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Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Honestly Portray Its Characters?

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Don Stewart

Yes. As one examines the Bible it becomes apparent that it is different than other ancient religious literature in that it gives an honest portrayal of all its characters.

The Bible Is Honest About The Faults Of Its Characters

Scripture honestly deals with the frailties of the people of God and even with the shortcomings of its own authors. The Bible paints a realistic portrait of its characters, resisting any temptation to mythologize, deify, or perfect them.

Noah Was A Drunkard

The Bible lists Noah as a man of great faith. He believed God's promise and helped save part of humanity from the Great Flood. However, after the Flood, Noah was once found in a drunken stupor. The Bible says.

Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japeth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness (Genesis 9:20-23).

The same man who trusted God to save humanity through the ark which he built allowed himself to drink to excess. Rather than omitting this episode, Scripture shows that Noah was a person of similar passions like we are.

Abraham Lied About The Identity Of His Wife

Though Abraham was called the "father of the faithful," he had his lapses of faith. He told a pagan king that his wife was actually his sister.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.' So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, ‘Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.' . . . Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? And how I have sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done' (Genesis 20:2,3,9).

While many righteous deeds of Abraham are recorded in Scripture, so is his sin.

David Was A Murderer And Adulterer

The Bible says that King David was a man after God's own heart. Yet, the Scripture also testifies that he was a murderer and adulterer. The Bible says,

So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house . . . Now it came about in the morning that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he had written in a letter saying, ‘Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die' (2 Samuel 11:3,4,14,15).

David was punished for his sin and paid a severe price for his deeds. His murder and adultery were not whitewashed for the record.

The Disciples Of Jesus Only Thought About Themselves

Though the disciples of Jesus Christ helped turn the world upside down by proclaiming the message of the risen Savior, they often fell into sin. The Bible does not overlook their faults. When Jesus was about to die the Bible says His disciples argued with one another.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22:24).

At Jesus' most troubling hour His disciples were insensitive to the events that were transpiring. They are certainly not portrayed as spiritual giants.

Peter Denied Knowing Jesus

The Apostle Peter, who was a leading disciple, denied knowing Jesus. Scripture says.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man." A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away." Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitter (Matthew 26:69-75).

The same man who was the first disciple to confess Jesus as the Christ was also the first to deny Him after He was betrayed.

The Apostle Paul Argued With Barnabas

The Apostle Paul, the man who wrote many of the New Testament books, had a huge argument with his traveling companion, Barnabas.

And after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.' And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not be taking John, called Mark, along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-39).

This Shows The Bible Tells The Truth

The fact that the characters in the Bible fell into sin does not detract from the biblical message. On the contrary, the clear message of Scripture is that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the perfect standard of God. The Bible proclaims the holiness of the Lord God, not the perfection of His followers and prophets. The fact that the sins of the believers are recorded shows that the Bible tells it like it is.

Jesus Did Not Have Any Faults

There is one notable exception. The same authors who honestly depicted their own sin testified there was one among them who was sinless—Jesus Christ our Lord. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus was without sin. Jesus Himself asked the people of His day.

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me (John 8:46).

Even His enemies recognized this. When certain officers were sent to arrest Jesus they came back empty handed and said.

Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks (John 7:46).

There was no doubt in the mind of anyone that Jesus was unique from any man who has existed before or since.

The Bible honestly portrays its characters. We find that the great heroes of the faith were also sinful people. Scripture records the sin of Noah, Abraham, David, the disciples of Jesus, Simon Peter and the Apostle Paul. There is no attempt to portray them as anything but human. In contrast the Lord Jesus is revealed as one who never did sin. What we find in all of this is an accurate portrayal of the faults and weaknesses of the various biblical characters with the exception of the one who never sinned – Jesus.


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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