Bible Infallibility in the Light of Modern Scholarship Part 1
Source :-ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE BIBLE
By Rev.JABEZ T.SUNDERLAND, America
1. Is the Bible infallible?
2. Sixty-six Infallible Books
3. Contradictions in the Bible
4.Different Forms of the Ten Commandments
5. Contradictions in the Gospels
Is the Bible infallible?
Or, to use a word that is preferred in some quarters Is the Bible inerrant?Hardly any questions of our day are being asked by so many persons as these. Hardly any are being asked so earnestly. What answer has scholarship to make?
Happily, so far as biblical scholarship is independent, honest, and competent (and no other is worth considering),its answer to these questions is at last becoming clear, even if it has not been clear in the past.Such scholarship no longer hesitates to subscribe to the language of Professor Briggs when he says: “So far as I can see, there are errors in the scriptures that no one has been able to explain away; and the theory that they were not in the original text is sheer assumption, upon which no mind can rest with certainty. If such errors destroy the authority of the Bible, it is already destroyed for historians. Men cannot shut their eyes to truth and fact. But on what authority do these theologians drive men from the Bible by this theory of inerrancy? The Bible itself nowhere makes this claim.
. .It is a ghost of modern evangelicalism to frighten children.”
Let us see exactly the grounds upon which scholars make such declarations as this of Dr. Briggs. To some extent these grounds have been set forth already; for if a tithe of what has been said in the preceding pages is true, there is not even a possibility that the Bible is infallible or inerrant. Yet the long array of facts that has already passed before us is but a small part of the evidence that quickly accumulates as soon as we are willing- really to think and inquire.
We have taken up the subject of the origin of the various books of the Old Testament and the New. We have inquired when they were written, how they were written, who wrote them? Have we found our answers such as to give us ground for believing in the infallibility of their origin? We have inquired how the various books were gathered together into a sacred Canon. Did we find no evidences of human imperfection here? We have inquired about the original text how it was produced, and how it has been preserved and handed down. Has the text been guarded against the possibility of error? Then come the translations. Have these been governed by supernatural wisdom? Yet all this is necessary to insure us an infallible Bible to-day. If a single link breaks in all this two-thousand-years’-long chain of infallible production and transmission, then, whatever our theories may be, as a fact the Bible which we hold in our hand to-day is not infallible.
2. Sixty-six Infallible Books?
We must not forget that even if we could prove the infallibility of one, or a score, of the books of the Bible, that would not establish the infallibility of the rest. For, as we have seen, originally the books were not together. There is no way of establishing the infallibility of the Bible as a whole, only by establishing the infallibility of each and every one of the books that make it up. If I have in my library sixty-six miscellaneous volumes of prose and poetry, history, biography, letters, etc., written in three or four different countries, and by men of all grades of character and culture, some of them living ten centuries apart, will the fact that I may be able to prove a certain thing about one or more of the volumes justify me in claiming that I have proved it concerning all ? Very well, we have found the Bible to be such a library of sixty-six miscellaneous books, of various and, for the most part, utterly unconnected origin. Every book, therefore, which has a place in it, stands or falls by itself. The various books are not a whit more related to each other than they would be if they were printed and bound as sixty-six different and distinct volumes, each under its own separate name. The real question then is not as to one infallibility, but as to sixty-six infallibilities.
But a large number of the most serious difficulties in the way of believing in the infallibility of the Bible I have not yet mentioned at all. I should be inexcusable if -I did not point out some of the more prominent of these, so that it may be seen as plainly as possible how increasingly hopeless a task candid men, who think and investigate, are finding they have before them, in this age of growing knowledge, when they undertake to keep their belief that the Bible is a book which contains no mistakes and no imperfections. The following points I mention without stopping to elaborate them’ more than in the briefest manner.
The Doctrine of Infallibility not Found in the Bible.
The Bible itself does not claim to be free from error. While in places certain claims of superior inspiration and guidance of God are doubtless put forth, there is no place in which the claim is made that the Bible as a whole, or even any considerable part of it, is infallible. Among the scripture passages that are quoted in support of the infallibility theory, the following is conceded by every writer, so far as I know, to be the strongest ; to wit : ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.(Timothy 3:16) But as soon as we begin to look at this passage carefully, two or three things appear, which rob it wholly of value as proof that the Bible is infallible,
(1) It says nothing about infallibility: it speaks only of inspiration. Nor are the two necessarily connected. For Peter and Paul, who are regarded as inspired men, confess that they make mistakes. If, then, inspired men may err, why not an inspired book?
(2) At the time this Epistle to Timothy was written, there was no New Testament. The collection of writings which we know by that name was not made until long after. The only sacred Scripture known to the Christians at that time was the Old Testament. The “all scripture” referred to, therefore, of course meant Old Testament scripture. So, then, even if this passage
proved infallibility at all, it would be only of the Old Testament.
(3) But that it does not prove that, or anything looking in that direction, is seen as soon as we get a correct translation. It has long been known to scholars that the rendering in our common version is wrong. The Revised Version gives it correctly, as follows: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction,” etc. That this teaches Bible infallibility, nobody can claim.
Another passage sometimes quoted to prove the Bible infallible is this from Second Peter: “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It should be borne in mind that this Epistle (as has been shown in a Preceding chapter) is almost certainly not from Peter at all, but is a non-apostolic writing of the middle of the second century. Its claim, therefore, to be in the New Testament is of the poorest. But even if we admit it to be genuine scripture, what then? It says nothing about Bible infallibility. It makes no claim concerning the Bible of any kind. In affirming that “holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” it simply affirms the great truth of the living inspiration of God in the soul of man, something as true of our time as of any time in the past, and having no necessary connection with any book. In the saying of Christ that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away “(Mark xiii.31),many suppose they see a claim of Bible infallibility. But all the words of Christ together constitute only aninfinitesimal portion of the Bible; they form simply a part of four out of the sixty-six books. It is probable, too, that he was not thinking of written words at all, for at that time none of his words had been written ; only a few ever were written, and those not until a generation after his death. He was simply expressing his conviction of the everlasting truth of the message God had given him to speak. Others cite the somewhat similar utterance of Christ found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 18) as proving that the Bible is infallible : ” Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.” But what was then understood by the law was not identical with the Bible as we have it to-day. Then there was no New Testament, and no part of one. By the law was meant simply a part (the first Five books) of the Old Testament. Indeed, it is likely that Jesus meant something even more limited than that; namely, the moral teaching of those books. And this’ he taught was fulfilled (filled full) in his Gospel. Thus we see there is nothing in this passage about Bible infallibility. There is only one other passage that need be referred to. It is that strange and terrible one found at the close of the Apocalypse, or Revelation: “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.’- Of this passage two things are to be said :
(1) It is found in one of the most doubtful of the books of the Bible a book which had difficulty in gaining admission into the Canon, and which has been distrusted by many learned and devout scholars of both ancient and modern times .
(2) A very little consideration shows that the passage makes no reference.
whatever to the subject of whether the Bible is infallible or not. It says nothing about the Bible. Indeed, there was no Bible at that time, except the Old Testament, and to that it makes no allusion. It simply refers to the “Book of this prophecy;” that is, the book in which the passage is found the Apocalypse. The writer resorts to the very questionable expedient of undertaking to protect his production from mutilation or change, by launching a threat or curse against anyone who should presume to tamper with it.
Thus we see how groundless is the belief that the Bible claims to be infallible. Indeed, there is much in it that teaches the opposite. Jesus says to the people: “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?”Both Old Testament and New are full of appeals from external authorities of all kinds to the reason, the heart, and the conscience of men.
The truth is, the doctrine of Bible infallibility, or inerrancy, as taught in the modern world, was unknown to the ancient Jews, unknown to Christ, and unknown to the early Christian Church. It did not come into existence until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was not held by the earliest and greatest of the Reformers Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their associates. The Roman Catholic Church has never adopted it.
But nothing is necessary to show how utterly groundless the doctrine is, except to examine the Bible itself.
3. Contradictions in the Bible
[Note:- Bold- One Opinion , Italics- Opposite Contradicting Opinion]
Both Testaments contain numerous contradictions. These furnish evidence so incontrovertible on the question before us, that I shall cite a considerable number, though only a small part of all there are.
Attention is called in another chapter to the contradiction between 2 Sam. xxiv. I and I Chron. xxi. I. In one of these passages we are told that it was the Lord and in the other that it was Satan, who prompted David to do a certain thing , namely, to number, or take a census of Israel. Of course both statements cannot be true unless the Lord and Satan are the same being.
Let us place a few passages side by side:
“And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done.” 2 Sam. xxiv. 10.
“David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” I Kings xv.5.
In one of these passages we find David represented as having sinned in the matter of numbering Israel; in the other, as never having sinned in anything except in robbing Uriah the Hittite of his wife.
Compare these passages:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.’* Gen. xxii. I.
“O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived.” Jer.xx.7.
“Let no man say when he is – tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted he any man.” Jas.i.13
Here we are told, on the one hand, that God tempts certain men; and, on the other, that he tempts nobody. In the case of Jeremiah we are told that he goes even farther than tempting, he deceives.
Compare these passages:
“The earth abideth forever.” Eccl.i.4. “Who laid the foundations of the earth that it should not be removed forever” Ps. civ. 5.
“The earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” 2 Pet. in. 10.
They shall perish, but thou remainest.” Heb. i. II.
And these :
” Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings ii. II.
“No man hath ascended up to heaven but be that came down from heaven, even the Son of man.” John iii. 13.
And these :
” Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin ; he cannot sin because he is born of God.” i John iii. 9. ”
” There is no man that sinneth not.” i Kings viii. 46.
There is not a just man upon earth, that doetb good and sinneth not.” Eccl. vii. 20.
And these :
Noah offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake.” Gen. viii. 20,21.
” Ye shall offer the burnt offering for a sweet savor unto the Lord.” Num. xxviii. 27.
” Ye shall offer a burnt offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord, thirteen young bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs.” Num. xxix. 13.
” Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it ; thou delightest not in burnt offering.” Ps. li. 16.
” I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.” Isa. i. ii.
“Wherewith shall I come before the Lord r Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? What doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to humbly walk with thy God ?” Mic. vi. 6-8.
Compare also the following:
“There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” Job xxxiv. 22.
“And David took from him a thousand chariots and seven hundred thousand chariots and seven thousand horsemen.” 2 Sam. viii. 4.
“Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, among the trees of the garden.” Gen. iii. 8.
“And David took from him a thousand chariots and seven thousand horseman.” 1 Chron xviii.4.
“Michal, the daughter of Saul,had no child unto the day of her death.” 2 Sam. vi. 23.
“And the men which journeyed with him [Paul] stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.” Acts ix. 7.
” I have seen God face to face.” Gen. xxxii. 30.
“The five sons of Michal,the daughter of Saul.” 2 Sam. XXL 8.
“They that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid: but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” Acts xxii.
“No man hath seen God at any time.” I John iv. 12.
And the following :
“I am the Lord, I change not. Mai. iii. 6.
“With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning “-Jas. i. 17.
” I will not go back, neither will I repent.” Ezek. xxiv. 14.
” There is no respect of persons [partiality] with God.” Rom. ii. II.
” He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. “Job vii. 9.
” And God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them,and he did it not” Jonah iii. 10.
[There are no fewer than fourteen places in the Bible where God is spoken of as repenting.]
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Rom. ix.13(See vs. 10-18.)
“The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised.” r Cor. xv. 52.
4.Different Forms of the Ten Commandments
Every careful student of the Bible knows that the Ten Commandments are given not only in three different places in the Old Testament, but in two different forms so different, that one cannot possibly be identified with the other. I place the two forms side by side for comparison, only abridging each to save space :
1.Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3.Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. “Remember the Sabbath day,to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work : but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God : in it thou shalt not do any work.
5. “Honor thy father and thy mother.
6, “Thou shalt not kill.
7. ” Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. ” Thou shalt not steal.
9. ” Thou shalt not bear false, witness against thy neighbor.
10. “Thou shalt not covet.” (Ex. xx. and Deut. v.)
1. ” Thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
2. “Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
3. ” The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep.
4. “Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harrest thou shalt rest.
5. ” Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and of ingathering.
6. “Thrice in the year shall all your men-children appear before the Lord.
7. “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven.
8. “Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
9. “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
10. “Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” (Ex. xxxiv.)
While in the accounts found in Ex. xx. and Deut. v. we have the Ten Commandments given in the first of these forms (the form in which we are accustomed to make use of them), in Ex. xxxiv. we are told explicitly that the second form is the one in which they were given to Moses from God, and written by Moses at God’s command on the tables of stone, as the words of “the covenant, the ten commandments.”
5. Contradictions in the Gospels
There are many contradictions connected with the accounts we have of the life of Jesus. I can refer to only a few of them, and in the briefest way.
First of all there is a difficulty in accounting for the childhood of Jesus. According to Luke he was born in Bethlehem, after which (ii. 22) his parents took him to Jerusalem to perform some religious ceremony in the temple, when he was forty days old, and then at. once departed (ii. 39) into Galilee to their own city, Nazareth; and from there they went up every year to Jerusalem to the feast of the passover (ii. 41). Thus we have the childhood of Jesus accounted for up to twelve years of age. But now turning to Matthew (chap, ii.) we find a different and conflicting account, Matthew tells us that immediately after the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi,his parents took him (not back to Nazareth, but)down into Egypt and the return to Nazareth was not until after a residence of sometime in Egypt, and the death of Archelaus, Herod’s son and successor. How are these two accounts to be harmonized ?
Again, there are irreconcilable difficulties in connection with the genealogies of Jesus given by Matthew and Luke. Both these genealogies trace the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph. But having done this, both Matthew and Luke tell us that Joseph was not the father of Jesus at all. Thus Jesus is claimed to have descended from David, because a man who is not his father descended from David. A most extraordinary claim ! Moreover,Matthew says the number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen, and from David to the Captivity fourteen, and from the Captivity to Christ fourteen. But if we look carefully at the genealogy, as he himself gives it, the number from Abraham to David is only thirteen, and the number from the Captivity to Christ is only thirteen. Furthermore, the genealogies of Joseph, the husband of Mary (called the genealogies of Jesus, but not the genealogy of Jesus at all unless Joseph was Jesus father), as given by Matthew and Luke, are radically different, agreeing in only fifteen names in the whole list, and differing in forty names. Now, when we bear in mind that these genealogies both run back in the male line, from son to father, and then grandfather, and then great-grandfather, and so on, we see that divergence can mean nothing else but error in one or the other of the authorities, or both. Nor may we suppose that one genealogy is that of Mary. Such a supposition rests on not a shadow of evidence, while it is positively contradicted by the language of the text.
Passing on from the birth and childhood to the ministry of Jesus, there are many more discrepancies and contradictions. For example, in the Gospel of Mark Jesus is represented as going to the wilderness immediately after his baptism, and remaining there forty days. But when we turn to John, he tells us that on the third day after the baptism Jesus is in Cana of Galilee at a wedding, and not a word is said about any wilderness or temptation. Of course both these accounts cannot be true, unless Jesus can have been in two places, one in the northern part of Palestine and the other in the southern, at the same time.
The inscription on the cross is given differently by each of the Gospel writers, as follows :
” This is Jesus, the King of the Jews ” (Matt, xxvii. 37).
“The King of the Jews ” (Mark xv. 26).
” This is the King of the Jews ” (Luke xxiii. 38).
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John xix. 19).
Of course only one of the four can be correct. Or, if it be claimed that, as the inscription was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the form may possibly have varied in these different languages, and one Gospel writer may have reported one form and another another, even then the difficulty is only slightly lessened ; for this would give us only three varieties of form, whereas we have coming down to us four. So that still we are obliged to confess that at least one of the Gospel narrators has made a mistake.One case more. Paul tells us (i Cor. xv. 5) that Christ was seen of the twelve apostles after his resurrection. But there were not twelve apostles to see him; there were only eleven : since we are told that Judas had hanged himself, and the twelfth apostle, Matthias, was not elected until after Christ’s ascension.There are several very plain contradictions in the accounts given of the resurrection, and of the events occurring between the resurrection and ascension ; but I pass by these, as well as many others in various parts of both the Old Testament and the New.
Of course I am aware of the reply which is but too often made to citations like these; namely, the reply of anger and denunciation, that any one should presume to let these contradictions be known, coupled with the declaration that they are only ” the invention of infidels, which ” have been answered a thousand times.” To all this I need only say they are not the invention of anybody ; they are simply plain, straightforward facts, which refuse to accommodate themselves to the wish of either “infidel” or Christian. As to their having been “answered a thousand times,” it is enough to say they have been replied to a thousand times ; they have never been answered at all. The dogmatist may deny them; the investigator who loves truth confesses them. Confession is the only answer that can be made to them. Few of them are of a character to invalidate the general historic fidelity add value of the Bible, but they overturn utterly the doctrine of its inerrancy.