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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Answering Bible Difficulties

Don Stewart :: Did Certain Bible Doctrines Change Over Time?

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Question 18

Did Certain Bible Doctrines Change Over Time?

One of the arguments against the inerrancy of Scripture is the alleged change of doctrine that takes place over time. Certain writers and biblical characters supposedly changed their beliefs later in their life. This change is not compatible with an inerrant Bible.

Alleged Examples of Changing Doctrines

  • The following examples are usually given of Scripture changing over time:
  • Jesus’ Statement of Having More to Say

    At the end of His three-and-a-half years with His disciples, Jesus told them He still had more to tell them. On the night of His betrayal, He said the following:

    I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. (John 16:12 TNIV)

    This supposedly implies that Jesus had changed His mind on some things. However, this is not the case. Jesus made this statement before His death, resurrection, and ascension. The things He had to tell them could only come about after His death and resurrection. He could not explain the meaning of these events until they occurred.

    Therefore, we have no change of beliefs—only the statement that He has more to tell them.

  • Paul Seemingly Changed His Mind about the Coming of the Lord

    In his earlier letters, First and Second Thessalonians and First Corinthians, Paul emphasized the soon coming of Christ. However, in his later letters, this emphasis is not there. This has caused some to argue that Paul changed his mind, and corrected himself about the coming of the Lord.

    However, in his later writings, Paul does not deny the soon coming of Christ. His later writings are written about different themes. He was dealing with situations that had arisen in the churches and his letters addressed these issues.

    In the final chapter of the last letter that he wrote, we have the statement of Paul as to his hope in Christ. He wrote:

    For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

    Obviously, Paul had not lost hope in the coming of Christ.

  • The Progress of Doctrine Is Ignored

    This objection ignores the progress of doctrine. God did not reveal everything to humanity at once. His revelation was progressive in nature. These earlier revelations were not complete. The later revelations expanded upon what had earlier been revealed. The progress of doctrine does not imply that the earlier and partial revelations of God were incorrect. There is no contradiction between them. Therefore, the idea that some of the main characters in the Bible had changed their minds on particular issues has no basis in fact.

Summary - Question 18
Did Certain Bible Doctrines Change Over Time?

It has been alleged that the writers and main characters of the Bible changed their beliefs over time. Examples given include Jesus telling His disciples that He had much more to say to them and Paul supposedly changing his belief that Christ was going to return soon.

These examples, however, do not prove any change in their teaching. There is no contradiction concerning what Jesus said to His disciples. Jesus never said that the things He had earlier taught his disciples were wrong—He said that He still had more to teach them. There is no change of beliefs.

There is no contradiction with Paul’s early and later ministry. Paul had different subjects to write about later in his ministry. He dealt with details regarding the smooth functioning of the church. The return of Christ was not an issue—that had already been dealt with.

Furthermore, in the last chapter of his last letter, 2 Timothy, Paul wrote that he was looking for the Second Coming of Christ.

Therefore, this argument against inerrancy, that certain key figures changed their beliefs over time, has no basis in fact.

Does Inerrancy Mean Everything in Scripture Must Be Understood Literally? ← Prior Section
Did Paul Make a Distinction Between His Words and the Lord’s Words? (1 Corinthians 7:12) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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