ERRORS IN THE BIBLE?
Part 2 of 2


We begun in our last issue of this bulletin to respond to an article written by a Scott Bidstrup, entitled: “What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn’t Want You to Know: A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy.” We have thus far dealt with six of the objections, and found that they are not unanswerable as Mr Bidstrup claimed them to be. In this issue, we continue with the rest of the 15 objections published.


John 12:21 and
Bethsaida of Galilee


John 12:21 refers to Philip as having came from Bethsaida of Galilee. Our critic charges that since “Bethsaida was in the province of Gaulontinis [sic], not the province of Galilee,” there was therefore a geographical error in the text. In response, we would admit that technically, Bethsaida is in Gaulonitis. But if you look at the map, you will realise quickly that Bethsaida-Julias is situated right at the border between Galilee and Gaulonitis, and you will notice also that there is no other town across the river which divides Galilee and Gaulonitis. Now, remember that no city is merely a spot on the ground as it is a spot on the map, and you will quickly realise that Bethsaida could extend beyond the river! (Indeed, archaeologists have shown that the city centre of Bethsaida was probably much nearer to the lake and river, 2,000 years ago than the 2 miles that divide the lake and the archaeological mound. This is because the lake has changed its shape over the period of time. Moreover, Josephus, in his Life (para. 72), indicates that the city proper was only about a furlong [approx. 200 m] from the Jordan during his days). Could not Philip have lived on the West of the river: in the suburb of Bethsaida, in Bethsaida of Galilee, or as the NIV and NRSVrender it, “Bethsaida in Galilee.”


I believe we can easily think of many modern parallels. I live in a place known as Clementi in Singapore. Now, the Clementi estate lies side by side with what may be known as the West Coast estate. The divide between Clementi and West Coast is the West Coast Road: Clementi is on the East and West Coast on the West! Now, I happen to live in a part of Clementi at the West of the West Coast Road! If I tell you I live in Clementi of West Coast you would know where I live.


I think you can see that our critics will have to find something more concrete and definite if he wishes to attack the inerrancy of the Word of God.


Noah’s Ark and the Animals


Our critic charges that it would have been impossible to gather all the 30,000,000 species of animals in such a short period of time, and that there would not be enough space to keep all the animals and the food necessary to keep them alive for the yearlong flood.


Well, in the first place, the Word of God tells us that the animals would come at their own accord (Gen 6:20). The fact is that God miraculously brought the animals.


In the second place, it has been estimated that there would have only been much less than 17,600 species of land animals (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles) needing the shelter of the ark during the flood (see John C. Whitcomb & Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications [P&R, 1961], 68–69). We must remember that many of the species of animals have developed from the original kinds which were created. A case in point is the fact that more than 200 species of dogs, ranging from a Dachshund to the Great Dane, all came from a few wild dogs or wolves. The same can be said for cats and horses, etc. It has been estimated that the capacity of the ark is about 1,396,000 cubic feet (Ibid., 10; compare with our critic’s exaggerated estimate of 1,518,750 cubic feet). This works out to about the capacity of 522 double-deck stock cars, each capable of carrying 240 animals the size of sheep (Ibid., 68–69). Now, using the sheep as an average size of the animals that entered the ark, which is a very good estimate since there are relatively very few large animals, 35,200 animals would require only 147 of the stock cars! This leaves plenty of space for insects, dinosaurs (young ones of course!), food supply and room for Noah’s family.


In the third place, for the care of the animals, could not God have caused the animals to go into a form of hibernation or suspended animation? Indeed, it had to be so, or it would have been impossible for Noah and his family to maintain liveable conditions in the ark.


Exodus 20:5, Ezekiel 18:20 and
a Capricious God?


Exodus 20:5 suggests that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. This appears to contradict Ezekiel 18:20 (not Ezekiel 18:2, as wrongly posted by our critic), which teaches us: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, &c.” Is there a contradiction? Of course not! The Bible consistently teaches that we are all personally responsible for our own sin, and therefore must bear our own iniquity (unless it is borne by Christ on our behalf). But it is also true, that in the providence of God, the effect of sin (in this case, sin of false mode of worship) will be felt for generations to come. Children brought up under false modes of worship, which are always attractive to sinful hearts, will generally be attracted to the same form of worship rather than to return to the old paths of divinely instituted worship. A case in point can be seen in how the Northern Kingdom (Israel) persisted in idolatry until its destruction in 722 BC. There was no turning back once the practice was introduced by Jeroboam.


Jeremiah 3:12, 17:4 and God’s Anger


Did God make two contradictory statements that He would not keep anger forever (Jer 3:12) and that His anger would burn forever (Jer 17:4). Well, our critic may not realise it, but the Lord was addressing two different audiences in the two passages. The first was directed to the Northern Kingdom (Israel, see Jeremiah 3:12 itself), the second was to the Southern Kingdom (Judah, see Jeremiah 17:1). Whatever the precise meanings of the two statements, we can see that Judah (the Southern Kingdom) incurred the greater wrath of God because despite the example of punishment meted to Israel (the Northern Kingdom), she refused to repent. Thus, they were warned with the words: “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah” (Jer 3:10–11). I think the judicious reader will see that the critic’s charge of contradiction is not only disproved, but shown to be unfounded and invidious.


Ecclesiastes 1:4, 2 Peter 3:10 and
the Permanence of the Earth


Ecclesiastes 1:4 states that “the earth abideth for ever” while 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that “the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Is there a contradiction? Well, in the first place, the Hebrew word rendered “for ever” (Heb. olam) does not always mean for all eternity. In fact, the lexicon meaning of the word is “long duration, antiquity, futurity” (BDB). The fact that “for ever” may be the closest English word to render the Hebrew does not mean that the two words have exactly the same meaning. In the second place, 2 Peter 3:10 says nothing about the earth being obliterated. It speaks rather of a thorough renovation or a renewal. This agrees with the phrase “new earth” (Grk. gê kainê; v. 13). The word kainê or kainosspeaks of a newness not of a total replacement, but a total renovation.


Genesis 1:31, 6:6 and
God Changing His Mind?


Why does Moses say that “it repented the LORD that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen 6:6), when He had earlier pronounced all He made to be “very good” (Gen 1:31). According to our critic, “The fundamentalists claim that God changed his mind about the goodness of his creation after Eve ate the fruit.” Then he goes on to assert: “If the fundamentalist’s argument were true, then obviously God must not have foreseen the consequences of Eve’s eating of the fruit, &c.” What do we say? Well, I’ll say that the god of the fundamentalist portrayed by our critic is neither the God of the Bible, nor the God we know. The God of the Bible does not change His mind: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num 23:19). Genesis 6:6, like many other descriptions of God in the Bible, must obviously be taken anthropomorphically or anthropopathically.


God is a Spirit, infinite and eternal. He does not have body parts or human passions the way we have. But in order for man to understand God, the Bible speaks about the eyes of God, the hand of God, etc., and also the feelings of God. Without using this metaphorical language, it would be impossible for finite men to even have any apprehension of God. God’s describing Himself to man may be liken to a mother describing herself to her infant child. To disallow anthropopathism and anthropomorphism would be to require that God does not reveal Himself to finite men at all.


2 Kings 2:11, Luke 24:15 and John 3:13, and
How Many Persons Ascended to Heaven?


John 3:13 reads, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Our critic charges that this statement is false because Elijah also (and yes Enoch too!) ascended to heaven. Did the Lord make a mistake? Obviously not! The Lord was not even referring to bodily ascension to heaven! The context of John 3:13 was His conversation with Nicodemus, more than 3 years before He ascended into heaven! Moreover, the Lord was talking about the revelation of heavenly things, and He was really talking about ascending, as it were, into the throne room of heaven where all decisions pertaining to the redemption of man are made. He was pointing out that He alone, of all men, was in the intimate presence of God (He being the Son of God, who came as the Son of Man), so that He was more than qualified to speak of heavenly things.


John 10:30, 14:28 and
the Doctrine of the Trinity


John 10:30 reads: “I and my Father are one,” whereas John 14:28b reads: “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” Our critic says that this “makes no sense at all. How can you go unto yourself, or be greater than yourself?” Well, it will certainly make no sense to anyone who refuses to acknowledge the verity of the Scriptures, and makes no effort to study the doctrine of the Triunity of God as derived from the Scriptures. The fact is that the Bible teaches us that Christ and His Father and the Holy Spirit are one in substance. There is only one God. Ontologically they are one. This is why the Lord could say: “I and my Father are one.” But then we are also taught that there are three persons in the Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no contradiction that God is one in essence, but three in persons. There would be a contradiction if we had said that God is one in essence and three in essence. The fact is that person or subsistence is different from essence or existence. Now, in so far as the persons of the Godhead are concerned, the Son is economically subordinate to the Father (as the Holy Spirit is economically subordinate to both the Son and the Father). This is how the Lord could say: “my Father is greater than I.”


Genesis 32:30, John 1:18 and Seeing God


Genesis 32:30 records Jacob as saying: “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” On the other hand, John 1:18 reports: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Our critic asserts: “Here’s a case of John not being familiar with the myth of Jacob or not believing it.” Our response must be: Here’s again a case of one who errs because he knows not the Scriptures, neither the power of God (cf. Mk 12:24).


The Scripture is emphatic that no man can see God as He really is. When Moses requested to see God, whom he had been conversing with for so long, the Lord told him: “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Ex 33:20). This would immediately imply to us that Jacob could not have seen God’s face as He really is, despite his claim. And when we come to the account where Jacob made the remark, we see that what Jacob saw was a man, for we are told that “a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Gen 32:24). Why did Jacob claim to have seen God? Well, in the first place, the man who wrestled with him was a messenger of God, who obviously had God’s authority to represent Him. In the second place, the man could well have been the Lord Jesus Christ taking on a pre-incarnation human form. If that was the case, then Jacob was indeed right that he had seen God face to face, for the Lord says: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). It is therefore true that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,” but it is also true that Jacob and the Apostles have seen God when they came face to face with the Emmanuel: God with us.


Conclusion


We noted earlier that the burden of proof that the Word of God is contradictory and errant lies with the critic. In this (two-part) article, we have shown point by point that the objections of Mr Bidstrup can all be answered rather satisfactorily if not conclusively. Rather than destroying our confidence in the Word of God, as he had hope to, his mud-slinging have gone rather to strengthening our conviction that the Word of God is inerrant. We humbly call upon Mr Bidstrup and all who hold the same kind of distorted view of the Scripture to repent while it is not too late. If the Word of God is true, and we believe it is, and it cannot be proven otherwise, then, it must be true that there is a Living and True God who will judge all sinners, and salvation may be found only in Christ and Christ alone.


In his article, Mr Bidstrup quotes Bruce Calvert as saying: “Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.” It may surprise Mr Bidstrup to hear this, but in some ways we do agree with the quotation. We call upon close-minded fundamentalists not to claim belief if believing implies not thinking at all. The Apostle Peter charges us to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us] with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15). The word translated “answer” (Grk. apologia) is the same word used by Paul when he speaks about the “defence of the Gospel” (Phil 1:17; cf. v. 7). The defence of the Gospel is the business of every Christian. If we do not know the Scripture and how to reasonably defend it against the pretentious attacks against it, how can we defend the Gospel, for the Scripture is indeed the bedrock of our faith. But on the other hand, we also call upon those antagonistic to Christ and the Christian faith to think soberly and objectively rather than allow their understanding to be darkened, “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:18). It is our firm conviction that much more do not believe because they do not think, than those who profess to believe because they do not think.


JJ Lim