us. Well, later revelation, He fulfilled those previous ones. So not everything that you read in the Bible like “Don’t eat shrimp” or “Don’t eat pork” in Leviticus is true later because Jesus did away with that distinction in Peter when the net was let down from heaven in the Book of Acts showing that he could eat things that were previously called unclean.
Let me illustrate this. When our children were very small, they ate with their fingers. A little later, when they can hold a spoon, they ate with a spoon. Then a little later, I said, “No. Don’t use your spoon. Use your fork.” That’s progressive revelation, adapted to the stage at which the person is. The Bible has progressive revelation, where God adapted His message to the level the people were until He got a fuller and final revelation in the New Testament.
Now, notice, we’ve just looked at a number of mistakes that critics make about the Bible. The Bible doesn’t have any mistakes. God can’t make mistakes. The Bible is the Word of God, therefore the Bible doesn’t have any mistakes. Difficulties, yes. But all the difficulties are based on mistakes made by critics, not mistakes made by God.