There are lots of people -including many well-educated people- who believe that the Bible is full of errors. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to find people who believe that there are many mistakes and errors found within the Biblical books.
There are lots of reasons why this is so. For instance, people may feel uncomfortable with what the Bible says on a particular subject so they attempt to discredit it by claiming that there are various “mistakes” found within it.
Other people are genuinely concerned about things like historical accuracy and have real questions about some of the things found within the Bible. Others may find it hard to understand how a book as ancient as the Bible could be passed down from different cultures and generations without getting totally messed up. Such people might legitimately say, “Look, that stuff in the Bible was written thousands of years ago- how do we know that we have the same Bible today?”
Perhaps you’ve had some of these questions yourself. If so, then read on and let’s see if we can’t come up with some possible answers.
To start, it’s good to first consider what the Bible says about itself. Tou answer this question, someone doesn’t have to read very far into the Bible to find that it claims to be the very Word of God. For example, did you know that nine verses in the very first chapter of Genesis start off by saying, “God said…”?
There are other examples too. For instance, the prophets Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:4) both say that their words came directly from God. Psalm 119:160 tells us, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” In fact, did you know that expressions such as “The Lord said,” “The Lord spoke,” or “The Word of the Lord came…” are found over 3800 times in the Old Testament alone?
As far as the New Testament is concerned, Paul the Apostle said something very important about this subject. In his first letter to the church in the town of Thessalonica, Paul said, “…when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV).
In fact, Paul even went so far as to flatly state in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” or literally, “All scripture is “God-breathed”. What Paul is saying here is that God’s Holy Spirit led the Biblical writers in composing the Scriptures. In other words, the Biblical authors didn’t just think up lots of things to say about God- their writings were supervised by God Himself!
To clarify this idea a little further, 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that, “…no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.”
Scholar-types like to point out that when Peter wrote this in the original language he used a nautical term that means “to be moved or carried along” to describe how the Scriptures were written. To get an idea of what this represents, you might picture a sailboat in your mind. Just as the wind moves a sailboat across the water, God also moved the Biblical writers. God “carried along” each Biblical writer so they went exactly where He wanted them to go in their writings.
As far as “mistakes” found within the Bible, perhaps it’s best to consider what Jesus Himself had to say on the subject. Regarding the Scriptures, Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NKJ) and stated with certainty that “…the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35 NKJ). So it certainly appears that Jesus believed the Scriptures to be error-free.
So what should we do with all those mistakes, errors and contradictions that people say exist within the Bible? Well, The Doctor thinks that one commentator sums it up pretty well…
“The truth is that there is not even one demonstrated error in the original text of the Bible. This is not to say that there are not difficulties in our Bibles. There are… (but) there are no actual errors in the Scriptures. Why? Because the Bible is the Word of God and God cannot err.” (1)
The key point is that a possible explanation exists for every difficult passage found within the Scriptures and many, many resources are available to help explain them. If you are ever confronted with some apparent contradiction in the Bible just remember- there is always a possible answer- you just have to find it!.
Now some people may say, “Yeah, OK, but how do we know that the Bible we have today is the same one that God inspired back then?” Well, there are lots of possible answers to that question but for our purposes, The Doctor is going to answer that question by telling you the story of a boy and his goat- and how they helped show the reliability of the Scriptures! Here it is…
Back in the spring of 1947 a young boy named Muhammed was out looking for a lost goat out in the wilderness of Judea- an area of the world inhabited today by the nation of Israel. As the little shepherd boy walked along the dry, craggy terrain he started tossing stones into the caves that were there, just 500 yards (460 meters) or so from the Dead Sea. As he walked along, he picked up a stone and he threw it into one of the cave openings along the hillside. As the stone disappeared into the cave he heard a noise that didn’t quite sound like a stone striking a rock. So he picked up another stone, threw it into the same cave, and heard the same sound again.
Muhammed decided that this was something worth checking out so he climbed up to the opening to have a better look. What he found was a cave about 25 feet (8 meters) in length and six feet (2 meters) wide. Inside the cave were clay jars including the ones that his rocks had hit- the ones that had made the sound he had heard. Some of the jars were gray, some were pinkish-white and all stood about 2 feet (61 cm) high. Inside the jars were rolled objects wrapped in cloth and covered with a protective wax-like substance. The young boy unrolled one of the objects and found it to be an ancient manuscript, carefully written down on pages that had been sewn together.
What Muhammed found in the cave that day is generally thought to be one of the greatest archaeological finds ever, for what the boy found is what we refer to today as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls belonged to a group of people who lived in that area somewhere between 150 BC to AD 70. Scholars believe that the Scrolls were placed in the caves to protect them from a possible invasion by the Romans during that time. With the exception of the book of Esther, parts of every Old Testament book are represented among the Scrolls. The oldest text is a fragment of Exodus that dates from about 250 BC. The scroll containing the entire book of Isaiah is thought to have been copied around 100 BC.
So why bring this story up? Simply this- in some cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls are over 1000 years older than the earliest Old Testament manuscripts that previously existed. But here’s the best part- when the Scrolls were checked against these later manuscripts it was found that they read almost exactly the same! In commenting on this, one scholar says this…
“Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered…in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscripts previously known…they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.” (2)
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a good reason to feel confident concerning the accuracy of the Bibles we read today. So when people ask you, “How do you know that the Bible we have today is the same one that was written years ago,” you can just tell them the story of a boy and his goat.
(1) When Critics Ask Norman Geisler, Thomas Howe
(2) Dr. Gleason Archer, quoted in A Ready Defense, Josh McDowell