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Part VIIb: TRANSLATION — Chapter Ten: Errors—Apparent or Real?

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Preparing the Way

  1. How can you ever reconcile Daniel 1:1, which asserts that Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, with Jeremiah 25:1, which declares it took place in the fourth year?
  2. How do you resolve the conflict between the very old age of man proposed by science and the very recent age of man presented in Scripture?
  3. Matthew 1:8 speaks of Uzziah as the son of Joram. However the Old Testament (2 Kings 8:25; 11:2; 14:1, 21) clearly teaches he was Joram’s great-great-grandson. Is this not an error in the Bible? How do you explain it?
  4. Moses is said to have written the book of Deuteronomy. Yet the final chapter contains the detailed account of his death and burial. How can this be? Is this not an anachronism?
  5. Some biblical scholars have pin-pointed the date of the creation of the universe at 4004 B.C. The Bible is surely in error at this point, is it not?
  6. How can you believe in inerrancy when 1 Kings 4:26 claims that Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses, and 2 Chronicles 9:25 states he had only 4,000?
  7. When the Bible speaks of the sun standing still, is it not using unscientific language that reflects the ignorance of the ancient Near East? How can you speak of inerrancy in the face of such an obvious scientific error?
  8. Is there not a contradiction between the stance of the Old Testament on polygamy and the teaching of the New Testament on monogamy?

It is questions such as these that sow seeds of doubt in the minds of many sincere Christians. Do we have answers? Absolutely.


How well I remember the first time my faith was really threatened. It was in my senior year at a Canadian university. Although that won’t surprise most of you, this may: the reliability of the Bible was questioned by a minister, a teacher of the Bible, a professor in the department of religion. That year I had chosen as an elective a course on the New Testament, not realizing I was stepping into Satan’s stronghold. What a shock!

The first sign of a problem came when our scholarly professor eloquently held forth on Jesus’ reaction in cursing the fig tree. He labelled it as our Lord’s first great sin! In a fit of anger He cursed a tree for having no figs at a time of year before figs could be expected. That was only the beginning. Lecture after lecture was subtly seasoned with suggestions that were calculated to erode one’s faith in the reliability of the Scriptures. He was a master at excavating “errors” in the Bible. Dozens of them were hurled at us. He seemed to delight in embarrassing the naive evangelical. The few of us in the class were made to look like simpletons.

Anachronisms and contradictions were surely there. But were they real errors or only apparent? For several months I pondered that question. It drove me to earnest prayer and careful study.

The problem is by no means recent. Nor is it limited to the experience of a few Christians. In 1800 the French Institute in Paris issued a list of eighty-two errors in the Bible, which they believed would lead to the death of Christianity. In his book, The Bible: Its Origin and Nature, Marcus Dods presents the six contradictions in the Gospels that led him to reject the doctrine of inerrancy.1 The well-known archaeologist Sir Fredric Kenyon offers still another list of Bible contradictions.2 Many readers will remember the disturbing effects of an article Life published some time ago entitled “5,000 Errors in the Bible.”

We have already argued for the inerrancy of the original manuscripts. We have demonstrated the great reliability of our present English translations. How then, do we explain the contradictions and anachronisms in our Bible? Are the errors apparent or real? What are the evangelical’s answers to the charge of errors and contradictions in our Bible?

A careful and unprejudiced examination of several of these “errors” will demonstrate not only that plausible and often conclusive explanations are available to us today, but that there are several basic propositions that summarize the orthodox answer to these difficulties.3

I. Incomplete Sources

Proposition One: We recognize that extra-biblical sources are incomplete and therefore inconclusive.

For a typical example of this proposition at work consider the apparent contradiction between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. (Dan. 1:1)

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon). (Jer. 25:1)

The problem is obvious. Daniel identifies the time of the invasion as the third year, while Jeremiah says it was the fourth year.

There is an explanation. Recent archaeological discoveries relevant to the time of Daniel have demonstrated that a Babylonian calendar existed alongside the Hebrew calendar. Between these two calendars there are major differences that bear upon our problem. The Hebrew calendar included the year of accession as the first year of the reign of a king. The Babylonian calendar did not consider the year of accession as the first year of his reign, but rather the first full year. Daniel, writing from Babylon, used the Babylonian calendar. Therefore he did not include the partial year of accession as the first year, and says the invasion occurred in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign. However, Jeremiah remained with the remnant in Jerusalem and therefore wrote using the Hebrew calendar. This made the year of accession the first year of the king’s reign and places the invasion in the fourth year.4

The principle here is obvious. For centuries it has been possible to set Daniel 1:1 against Jeremiah 25:1 and charge the Bible with an error. This charge rested upon the incomplete knowledge of the historians and critics. It stood until an archaeologist uncovered the fact of the two calendars and their differences. Now the “error” of Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1 is eliminated. There is no problem whatsoever. It was only an apparent error.

Extra-biblical sources (history, archaeology, geology, anthropology, etc.) are incomplete. Although they have contributed a wealth of knowledge in a host of areas, yet these very areas are the subject of continual research. For this reason we must say these extra-biblical sources are not conclusive. It is estimated that a mere two percent of the potential archaeological work in the Bible lands has been done so far. Obviously the findings are incomplete and inconclusive. When someone charges the Bible with an error in the light of our present knowledge from history or archaeology, here is one possible line of defence. We confidently assert that it is only an apparent error. The validity of this principle has been demonstrated over and over again.

Few books have been so attacked as the prophecy of Daniel. Because “Belshazzar” was nowhere found in any extra-biblical material, for many years he was thought to be an unhistorical character. Here was one of the great “errors” in the Bible. But today his name is found on tablets that speak of him as “the son of the king.” Now extra-biblical sources authenticate him as a historical person. A further problem existed in Daniel 5:1. Was Belshazzar, in fact, the last king of Babylon? Extra-biblical sources indicated it was Nabonidus. Again for many years this was labelled an error in the Scriptures. Today, however, the evidence is that Belshazzar reigned as second in command after his father, Nabonidus, went into semi-retirement in his Northern Arabian headquarters at Teman. This explains why Belshazzar offered Daniel the third place in the kingdom (Dan. 5:16) for interpreting the dream. He himself occupied the second place. Further light from extra-biblical sources have confirmed that he was, in fact, the last king of Babylon.5 As the extra-biblical sources have become more complete, these alleged errors in the Book of Daniel have come to be recognized only as apparent errors. They appeared to be errors because our extra-biblical sources were incomplete.

These and hundreds more testify to the valid use of this proposition. Many of the problems that still remain can be labelled apparent errors and filed under this category. They appear to be errors because our information from extra-biblical sources is incomplete. If that information is incomplete, it is also inconclusive.

Project Number 1

  1. Apply Proposition One to the following allegation. Because handwriting did not exist in the mid-second millennium B.C., Moses could not be the author of the first five books of our Bible.
  2. What evidence is there from recent archaeological discoveries to support the Mosaic authorship of Genesis-Deuteronomy?6

II. Scientific Errors

Proposition Two: We recognize that extra-biblical material has been wrongly interpreted.

Many apparent conflicts between science and Scripture can be sorted into this compartment. One of the most frequently posed problems relates to the age of the human race. Science commonly traces the history of the human race back one hundred million years. The Bible seems to present him as a very recent creation. Doesn’t the Bible contradict science here?

Orthodox Christianity realizes that people of great knowledge and skill have, nevertheless, made interpretations of natural and scientific phenomena and stated conclusions that have been proved to be incorrect in the light of later evidence or more thorough research.

The “Piltdown Man” was a hoax. The announcement of Charles Dawson and Arthur Smith Woodward, December 18, 1912, that human remains had been found in Piltdown was retracted on November 21, 1953, when it was announced to the world that it all was a hoax perpetrated by Dawson. The “Nebraska Man” turned out to be a pig. The “Neanderthal Man” is now acknowledged to have been as upright and intelligent as we are today. There is widespread debate among scientists as to whether the “Java Man” and “Peking Man” ought to be listed as ape or as man.7

A few years ago in its science section Time (May 17, 1971) reported that a leading anthropologist had found that the “Neanderthal Man” who has been used as an explicit evidence of Darwin’s theory of evolution was not a sub-human being after all. Evidence now points to the effect that such “cave men” were not apish animals but actually a group of human beings who suffered severe vitamin deficiencies, thus causing the apish features. This definitely put a thorn in the theory of the evolutionist.

For two primary reasons one is quite justified in viewing the date of the human race as interpreted by science with some skepticism. First, the methods of dating are open to question. All methods are based on the presupposition of uniformitarianism, which considers that climatic conditions and rates of decomposition or deterioration have been uniform from the beginning. This presupposition ignores the biblical teaching of a universal flood, which obviously would destroy uniformitarianism. Also, these methods of dating fail to entertain the appearance of age that certainly was present in the creation of Genesis 1-2. That is, if creationism and the flood story are accepted, uniformitarianism is no longer a valid presupposition. Second, there is a great scarcity of fossil evidence for the age of the human race, a scarcity that is surprising in view of the massive abundance of fossils today. Someone has said, “Faith is the substance of fossils hoped for, and the evidence of links unseen.”

The admission that extra-biblical sources have been wrongly interpreted recently came from a space expert with NASA. A friend of mine asked him if he thought the Bible agreed with science. He asked “Which Science? The Science of 1900 or 1920 or 1940 or 1960 or 1980?” He concluded by indicating that he would immediately begin to doubt the Bible if and when it ever totally agreed with science! Why? Because science is in a constant state of change.

The evidence on incorrect interpretations of natural and scientific dates in the past justifies the stand of orthodox Christianity. Even in the face of apparent errors and contradictions between science and the Bible, we stand fast upon the reliability of the Word of God. We remember that extra-biblical phenomena have been, and often still are wrongly interpreted. With this proposition the loyal defender of the faith may deflect many diabolical darts designed to destroy our faith and God’s Word.

Project Number 2

How many other scientific interpretations of natural phenomena can you list that have recently proven to be incorrect?

III. An Incomplete Book             

Proposition Three: We recognize that the biblical record is incomplete and elliptical. therefore, on occasion it gives the appearance of errors and omissions.

This explains the many problems similar to the one in Matthew 1:8: “And to Asa was born Jehoshaphat; and to Jehoshaphat, Joram; and to Joram, Uzziah.”

This text seems to claim that Uzziah was the son of Joram. However the Old Testament clearly teaches he was the great-great-grandson (2 Kings 8:25; 11:2; 14:1, 21). To some this presents a problem. The explanation is obvious. In the Old Testament, New Testament and secular literature of the ancient Near East, “the son of” simply means “a descendant of” and may omit several generations. Jehu, son of Nimshi, (2 Kings 9:20) was actually grandson (9:2). Christ was called “Son of David” (Matt. 9:27) although David lived more than one thousand years earlier. In John 8:39 the Jews said, “Abraham is our father,” an elliptical statement bridging two thousand years. This same style is evident in the secular writings of the day too. King Tirhakah (680 B.C.) of Egypt honours “his father” Sesostris III (1800 B.C.) who lived twelve hundred years earlier.

What is the point here? We recognize the Scriptures are incomplete and elliptical. Occasionally this does give the appearance of error. Understanding this principle eliminates the apparent conflict between the 612 years from the Exodus to the dedication of Solomons Temple, determined by adding up the lengths of reigns of the judges and the kings, and the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1. These two numbers can be harmonized by realizing that the biblical record is often elliptical and that there was obviously more than one judge in existence at a time, located in different parts of the land.

Kitchen has demonstrated that a harmonization of the kings of Israel and Judah is impossible apart from recognizing there were co-regencies in those days. As in the case of the judges above, so in this case the biblical record leaves out the details of these synchronous reigns.8 The biblical record is incomplete. All the details are not given.

The writers of Scripture were extremely selective in their choice of content. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they included and excluded material in view of their specific purpose for writing. With this in mind, we will also be careful not to place too much value on arguments or lessons that are based on silence. This can be an extremely dangerous procedure, and has led to doctrinal perversions and practical excesses throughout the history of the church. Beware of arguments from silence. Beware of the elliptical nature of Scripture. By its very nature it sometimes gives the appearance of contradictions. Many apparent errors can be safely filed in this compartment. The incompleteness of the biblical record is the cause of the problem. If we had all the facts, the apparent error would be eliminated.

IV. Troublesome Illusions

Proposition Four: We recognize that the original text has been modernized for clarification or for the sake of completeness, and does give the illusion of an anachronism.

What do we mean by an anachronism? It is simply an event placed out of its proper historic time. To say Lincoln flew to Gettysburg would be an anachronism. There were no planes in the nineteenth century. Modernization of the text of Scripture may, on occasion, give such illusions to us today.

Perhaps the most obvious illustration of this principle at work is in Deuteronomy 34, the account of the death and burial of Moses. How could this be written by Moses, the one who orthodox Christianity claims is the author of the book? Is this not an anachronism? Does this not require the rejection of the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy?

Certainly not. The most plausible explanation is that Joshua, the successor of Moses, collected the books Moses had written, and wrote an appropriate conclusion to them. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote the obituary at the end of the writings of Moses. Joshua’s completion of the writings of Moses in Deuteronomy does give the illusion of an anachronism.

This principle is seen elsewhere. In Genesis 11:31, Moses (writing in the fifteenth century B.C.) speaks of Ur of the Chaldees. However, this area in Mesopotamia was not so named Chaldea until the eleventh century. This does not mean that Genesis 11 was written after the eleventh century B.C. To say this would be to destroy the Mosaic authorship of Genesis. There is another explanation. After the fifteenth century B.C., a second city named Ur was built near Haran. Therefore it appears that at some later date “of Chaldees” was added in Genesis 11:31 to distinguish the Ur of Abrahams home from the new Ur north of Haran.

This same principle bears upon the name of the city built by the Israelites in bondage. If the exodus occurred around 1440 B.C., then the building of the city Ramses (Ex. 1:11) was shortly prior to this date. However, Ramses the Pharaoh, after whom the city was named, did not come to the throne until 1301 B.C. Does this mean the exodus occurred after 1301 B.C.? Not necessarily. There is another possibility. The text of Moses may well have been modernized by changing the name in Exodus 1:11 and recording the more modern name of the city.9

Project Number 3

  1. Who may have modernized the text?
  2. What is the difference between these “modernizations” and the intentional changes made by some scribes?

V. Interpretive Errors

Proposition Five: We freely admit that the biblical text often has been wrongly interpreted.

It is commonly thought today that such was the case with James Ussher. He was the learned, seventeenth-century Anglican archbishop of Ireland who prepared a chronology of biblical events and reckoned that the creation of the universe occurred in 4004 B.C. Since the mid-nineteenth century this date has been rejected by scholars of science and Scripture. Students of the Bible have come to realize that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, as well as those in 1 Chronicles, are not closed or tight genealogical records, but rather have some omissions. It is impossible to affirm the extent of the omissions or to fix absolute dates prior to Abraham.

In this case, as well as in many others, orthodox Christians admit that the Bible text has been and still may be wrongly interpreted. This accounts for many apparent contradictions between Scripture and history, geography or archaeology. The contradiction is due to an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.

Project Number 4

  1. Discuss Israel’s errors in interpreting the nature and mission of the Messiah (Luke 24:44, 45), as well as the true nature of the Law (Matt. 5).
  2. Discuss the erroneous interpretation of Job 9:6 by the Medieval Church.

Historically many apparent errors have simply been resolved with the admission that the error is ours in the interpretation of the Scriptures. May God ever give evangelical Christians the grace not only to refrain from dogmatic interpretations in matters of secondary importance, but also to admit their errors in interpretation when the facts demand it.

VI. Scribal Errors

Proposition Six: We recognize that errors have come into the text through its transmission.

Here is a typical example:

And Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. (1 Kings 4:26)

Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 9:25)

One verse reads 40,000; another reads 4,000. This difficulty arose through the error of scribes in copying the text. The transmission of numerals was especially susceptible to error. In spite of the meticulous care of the scribes to preserve the text, errors did creep into the copies.

Project Number 5

  1. Identify the textual problem between 1 Corinthians 10:8 and Numbers 25:9. What is the solution to this problem?
  2. Identify the textual problem between 2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4. Suggest a possible solution to the discrepancy.

Consider a slightly more complicated case. In Judges 18:30, some older manuscripts read “Moses.” The Authorized Version follows the later manuscripts and reads “Manasseh.” This may be the work of scribes who could not believe that a son of Moses would ever set up an idol as described in this verse. Probably they changed the name to Manasseh—simply the addition of one Hebrew letter.

Although many textual “errors” can be pointed out, it must always be remembered that providentially we have more manuscript evidence than any ancient literature to use in identifying and resolving such “errors.” Also, the number of serious variants is so few they would fill only a page or two of our Bibles and none of these variants affect any doctrine of Scripture. Do not be influenced by those irrational critics who maliciously and unjustly scream that the Bible is full of errors.

VII. Optic Language

Proposition Seven: We recognize the use of phenomenal language, which gives the appearance of contradictions with science.

Phenomenal language is the language of observation. It is optic language, stating the case as it appears to the eye.

Bernard Ramm explains:

Its language about astronomy, botany, zoology and geology is restricted to the vocabulary of popular observation. What can be seen through a microscope or telescope is not commented on. Phenomenal language is true because all it claims is to be descriptive. One is not deceived when he sees the sun rise or the sun set. One is deceived only if he artlessly converts his observation into theories.10

Such language is frequently used in Scripture. Perhaps the best-known illustration of this type of terminology is found in the record of the southern campaign of Joshua’s invasion of Canaan (Josh. 10). In response to Joshua’s prayer recorded in verse 13, we are told the “sun stood still.” The daylight was prolonged until the campaign was successfully completed. This statement has been called the most striking incident of Scripture and science being at variance. Opponents of inerrancy ask, Does this verse not reflect the imperfect scientific knowledge of Joshua’s day? They thought of their earth as the centre of the universe and the sun rotating around the earth. Is this not an unscientific statement and therefore an error?

Not necessarily so. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch explain the language here when they write,

Even the strictest and most literal interpretation of the words does not require us to assume, as the Fathers and earlier theologians did, that the sun itself was miraculously made to stand still, but simply supposes an optical stopping of the sun in its course—that is to say, a miraculous suspension of the revolution of the earth upon its axis, which would make it appear to the eye of the observer as if the sun itself were standing still.11 (Emphasis added.)

That such language is quite legitimate is evident from the fact that every almanac, newspaper and weather report still designates the time for the sunrise and sunset!

Such optic language is common throughout Scripture. The atmospheric heavens that surround the earth are described as a “firmament” in Genesis 1:6. This noun comes from the Hebrew verb “to stretch” or “to spread out.” Then it came to mean “to beat, to hammer, to tread out.” Hence the “firmament” is the spreading out of the air around the earth as an atmosphere. This is optic language.

Project Number 6

Study the following verses to discover their use of phenomenal language. How is the atmosphere described in each verse?

Psalm 104:2

Isaiah 40:22

Job 37:18










VIII. Progressive Revelation

Proposition Eight: We recognize the fact of progressive revelation, which gives the appearance of contradiction between the Old and New Testaments, or even between earlier and later writers.

In the Old Testament era polygamy was widely practised. It was never condemned openly by God. He seemed to tolerate it at least. In the New Testament era monogamy is taught more clearly. Often Bible teachers are asked, Is this not a contradiction between the Old and New Testament?

Although polygamy was not explicitly condemned in the Old Testament, neither was it directly approved by God. Some suggest that Israel in the Old Testament era was in ethical and theological infancy, and did not come to maturity until the New Testament times. Support for this may be found in the transition from law in the Old Testament to grace in the New Testament—a transition that is appropriate for people moving from immaturity to maturity. In the period of their infancy, God tolerated certain things that He did not tolerate in their maturity. In growing from infancy to maturity there was a raising of ethical standards and an advance in theological knowledge. Whether or not this explanation is acceptable or correct, the fact remains that there was a progression in God’s revelation throughout the history covered by the Bible.

Such progress in revelation is more apparent perhaps in regard to the doctrine of me Trinity. Throughout the Old Testament there are merely intimations of a triune Godhead. In the New Testament it is explicit. There is no contradiction.

Project Number 7

How is the principle of progressive revelation demonstrated in the following verses?

Ephesians 3:1-12

1 Timothy 3:8 ff.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18










There is progress in the revelation given by God. Many “errors” dissolve merely into apparent errors under the scrutiny of this important proposition.

IX. Unresolved Difficulties

These principles will be useful to resolve most of the apparent contradictions and anachronisms. Learn them well. When a problem is raised, ask yourself under which category it fits. Most will be easily fitted. However, these do not remove all the difficulties. In facing the unresolved difficulties, we ought to keep in mind three very important points.

First, the burden of proof is upon the critic to prove that the difficulty is indeed an error. The Bible claims to be the inerrant Word of God. It has been universally accepted as such for centuries. That claim stands until it is proven otherwise. The burden of proof is on the critic. We simply say, “Prove it.”

Second, a difficulty remains only a difficulty and does not move into the category of an error until it is proven unequivocally to be an error. This “proof” cannot merely be alleged on ambiguous grounds. B. B. Warfield writes:

Every unharmonized passage remains a case of difficult harmony and does not pass into the category of objections to plenary inspiration. It can pass into the category of objections only if we are prepared to affirm that we clearly see that it is, on any conceivable hypothesis of its meaning, clearly inconsistent with the biblical doctrine of inspiration.12

To say the Bible contradicts science is to say that we know all about geology and anthropology, that all the archaeological evidence is in and that we accurately and completely understand the Bible. This is a very precarious, if not impossible stance to assume. Who would dare to make such a claim?

To say one verse contradicts another is to presuppose that we have all the facts on the two verses. As you can see, therefore, the person who claims the Bible is in error is making an arrogant claim of virtual omniscience. A critic is compelled to substantiate any such criticism with complete and conclusive evidence.

Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, a Hebrew professor at Princeton Seminary, was a world-renowned scholar. He knew and spoke more than forty-five languages and dialects. Yet he once said, “No man knows enough to disprove the inspiration, accuracy and authority of the Bible.” Hear him again, “Gentlemen, those things which I do not understand in the Bible, I put down to my own ignorance.” What a remarkably humble posture.

Every word of God is tested: He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar. (Prov. 30:5, 6)

The third important point to be remembered is that the history of alleged errors is on the side of orthodox evangelical Christianity. In 1800 the French Institute listed its eighty-two errors that were to destroy the Bible. Today every one of them has been satisfactorily answered. The great liberal critic Wellhausen knew of no domesticated camels at the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, he concluded, Genesis could not have been written by Moses as the Bible claims. He denied the unity of the Pentateuch and disputed its Mosaic authorship. Today archaeology has provided us with coins showing domesticated camels even before the biblical dating of the patriarchs! He spoke on the basis of incomplete and inconclusive extra-biblical sources. Plausible explanations have been offered for most of Marcus Dods’ and Sir Frederic Kenyon’s troublesome contradictions.

Though Clark Pinnock has become more liberal in his view of inerrancy, he correctly points out that the Bible has often been unjustly attacked. A century ago the book of Genesis was considered a hopeless collection of unsubstantiated myths. Moses, it was thought, would have been unable to write.

The Hittites had never existed. The literature was put together with scissors and paste at the hands of fairly unintelligent ancient bookmakers. Then the avalanche of discovery in the Near East came to bury these preposterous theories. Egyptian and Hittite parallels turned up in abundance. Personal names and customs were found echoed in the Amarna letters, the Nuzi tablets and the Ugaritic texts. The fanciful criteria for discerning literary strands in the documents of the Pentateuch have been subjected to severe criticism and abandoned by many. Writing in the Near East was already a well-established art in the second millennium B.C. If critics continue to point to Genesis with allegations of “error,” they will do so despite the evidence, not because of it.13

I once heard of a history class that was studying the French Revolution. For a particular assignment they were asked to report on the vote that condemned Louis XVI to death. One half of the class reported that the vote was unanimous. Some of the students reported it was a majority of one. A few declared it was a majority of one hundred forty-five in the total vote of seven hundred and twenty-one.

At first sight this looks like a hopeless contradiction. As a matter of fact, all three reports were accurate. You see, actually three votes were taken. On the issue of his guilt, the vote was unanimous. On the issue of his sentence, he was condemned to die by a majority of one hundred forty-five. On the issue of his immediate execution, the decision was passed by a majority of one.

When all the facts are in there is no contradiction! So also with the Word of God. The more the facts become available, the fewer the unresolved difficulties and the stronger the inerrancy of Scripture. It becomes obvious to us then, that if all the facts were in, the supposed contradictions in the synoptic Gospels would quickly disappear, and with them all the others as well.

In the meantime, difficulties do still remain! We cannot resolve all the difficulties. We cannot hope to ever do this as long as our extra-biblical sources are incomplete or subject to wrong interpretations, and as long as we bear the limitations of finite minds. How shall we respond in the face of the questions we can’t answer, the difficulties we can’t resolve?

Difficulties in Scripture do not deny inspiration nor destroy inerrancy. They are but mountains yet to be scaled and lands yet to be conquered.14


  1. List from memory the eight propositions of this chapter.
  2. Turn back to the questions at the beginning of this chapter. Each problem is solved by the application of one of these propositions. Can you match the appropriate proposition to each problem?


Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1964.

Bruce, F. F. Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? London: The InterVarsity Fellowship, 1950.

Davidheisser, Bolton. Evolution and Christian Faith. Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969.

Dods, Marcus. The Bible: Its Origin and Nature. New York, NY: C. Scribner s Sons, 1905.

Keil, C. F. and Delitzsch, E. Biblical Commentary on the Old TestamentJoshua, Judges, Ruth. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963.

Kenyon, Sir Fredric. The Bible and Archaeology. New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1940.

Kitchen, K. A. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966.

Lindsell, Harold. The Battle for the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

Pinnock, Clark. A Defense of Biblical Infallibility. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1967. — Set Forth Your Case. Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1968.

Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Boston, MA: W. A. Wilde Company, 1956.

Walvoord, John F. Daniel. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971.

Warfield, B. B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970.

Young, Edward J. Thy Word Is Truth. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967.

1 Marcus Dods, The Bible: Its Origin and Nature (New York, NY: C. Scribners Sons, 1905), pp. 136, 137.

2 Sir Fredric Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1940), p. 27.

3 I am greatly indebted to Dr. Bruce Waltke who, while teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary, not only exposed me to many of these principles, but also strengthened my faith in the Scriptures by his scholarly application of them to the Old Testament.

4 Gleason L. Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1964), p. 369.

5 John F. Walvoord, Daniel (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971), pp. 113-15.

6 K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966), p.20, pp. 92-102.

7 Bolton Davidheisser, Evolution and Christian Faith (Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1969), pp. 330-349.

8 K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, p. 63.

9 For another explanation of the name of this city, see Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 207.

10 Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Boston, MA: W.A. Wilde Company, 1956), p. 191.

11 C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old TestamentJoshua, Judges, Ruth (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1963), p. l12.

12 B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p. 220.

13 Clark Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1968), p. 71.

14 Ibid., p. 73.

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Faith, Inerrancy

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