God Did Not Write the Bible…

God Write The Bible
. . . and that doesn’t hurt its holiness or its validity!

When I was a child my Sunday School teachers used to say that God whispered the words of the Bible, and someone wrote them down. There is some level of comfort in this idea, and many Christians I love defend it passionately, but there are problems with this theory.  Men of varied culture and history penned the words, men translated the words from language to language, and men deliberated, disagreed, and decided which ancient writings to include in what we call the Bible.  Understandably, therefore, there are hundreds of problems when we attempt to see the words as handed down directly from God.

I understand and respect the need for some to yell “heresy” about now! I speculate a twofold reason for this passion: 1) The human need for God to be tangible, thus the equating of the Bible with God. (With our physical bodies we can’t touch, see, or hear God, but we can touch, see, and hear the Bible.) 2) The fear that if any discrepancy is found in the Bible that would mean God was not real or that the Bible was not Holy. Well, I hope to dispel both of these ideas here. The Bible does contain hundreds of discrepancies. Yet God is very real, and the Scripture is Holy.

The Bible is inspired by God. It amazingly records and preserves the Hebrew/Jewish people’s history with God, the life and teachings of Jesus, and the beginnings of the Christian Church. Inspired,yes. There is, however, a critical difference between spiritual revelation and human words. Have you ever tried to put a spiritual revelation into words? One does not fit perfectly into the other, but words are all we have with which to communicate. The words of the Bible were mostly penned by writers who lived in close relationship to God, and were under some level of the power of the Holy Spirit as they wrote, but nowhere do we read that they were immaculately conceived, or that they were transfigured as they wrote. They were not perfect or omniscient people. Many of them made judgments in their lives for which they would be arrested today, and maybe even given the death penalty. They included adulterers, murderers, a former persecutor of Christians, . . . Despite their humanness, however, the writings they left us are the most valuable and precious tangible gift from God to us. An awe-inspiring set of writings that have revolutionized our world for many centuries. The all-time best-selling book worldwide, and with good reason!

Although most Christians have a Bible in their homes, however, only a small percentage of them ever read it from cover to cover. They claim its value. I’ve heard many say that if their house caught fire, their Bible would be the first thing they’d grab on the way out. Yet it has largely become an icon. They like to talk and read about what it says, but many Christians don’t pick up the actual Bible except to carry it under their arms when they go to church. Yet many of these same Christians are the most defensive of its perfection. Why? Because they have equated it with God. Many Christians, knowingly or unknowingly, worship the Bible. It has unknowingly become their idol, and the idea that the Bible might have a tiny error in it is as blasphemous to them as saying that God makes mistakes.

God does not make mistakes. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is not confined to or limited by our finite understanding of who God is. Nor is God confined to any writings, no matter how great and how inspired. Language is humanity’s means of communication. God is not confined to written or spoken human language. Humans, on the other hand, even when given a spiritual truth or revelation, can only process it through our own finite mental and spiritual understanding. Thus our attempts to explain will never be equal to God’s perfection. God inspired the writers of the Bible, but author it, God did not.

A present day example of this distinction: I visited a church where the pastor preached an inspired sermon. He was passionate about living for God, and his relationship with God was not questionable. He claimed God gave him his sermon, and I believe him. Yet, perhaps due to his level of education, his sermon did have a couple of errors. Not because God doesn’t know everything, but because the pastor doesn’t. Still God is using him, just as God amazingly chooses to work through such imperfect children as you and me!

The book we know as the Bible is actually not one book but a compilation of 66 different inspired writings, written in several different genres by many different authors over a span of many centuries. Some of these writings are personal letters. Others are books of poetry, or allegory, or law, or history, or prophecy . . ., each of which should, by nature of the genre, be read a little differently. The Biblical writers, just as writers today, wrote to and within the confines of the cultures of which they were a part.

Related: How Does a Red Letter Christian Read the Bible? – A Jesus Shaped Proposal

I have heard many Christians proclaim emphatically that the Scripture needs no interpretation, that it speaks for itself. As humans, however, there is no such thing as reading anything (the newspaper, the Bible, this blog . . .) without applying our own interpretation to that reading. We all read through the eyes and ears of our own education and experience. Most of us developed our own interpretations from those of our spiritual leaders past and present (pastors, teachers, parents, spouse . . .), although we may be totally unaware of their influence. All of us interpret, but not always responsibly. A most complete interpretation of each individual book of the Bible involves several questions, like:

Who wrote it?
When was it written?
For what purpose was it written?
To whom was it written? (Who was its intended audience?)
What genre is it?
What was the culture in which the author lived?
What did the words mean in their original language? (If you have ever mastered a second language, you know that translation is definitely not an exact science.)
How would the original readers have understood it?

Can God speak to someone who doesn’t know any of this? Absolutely! The Bible is powerful, and God can use it to speak to anyone. Our spiritual teachers and leaders, however, should pay attention to these questions.

One of the most widespread errors in interpretation is thinking the Bible was written primarily as a rule book for our 21st century American lives. That’s such a small part of what the Bible is, comparable perhaps to the popular feel-good slogan that the Bible is “God’s love letter to us.” Those who have adopted this slogan I suspect have not read the first several books of the Old Testament lately, books filled with war, and plundering, and killing. Certainly parts of it are applicable to teaching us how to live, but the Bible was not written primarily as a book of rules for life in the 21st century (or any century). None of the Biblical writers anticipated that their writings would be read, and basically worshipped, thousands of years later on the other side of the earth! They wrote for a specific audience and a specific purpose. If, however, we read it with intelligence and responsibility, its most profound truths are timeless, as is God, and these truths can indeed be the structure upon which we build our Christian lives. The foundation, however, should be Christ alone.

Today’s Christian culture has become extremely political and polarized within itself. Despite Jesus’ repeated emphasis on the unity of the believers, we seem to have an inate need to divide ourselves. Those who think just like I do vs. those who don’t. Of course those who don’t are the “bad guys.” We have developed many a litmus test for weeding out those who do not fit our camp, including the words infallible and inerrant to describe the Bible. Now, I have personally found these words completely useless in any meaningful discussion, because every person I have ever heard use them has his own definition of exactly what they mean. In my experience these words are meant only to divide God’s children into factions, something Jesus prayed against in His final earthly prayer. He knew us even then, didn’t He! His prayer was that we would be one. If we are His children, we are all in the sheepfold, although no two of us will see things exactly the same.

Am I attempting to discredit the Bible or prove it invalid? NO!!! I revere, treasure, and cherish the Bible. I read and study it with diligence, and it molds and shapes my life. Yet I do not worship the Bible. I study the Bible because it points me to the One Who alone is worthy of my worship, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Sustainer of all life, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God of Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul. The God of Mother Teresa, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King, C.S. Lewis, and Billy Graham. God alone is perfect and worthy of worship.

In my opinion the many discrepancies in the Bible serve to reinforce its validity, not detract from it. The fact that different writers tell different versions of the same story, with all the most important details in unison with each other, adds much more validity than if they all told it in the exact same words. Do any two witnesses have exactly the same interpretation of an event? (Think of a car accident for example. Everyone is caught up in the moment, seeing things from their own perspective, and should they 30 years later decide to write their memory of it, there would surely be discrepancies. Yet collectively they would preserve and validate the reality of the event.)

So, let’s talk about those discrepancies in the Bible. Some are probably copy errors made by the scribes. Others are translation errors. Others are just educated guesses from conflicting documents about which is closer to the original (of which by the way none exist to us). Others are products of the time of writing. For example, it was not widely accepted at the time of Biblical writing that the earth was round. Other discrepancies are due to different eye-witnesses perceiving events from different vantage points, or the time period between the actual event and the time it was written down. (Do we not all miss a detail or two when we tell about something we saw thirty years ago?) Most of the Biblical accounts were written long after the actual events, from memory or from years and years of oral tradition.

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Related: The Power of Being a Partial Bible Christian!

OK, I made the claim that there are hundreds of discrepancies in the Bible. If you are still reading, you must be interesting in examining this. At some later date, should there be interest, perhaps I will compile such a list. For now, however, just to provide an example, I will call your attention to two discrepancies in one particular story. Please don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself, and feel free to share your thoughts:

This story appears twice, once in 2 Samuel 24 and again in 1 Chronicles 21. David sends Joab and the commanders of the army to take a census of Israel and Judah. Two discrepancies between the two stories: 1) One version (2 Sam.) says The Lord incited David to take the census. The other (1 Chron.) says Satan incited him. 2) 2 Sam. numbers the men of Israel as 800,000 and the men of Judah as 500,000. 1 Chron. numbers the men of Israel as 1,100,000 and the men of Judah as 470,000.

Some would try to explain these differences away. 2 different censuses perhaps? If you read both accounts in their entirety, it seems obvious they are the same census. I choose to accept that these details really make no difference. Either way, the important part of the story seems to be that David took a census. Nonetheless, it seems impossible that both these Biblical account can be inerrant.

What does the Bible claim for itself? Is there any claim of inerrancy or infallibility? Is there any claim that it should be worshipped? Is there any claim of being the ultimate authority for matters like history or science? If not, we do it and ourselves a disservice when we put such demands on it. The most quoted passage used to justify these claims is 2 Timothy 3:16:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16

But if we read it carefully we will see how much our own interpretation has been added to its words. Also it is worth noting that our current Biblical canon was not established until the fourth century, and that when the New Testament writers wrote of Scripture, they were referring to certain Old Testament scrolls, and probably some other writings that our canon has not preserved. That is to say that Paul, for example, did not refer to his writings as Scripture. With that in mind, following are a few verses to ponder that deal with Scripture, not calling attention to itself, but to Jesus:

And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” - Luke 4:21

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. - Luke 24:27

You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. - John 5:39-40

For he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.  - Acts 18:28

Once we are able to give up the notion that there is no human element in the Bible, we are free to reap all the richness and depth that it possesses. What is most amazing to me about the Bible is not that it is without any error, but that, despite its many authors, and the many generations and cultures that its writings span, the main message is so consistent and rich. God is sovereign. Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. And the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the lives of God’s people.


Kathy Vestal is a college educator in Salisbury, NC.  She has a Master’s of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master’s of Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  An avid writer, gifted teacher, and occasional public speaker/preacher, her passions include civil rights, social justice, church reform, and education.  She has traveled to Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Ecuador, and The Gambia, Africa, and enjoys reading, nature, and history.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you Kathy Vestal for your thoughtful reflection.

  • http://superrustyfly.wordpress.com/ Russell Purvis

    Great post. My only contention is your part about the two census accounts making the Bible not inerrant. This might be too focused on just the text itself. We should look into authorial intent and use that to 1) help understand if the passages are inerrant and 2) define the nature of biblical inerrancy. I do think that we need a richer definition and that battling while letting fundamentalist define the terms is a no win. We should find a third party (Scripture) to help define the terms.

    • Paul Bergmann

      Kathy is not dumb. Outside of her bachelor degree she has a masters in education from unc. She is well traveled and a college educator, but her masters in divinity from a solid seminary is what matters. No one gets that with out critical textual study that you won’t understand unless you do it. When you do you know the bible as we have it is anything but inerrant or infallible. At best you can say it was in the originals which have never been seen. This means you have to think and continue to critically examine the text. We know idiots are drinking poison and getting snakebit because of the end of marks gospel which was thought inerrant was an addition that does not appear in the older manuscripts which have been discovered. The same goes for the women caught in adultery in John or the end of the lords prayer which some scribe felt needed improvement. Mind you something cannot be inerrant or infallible if it has even one error. It also begs that if it were we would all have perfect, clear and uniform interpretation. Yet bible believers have used scripture to enslave and set free, to torture and kill as well as to not resist and be killed. The problem with the bible is you have to use your brain and few people, especially religious are willing to do that.

      • Frank

        Based on her last article her theology cannot be trusted at all.

  • tarl_hutch

    Thank you. Beautifully put and upholds the integrity and holiness of God. I too, have long thought of these discrepancies as proof that it is a real account written by real people. It also leaves room for us to admit that we don’t always have everything figured out, and that is okay. There are always mysteries to explore and questions to work through, which for me keeps this journey of faith interesting.

    Also, i love your explanation of 2 TIM 3:16, so many times people throw this in my face without a real understanding of the verse. I thank God for every word in the bible, even the ones I don’t understand, but i am more thankful for a continuing relationship with God that teaches me everyday in everything.

    • DrewTwo

      Jeepers. Where did all these reasonable people like you and Kathy Vestal, who aren’t afraid to ask thoughtful questions, come from? What a breath of fresh air.

      • tarl_hutch

        Thank you, Drewtwo, this little online community of ours is full of amazing people all working things out. Some of us are always pushing, always seeking, and some seek to strengthen and defend our traditions. It takes both of us to work towards a faithful future.

        I am amazed by the arguments and discussions we have here, such a wide range of opinions. We may not always agree, but i am almost always challenged and inspired with the thoughts people are sharing. Especially those who seem to always disagree with me, they always give me something to think about.

        Sites like this really provide a place for us to hash things out and work on building the foundations for the future church. I hpe it will be a place where our questions and disagreements can be celebrated as part of this wonderful journey of faith.

        • DrewTwo

          I’m not sure if my take on things is accurate but it seems that there is bit less vitriol lately characterizing the discussions on this site.

  • WhiteLadyBlogger

    This is so, so great.

    I’m somewhat of a Christian cliche, or I guess ex-Christian cliche, or searching spiritual cliche, or something. I know I believe in and love God, but I “don’t know which way is up” and am “searching for answers” because of the taste in my mouth from the simplistic picture of Christianity I’ve grown up with. I think I believe in an objective morality, but have grown to distrust any human sources (including the bible, the pope, my pastors, my mother, myself) that claim to know and teach that absolute morality. Which leaves me in a bit of a pickle

    Thank you SO much for putting these concepts on the internet for people like me. In my heart I want to be something of a christian skeptic, and reconciliations like this make that possible.

    • tarl_hutch

      Keep seeking, keep believing, keep an open mind and heart, keep grace over everything, and keep challenging yourself and those around you.

      Thanks for sharing, I love hearing from people like yourself, just don’t give up and don’t forget that those whose view of christianity that seem simple, are still full of love and have a lot that we can still look to. Seek and you will find, maybe not what you may think and maybe not when, but one day. Thanks again.

      • WhiteLadyBlogger

        On a note related to seeking– do you know where I can find more like this?

        • tarl_hutch

          Check out Rachel held Evans blog, mjkimpan.com, books by Brian Mclaren, Tony Jones, homebrewedchristianity.com, and go from there. There are many out there seeking and figuring out how faith looks today.

          • Drew

            Did you just tell WLB to check out every extremely liberal source in America? I’m shocked : )

          • tarl_hutch

            Haha. No, I didn’t mention Richard Rohr, Jay Bakker, Rob Bell, Hugh Hollowell, Doug Pagitt, phyllis tickle, Monica Coleman, or even Shane Claibourne (though his theology is a little less liberal). Give her a few names from the other side to check out, so she will get a well rounded opinion. I like Francis Chan and surprisingly John Eldridge. Crazy, right?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kvestal Kathy Vestal

      WLB, you are in good company. So many Christians think they have become disillusioned with God, but really they are disillusioned with certain misguided teachings of the churches. One of the main reasons I write is to show seekers like you that God’s arms are open wide to you, even to your questions, and to give you voice and courage. I love your comment and that took time to share it!

  • Drew

    I disagree with a majority of the article but the area I disagree most with though is your explanation of 2 Timothy 3:16 and the paragraph thereafter; For instance, while Paul does not technically refer to his own writing as Scripture, Peter does refer to Paul’s writing as Scripture. To suggest that writings were not preserved is not a valid point since if they were not preserved it would not have been important, unless you question God’s Sovereignty. John 20:30-31 is pretty honest about this point, that John’s account is not exhaustive but rather contains the important information we need to know. As for adding to 2 Timothy 3:16, I think this is false – 2 Peter 1:20-21 adds clarity to 2 Timothy 3:16 and most people that use 2 Timothy 3:16 to suggest inerrancy do so in light of the other Scriptures.

    • 21st Century Episcopalian

      2 Peter is important. Good point.

    • tarl_hutch

      Hey Drew,

      Good to see you are back. In reference to the verses you posted regarding scriptual authority, it seems like these passages could all relate to the Jewish cannon that was in use during the time, just as Kathy suggested. Even narrowing down to books of prophecy and words of the prophets as to being inspired, as opposed to historical, pastoral or lyrical. Even 2 peter 14-16, while referring to the correct teaching of Paul, only says that he can be twisted just like others twist scripture, thus not necessarily equate his writing to scripture, but attesting to how people misuse both. I am still not fully convinced that the apostles fully knew their work would be consider scripture, as it seems they were writing pastorally to address specific problems in specific churches.

      This being said, I do believe they, as well as all biblical authors, were inspired by God. The argument hinges on what you believe is meant by inspiration. Is it a form of deistic dictation or a whispering in the heart that one uses ones tools and language to translate for others? In this way, we allow for minor errors while holding true to the theological underpinnings.

      Who believes more in the sovereignty of God, one who believes god only works through perfect, inerrent dispensation of God’s words or the one who believes that God can work through imperfection to distill wisdom to all who seek?

      I am not trying to be dismissing or confrontational, as i remain open to your thoughts, but am trying to account for those that have difficulty in reconciling the bible to what the spirit leads them to believe. It is not a catch all for difficult questions, but leaves us room to work them out.

      What do you think?

      • Drew

        I don’t have a lot of time to reply, but it is clear we come from completely different places (plenary, inerrant versus verbal, errant). The only thing I would say is that verbal and errant is a slippery slope; where do the errors end? You say minor errors. Kathy lists a whole spectrum of errors (grammatical, scientific, cultural, factual) and seems joyful about putting together a large list of errors for us. Atheists largely agree with you, saying there are a lot of errors, but not because God does not exist but rather that God failed at inspiring beyond error.

        • tarl_hutch

          The biggest thing I would say to that is that most “errors” relate to minor things such as chronology, historical fact, continuity, and largely minor squabbles. Sure, there are some theological issues that seem to be at odds with one another, which you and I have discussed, but this can be rectified with a narrative, evolutionary approach to the arch of scripture. By and large the lessons and inspiration that the bible shows us hold true, regardless of any other points of contention.

          Case in point, the example Kathy uses with the two accounts of the census, if these are slightly contradicting one another, does that really effect the aspects that God is teaching us about life with him? If two accounts of the gospels differ in chronology, does that change the revelation of Jesus’s love and work for us?

          No, it means we use what brains God gave us and tge guidence of the Spirit to figure out the underlying meaning of scripture. Yes it is a slippery slope, but so is all of faith, it us up to us to keep thinking, praying, and working to live out our faith. The bible leaves plenty of questions unanswered, but equips us with the hope, faith, and grace to believe and wrestle with scripture in the example of Israel.

          • Drew

            That’s an awful lot of errors for something that is God-breathed. Furthermore, by your own admission, not every error is small.

            One point I did not make that is important is the the correct interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16 is not “inspired” but rather “God-breathed” or “breathed out by God.” God took relatively few men throughout the history of the world – holy men, set apart – and breathed out of them Scripture. This is a much truer description of Scripture and one that leads it to be held in higher esteem.

            Kathy brings up an interesting point. “Minor errors” don’t matter you both say. Luke was the author of Acts, and he recounts over 3000 saved at Pentacost. Maybe there were errors and a few zeros were added; maybe it was 30? Or maybe the estimate was wrong, like the census, and it was really 1200? I wonder if Luke got any details wrong in the Gospel of Luke as well?

            That is a fundamental problem with liberal Christianity. Scriptures are error-filled writings from men, inspired by God enough to be mostly true but not inspired enough by God to be entirely true, that we can draw out “lessons” from.

          • tarl_hutch

            This strikes me as a matter of faith. It is a question of whether one has enough faith to admit that despite possible mistakes, one can still believe in God and Jesus, accepting in faith that people may get things wrong, but the truth of God still breathes through.

            What does “God breathed” mean to you? What does it look like in practice? Where those that translated scripture also divinely inspired with the breath of God?

            If you let go off your belief in an inerrant bible, how would that effect your belief in God? If not every word was 100% true/accurate, would you doubt the existance of God?

            It is possible to believe God breathed scripture through imperfect men, who translated things the best way they knew how, and still love scripture, trust scripture, and follow its teachings and beliefs. I am living proof.

          • Drew

            I would respectfully ask you to listen to a sermon by a Bible-believing Christian about what 2 Timothy 3:16 really means and what the term “God-breathed” actually means. I would suggest John MacArthur or another Christian that does not believe the atheistic claim that the Bible is wildly errant.

            This is going off on a tangent, but I decided to reply on this subject because it grieves my heart. For many, this topic is the turning point to atheism, believing that the Bible is wildly errant. The Christian Post is running a story right now about a former 20 year Methodist pastor that is now a devout atheist. How did it start? By having a view that the Bible is wildly errant, that there are discrepancies and scientific and historical errors. That led to her belief in postmodernism and the belief that all religions have some truth but none have the Truth, since the Bible is so errant. That led her to questioning Hell, not using the Bible, but using her new secular, postmodern way of thinking. This led her to atheism.

            2 Timothy 3:16 is beautiful because it is such purposefully wording. Paul does not say “some” Scripture is God-breathed, or that “some” Scripture is useful. He says ALL Scripture – every verse, chapter, every book – is God-breathed and useful. Why is it useful? Not because it is “mostly” accurate or because men were “inspired,” but literally because the authors of the Bible were holy men, set apart, hand-picked by God from the beginning of time, to have the Word of God breathed into them and written out from their hands. Why does Psalms tell us to mediate on Scripture day and night, why does Jesus quote OT Scripture to Satan, why does no author talk about Biblical errancy? Could it be because all Scripture is actually, truly, sovereignly made to be God-breathed and useful?

            That is one thing that is lost on liberals these days, a true fear of God, an awe of God, a respect and understanding of the sovereignty of God. Everything is so watered down – universalism, many ways to God not just Jesus, Scripture is riddled with error. Heck, can’t even say “God is greater”… might offend a non-Christian in a Christian Church.

            Ok, done with the tangent. After you do some research or listen to the sermon I suggest, I want you to ask yourself this question – if the Bible is factually, historically, and scientifically errant – what parts can I certainly say are inerrant? If you can’t believe the Bible, do you really have faith (because at this point you would have faith without knowledge or conviction, faith that is not rooted in anything).

          • Aaaaaaaargh

            Drew, I think it ultimately comes down to a different way of reading the Bible. From my perspective, it is impossible to claim that the Bible is error-free. I know that many have tried to explain away the discrepancies such as those listed here, but their arguments just aren’t convincing to me (John MacArthur is not a teacher I would trust in any case).

            So to hold on to Christ, I have to view the Bible as a whole, as a collection of God-inspired but human attempts to make sense of God, with a narrative arc that tells a story of fall and redemption. My faith is rooted in Jesus, and in the belief that in him God entered history and showed us all a radically different way to live, one that would bring us abundant life in the here and now and in eternity and eventually be part of his redemptive work in reconciling all creation to himself. I KNOW that you and those on your end of the spectrum find this approach deeply unsatisfying, but the hermeneutic distance between us is, frankly, insurmountable. But I’d ask you to trust that those on my end (if I can claim to speak for something like that) are also concerned with following Christ, even if our approach to scripture is wildly different from yours.

            Sorry to interpolate between you and Tarl.

          • tarl_hutch

            Thanks for the additional pov, definitely agree.

          • Questioning

            I suspect it might also depend on the basis for calling it inerrant and infallible. If we look at it from a purely factual perspective, with all the translations, and as Paul points out below, the occasional additions, it is next to impossible to call it inerrant and infallible. However, if we look at it from a perspective of purpose, purpose being that it points us toward the Creator and ultimately the Savior, then it clearly is without error or flaw. Jesus gave us two commandments to follow. If we, myself especially, could focus more on living up to that standard then all these other trifles and pointless, counter-productive arguing would be minimized.

          • tarl_hutch

            Excellent distinction…basically what I hope to convey as well. Thanks for the input.

          • Drew

            John 20:31 comes to mind – “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

            Romans is clear that creation itself is the basis of our belief in God, but Scripture is the instrument used to reveal Jesus to us so that we have faith.

            It is fine to say that you believe that God entered history, but you can only do so – with Scripture. You have to believe the Gospels are true and that Jesus fulfilled OT Prophecy. You can only say Jesus showed us a radically different way to live – if you believe Scripture. You can only talk about abundant. Sola Scriptura my friend.

            The only thing outside of Scripture that I can point to as proof of Jesus as Christ is the martyrdom of the Saints but they either believed because of Scripture or because of first-hand witness.

          • tarl_hutch

            Drew,

            I think your Passion and steadfast defense of the bible and many doctrines is a beautiful and admirable thing. Your concern for others and their grasp of truth is awesome. We need people who will keep us grounded and keep us from becoming unmoored from chriatian tradition.

            That said, we still must be open to new and different ideas and ways of understanding. I understand the trepidation that comes with an issue such as this, as we can both see that it can lead to a devaluation of the Bible. I would argue that a staunch belief in the inerrant reading of the Bible has been just as much of a stumbling point for many who see certain points where the “facts” might be even slightly off.

            I think you may have a slightly skewed view of folk who have a less than inerrant view of scripture. Most of them still love God, read there bible as much as most conservatives (which is still sadly, not all that much), and value the bible as their glimpse into the heart and mind of God. We all have horror stories of how this belief or that belief lost their faith, but there are many more who still have faith

          • Drew

            I will answer your previous questions in this reply.

            “What does ‘God-breathed’ mean to you?”
            Well, another way to phrase it is “breathed out from God.” 2 Peter 1:21 says they (the Prophets) “spoke out from God” which clarifies this point. We all have the Holy Spirit with us when we are born again, so I don’t think these men were merely “inspired” by the Holy Spirit in the sense that all men are, but rather in a different way. These were holy men that God hand-picked them from the beginning of time to “breathe out” Scripture from them. As for “translation,” most of the time God or Jesus spoke directly to these men, and they were writing it down – not a whole lot of room for “translation.”

            “If you let go off your belief in an inerrant Bible, how would that effect your belief in God?”

            Romans says we have no excuse to doubt God because of creation, and I agree. Even if I did not believe the Bible, I would know that God exists or at least should know that God exists.

            “It is possible to believe God breathed scripture through imperfect men…”

            This is the crux of my point. First, the Bible never points to errancy but rather inerrancy. Paul asks us to test everything he says against Scripture, Jesus constantly quoted Scripture, Paul says Scripture is God-breathed, Peter refers to the Prophets as “speaking from God,” Peter infers that Paul is writing Scripture, Scripture itself says to study and mediate day and night on Scripture, and the list goes on.

            Second, these men were far from ordinary men; they were the holiest of men in history, picked out specifically by God from their generations to have Scripture breathed out from them.

          • tarl_hutch

            Drew,

            In regards to translation, I am referring to those who later interpreted scripture into other languages. Were these men also inspired or filled with the breath of God to accurately translate scripture?

            As to the specifics of being God breathed, does that mean God told them audibly what to write, physically guided there hand, or influenced their thoughts? How was it different than other ways God inspires?

            You also admit that belief in an inerrant bible, is not fully necessary to full belief in God. That one can learn of God through nature, as Romans states, and inferring that reading the bible still influences lives, even if the possibility of error exists.

            I would definitely agree that scripture is good and is indeed the word of God written for us, therefore good for teaching, checking, rebuking, and so forth. The point isn’t whether or not the NT writings are scripture, they are, it is whether they knew it would be cannonized and whether or not they perfectly translated God’s inspiration or may have added personal input, or something as trivial as rounding to 3000 when it was 2998. Does this mean I can’t trust what they say? No, it just means to keep an open mind and test it against other scripture. If two things are at odds, figure out if they can be reconciled or they are teaching us a new way that is the fufillment of earlier revelation. It is the challenge of listening to the spirit and using the brains God gave us. Plus, we need to work through them in community, as iron sharpened iron, to fully understand. I like the wesleyian quadrant for interpretation, as it includes many things to interpret.

            Yes, the writers of scripture were unique and holy, but also imperfect men who despite their failings were used by God to enlighten the world.

            The main point is that scripture is amazing and the true word of God, but have no need to be inerrant to convict, enlighten, and transform. They are perfect, even in imperfection, because the spirit of God works through them for the salvation of the world.

          • Drew

            In regards to translation, I may be wrong, but I believe we have copies of
            Scripture in the original language it was written in. If we do, your point is moot, because we can
            always go back to the original language and check.

            In the OT, God spoke, and in the NT, Jesus spoke. There are examples where God did audibly tell
            the authors what to write and it is preserved into Scripture. In the OT (Exodus), God told Moses to write
            the Ten Commandments. In the OT
            (Jeremiah), God told Jeremiah to write the Book of Jeremiah. In the NT (Revelation), God told John to
            write the Book of Revelation. You have
            many more instances where the Scripture itself does not say that God told the
            authors to write it down, but where the Prophets heard God or Jesus audibly or
            physically speak and wrote it down and it is considered Scripture (most of OT).

            It does matter how you define errant – there are grammatical errors, factual
            errors, historical errors, errors of omission or admission, and the list goes
            on. Depending where you fall, it can be
            a problem or it can not be a problem at all.
            Grammatical errors are not a big deal.
            Omission and admission errors can be either a big deal or not a big
            deal. Factual, historical, scientific,
            or moral errors – getting facts wrong or falsifying Scripture – is generally a
            problem. I don’t know how you can say
            that these kinds of errors still make Scripture credible. Also, I believe that Scripture can be
            reconciled with itself, and that when it is not, that points to the fallibility
            of us, not the authors.

          • tarl_hutch

            I believe we do have older texts in the original language, but not any within 50-100 years of writing I believe. Also, you may not fully comprehend the difficulty in translation, ad there is usually not a direct word for word transfer, plus context, tone, and historical significance. Most biblical translation committees have 50 or more people working to translate and decide how to write each word. It is a huge, difficult undertaking. Thus it leaves room for error.

            What about the other books in the bible where God or Jesus, did not directly speak? Also, in regards to NT writings that were written many years after the events have transpired, is it possible they missed something or forgot a word or two? Would this be a problem to you? If the gospels still point us to the person and work of Christ, does it matter if some things ate chronologically incorrect?

            I do know what I am saying and stand behind it. If in matters of spiritual understanding I am pointed towards Jesus, the bible accomplishes its task regardless of any blemishes. I know this is a big problem for you, but it really is not one for me at all. My faith is stronger now than ever, inerrant or not, the bible has changed me and shown me Jesus.

          • Drew

            If we only had texts in our current language, you could claim that the texts were mistranslated. Since we have original language texts, you cannot claim they were mistranslated. Also, I have not heard of translations having fundamental errors, only that some translations lack the richness of others, and that studying the original language gives us a fuller picture of what the author meant. However, I have not heard people claim that mainstream translations have errors, since again, we have the original language texts.

            What you are claiming is more or less transcribing errors, which I agree that they did happen. However, in most instances, there are so many manuscripts that it is relatively easy to compare.

            John 20:30 says there are omissions but that everything is included that is needed for belief. No, they did not miss or forget anything important, according to their own words.

            The Penteauch is interesting in that Moses wrote Genesis but came many generations afterwards. If there is a case for mere inspiration, that is it. However, I still think it is God-breathed.

          • tarl_hutch

            A few questions regarding inerrancy, do you believe in the literal six day creation? Do you also believe the second creation story, regarding man? Hoe did second story transpired in one day? Adam was lonely in only 24 hours? And lived with dinosaurs?

            Second, Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish? Was it a fish or a whale? It says fish and a whale is a mammal. Are there any fish that size capable of that?

            Did these things happen or are they wrong? Is it possible to believe that these instances, while not “factually true” are still accurate in the story God is telling? What about in Job, does the devil go hang out in heaven whenever he wants?

            The point is, that you may not believe these rhings happened like they are presented, but were written to describe complex things to a people who lacked the knowledge to comprehend otherwise? The point of the verses remain the same, no matter your feelings on factualness.

            By admitting translation errors may occur, where do you draw the line? Take it in faith and work through the bible prayerfully, seeking the message of God.

          • Drew

            I think the story of Jonah is easily explained. Jesus refers to it as a whale, while the OT word can be translated as “great fish” or whale.”

            Genesis and Revelation are books that I understand very little about and do not talk about much. My Catholic upbringing in the two books is different than the varied Protestant interpretations. Still learning.

          • tarl_hutch

            We are all always learning, thank God. I guess that is why I try to keep a somewhat open mind on new ideas. I am not trying to tear your opinions apart, but I just want us to think and work together to come closer to God. We all have questions, we just need space to figure them out.

          • Sean

            I’ve always struggled with this idea of what to accept as truth. I guess it really does come down to the core message. Different interpretations may be a good thing.

          • Drew

            Thank you for the kind words.

            Yes, we should all be open to teaching and understanding, but we need to
            test everything against Scripture. We
            test Jesus against Scripture, we test Paul against Scripture, and we test all
            new ideas against Scripture. If
            Scripture was errant it would be difficult to test anything against it, let
            alone be useful for teaching, training, and rebuking. Discernment comes from knowing Scripture and whatever
            the Holy Spirit tells us can be tested against Scripture. Paul is adamant about this, to test
            everything against Scripture. Again, if
            Scripture is errant, it is much harder to do this.

            I agree that folks who have an errant view of the Bible can still love God
            and still do read the Bible. However, I find
            that because of this errant view they sometimes can come to very different (and
            often false) conclusions and thus beliefs.
            The errant Bible crowd ranges from “liberal” Christians to other
            religions (Islam, Mormonism) to agnostics to atheists. They all believe in an errant Bible and they
            all believe in the same Bible errors that you do; they just think there are
            more errors than you presently think there are.

            This is my point – once you believe in an errant Bible what do you define as
            errant and inerrant? Where do you draw
            the line and say “this is inerrant!” or is everything on the table? I am not inherently a slippery slope guy, but
            in this instance, I have seen it in practice, that the drumbeat towards more
            and more instances of error in the Bible.

          • tarl_hutch

            I think there is a bit of danger and risk involved in belief, no matter your approach. It is not a place for the timid, it is a brave and courageous thing to have faith at all. I know it is the toughest and most hair raising for me. I mean we are trying to comprehend, nay, have a relationship with the creator of the universe, the supreme essence of everything. As C.S. Lewis said, through allegory, God is not safe. We must be open to riak, to putting it all on the line, knowing we may be wrong, but having faith we are on the right path.

            This is why the slippery slope argument does not scare me much. It is a danger, but no more a danger than saying you have it all figured out. We are human, which is a great responsibility, we are entrusted with understanding the nature and message of God, and then, if that wasn’t enough, we are to live as thr image of Jesus to this world.
            In this vein, I have faith that in community and with the Spirit, we can decipher what is true and false. No need to split hairs, as we can work out what God’s message and desires are.

            We can still test everything with scripture, we just have to use our brains and be open to guidance. It is funny that we can debate the degree of belief in the bible, when we both believe it and live by it. It amazes me how we can all come to such different conclusions, regardless of our belief in inerrancy.

          • Drew

            “We can still test everything with errant Scripture.” I hope you realize what you are saying.

  • Abdallah

    Thank you, Kathy Vestal. I have always sought to understand people who revere a book but not follow it. You have shown me in a few easy steps that it is not possible to understand such folk. You should abandon the false religion you follow.

    I have deep respect for atheists because of you. At least they are consistent – humans wrote the bible and it is not not divine.

    I invite you and all your readers to read the Holy Quran. It is completely inerrant and there are no contradictions there. You will see that Allah is One and that Muhammed is His Messenger. Peace be upon Muhammed.

    • DrewTwo

      To each his own, but this sounds like just the sort of legalistic, divisive, and black and white approach to things metaphysical that many of us find unsatisfying. Being insulting to and dismissive of folks who are honestly struggling to find truth and clarity is hardly “inviting.”

    • liberalmuslim

      Thanks for the invitation. I have read and studied that majority of the Quran and found it to be full of contradictions, certainly when taken at face value, and especially regarding treatment of non-believers. Indeed, when tracing the history of Muhammed’s life and the correlating Quranic verses, one can see quite clearly that the revelation changed dramatically according to his immediate circumstances.

    • sincerely

      Cometely disagree

  • 21st Century Episcopalian

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness and skillfully gracious approach taken in this post (as it ultimately leads to Jesus), but in many ways it’s like hearing, “My crime-ridden neighborhood is dangerous; we’ve had hundreds of robberies and break-ins” and then merely pointing to one broken window on one house and not having the full story of what happened there. Or saying, “A friend of a neighbor who knows the people across the street say there have been many break-ins”. The attempt to discredit something really should be backed up with air-tight scholarship to support it.

    Are you completely certain the discrepancy you name can’t be accurately accounted for in context or translation?

  • Joyce

    Thank- You Kathy! You give others hope to hang on to their faith, and to see the beauty in ALL people.
    May we all find the confidence to stand up for what is right, as you do!

  • Holly

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I had two initial questions after reading. I am wondering what “worship of the Bible” looks like? How does one worship the Bible? Another question I had was what are the implications of believing that God did not write the Bible? How does that affect how we read the Bible? Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/kvestal Kathy Vestal

      Hi Holly. Believing that God did or did not write the Bible affects far more than just how we read the Bible. It shapes our entire world view, how we process and respond to everything inside and outside our lives. If we believe the Bible was written by God, it becomes God to us. There is no separation of the two. Thus we worship the Bible like it’s the 4th person of the Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Book. The repercussions of this are in every thought we have and every choice we make. As a woman, for example, if you buy into the teaching that the Bible is God’s literal words to you, you will accept without question that your relegated purpose and place at home and at church is as a helpmeet to men. Life would be simpler if it were so, if we could just find a passage in the book to answer all our hard questions, but God is far greater than anything our human minds can conceive. Words, no matter how inspired, are humans’ means of communicating. God is not confined to our best attempts. We are the creatures, attempting to relate to a God who has no language, no brain, no heartbeat, no body (except in the person of Jesus), but sees all, knows all, and holds all power. The history of the Bible is fascinating, and the reading of the Bible draws us to all kinds of new understandings of God, as we see God there from the perspectives of so many inspired men throughout the ages, and especially as we intimately get to know the person and teachings of Jesus, told by those who actually walked beside Him! But God is not a book, and the book is not God.

      • Joyce

        Thank you, Kathy, for your insights, and Holly thanks for asking such great questions!

    • Drew

      Kathy’s response hit the nail on the head. If you do not believe the Bible is God-breathed, in direct opposition to Scripture, then there can be errors. If Scripture has errors, than you do not have to follow those errors. If you believe there are lots of errors, than you do not have to follow lots of Scripture. If you do not have to follow lots of Scripture, than you can do whatever you want. Party on.

  • Will Rosie

    Had a look at it and thought it quite sensible in the main. The author is clearly on the right path in their stance that a process of Systematic Theology is essential if we are to read the Bible correctly.

    On the subject of errors in the Bible. Yes there are discrpencies, but the ones that she describes and the arguments put forward are not really the ones I would choose, and show a lack of understanding of the very process she is urging Christians to take. For example, the census described, at least concerning who incited the census does not really show an error but a broader picture of what was going on, the basis is that Israel has sinned and God’s anger has burned against them. He has by His sovereignty caused David to take a census. Satan, because he will take advantage of any situation, is also clearly invovled in the process of inciting David. Taking into consideration the fact that this kind of spiritual battle is waging in the Book of Job, the two angles of the same story do not show an error or discrepancy. Another example is of God using king Nebuchadnezzer to punish the Israel for their sin. This is also clearly described in the scriptures and i can’t see anyone (including Nebuchadnezzer himself!) from arguing this point. However, until Jermiah points this fact out to King Neb, he was convinced that he was just expanding his own empireby his own power!
    With this in mind I find it quite amusing that the author of this blog has ended up not adhering to her own advice in the 8th paragraph of the post. They have stated that it is wrong to read the Bible like it needs no interpretation, and yet, through her own assumption of two passages being discrepant has jumped to a conclusion that some farily basic interpretational practice gives an answer to. And she has a Masters in Divinity?!
    She also makes the argument that Paul did not refer to his own writings as scripture. This is true, but Peter does affirm Paul’s writings as scripture. The irony is that when Peter gives status of scripture to Paul’s writings it is in the context of rebuking ignorant people of trying to undermine the divine authority of Paul’s writings. Check out this verse -

    ” He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:16.

    Notice that even Peter finds some of Paul’s scriptures difficult to understand, yet does not try to nullify them because of his own ignorance.

    Yes, we need to read the Bible with a view to interpreting it correctly. But this also means taking our own advice and reading it properly before we start to see ‘discrepanices’ because of our own lack of knowledge and understanding.

  • <3

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You Christians have none, so who care’s who wrote the bible? It’s not as if it matters, the author of this page that the bible cannot be disproven, before it has even been proven.

    “The Bible does contain hundreds of discrepancies. Yet God is very real, and the Scripture is Holy.”

    These discrepancies are what should make you skeptical of the bible, coupled with the lack of evidence for god/heaven/hell/miracles, you would have to be a fool to believe even a word of it was true.

  • Jesus

    Warning: Atheistic inspired comments will be deleted, this is due to a high level of truth and low level of bullshit that us Christians are not used to.

    • Margaret

      I think you are being a little overboard. First let’s look at the name you are choosing. Is it Spanish or latino pronounced? If so, then I apologize for thinking you are a screwball. Next, why would Atheistic comments be deleted? If they are written without a bunch of profanity and are only giving their view on this article, what is the problem? Can’t Christians handle someone else’s view?

  • Dom

    I might have missed it, but I don’t see your argument against the verse in 2 Timothy meaning that it is all God’s word? “But if we read it carefully we will see how much our own interpretation has been added to its words.” Could you explain that please? Thanks!

    • Dom

      Actually, “all God’s word” isn’t really accurate – it’s just that it’s all inspired by God. Would still like clarification on what you mean by “But if we read it carefully we will see how much our own interpretation has been added to its words” though.

  • xxsocraticxx

    I’m not sure what happened to the discussion here, but I’m still interested in posting what I currently understand. I don’t understand what the authors of the holy bible read before the bible. If the authors were divinely inspired, then what made that person(s) a more important child of God than me or anyone else opening their hearts asking for similar messages? God spoke to them and they had never heard of what we call the bible.(?) I see no reason why my pure acceptance of Gods presence and a constant struggle to keep my God window open, would not yield the results that God desires. If there is a creator, then I’m sure we’ve been equipped with everything we need to communicate with God, and receive his will. This God, that God, flawed God games are all constructs that pollute the simplicity of the natural call in our inborn souls to search for God. If God is the creator of all existence, then there would be no way our minds would be able to perceive what God is or apply a universal understanding of what God is. I don’t think we’re supposed to anyway, but we are to listen as often as we can in a world of distractions. Two Christians standing side by side giving you an exact definition of how they conceive God is an illusion of words. But this is two spiritual distinct perceptions that have been explained with the same words giving an illusion of sameness. But really ones actual perception that only they and God will ever know, may be closer to someone raised Muslim. I don’t understand how someone can say, ” you’re praying to the wrong God”, if there is only one. If I send an envelope to Gods residence, it doesn’t matter what name is on it, because there is only one to recieve it. Its not the language of man thats vital, but the language of the spirit. Its the acceptance of God hat’s important not conception. As far as the bible goes, I don’t think its something you must read in order to hear the messages of God. As long as you have your soul open to receive Gods voice, God will speak to yo through a song, magazine, book, billboard, or stranger. You will know what you’re supposed to take away from every experience. I could add pages to the bible or take out things and present it to my daughter as the truth, so how is it divinely protected? I had all of this pour out of me from being an atheist, so the person who said this kind of thinking leads people away from God, you can be a witness to my testimony that it lead me to God. And do you think the creator of all sits back waiting for you to get the politics right? Or does he reach in and touch our spirit through any window we open to him? This seperation of religions must stop! This is the war that is the final battle. Whatever you call it in your mind, satan, evil or the flesh, is clever in its manipulation of truth. Its time for Gods children come together in peace and realize that we can get the unfiltered raw voice of God and accept that he may speak to each one of us in a different way. Thank you for reading if you made it through. I love you all and that’s the truth.

  • joshua

    Hey dude. I wanted to say and of course I could be wrong. But in chronicles it does say satan. But in samuel 2 when it says “the anger of the Lord burned against Israel and he incited david against them, saying go and take a census” many believers refer to satan in the bible as “the enemy” and as “he”. So to me he still means satan had him take a census. But God allows satan to do certain things anyway so it would still be The Lord… no? What do you think?

  • Margaret

    I would like to know where the idea of God originated. Just because there is a book which says there is a God and always has been doesn’t make it so. I know having faith is believing even in the things you can’t see. But, who came up with the idea of God?

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