Post Author: Bill Pratt
Continuing from part 5 of this series, we now turn to the final three mistakes critics make when alleging errors in the Bible. These mistakes are taken from Norman Geisler and Tom Howe’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties.
Mistake #15: Forgetting that Only the Original Text, Not Every Copy of Scripture, Is without Error.
Christians readily admit that there are copyist errors in the manuscript copies of the Old and New Testaments (see What is Inerrancy?). But we also hold that inerrancy only applies to the original words written by the biblical authors. Finding an error in one of the manuscript copies may or may not trace back to the original writing. It is only through the science of textual criticism that this investigation can be done (see How Do Textual Critics Choose Among New Testament Manuscript Variants?).
If it can be shown that an original writing contains an alleged error, then the critic must show it is truly an error, that it contradicts well-established facts, something which traditional Christians hold has never been successfully done.
Mistake 16: Confusing General Statements with Universal Ones.
Geisler and Howe explain: “Critics often jump to the conclusion that unqualified statements admit of no exceptions. They seize upon verses that offer general truths and then point with glee to obvious exceptions. In so doing, they forget that such statements are only intended to be generalizations.”
The Book of Proverbs, for example, contains numerous general statements of wisdom, but these proverbial sayings are not universally true. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Even though it is generally true, many of us can point to examples of children who, even though they were raised in a strong Christian home, rebel and never straighten out their lives.
Mistake 17: Forgetting that Later Revelation Supersedes Previous Revelation.
In God’s dealings with mankind, as recorded in the Bible, he progressively revealed more and more of himself as history advanced. God tested mankind in the Garden of Eden with a tree, but this test is no longer in effect. The commands to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins was in effect for a time, but once Jesus died for mankind’s sins, the animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Jesus was revealed as the Son of God, but only to the people of his time, and not to those who lived before him.
Some critics point to later revelation and claim that it contradicts earlier revelation, but this accusation cannot be sustained if the “error” in question was a command given for a specific time period. Again, God has dealt with mankind in many different ways throughout history. This fact does not prove that errors exist in the Bible.
All Christians are well advised to memorize the 17 mistakes that critics make when alleging errors in the Bible. Truth be told, Christians sometimes make these same mistakes. We may not accuse the Bible of error, but we often forget that the books of the Bible were written by human writers, in different literary styles, and with differing perspectives. These 6 blog posts, therefore, are not just a call for critics to stop improperly maligning the Bible, but a call for Christians to better understand the Word of God that has been handed down to them.