Sunday, 14 October 2007

Are There Mistakes in the Bible?

Joel Kontinen

Skeptics are fond of pointing out that the Bible contains errors or inconsistencies. As an example of this kind of thinking, I will focus on the views of Donald Morgan. In his list of purported biblical inconsistencies, he admits that some of them might not be contradictions at all. I would agree. If, as I believe, the Bible is the inerrant (Ps.119:160; John 17:17) and inspired Word of God (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), it should not contain any inconsistencies or discrepancies.

I have chosen two examples from Morgan’s list – one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

1) Gen. 1:26-27 and Gen. 2:7,21-22
Morgan states that in Genesis 1:26-27 “man and woman were created at the same time.” He then mentions Genesis 2:7, 21-22 and interprets it as saying, “Man was created first, woman sometime later.” This is part of the classical myth of two discrepant creation stories. The late Finnish theologian Uuras Saarnivaara, who had two earned doctorates, explains that this is a false claim that advocates of Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis often use. They speculate that the accounts are from two different documents, P [the priestly document] and J [the Jahwist document]. However, there is actually no discrepancy between these two accounts, since Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of man in general and 2:7, 21 presents a more detailed account (Saarivaarna 1985, 149).

Wellhausen and other liberals postulated that Pentateuch was put together from four different sources, J (Jahwist) E (Elohist), D (Deutronomist) and P (Priestly), for the most part in the 7th century B.C. (Bray 1996, 303-305). However, Jesus himself stated that Moses wrote about Him (John 5:46) and that the Pentateuch was the “book of Moses” (Mark 12:26).

As Batten (1996) explains, the toledoth statements [“This is the account of”] of Genesis suggest strongly that Moses edited the text using earlier eyewitness records in writing. Batten adds that since the toledoth statements of Genesis 2: 4 and 5:1 are different, this affirms that what follows from 2:4 on is a more detailed account of what had already happened in 1:27. Moreover, the wording in Genesis 2:4b (“the earth and the heavens) differs from that in 2:4a (“the heavens and the earth”), thus the two accounts are from two different perspectives: first an overview, and then a more detailed account from man’s (or Edenic) perspective.

2) Acts 16:6 and Acts 19:8-10
The purported discrepancy between Acts 16:6, “The Holy Spirit forbids preaching in Asia” and Acts 19:8-10, “Paul preaches in Asia anyway” turns out to be no discrepancy at all but an example of God’s perfect timing. Morgan errs in believing that Paul was forbidden to ever preach the gospel in the Roman province of Asia. In Acts 16 The Holy Spirit does not allow Paul and his companions to preach in Asia and Bithynia because He wanted to guide them to proclaim the gospel in Europe (Gilbrant 1982, 271), where they were badly needed. Sometimes God’s Spirit leads believers by hindering them from pursuing the course they have chosen. Paul could probably never have gone to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth if he had gone to Asia and Bithynia instead (Bernspång 1983, 291).

Witherington (1998, 478-479) suggests that Paul “was not clear in advance of the beginning of this journey what direction God had in mind for him to go once he completed the circuit of the already founded churches in Syria, Cilicia and southern Galatia.” Many people, such as Lydia and the jailor at Philippi and those who were saved at Athens, will be forever grateful that the Holy Spirit guided Paul to reach out to them with the good news of the risen Christ.

Later, however, Paul was allowed to preach in the Asian centre of Ephesus – and it turned out to be a very powerful and effective ministry. He preached there for two years. The consequences were tremendous: “All Jews and Greeks, who lived in the province of Asia, heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10) and God “did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even hankerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:11-12).

Sources

Batten, Don. 1996. Genesis Contradictions. Creation 18:4, 44-45. http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v18/i4/genesis.asp


Berspång, Erik.. 1983. Apostlagärningarna: Kommentar för bibleläsaren. Herrljunga, Sweden: InterSkrift.

Bray, Gerald. 1996. Biblcal Interpretation Past and Present. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gilbrant, Thoralf (ed.). 1982. Novum: Uusi testamentti selityksin. Vol. 3. Vantaa, Finland: Raamatun Tietokirja.

Morgan, Donald, n.d. Biblical Inconsistencies (Biblical Contradictions?) http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html


Saarnivaara, Uuras. 1985. Voiko Raamattuun luottaa? 3rd ed. Suolahti, Finland: Ev. Lut. Herätysseura.

Witherington, Ben III. 1998. The Acts of the Apostles. A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI.William B. Eerdmans.


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