"Isn't the Bible Full of Errors?"
January 1, 2002 - "In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." —1 Peter 3:15, NIV
by R. C. Sproul Jr.
"Everybody knows that the Bible is full of errors."
While oftentimes such platitudes make it into our common perception because they reflect reality, this is not one of them. The only two words in the above quote that are true are "The Bible."
I know it is not true that everybody knows—or even believes—that the Bible is full of errors, because I am a body, and I do not believe it.
And I am not alone. There are millions of others around the globe who believe with great fervor that not only is the Bible not full of errors, but the Bible has no errors at all.
The argument, however, will not be won by counting up my "millions" or the skeptics' "everybody." We do not discern truth through a democratic process. To try to do so is to fall into what logicians call the "ad populum" fallacy, where we seek to support a notion by how many people believe it. Centuries ago everybody "knew" that the world was flat. But the earth did not morph into a sphere in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
So how can we know? We can examine the Bible and its purported errors. When someone claims biblical error, I begin with this challenge: "Show me one error. If the Bible is full of them, they ought to be easy to find."
The answers I receive are varied, but never have I received a bushel full. Most of the claims arise out of a patently unfair reading of the text, reading it in a way that it was not intended to be read. The Bible speaks of the sun rising and setting, when in fact the sun stands still. But no one suggests that the weatherman is "full of errors" when he tells us, "The sun will rise tomorrow at 6:00 a.m." (They may of course have plenty of other reasons for affirming that the weatherman is full of errors.)
One critic argued that the Bible says that Jesus was from Bethlehem, from Egypt and from Nazareth. Surely a person cannot be from so many places.
But Jesus was born in Bethlehem; as a Baby, He and His family fled to Egypt; and He was raised in Nazareth. I am from Pittsburgh and Ligonier in Pennsylvania and from Virginia and from Scotland. I was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Ligonier, and now live in Virginia. And my ancestors came to the United States from Scotland. I speak the truth when I claim each of these places as my origin.
Other critics simply fail to apply basic logic. One resurrection account in the Bible mentions two angels at the tomb, another account mentions one. How could there be two angels when there was one? It's simple enough. How could there be two without one? The text does not say "only one," it says "one." If there were two, we can be sure there was one.
Still other critics insist that the Bible errs because it presents miracles as facts. Such an objection merely begs the question, and it starts with an unproven premise that miracles are impossible. If miracles are impossible, the Bible is full of errors. If, however, they are possible, that bushel full of errors "disappears," as if by magic.
If the Bible is true, it has absolute claim on our lives. We not only must believe what it teaches, but we must also obey what it teaches. This is what drives "everybody" to deny its truth. It is neither intellectual sophistication, nor sincere study, that causes people to deny the truth of Scripture, but a refusal to acknowledge the God who has made Himself known. It is for this reason that no other book has been prodded and plowed as the Bible has. It has been assaulted from every direction, but the Bible truthfully teaches: "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."*