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Don Stewart :: Could Some Parts of the Bible Contain Errors?

Don Stewart
Though the Bible claims to be the inerrant Word of God is it possible that there are errors in some parts of Scripture? Does it really matter if the events, people, and places recorded in the Bible may be, in some instances, incorrect? Can the Christian faith be upheld even if errors are admitted into Scripture? The answer is, No.

God Cannot Lie

If the Bible is the Word of God, then we should expect it to be accurate in what it says. If the Bible is what it claims to be, God's Word, then there cannot be any contradictions. This is because God is perfection. Scripture teaches that God cannot lie. Paul wrote to Timothy:

in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago (Titus 1:2).

The writer to the Hebrews also emphasized the impossibility of God lying:

in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18).

Jesus said:

The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).

He also confirmed that God's Word was the truth:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).

The psalmist wrote:

The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting (Psalm 119:160).

If God inspired the Bible, and God cannot lie, then the Bible cannot lie, it must be telling the truth.

Every Word, All Parts Inspired

The terms used to describe the inspiration of the Bible are verbal plenary. When we speak of verbal inspiration we mean that every word has been inspired by God. This means the very words of Scripture were chosen by God. Plenary inspiration means the Bible is fully, in all parts, God's inerrant Word. The evidence for verbal plenary inspiration is the teaching of the Scripture itself.

Importance Of Every Word

The Bible testifies to the importance of every word. Sometimes an essential truth hinges on the use of a certain word or group of words. For example, the Apostle Paul argued from the use of a word in the singular, rather than in the plural, to make his point about Jesus being the Messiah.

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, And to your Seed, who is Christ (Galatians 3:16).

All Parts Inspired

The Scripture teaches that all parts are inspired by God.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Paul says the former writings, the Old Testament, were written for our instruction. He does not exclude anything from the Old Testament but rather includes everything. There is no distinction between some parts of Scripture that are true and others that are not. All of the writings are assumed to be true.

What God Wanted To Say

Therefore, every word of the sixty-six books of the Bible is inspired by God. This means that the final record of Scripture says exactly what God wanted it to say.

Theological Statements Only?

It is clear that the Scripture claims to be the Word of God. But is it possible that the Bible is God's Word only in regard to theological statements? Some Christians believe this is the case. They teach what is known as limited inerrancy. They believe that the Bible is God's Word to humanity, yet they say that Scripture contains errors in areas of history, geography, and science. The statements about God, heaven, hell, and salvation are supposedly error-free, but other statements contain mistakes. The only infallible statements in Scripture deal with spiritual matters (heaven, hell, salvation, sin, etc.). Statements of a scientific or historical nature, on the other hand, are not necessarily mistake-free.

Causes More Problems

This limited inerrancy approach causes more problems than it solves. The God of the Bible has revealed Himself in history. He could have given His revelation in the form of a theological textbook but He chose not to do it in this way. Since God has chosen to reveal Himself in history, it would make no sense whatsoever for those historical events and scientific statements to be inaccurately recorded.

In What Sense Inspired?

Furthermore, if the biblical writers were mistaken in their historical, geographical and scientific references then why, one might ask, should their statements in the theological realm be trusted? It is meaningless to assert that the biblical writers made errors in history, science, and geography, but were kept error-free when they recorded statements in the theological realm (heaven, hell, salvation, etc.). We may rightly ask, In what sense is the Bible inspired?


Reversing Roles

Another problem with this point of view is to determine exactly which statements are inspired and which are not. The questions that immediately arise are these: Who decides what is true? How can one separate the essential message of the teaching of the Bible from the background in which it is presented? There is certainly no such distinction recognized in Scripture itself. The entire Bible gives us no reason to suspect that parts of it are inspired and parts are not. Whoever does this sets themselves above the Bible and reverses roles with God. They, not God, become the final authority.

No Final Source Of Authority

If there were mistakes, of any sort, in the original manuscripts, it would mean that the Scripture contains truth mixed with error. The Bible therefore would be subject to our own fallible judgment. We, then, would become the ultimate judge of what is truth and what is error, what is right and what is wrong. There would be no final source of authority.

The Bible, however, says:

In Your light, we see light (Psalm 36:9).

Christians must let the light of God's Word be the final determination of what is true and what is not. Historic, geographical, and scientific matters, when spoken of in Scripture, should be studied, not ignored. The final authority for the believer must rest in God's revelation to us in Scripture.

Important Issue

Hence the issue of the Bible's complete accuracy in all matters in which it speaks is one of utmost importance. We need to hear clearly from the entire Word of God. The prophet Amos wrote,

Behold the days are coming, says the Lord God. That I will send a famine on the land not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11).

Today, more than ever, we need to hear from the Word of the Lord.

Summary

The idea that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God is important for the following reasons.

1. It is important for the Bible to be accurate because the Scripture says that God cannot lie.

2. If there are any errors or contradictions in Scripture then God is a liar.

3. Because God inspired the Scripture there cannot be contradictions in any area. This includes matters historical, theological, and scientific. Therefore, in the original text, the Bible is error-free

4. Unless the Bible is error-free, the Christian has no ultimate source of authority.



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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