Some critics of the Bible say that the text of the Bible cannot be trusted because it contains inaccuracies and is therefore unreliable. Supporters and scholars of the Bible say that the Bible is without error and therefore completely reliable.
Who Is Right?
Biblical inerrancy is the assertion that the Bible is without error or fault in all its teaching; or, that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. Some liken inerrancy to biblical infallibility; others do not.
It is important to understand that it doesn’t really matter what people say about the Bible; it matters what the Bible says about itself.
What some critics see as inaccuracies are really just a misunderstanding on their part. Often, people who have only read through the Bible a few times, think that they know what the Bible means. Those who have spent their lives studying the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, understand that what is contained within these 66 books, is not comparable to any other book or literature in the history of the world.
If we can understand that a Being exists who has the technology to create the vast and complex universe we live in, it is not impossible to comprehend that the manner in which this Being communicates with us, will also be extraordinary. Since it is by human words that we communicate with each other, it is also by human words that the God of the universe communicates with us.
What are alleged as discrepancies or inconsistencies within the Bible, are always matters of misunderstanding for the reader, and not genuine problems within the text.
Take for example the controversy over different descriptions between Peter and Matthew regarding the death of Judas Iscariot.
Alleged Discrepancy Of Judas Iscariot’s Death
Matthew describes Judas as hanging himself on a tree after his betrayal of Jesus. Peter, in Acts chapter 1, describes Judas as falling head first into a field—with his intestines spilling out. Some critics of the Bible see these differences in the description of Judas’ death as a discrepancy that casts doubt upon the reliability of the New Testament.
- Matthew, in Matthew 27:3-5, says that Judas “hanged himself.”
- Peter, in Acts 1:16-20, says that Judas, “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his entrails gushed out…”
These accounts of Matthew and Peter do not conflict with each other; they are the records of the actual occurrences that took place, as each of these men described different parts of the same event from their own unique perspective.
Matthew recounts how Judas hanged himself. Peter describes further details of this event—where the rope that was used apparently snapped, and Judas fell into the rocks of the field below. This fall ruptured his stomach area, spilling out his intestines onto the ground. This is the reason why the field was later called the “Field of Blood.”
When different people are at the same scene of an incident, they will often remember different details of the same event. It is common for a person who is interviewing eyewitnesses to hear added details that others who were present did not think of or say. These differences are understood by experts as consistent with the true events that took place.
As we observe this phenomenon in Matthew and Peter’s descriptions of Judas’ death, we understand that this brings great credibility to their testimony as valid and authentic accounts of the same event. There are no discrepancies between these two narratives; there are simply additional details given by Peter that Matthew did not mention. If the story was a fabrication, those who wrote the fabrication would be careful to make sure that the accounts of all witnesses were the same, so as to remove any doubts about their authenticity.
There are many places in the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that retain slight differences in their descriptions. These are clear evidence of authenticity.
How Many People Died In The Plague Of Numbers 25?
Another alleged discrepancy is from Numbers 25:7-9, and 1 Corinthians 10:6-8, where Moses writes that 24,000 died, and Paul recounts 23,000 who died:
When Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest saw this, he jumped up and left the assembly. He took a spear and rushed after the man into his tent. Phinehas thrust the spear all the way through the man’s body and into the woman’s stomach. Thus, the plague against the Israelites was stopped, but not before 24,000 people had died. ~Numbers 25:7-9
These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they once did, or worship idols as some of them have. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” We must not engage in sexual immorality as some of these people did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. ~1 Corinthians 10:6-8
Was there a copyist error in later editions as some suggest? Was Paul simply mistaken when he recounted the number as 23,000? Does this difference mean that the Bible is not infallible?
The idea that the Bible is invalidated because Paul made an error, is preposterous. First, we should realize that people often round off numbers when they are writing an estimation. Were there exactly 24,000 people who died, or were there 23,597 who died? Since it is not likely that exactly 24,000 people died in this event, either 23,000 or 24,000, would be consistent with an accurate recollection of this event.
If you will conduct your own search through the text of the Bible, you will discover that in all of the descriptions where numbers are given, they are always rounded to an even number. This is by design. It was not the intent of the writer to give the reader a precise number. This would be irrelevant and was not necessary in order to convey to the reader the points of the text.
The point of the Bible as the word of God is understood by the principles, precepts, and laws which God instituted in order to make the salvation of every human being possible.
There is no place in the Bible where it claims that what men write in the scriptures is infallible. It is the words, principles, laws, and facts which God speaks—either directly, or through the writing of the prophets—that are infallible.
Not All Of The Bible Is God’s Word
Although this sounds like a heretical statement, it is absolutely true. The Bible contains the words of evil men, liars, demons, murderers, and the immoral. The statement that “every word, is God’s word,” cannot be true. What is true is that God included His words, the words of evil men, and those of the righteous, in order to demonstrate the sin of man and describe for us how He intends to save those who receive the Savior He sent into the world.
The Bible is the word of God in that it contains His principles regarding sin, evil, suffering, the nature of man, his need for salvation, and the Savior He provided for every person. In this regard, the Bible is absolutely reliable.
When God Himself Is Speaking, This Is Made Clear To The Reader By The Words:
- “The Lord Said,” 217 times in the Old Testament.
- “Says the Lord,” 841 times in the Old Testament.
- “The Word of the Lord,” 250 times in the Old Testament.
- “God Said,” 43 times in the Old Testament.
There are hundreds of additional places where God is described as speaking, using various terms and descriptions. The point is that we can tell when God is speaking in the Bible, and we can also tell when it is men or women who are speaking.
There are also many places where men are either speaking or writing the words that God dictated to them in the Bible. When we arrive at the New Testament we see that the writers of the various letters that we read in the 27 books of the New Testament, often used a Scribe; someone who took dictation from the author and wrote their words for us to read. In the case of Paul, he apparently suffered from an eye disorder and required assistance in writing the various letters we see placed into the New Testament. This does not mean that Paul was not the author, only that he used an assistant to record his words.
We see an example where Paul used a scribe to write for him in his letter to the Colossians. At the end of this letter, the NLT version shows us where Paul is writing the text himself by the use of all caps:
HERE IS MY GREETING IN MY OWN HANDWRITING—PAUL. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you all. ~Colossians 4:18
In the case of Luke, he was a well educated physician who took extraordinary steps to interview the various eyewitnesses who had firsthand knowledge of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He then recorded their testimony in his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Notice how Luke begins his Gospel account of Jesus:
Many people have set out to write an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be sure of the truth in everything you were taught. ~Luke 1:1-4
Notice the statement: “Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” Here we see that Luke intended to write a very orderly, accurate, and reliable account of all that concerned Jesus. One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians, Sir William Ramsay, describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, without a single error.1
Dr. Ramsay believed that during his extensive trip through Asia Minor he would find that Luke had made several errors in his descriptions that were recorded in the book of Acts. Instead, Ramsay discovered that Luke was “a historical of the first rank.”2
If A Man Is Honest In The Least, He Will Be Honest In The Greater
Dr. Ramsay learned that Luke was proficient in recording every minor detail in all of his descriptions. The historical accuracy of Luke was unequalled by any who wrote during that period of history.
If Luke was so proficient in these minor details, Ramsay determined that he must also be honest in all the larger facts that concerned Jesus Christ. Understanding that Luke’s was accurate in the cities, names, places, and customs he recorded, it is certain that the important narratives of Jesus’ death, and resurrection would also be reliable.
The Book Of Ecclesiastes: An Example Of Inaccurate Words Of Men
Most people who read the book of Ecclesiastes assume that Solomon is writing an accurate account of the things he describes. Our assumption would be wrong. When Solomon wrote his words in Ecclesiastes, he was in a backslidden place regarding his relationship with God. Not everything that Solomon wrote is true, because he is writing his own observations about how he thinks that life operates, from a heart and mind that have been compromised by sin and disobedience.
The book of Ecclesiastes is unique amongst those of the Bible. This is the only complete text in the Bible that is a reflection of the human point of view rather than the view of God. For this reason, it is filled with errors. At the same time, Ecclesiastes is also fully inspired, because God wanted the world to see what happens when a person forgets God.
Inspiration Is Not A Guarantee Of Truth
Some people have the idea that if it is in the Bible then it is guaranteed by God to be true. There is no place in the scripture where God said this. If it is God speaking, then we can be certain that what we are reading is the truth. If it is a human being speaking, it may or may not be true. Sometimes satan is speaking in the Bible, and we can be sure that these words are not true. On other occasions, we see evil men or women making statements that are also not true.
We can have great confidence in the fact that when there are errors in what is said in the Bible, there is also text to tell us that these words are not true. From these examples, you can see that the Bible is filled with various errors by many individuals. For this reason, many people who are not trained in the scriptures, misunderstand, twist, or misuse the words of the Bible. People who have not taken the time necessary to read the Bible with understanding, do not understand that when people or the devil make statements in the Bible, this is not the word of God but their own words.
In spite of this truth, God wanted their words to be recorded so that we can see that not all that people say or profess, is reliable. Only those things that God has told us are the truth, and we can rely upon the words of God. When we say that the Bible is “inspired,” this is what is meant. When we say “the word of God,” we are describing the Bible with all of its inspired text; both His words and the words of individuals who often do not speak truth.
This is why people who read the comments of those who criticize the Bible as filled with errors, begin to imagine that the Bible cannot be trusted. The reason that some people make these comments and observations is because they don’t understand what they are reading. In this regard, sometimes it is helpful to have someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, to guide us. We see an example of this principle in the New Testament.
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. ~Acts 8:30-31
God Does Not Sugarcoat Our Spiritual Condition
One of the unique attributes of the Bible is that God wanted us to be able to see real people with their real faults. God never seeks to sugarcoat our sinful nature. He points out the faults of the people whom He includes in the Bible so that we can see how He works in the lives of those who are fallible—but still loves them and is faithful to bring fallible people into a correct relationship with Himself.
God wanted us to see that Abraham, although he is spoken of by God as “the Father of Faith,” there were times when Abraham did not have much faith. When a plague broke out in the world, Abraham did not trust God. His fears caused him to go down to Egypt to find food. While there, Abraham told his wife Sarah to lie for him and say that she was his sister. This was because Abraham knew the Egyptian kings would often take the beautiful wife of a man and have him executed.
Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say (lie) you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” ~Genesis 12:12-13
Abraham did not exercise the correct behavior of a person who truly trusts in God and God wanted us to see this character flaw in Abraham so that we would be encouraged. When we also fail to have faith and act wrongly in our life, by the example that God gave us with Abraham, we can see that God will not abandon us, cease to love us, or fail to complete all of His promises in our life.
Because God placed people before us in the Bible who are sinners just like us, people with wrong intentions often take the false things these Biblical characters said or did and seek to prove that the Bible is filled with errors.
The inclusion of sinners and their incorrect statements in the Bible is inspired by God, for our benefit. It is helpful for us to see these individuals as they really were and how God was exceedingly patient with them. It helps us in our own weaknesses when we see how gracious and kind God is to people when they are in the midst of their sins. It is this kindness of God that softens our heart and brings us to repentance in our own life.
This Is What Is Meant By The Term “Inspired By God”
Solomon in writing Ecclesiastes, shows us how God wanted the world to see what happens to a man when he forgets God. What happens to a person when they let the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, building, and the things of this world, take the place of God. Solomon began well, but he did not finish well. God wants all of us to finish our life on earth successfully and make it home to heaven. For this reason, God inspired the writing of Solomon to place this text before us so that we can see the folly of a man who has lost the most precious possession he began his life with, God.
In no way should anyone take all of the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes as the words of God. In order to rightly determine if what someone writes or says is from God, we must be able to compare it to what has already been written by God Himself in the Bible. Anything that is said or written that is contrary to what God has said, is wrong and not from God.
Ecclesiastes presents the human view of God, and because of this, it is often wrong. Solomon repeatedly uses the term, “under the sun,” to describe his view. This is evidence that Solomon’s opinion in this text, comes from a human perspective of life on earth (under the sun). In this regard, Ecclesiastes shows us the error of human thinking in comparison to the thoughts and opinions of God.
Atheists And Ecclesiastes
Atheists will sometime assert that Ecclesiastes is atheistic. This is not true. The writer of Ecclesiastes is not an atheist, but a backslidden believer in God who has forgotten God in his life. The atheist is one who has convinced himself that God does not exist, by a standard he set for himself. Although the evidence for God is overwhelming and empirical in every regard, atheists ignore the evidence of the universe, and human life, even the conscience within themselves, and insists that God does not exist.
In my experiences with hundreds of atheists over the past 44 years, these individuals are not interested in evidence, but in argument. They want to convince themselves that they really are an atheist, so they continually try to impeach every argument that proves God. Of course God does exist and His existence can now be proven by the science of the universe. The reality of facts can never change the heart of one who does not want to believe. People always believe what they want to believe and they are not always influenced by truth or facts that are contrary to what they want to believe.
The Bible Does Contain Errors
- There are evil men who speak errors in the Bible.
- The devil often speaks errors in the Bible.
- Men give incorrect views or opinions of God that are wrong, in the Bible.
Based upon these errors of men and the devil, it is not hard to prove that the Bible does contain errors. A diligent student will also notice that the Bible always shows us these errors and tells us plainly that these statement and views of God are inaccurate.
Using Ecclesiastes To Impeach The Bible
Because of the inaccuracies that Solomon had regarding God, as he is in a backslidden place in his life, many critics of the Bible often quote passages from Ecclesiastes to try and prove that the Bible is inconsistent, inaccurate, or not true.
Our first hint that Ecclesiastes cannot be relied upon as the words of God is in its introduction.
These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. Everything Is Meaningless “Everything is meaningless,” said the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” ~Ecclesiastes 1:1-2
Solomon began his reign as the king of Israel by great wisdom. Through compromise and sin, he fell away from the Lord and became a fool. The writings of Ecclesiastes is an example of a once wise man who is now in spiritual decline at the end of his life.
Solomon Begins With Wisdom
That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.
“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! ~1 Kings 3:5-13
The text of 1 Kings, chapter 4, confirms that God did exactly what He promised Solomon; he became the wisest man during that period of history.
God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else…His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. ~1 Kings 4:29-34
How could the world’s wisest man become a fool? He forgot the Lord and gave himself completely to the things of this world. The evidence for Solomon’s errors is seen in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The opening statement, tells us all that we need to know, Solomon says: “Everything is meaningless.”
Solomon’s view of life, that everything is meaningless, is in direct conflict with what God says about life on earth. Life is not meaningless, haphazard, or random. Everything that takes place in the life of human beings, the earth, and the universe, are all under the sovereignty and control of the God who made all that exists.
The Realities Of A Life With God
People who trust in the Lord will have difficulties, but the wisdom that God imparts through His word enables us to live satisfied, productive lives that have meaning and purpose. Those who deny God in their lives have nothing. There is no lasting peace; there is constant fear of the unknown. There is uncertainty over what happens at death, and there is no meaning or real purpose in all that a person does in their life. Atheist proclaim that a life without God enables them to be truly free, but this is not true. We become a slave to whatever controls us. If we are controlled by our fleshly appetites and this world, we become a slave to sin. This in turn, leaves us empty and hopeless. Despite what atheists declare regarding their freedom without God, the reality is that they are all empty and filled with fear continually.
They promise freedom, but in truth they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. ~2 Peter 2:19
This is precisely what we see in the comments of Solomon as he has fallen away from the Lord and now feels the consequences of that life. Solomon achieved everything that this world tells us will bring happiness and contentment. None of these things satisfied Solomon, and they have not satisfied anyone else over human history, who have also achieved all these successes.
“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?…Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. ~Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, 8
So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow. I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless.
So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves.
I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces.
I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors.
But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. ~Ecclesiastes 1:17 – 2:11
If you are a critic of the Bible and are seeking to prove that the scriptures are inconsistent by the text of Ecclesiastes, it will not work. All that is proven by Solomon’s words is that the entire Bible, and all that God said about sin and this present world, are true.
The Infallibility Of The Bible
When we say that the Bible is infallible, it does not mean that what some men and women said, is perfect. There are some occasions when men said certain things that are recounted from their own memories and they generalize or recount events from their own mind.
Take for example, Matthew records the prophecy of the Messiah’s betrayal, coming from the prophet Jeremiah. The actual prophecy that Jesus fulfilled is from Zechariah.
- Matthew 27:9-10 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”
- Zechariah 11:13b …And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter
The division of each scroll of the Old Testament into individual books did not take place until much later, after Matthew and Peter quoted from Zechariah and Jeremiah. At the time the gospel of Matthew was recorded, the writings of Zechariah were included in the larger scroll of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah, being the more important of the two prophets—Matthew simply quoted from the scroll of Jeremiah, where Zechariah’s prophecy was located.
When Matthew was trying to remember where the prophecy was written, he was doing so from memory and mistakenly thought it was from Jeremiah’s writing.
As a pastor and Bible teacher, I have often made this same mistake without realizing my error while I am teaching. I have often stated that a particular verse of scripture is located in a certain book, when in fact the verse came from a different book of the Bible. The text of the verse I am quoting was correct; I simply described the wrong book.
This demonstrates that men are fallible, but the word of God is infallible. The fact that we observe this occurring in the gospels gives us a great reason to believe that the New Testament scriptures are genuine.
If a person was seeking to fabricate a lie and write a story to convince us, he would make sure that the details of his accounts were consistent with known sources. However, if a person was simply trying to recount the verse of scripture that he believed were fulfilled—much as I do when teaching on a Sunday morning before the congregation—he might misquote the wrong book. This tells us that the details, which are written in Matthew 27:9, are a genuine account of what actually took place. This so-called “discrepancy” is not a valid reason to doubt the New Testament. In reality, it is a great reason to believe it.
From this example you can see how someone who is not trained in the Bible, might misinterpret what they are reading; not understanding the context, or what has actually occurred. Critics of the Bible are quick to make these errors of judgment without the ability to properly understand what they are reading. The Bible is not unreliable; it is people who are unreliable because they do not understand what they are reading.
When we investigate the New Testament in great detail, we find that the internal evidence, which the writers have provided, gives us an abundance of clues to validate the authenticity of their narratives. The differences between Matthew and Peter’s account of Judas’ death, the mistaken quote of Matthew in describing Jeremiah as the source of Zechariah’s prophecy—all tell us that we have a true account of the events they describe. We can have confidence that the life of Jesus Christ has been recorded for us truthfully by the actual people who saw and heard Him, witnessed His crucifixion and resurrection three days later. These men testified that He is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah.
Those who state that the New Testament is not written by “eyewitnesses,” have apparently never studied the text. Anyone who reads what is written about Jesus will see for themselves that the entire New Testament is filled with eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and the fact that He was seem by over 500 eyewitnesses after He rose from the dead.
See The 396 Places In The New Testament Where Jesus Is Described As Crucified And Risen From The Dead, in the final chapter: “Crucified And Risen.”
The Internal Proof Of The New Testament That It Is A Reliable Record
When you and I are at the scene of a particular event, we both see the same things, but we do not remember these events in the same way. You might have noticed specific details that I did not see. I may have noticed things that took place or were said, that you did not remember. When we write our own recollections of these events, we will record things that seem different, yet we are both writing about the same event. These are not inaccuracies, but simply our own recollections.
In the former chapter, I stated that the FBI recognizes this type of testimony and determined that it is great evidence of truth. The manner in which the four Gospels are written has been thoroughly examined by experts for signs of fraud or deception. In every possible facet of these descriptions for Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection, these accounts have been proven genuine and reliable narratives. I have used a procedure utilized by the FBI to detect fraud within written testimony, and applied this process to the entire text of the four Gospels. I was able to validate the narratives of the four Gospels by using these techniques and prove that the testimonies and writing style of the New Testament are absolutely reliable accounts.
When critics of the Bible see differences in testimony in the text of the Bible, they assume that these are inaccuracies, discrepancies, or untruths, and disqualify the Bible as a reliable text.
Scholars who study ancient manuscripts understand that the truthfulness of documents from antiquity can be validated by these minor differences in how witnesses recall what has taken place.
When we are evaluating ancient literature to determine whether written text is truthful or deceptive, there are certain principles that allow us to know if the narrative is true or not.
Linguistic text analysis allows a professional to examine a text to detect certain inconsistencies and anomalies that reveal fraud. The language, syntax, and grammar that are used in describing people and events are key to determining whether a story is true or false.
Those who are experts in linguistic analysis know precisely what to look for in a written statement or story to discover if the verbal behavior is normal or exhibits signs of deceit. Many people do not realize that it is easier to detect inconsistencies in written statements than it is for those which are made orally.
By studying word choices, it is possible to detect predictable differences between deceptive and truthful statement. These practices are used every day by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in determining whether narratives are true or contrived. I have spent many years studying these techniques in applying them to the New Testament.
One: Those who are writing genuine accounts of actual events often use the pronoun “I” in describing their own actions.
The clear intent of the four Gospels is that these narratives are either eyewitness accounts or the testimonies of one who interviewed an eyewitness to the events.
And he who has seen these things has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. ~John 19:35
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life. ~John 1:1
Two: People who are telling the truth describe the historical events they are writing about in the past tense.
The reality of the New Testament is that it is written as a historical narrative, not as allegory, myth or legend.
Therefore, when Jesus had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. ~John 2:22
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. ~John 12:16
If the narrative of the four Gospels was contrived, it would not bear this emblem of all truthful testimony: reflection back to facts that were unknown to the writers at the start.
Three: Truthful accounts always contain very detailed and specific accounts.
Historical scholars are struck by the sheer number of historical references to people, places, and governments that are made in the New Testament. A majority of these specific statements have been verified by archeological discoveries and found absolutely accurate in every detail.
One of the criticisms of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that he says was ordered by Caesar Augustus.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. ~Luke 2:1-3
Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the taxpayers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts which verify that Caesar Augustus did conduct the precise census described, during the period of time Luke specified—near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.3
Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria, on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.4
An archeological discovery in Egypt uncovered a Papyrus which specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Augustus:
“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”5
The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded the specific events of Jesus’ ministry with the same precision. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.
Four: In the presence of multiple writers, their accounts will differ slightly, although telling the same story.
Narratives which are later determined as fraudulent are always found to be identical as multiple witnesses often agree ahead of time to tell the same story. Narratives which are genuine will have different accounts of the same events which validate them as authentic.
In the case of the four Gospels there is no doubt that these men are telling the truth, as their differences of recollection are certain evidence of truthfulness.
These differences in remembered details is a certain evidence of reliable testimony. See the later part of this chapter for examples of these differences in narrative.
Five: Balance of the narrative. In truthful narratives, there are three parts: a prologue, the critical event, and the aftermath. The prologue states the background information. The critical events is the most important as it describes the primary narrative. The aftermath is necessary to understand what took place after the events happened.
In truthful narratives the prologue will be about 25 percent of the story. The critical events should be the longest at about 50 percent. The aftermath, about 25 percent of the story.
If one part is particularly longer or shorter than it should be or is omitted altogether, this is a sign of deception.
Upon examination, the four Gospels bear all the marks of truthful accounts and display no characteristics of fraud. The manner in which each story about Jesus is written shows that they are carefully crafted to tell a specific story. The purpose of these accounts is to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled a particular prophecy of the Messiah in the words and actions of His life, death, and resurrection.
God Does Not Disable The Human Mind, But Works Through It
In truth, the God of the universe allows each one of us to operate according to our own recollections, and write what we remember. It is very likely that God chose these specific men specifically because He knew in advance what they would remember, and write these things into the records of the Bible. God wanted different views of the same events, so that the reader could experience the full spectrum of all that had taken place.
As human beings, we expect certain things and when they do not meet our expectations, we imagine that they are not true or are inaccurate. God stated clearly in His word that the way He operates, thinks, and records His word, is not according to our thoughts, but according to His plans and purposes.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” ~Isaiah 55:8-9
Example Of Inerrancy By Jesus
In Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 16 and 17, Jesus predicts His impending death and these words are recorded by Matthew for us.
- Jesus predicts His death and resurrection.
- Peter objects.
- Jesus tells Peter that his view of what God does is as a man, not as how God sees the events of time, earth, and man’s redemption.
- Jesus states that in order to understand what God does, we must be surrendered to Him as the Lord of our life.
- Jesus emphasizes that our soul is the most valuable thing in our life, not this world. Everything we do, accomplish, and accumulate will pass away; only our relationship with God in acquiring salvation, will last forever.
- Jesus tell His disciples that some of them who are standing with Him there, will see the kingdom of God and what it will be like.
- In chapter 17, Jesus transports His disciples into the future and lets them see what He will look like as the kingdom of God comes to earth during Jesus’ future kingdom rule on earth for 1,000 years.
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
Matthew Chapter 17:1-6, The Transfiguration
Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. ~Matthew 16:21 -17:6
We see that Jesus’ words and all that He said would take place, did happen exactly as He said. We see that Peter’s view of God plans was inaccurate because he is only a mortal man with very limited knowledge of God’s plans and purposes.
We learn that everything Jesus has done on earth when He came to dwell amongst us and died for our sins, was planned before He made the universe.
We learn that what Matthew wrote here in his Gospel regarding the events that took place on that day, are a truthful and accurate description of actual historical events. We see proof of this in a later comment by Peter in his own letter; 2 Peter 1:16-21
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. ~2 Peter 1:16-21
Peter is recounting the events which Matthew recorded when he and some of the disciples of Jesus were with Him when, suddenly, Jesus showed them a vision of the future when Moses and Elijah were present during the one thousand year kingdom age of Jesus’ rule on earth.
- Peter states emphatically that he is not making up this story, but is recounting the actual events that took place. Peter is quoting from the Gospels of Matthew Chapter 17:1-6, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36. If the Gospels were written after the New Testament letters of Peter and Paul, how is it that Peter is quoting from all three Gospels? Peter was written in 65 A.D., Obviously the Gospels were written much earlier.
- This also confirms that what Matthew wrote, independent of Peter’s recollection, is also accurate and true.
- Peter confirms that Jesus knew ahead of time what was going to happen and then provided empirical evidence for Peter and the other disciples so that they could write about these events and tell the world what really happened.
- This becomes for us, an example of inspired text from God, in this case, Jesus Himself, and demonstrates how text that God inspires is inerrant and completely reliable.
- Peter tells us that because of that event where Jesus allowed him and others to see Jesus in His future kingdom, and the fulfillment of Jesus prediction that He would be crucified and rise again; Peter was confident to believe that all of the hundreds of prophecies of the Old Testament, are true and are speaking of Jesus as the true Messiah.
- Peter finishes this text by assuring the reader that none of the texts from the Old Testament prophets which describe Jesus as the Messiah, and the texts that He and others wrote as Jesus fulfilled these texts, was by their own mind or initiative.
- All of the texts by the disciples of Jesus are written as eyewitness testimony, either by the men who saw these events, or as eyewitnesses dictating these events to a scribe who recorded them.
From this brief summary of places and examples where the Bible is often misunderstood, you can see for yourself that these observations are wrong. The Bible is Inspired by God, and contains the errors of men and the devil. It also contains the truthful and accurate words of God, and allows us to know the difference by simply reading and studying the text for ourselves.
The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- The Body Of New Testament Evidence
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?
1 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8: “I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”
2 William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222: “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”
3 1.John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
2.Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285
4 Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
5 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages 159, 160