Does the Bible contain mistakes or errors?

The honest and full answer to this question is more complex than a simple yes or no, as it depends on what you mean by 'the Bible'. But given an accurate definition of 'the Bible', the answer is 'No'.

God's word certainly contains no mistakes, no errors, contains nothing false. The word of God is the truth, and wherever it asserts or affirms anything as true*, then what it affirms as true is indeed true.

This has been described as the doctrine of inerrancy, inerrancy meaning free from error. But that doctrine rightly asserts that the verbally inspired word of God consists of the original manuscripts, in their original languages.

*My statement that, 'wherever the word of God asserts or affirms anything as true, then what it affirms as true is indeed true,' is because there are places where, for example, the Bible repeats a false statement, but also condemns the false statement as false - e.g. 'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."' (Psalm 14:1).

There are many translations (called 'versions') of the Bible into English which do essentially give us the word of God in a language we can read for ourselves. But to state the doctrine of inerrancy with complete accuracy, it is important to assert that inerrancy is in the original manuscripts, and not in any particular man-made translation. I once bought a Bible which, due to some kind of mistake at the printers, had one page with faded ink, and at the bottom of the page part of a verse was missing. The doctrine of inerrancy does not assert that mistakes like this are miraculously prevented from happening!

But the mainstream, respected translations of the Bible such as the NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT, KJV, and others, are essentially ones we can trust as the word of God, even though they are in translation. Bible scholars who are Christians and who are academically qualified in Hebrew and Greek tell us that translations vary in how accurately they convey the subtleties and shades of meaning of the source texts. But every translation has its own limitations, and the issue of how good they are is to be decided by measuring them against the best and earliest sources we have. Although Christians often have their favourite translation, the crucial question is what did the original Greek and Hebrew actually say, because this is the verbally inspired word of God.

Jump to section on this page:

1 - About inerrancy, and whether the existence of 'textual variants' means we can't rely on the Bible we now have

2 - What claims does the Bible make for itself?

Inerrancy

As stated, the doctrine of inerrancy asserts that God's word certainly contains no mistakes but is entirely trustworthy, and that the word of God consists of the original manuscripts, in their original languages.

The doctrine of inerrancy ultimately comes from the claims that Scripture makes for itself, and the way that Jesus himself used and referred to Scripture.

back to top

Infallibility

Sometimes people use the word 'infallible' instead of 'inerrant' to describe Scripture. This is because as the doctrine of inerrancy came to be disputed by some, there were those who asserted that the Scriptures do contain mistakes, but that the mistakes are not important ones.

These people preferred to use the term 'infallible', and by that term they usually meant that Scripture is infallibly reliable on all matters of faith and practice (but not necessarily free from error on inconsequential matters). The serious problem with this view is how do we know which parts of Scripture are in error? If I can't necessarily trust Scripture in one place, how do I know if I can trust it some place else?

The meaning of inerrancy includes that the Scriptures are infallible in every respect, so 'infallible' is an accurate description, but it can be misleading, because some people use the term 'infallible' to mean that there are mistakes in Scripture, but not important ones. So I prefer to use the term 'inerrant', as this is clearly identified as asserting that there are no mistakes at all in Scripture. Any apparent mistakes are the result of a failure on our part to understand, a lack of research on our part into what the original text means, or possibly a copying error.

back to top

Does the doctrine of inerrancy matter?

It's vitally important to get our doctrine of Scripture correct, because this is foundational - get this wrong and it opens the door wide to believing all kinds of false ideas about everything else.

I'm not saying that it is necessary to believe in inerrancy in order to be a true Christian, because Scripture itself does not go this far. But the further we get from accepting and believing what Scripture teaches, the more dangerous it is to assume we are true believers. Believing that there are mistakes in Scripture can become a convenient way of rationalising away what Scripture says whenever we find it speaking to us in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable.

back to top

Semantics

Sometimes people object to the doctrine of inerrancy because of the very word itself, arguing that the word 'inerrant' does not appear in Scripture. That's true, but then neither do the words 'Trinity' or 'Incarnation' appear in Scripture - but the truths those words summarise are most definitely Scriptural. The words 'Trinity', 'Incarnation' and 'Inerrancy' provide a convenient way of referring to those truths.

Some people argue that the doctrine of inerrancy is a modern invention, because the word 'inerrancy' itself has only been used since the 19th century. But the truth is that we can go right back to the Patristic literature, written in the first centuries after Christ, and find that the church believed that Scripture was normative and utterly truthful. Whether we call that 'inerrancy', or something else, is irrelevant. And the claim that Scripture is without error is a claim that comes from Scripture itself anyway. In fact, Scripture claims more than this, because 'inerrant' is a negative term, meaning without error, whereas Scripture asserts it is utterly truthful, which is the positive way of expressing the idea.

back to top

To err is human?

Sometimes people will object to the idea that Scripture is without error because human authors were involved, and we all know that people make mistakes. But this view overlooks the truth taught by Scripture, and affirmed by Jesus himself, that Scripture is ultimately authored by God (see below on 'theopneustos'). God inspired many different people to actually write the words of Scripture, but the Scripture they wrote was protected from containing error because of its Divine inspiration. If God is God, then he is well able to speak and to ensure that his message is communicated in the way he wants, free from error.

back to top

Does inerrancy mean absolute precision?

Sometimes the doctrine of inerrancy is objected to because of a misunderstanding about what is meant. Inerrancy does not imply absolute precision in every case - the standard of truthfulness in Scripture is the standard intended by the speaker, and understood by their hearers, allowing for the original context.

Sometimes the context of a part of Scripture makes clear that the standard of truthfulness is absolute - that the author is asserting something that is precisely true, full stop.

But there are places in Scripture, for example referring to a period of time or some other unit of measurement, where the author is not intending to give details with absolute precision. It is possible to still be truthful in offering an approximation. Even in our modern world, with our ability to make very fine measurements of time, we understand this. If you ask me what the time is, and I reply, 'Just gone 12', we both understand what that means - it would be pedantic to expect my answer to be precise to the nanosecond - unless we are in some kind of scientific, laboratory context where an atomic clock answer was the answer you expected from me. So approximations of time, distance, measurement, etc, do not contradict inerrancy.

Also, inerrancy does not mean there are no spelling 'mistakes' or grammatical errors in the original manuscripts - it means that what is said/written is true.

back to top

Inerrancy recognises literary genres in Scripture

Inerrancy also recognises the existence of literary genres in Scripture. The Bible includes poetry, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and all kinds of symbolism, as well as historical accounts of actual events, and prophetic accounts of future events that will also really happen. It's a mistake to take a metaphor and interpret it literally - but it's equally a mistake to take a literal truth and pretend it is only poetry.

A sophisticated and intelligent approach to inerrancy does not ignore the fact that Scripture has to be interpreted. But Scripture itself makes plain that we need God himself to enable us to interpret and understand Scripture:

Then he* opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.
* referring to Jesus (Luke 24:45)

It's a fair point that when Jesus told people to gouge out their eyes and cut off their hands rather than be led into sin by them (Matthew 5:29-30), he did not mean that literally. Jesus was making a point about the seriousness of sin and its consequences, and that drastic measures (but not literal self-mutilation!) might be necessary in dealing with temptation to sin. And when Isaiah wrote about trees clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12), he did not mean that trees are going to literally grow hands and start clapping with them. It's a poetic statement, looking forward to a glorious future time when God will redeem all of creation.

Having said that, the biggest danger by far in today's Church is not that people take literally what is meant symbolically. By far the greatest danger today is that too many preachers, pastors and leaders of churches rationalise away the clear teaching of Scripture and pretend that literal truth is only poetry.

back to top

About the doctrine of inerrancy asserting that the word of God consists of the original manuscripts, in their original languages

There are a couple of points about this that need to be honestly acknowledged.

Firstly, that we do not have any of the original manuscripts. There are no surviving manuscripts of, say, any of Paul's letters written by the hand of Paul himself, or of any of the books of Moses written by Moses himself. God has seen fit to ensure that we don't have them, and quite possibly because God knew that they would have been turned into 'holy relics' and revered in the wrong way.

However, before we conclude from this that we don't know what was in God's word, it has to be recognised that many thousands of ancient manuscripts and manuscript fragments of God's word have been found all across the Mediterranean world, across what was once the Roman Empire, and starting from a time when Christianity was NOT the official religion of Rome, but was actually fiercely persecuted by the Romans. The Roman Emperor Constantine did not invent Christianity!

These thousands of manuscripts and fragments include earlier copies as well as later ones found all across Europe, and they are all useful to academic biblical scholars in tracing what happened to the text.

The Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures were copied and preserved by the Jews, and the New Testament books were copied out many times over by different scribes as the good news about Jesus Christ began to spread. And in case anyone is wondering, these thousands of ancient texts are not all securely locked up in one place to keep anyone from finding out what is in them - they are stored in many different places across the world, including a vast number of secular universities and museums*, and are available for scholarly research.
(*To give an idea of just a few of the institutions having ancient copies of New Testament texts, they include the John Rylands University Library, Manchester, UK; the National Library of France, Paris; the British Library, London, UK; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK; the Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK; Cambridge University Library, UK; Fundacion Sant Lluc Evangelista, Barcelona, Spain; University of Michigan, USA; Yale University Library, USA; University of Pennsylvania, USA; Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt; Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine; Houghton Library, Harvard, USA; Bodmer Library, Geneva, Switzerland; Ambrose Swasey Library, New York, USA; Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Eire; Ghent University Library, Beligum; Medici Library, Florence, Italy; University of Illinois, USA; Bibliotheque Nationale et Universitaire, Strasbourg, France; University of Cologne, Germany; University of Trieste, Italy; Oslo University Library, Norway; and many others)

back to top

Textual variants

These thousands of sources have been compared by scholars who are experts in textual criticism, and it is true that there are variations between the sources, known as textual variants.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that the existence of textual variants means that we can have no idea what the original manuscripts said. It's important to understand the nature of the textual variants rather simply being swayed by the number of them into wrongly thinking that we do not have a reliable copy of the New Testament.

Textual variants in manuscripts and manuscript fragments from copies of the New Testament include, for example, spelling errors, the changing of a pronoun to a proper noun, grammatical mistakes, a scribe copying the same word twice, or reversing the word order of two words (e.g. 'Christ Jesus' instead of 'Jesus Christ'), use of synonyms, etc. Analysis of these variants, and comparison of manuscript with manuscript, assists textual critics to identify where a copying mistake has been made, and this enables us to get closer to the originals which were first copied from. Some textual variants do include omissions and additions, but the dating of manuscript fragments, and comparison of different sources, enable these to be detected.

One big reason for textual variants is that there was no uniformity of spelling. In the modern world, we have dictionaries, and standardised ways of spelling words. We think in terms of a word being 'correctly' or 'incorrectly' spelt. But this is entirely arbitrary. (Or should that be 'rbatree'?!) Before dictionaries, people who could write would spell words the way they sounded to them, and so there were differences. In the Gospels, King David is referred to several times, and there are four different variations of how his name is spelt in Koine Greek. Those are 'textual variants' - but are they mistakes? No, of course not, they are variations of spelling. When anyone talks of the New Testament not being reliable because there are so many 'textual variants', they are misunderstanding what 'textual variants' for the most part means.

Textual criticism considers the age of a manuscript or manuscript fragment because earlier sources would be closer in time to the originals, whereas later copies are more likely to be copies of copies of copies, etc. Also relevant is a fragments' provenance, i.e. where it came from, is it likely to be from a more reliable source. 'Reliable' in this context means a source who intended, and to some degree achieved, the making of an accurate and faithful copy of the manuscript they were working from.

Was there a massive conspiracy to supress certain 'gospels'?

Some bible conspiracy theorists still argue that there was some kind of cover-up, with deliberate suppression by one powerful group of all manuscripts that did not conform to the 'official' version of events. This is most implausible, due to the sheer number of manuscript fragments we have, the fact they were scattered all over the Mediterranean world, and the fact that 2,000 years ago there was no easy or quick way to distribute information or to control what was being copied, who was copying it, and where the copies were being made.

It is not insignificant to note that there are academically highly qualified textual criticism scholars who are themselves evangelical Christians, committed to the truth of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and to the witness that Scripture bears to Jesus Christ. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because there are textual variants we therefore don't know what Scripture originally said, or that no-one who is an expert in the field would be a follower of Jesus or trust the Bible.

An additional point to note about textual variants is that none of them challenge or undermine any point of doctrine, because the core truths of what Christians believe are founded upon a vast number of different places in God's word, none of those truths depend upon a single isolated proof text.

Many translations of the Bible will alert the reader with a footnote in places where there is some uncertainty as to what may have been in the original manuscript. For example, in Ephesians 1:1-2, Paul wrote:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)

Look that verse up in many translations, for example NIV, NASB, NCV, CEV, and others, and you will find a footnote that three of the earliest manuscripts do not have the words, 'in Ephesus' (or 'at Ephesus'). Other manuscripts have them, three do not: rather, they read '...to the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus...'. So did Paul originally write (in Koine Greek of course, not in English!):

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus...

..or,

To the saints, the faithful in Christ Jesus...

The evidence points to the former rather than the latter. But does any point of doctrine depend upon whether the words 'in Ephesus' were in the original? Absolutely not.

back to top

Secondly, it has to be recognised that the word of God consists of the originals in their original languages. This would be basically Hebrew for the Old Testament, and Koine Greek for the New Testament (although there are ancient copies in other languages, e.g. at the time of the New Testament there was a commonly used Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, plus there are a few very small sections in both Testaments in which Aramaic was used).

Paul did not speak or write in 20th / 21st century English (or 16th century English for that matter). Any translation of God's word into English (or any other language) is only the word of God to the extent that it faithfully represents what was in the original. No human translation is ever perfect, and the doctrine of inerrancy has never pretended that translators are miraculously prevented from making any mistakes in translation. We are not supposed to revere the King James translation, or the NIV, or ESV, or any other version, as though it were superior to, or even equal to, the original Hebrew and Greek.

back to top

Where does that leave us? Can I trust what I read in the Bible?

Of course most of us can't read Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek, so we have to read the Bible in translation. But that need not worry us into thinking that the truth of the Bible is not accessible to us. There are many different translations available of the Bible into English. A good translation is likely to be one prepared by a committee of scholars, drawn from a wide academic background. There are translations made by single individuals, but the possibility of error or bias in translation is greater if only one person produced the translation.

Some versions do not even attempt to be translations but instead take a very loose approach to paraphrasing with the deliberate reframing of ideas. They can be interesting to read, but be cautious of placing too much importance on a single translation where it is the result of one person's ideas, and where that individual admittedly wanted to heavily paraphrase the text.

Good translations into modern readable English include the ESV, NIV, NKJV, and others. Many good translations can be read online at http://www.biblegateway.com.

So having said that the word of God is the original in Classical Hebrew and New Testament Greek, and that no translation into English is guaranteed to be perfect, it remains the case that we can have a very high degree of confidence in reading any of the widely respected mainstream translations that what we are reading faithfully represents the original.

We can't honestly claim inerrancy for any work of translation, but we can claim inerrancy for the original manuscripts, of which there are enough copies for us to know with a high degree of certainty what was in them.

As to the inerrancy of God's word, it's important to consider the claims that the Bible makes for itself. Once we have looked at those claims, then we need to ask ourselves whether we are willing to believe them.

back to top

Claims the Bible makes for itself:

The Bible contains the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament and the New Testament. What does the New Testament say about the Hebrew Scriptures?

...they [the Jews] were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3:2)

'Oracles of God' is how older translations offer this verse, and it might sound like an obscure expression. 'Oracles' means words, utterances, revelations. So the meaning is 'the revelation of God', or 'the very words of God'. Romans 3:2 declares that the Hebrew Scriptures are God's own revelation of himself, that the Hebrew Scriptures are God's word.

Is the New Testament the word of God too? It includes the teaching of the apostles, but what does the Bible say about the teaching of the apostles?

...we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children. Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us.

For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.
(1 Thessalonians 2:6b-8, 13)

back to top

Does the New Testament offer a reliable account of the events it records? Written by people who witnessed those events?

The apostle Peter wrote the following:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' We heard this voice come out of heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
(2 Peter 1:16-18)

The apostle John wrote the following:

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

Peter also said the following, on the subject of choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot:

Of the men therefore who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:21-23)

Judas' replacement was to be from amongst those who had been with Jesus and the disciples from the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry, someone who, like Peter and the others, had witnessed it all themselves personally.

Following his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples many times; one account reads as follows:

Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
(Luke 24:45-48)

Luke wrote the following in the introduction to his account of the gospel:

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them to us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, that you might know the certainty concerning the things which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

back to top

Luke refers above to accounts from eyewitnesses and to carefully investigating everything. But when was Luke's gospel written?

There is an indication of this in the following.

In 1 Timothy 5:18 the apostle Paul wrote:

For the scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn," and, "The labourer is worthy of his hire."
(1 Timothy 5:18)

So Paul is claiming to quote Scripture. The first quote is taken from Deuteronomy 25:4, a part of the Hebrew Scriptures / the Old Testament. But the second quote does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament.

It is true that there are places in the Old Testament where the principle of paying a worker his wages is given - e.g. Leviticus 19:13, and Deuteronomy 24:15:

The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. (Leviticus 19:13b)

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your foreigners who are in your land within your gates: in his day you shall give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down on it; for he is poor, and sets his heart on it: lest he cry against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.
(Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

But the precise statement, 'The labourer is worthy of his hire', or (more literally) 'Worthy is the workman of the pay of him' is not in the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament. Yet Paul is claiming to quote Scripture. So where is he quoting from? The answer is that 'The labourer is worthy of his hire' was a statement made by Jesus, and it appears in Luke 10:7.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this:
1: Luke's gospel must have existed in written form while Paul was still alive, dating it to sometime before about AD 66/67 (and possibly as early as AD 37, as we know from the Jewish historian Josephus and from archeological evidence that there was a high priest in Jerusalem by the name of Theophilus between AD 37 and 41). This is one example of many which provide evidence that the New Testament gospels were written and widely circulated whilst the original eyewitnesses of the events recorded in them were still alive.
2: Paul regarded Luke's gospel as Scripture just as much as he regarded the writings of Moses and the rest of the Old Testament as Scripture.

back to top

What about the apostle Paul's letters, are they Scripture?

The apostle Peter wrote:

...our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

The apostle Peter here is classing Paul's writings as Scripture, for he didn't say people distort Paul's letters, as they do 'the Scriptures', instead he said people distort Paul's letters, as they do 'the other Scriptures', i.e. Paul's letters are Scripture too.

back to top

Is the Bible the inspired word of God? Maybe only some parts of it are inspired, and other parts may not be? Maybe the people who wrote parts of the Bible had an 'inspired experience', but that doesn't mean the actual words they wrote down are inspired does it?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16)

The word translated into English above as 'inspiration' is the Greek word shown below:

This word (transliterated into English) is 'theopneustos'. It literally means 'God-breathed', or 'breathed out by God'. So the Bible tells us that Scripture is breathed out by God.

Many attempts have been made by liberal theologians who deny the Bible (and they've even been joined in this attempt by some who call themselves 'evangelicals') to make the Greek word 'theopneustos' mean something less than God-breathed, for example, making it mean that Scripture is 'inspiring' for us as we read it (but not necessarily inspired by God). Or they have attempted to suggest that 'inspired by God' means something really quite far removed from God directly authoring Scripture (albeit through human agency), that God is thereby distanced from how his word came to be written down and therefore his word isn't really mistake-free or reliable. These attempts are just plain wrong. The Greek word 'theopneustos' means that the Scriptures were breathed out by God, which is why they have Divine authority and are without error. We depart from this understanding at our peril.

Here's a quote from an essay on the subject written by Benjamin Warfield, professor of theology at Princeton Seminary in the 1800s, the quotation is his conclusion following an extensive 16,000+ word analysis of the Greek, and various academic/scholarly arguments about what it means:

What is 'theopneustos' is 'God-breathed', produced by the creative breath of the Almighty. And Scripture is called 'theopneustos' in order to designate it as 'God-breathed', the product of Divine spiration (sic), the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead... What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.
('God-Inspired Scripture', B.B. Warfield)

back to top

The Bible claims that the words of Scripture are inspired (literally, 'breathed out') by God; but are the words of God flawed, mixed with error, containing impurities?

This is a very important question, because if the answer the Bible gives is 'No', then to believe that the word of God contains errors means we are disagreeing with what God says about his own written word. So what does the Bible say on this?

The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, purified seven times. (Psalm 12:6)

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield for them that put their trust in him. (Proverbs 30:5)

As for God, his way is perfect: The word of the LORD is tried; he is a shield for all them that take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)

Older translations use the expression 'the word of the LORD is tried' in Psalm 18:30 - 'tried' means trustworthy, utterly reliable - modern translations variously render this as the word of the Lord 'proves true', or 'is correct', or 'is flawless'.

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. (Psalm 33:4)

All your commandments are faithful... (Psalm 119:86a)

'All your commandments are faithful' is the rendering given in older translations of Psalm 119:86. Modern translations offer alternative renderings for the word rendered 'faithful' such as 'are trustworthy', 'can be trusted', or 'are sure'.

And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true. (2 Samuel 7:28)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God... (2 Timothy 3:16) ...God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said, and shall he not do it? Or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

Your word is true from the beginning: and every one of your righteous judgments endures forever (Psalm 119:160)

back to top

What should our response be to what the Bible says?

You have commanded us to keep your precepts diligently. (Psalm 119:4)

back to top

Isn't it bibliolatry to take the Bible so seriously?

And I will delight myself in your commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up to your commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate on your laws. (Psalm 119:47-48)

back to top

Are the actual words of Scripture really so important?

"It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest dot of a pen to drop out of the law." words of Jesus from Luke 16:17
"For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one dot, not the least stroke of a pen, shall pass away from the law until all things be accomplished." words of Jesus from Matthew 5:18

back to top

Are the words of the Bible no more than human words?

Over and over again throughout the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament the text tells us that the words we are reading are God speaking. Over and over again the following phrases and others like them occur:

The LORD said..., Declares the Sovereign LORD..., The Sovereign LORD declares..., The LORD declares..., the LORD says..., God says..., declares the LORD..., God has spoken..., The LORD has spoken...

The words recorded in Scripture were regarded by Jesus, and by the apostles, as God himself speaking through human authors:

"David himself said by the Holy Spirit:..." [Jesus continues by quoting from Psalm 110] (Mark 12:36)

"...who by the mouth of your servant David have said..." [there follows a quote from Psalm 2] (Acts 4:25)

For no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

back to top

How did Jesus regard Scripture? As mere human words? Possibly mistaken? Containing errors? Not authoritative? Possibly unclear as to meaning?

When Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples, he said this of God's word:

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

Some other examples of Jesus' view of Scripture:

1 When asked a question about divorce, Jesus answered this way:

"Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?' ..." (Matthew 19:4-5)

Now the really interesting thing for our present purpose about this is that Jesus is quoting from Genesis 2:24, which states:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall be united to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

However, those words do not appear in Genesis 2 prefixed with or followed by something like 'God says', or 'The LORD declares', or any such similar formula. Rather, the words are simply part of the narrative of the text. In the book of Genesis they appear as no more than the words of the writer of Genesis. Yet Jesus is saying that this is God himself speaking: '...he who made them (i.e. God) ...said...'. Jesus view of Scripture is that whatever the Scripture says, God himself says. Even when the text does not directly attribute a quote to God himself.

2 Jesus was often asked questions. Jesus often responded by quoting scripture, using it as authoritative and regarding scripture as settling all disputes. Here are some examples of how Jesus responded:

But he said to them, 'Have you not read...'
(Matthew 12:3)

'Have you not read in the law...'
(Matthew 12:5)

And he answered them, 'Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?'
(Matthew 15:3)

And he answered and said, 'Have you not read...'
(Matthew 19:4)

'But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying...'
(Matthew 22:31)

'Have you not read this scripture...'
(Mark 12:10)

Jesus said to them, 'Isn't this the reason you are in error, that you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?'
(Mark 12:24)

'...have you not read in the book of Moses...'
(Mark 12:26)

And he said to them, 'O foolish men, slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!'
(Luke 24:25)

'...all things must be fulfilled which were written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'
(Luke 24:44)

'If you believed Moses you would believe me, for he wrote about me.'
(John 5:46)

"...as the Scripture has said..."
(John 7:38)

"...the Scripture cannot be broken..."
(John 10:35)

"...not one of them perished, but the son of destruction; that the scripture might be fulfilled..."
(John 17:12)

back to top

What did Jesus say about believing the Scriptures?

Jesus' own words from Luke 24:25 are worth repeating in answer to the allegation that there are mistakes in the Scriptures:

And he said to them, 'O foolish men, slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!' (Luke 24:25)

back to top

Do you believe this?

The Bible is God's word to us, God's word contains no errors or mistakes, and supremely it tells us of God's Son, Jesus, who lived the perfect life we never could have lived, died the death we deserved to die, and rose again, so that we could be forgiven - if we will turn to Christ in repentance and faith. The Bible challenges us as to whether we are willing to surrender to Jesus' claims over us. Jesus himself said:

'I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believes on me, though he dies, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes on me shall never die. Do you believe this?'
(John 11:25-26)

Not being willing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is often accompanied by attempts to assert that the Bible contains many serious mistakes, that it is not reliable, not historically accurate, or can be interpreted in any way we like. After all, if we can rationalise it away then we can ignore the claims it makes about the Lordship of Jesus. This is a massive mistake with eternal consequences.

Equally foolish is the attempt to re-interpret the clear meaning of Scripture in order to create for ourselves a religion which appears to have the outward appearance of some elements of Christianity, but which crucially leaves out the core message about the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Don't make the mistake of following some outward form of Christianity without knowing Jesus!

back to top