Is the Bible the infallible Word of God? Can a book of God contain errors and contradictions?
Can a book from God contain any errors in it? If so, than this implies that God can make mistakes, which is impossible. And if the errors are from man than that means that man has changed some of the words of God, which is also a no-no. God's absolute book should only contain the inspired infallible Word of God without the fallible word of man.
Example 1: Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?
“Again the anger of The LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah. " So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, "Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (2 Samuel 24: 1-2)
“Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, "Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.".” - Old Testament (Tanakh) (I Chronicles 21:1-2)
- So who was it exactly that incited David to take the census, God or Satan?
Example 2: How old was Ahaziah when he began to rule over Jerusalem?
If you still don’t believe that the Bible has errors and contradictions, then maybe the testimony from two prominent Christian apologists will convince you.
Dr. Norman Geisler is considered one of the best apologists and able defenders of the Christian faith in this century and co-author Dr. Thomas Howe of When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties holds a Ph.D. in biblical and philosophical hermeneutics, and is a professor of Greek and Hebrew at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Thus, the scholarship behind their text is excellent.
The following quote is from their book:
Quote from pg 24:
"While present copies of Scripture are very good, they are not without error. For example, 2 Kings 8:26 gives the age of king Ahaziah as twenty-two, whereas 2 Chronicles 22:2 says forty-two. The later number cannot be correct, or he would have been older than his father. This is obviously an error, but it does not alter the inerrancy of the original."
Dr. Geisler further goes on to talk about how these errors are simply "copyist errors" and are not part of the originals. Also, it mentions how they're "minor errors which do not affect any doctrine of the Christian faith." But my whole thing is, today we do not have the original manuscripts of the New or Old Testament so I really don’t understand how this author can make a sound testimony of "The Inerrant Original."
In reality his statement simply amounts to conjecture or perhaps one’s honest opinion at best. More importantly however, even if one calls these errors "minor", it still proves the point that the Bible as it exists today includes errors and contradictions.
Thus, this leads a rational and inquisitive individual to speculate "well, what if there are more errors that people are unaware of?”
"Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (2 Kings 8:26)
"Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (2 Chronicles 22:2)
- Was he 22 or 42 years of age?
Example 3: How many stalls for horses did Solomon have?
"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." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (2 chronicles 9:25)
"Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen." - Old Testament (Tanakh) (I Kings 4:26)
- Did Solomon have 4,000 or 40,000 stalls?
Again, according to Dr. Geisler, "This is undoubtedly a copyist error. The ratio of 4,000 horses to 1,400 chariots, as found in the 2 Chronicles passage, is much more reasonable than a ratio of 40,000 to 1,400 found in the 1 Kings text." (pg. 181)
Now some people may call these contradictions "minor errors or trivial," but is God able to commit any error at all? Surely not! The following link displays a list of 101 undeniable errors and clear contradictions in the Bible: http://www.missionislam.com/comprel/biblecontra.html
Some revised Bibles have tried to correct these errors, however, the errors remain in the older Hebrew text and Greek Septuagint. Lastly, these errors would explain the reason why God sent down the Qur'an to clear up the confusion around Jesus and the previous mistakes made by men.
"A. L. R. These are the Ayats (verses) of Revelation,- of a Qur'an that makes things clear" – Qur’an English Translation [15:1]
Early Scribal Errors
So how did some of these plain errors in today’s Bible come about? The errors that can be found in the Bible are not solely limited to numerical or trivial issues but also theological. To understand this dilemma lets listen to what a contemporary scholar of early Biblical scribal transmission has to say.
Checkout the following article from NPR's website. It's an interview
with a Professor by the name of Bart Ehrman who's the chairman of the religious
studies department at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill:
"Ehrman says the modern Bible was shaped by mistakes and intentional alterations that were made by early scribes who copied the texts. In the introduction to Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman writes that when he came to understand this process 30 years ago, it shifted his way of thinking about the Bible. He had been raised as an Evangelical Christian."
Full story here:
(there's a link under the title of the article where you can listen to the actual audio of the interview)
The problem with believing in the Bible to be the Infallible Word of God should be apparent at this point. Despite these clear errors, many contemporary Christians while talking to Muslims will still argue that Muslims should accept the Bible as the Absolute Unadulterated Word of God while dismissing the Qur’an.
But I ask you, what kind of logic does this make? Intuitively, we all know that God’s word cannot contain error or contradiction. So what book appears to be the Absolute Word of God, the proven fallible Bible or the proven infallible Qur’an?
Can putting your faith in the Bible as God's complete Word be dangerous?
Consider the following simple analogous scenario of why a
person seeking the truth should look to the Qur’an and not the Bible as the
Complete and Absolute Word of God:
Say you work with the FBI and you’re new to the job. Your job's main description is to dismantle bombs in cases of emergencies. Ok, so one day you go to work and they discover that there's a bomb in the building and now it's your job to dismantle it (assuming all of the other bomb dismantlers are away and time will not allow for them to be called in.)
However, because you're a rookie to the job you haven’t yet quite mastered the art of dismantling. So anyhow you search the office for instructions on how to deactivate the bomb. You find two manuals and begin rigorously searching through the pages of both for the answer. Now in one book, we'll call it “Manual A,” you find clear errors both numerically and logically.
For example in this manual it mentions in one part “never cut the red wire”…and then five paragraphs later it says “first cut the red wire.” However, the other instruction manual, which is a later edition, “Manual B,” contains no errors or contradictions within its directions and clearly instructs you to “cut the yellow and the red at the same time” and the bomb will deactivate.
Now, the question is directed to YOU: As the rookie bomb
dismantler which Manual would you entrust with saving your life? Clearly, any
rational human being would choose the manual without error or contradiction,
So what does all of this amount to?…”Manual A” is the Bible and “Manual B” is the Qur’an. The risk to one’s life in the fictitious scenario above can be interpreted as the risk of losing one’s soul to damnation in our real life. However, the good news is that both scenarios can be avoided by simply using one’s intellect to discern the truth from error.
"O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done. " - Qur’an English Translation [49:6]
Verses in the Bible denying themselves to be God's Word
Additionally, we find verses in the Bible that truly cannot be God's Word; verses that admit this fact themselves (Paul). Most Christians say that Paul's letters in the Bible are God inspired, however I must ask, why then does Paul sometimes feel that it is his right to state his unique opinion on some matters? Should God's Book contain the opinions of men, even it is Paul?
Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Paul may have had many great views on many issues, but with all due respect I'd rather know what God's opinion is. I mean it only seems logical since He is The Creator of The Universe and The One whom we must face on the Day of Judgment.
"To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her." - New Testament (1 Corinthians 7:12)
Paul says "he must not divorce her." These words really strike me as bold, I didn't realize a mortal man could decree his opinion using words of such authority and then put that opinion in "God's Book." In another letter of The Bible Paul takes the liberty to express some of his frustrations concerning the treatment he's received from the Jews.
Now I have no problem with a man wanting to vent his feelings, but is God's Book really the proper place for such expression and complaint?
"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that." - New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:1)
"I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again." - New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:16-23)
Clearly, this is man who's frustrated and admits himself numerous times that he is not "talking as the Lord would." So therefore, by default one can say that the Bible is not the Complete Word of God. Indeed, we see parts where the Word of Man (human thought) is also in this book.
The Qur'an however speaks only from the 1st Person God's point of view. There are no opinions from Prophet Muhammad nor any other man in God's Final Revelation to mankind.
Books in the Bible both God inspired and Man inspired?
Lastly, we find books in the Bible, such as the Book of Jonah, which clearly make the indication of an inspired Word coming from GOD. Whilst on the other hand, we find other books of the Bible, such as Luke's Gospel, in which clearly make the indication of a MAN's individual account of things.
The Book of Jonah begins:
"The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” - Old Testament (Tanakh) (Jonah 1:1-2)
The Book (Gospel) of Luke begins:
"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." - New Testament (Luke 1:1-4)
These simple errors and contradictions in the Bible can seem confusing, and as any Christian will agree, God is not the author of confusion:
According to 1 Corinthians 14:33,
KJV: "For God is not the author of confusion, But of Peace, as in all churches of the saints."
NIV: "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,"
That’s why to me and to the rest of the Muslim world the Bible has no where near as firm a claim as “God’s Infallible Word” as such demonstrated in the inerrant Qur’an as it tangibly exists today.
And remember one of the root words of "Islam" is Salaam, or Peace. Additionally, one of the 99 names of God in Islam is As-Salaam (السلام) or "The Peace and Blessing." So a Muslim will agree that God is indeed the Author of Peace!
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