Is the Bible “Infallible?”

The Bible is the most inspired, influential, inspiring, and important book ever produced. No other book compares. The Bible is the pinnacle of truth and wisdom and the monument of literature. Moreover, it is the word of God.

Christian belief in infallibility

Some Christians go further and claim that the Bible is “complete, infallible, and inerrant.”

  • “We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible …
  • “We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.”
  • “We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith.” (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978,signed by 200 Evangelical Leaders),

The Bible never says it is infallible or complete.

The Bible itself mentions inspired books that are “lost” or “missing”

  • Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14);
  • Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18);
  • Book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:41);
  • Book of Samuel the seer (1 Chr. 29:29); book of Gad the seer (1 Chr. 29:29);
  • Book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chr. 29:29; 2 Chr. 9:29);
  • prophecy of Ahijah (2 Chr. 9:29);
  • visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22);
  • Book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15);
  • Book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20:34);
  • sayings of the seers (2 Chr. 33:19);
  • an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, earlier than our present 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9);
  • possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3);
  • an epistle to the Church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16);
  • prophecies of Enoch, known to Jude (Jude 1:14).

The Bible does not claim to be a complete closed canon of scripture

Advocates of the Bible as a closed canon of scripture, rely on Revelation 22:18-19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. For if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy God shall take away his part out of the book of life …”

This book” clearly refers to the Book of Revelation, not the Bible. Virtually all biblical scholars agree that “this book” applies only to the book of Revelation. A number of New Testament books were written after John’s Revelation, including Jude, the Epistles of John, and even the Gospel of John.

There was no New Testament at the time John wrote Revelation. The “Bible” literally means “books,” in other words, a “collection of books,” or a “library.”

For centuries after Revelation, the books of the New Testament circulated individually, never as a complete collection. The Bible’s final compilation did not take place until after 325 A.D.

Moses wrote a similar admonition in his last book.  “Ye shall not add unto the word, which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it …” (Deut.4:2)

The prophets of the Old and New Testament added scripture to that received by their predecessors. If the Old Testament words of Moses were sufficient, then why the subsequent books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, etc. If one revelation to one prophet in one moment of time is sufficient for all time, what justifies these many others?

Which Bible is the complete infallible word of God? They are all different. (See: “Biblical Canon,” Wikipedia for a chart)

  • Roman Catholic Bible (73 books)
  • Eastern Orthodox Bible (78 books)
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Bible (81 books)
  • Protestant Bible (66 books)
  • Armenian Bible
  • Coptic Bible

Which Protestant Bible is the complete infallible word of God? There are dozens of different versions and translations.

  • King James Version (used by 55%)
  • New International Version (used by 19%)
  • New Revised Standard Version (used by 7%)
  • New American Bible (used by 6%)
  • Living Bible (used by 5%)

The Bible never says it is infallible and inerrant. It is well recognized that there are flaws and problems with transcription, translation, and conflicting manuscripts

Joseph Smith was branded as a heretic when he observed that the Bible was not the complete infallible word of God.

  • “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” (Articles of Faith, 8)
  • “From sundry revelations which have been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of men had been taken from the Bible or lost before it was compiled.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 10)
  • “I believe the Bible as it read when it came to from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless, transcribes, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” (TPJS p. 327)

Likewise, Origen of Alexandria (184-253) one of the greatest Christian writers of all time, wrote: “And now it is plainly manifest that many differences of the copies have occurred either from the laziness of certain scribes, or from the wicked recklessness of some, or from those neglecting improvement of the writings, or also from those who either add or omit supposing in themselves to improve it. Some altered the original text of the gospel three of four times over.” (Contra Celsum II.27; Origen, Commentary on Matthew 15.14)

Similarly, according to Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340 A.D.), Pope Victor I (190 AD), declared: “They have not feared to corrupt divine Scriptures, they have nullified the rule of ancient faith, they have not known Christ, they do not inquire what the divine Scriptures say, . . . . For this cause they did not fear to lay hands on the divine scriptures, saying they had corrected them.” (Ecclesiastical History)

Joseph Smith was right. I once read a Bible dictionary that observed that the New Testament manuscripts had “over 125,000 textual differences, although most are considered minor.”  

Self-Contradictions in the Bible

As early as 1860, William Henry Burr published, “Self-Contradictions of the Bible.”  This book lists 144 contradictory verses side by side 

One Contradiction: God is Seen, yet God is Invisible and Cannot be Seen

  • And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts. (Ex. 33:23.)
  • And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend. (Ex. 33:11.)
  • And the Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid. (Gen. 3:9, 10.)
  • For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (Gen. 32:30.)
  • In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw, also, the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. (Is. 6:1.)
  • Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. And they saw the God of Israel. . . . They saw God, and did eat and drink. (Ex. 24:9, 10, 11.)

  • No man hath seen God at any time. (John 1:18.)
  • Ye hath neither heard his voice, at any time, nor seen his shape. (John 5:37.)
  • And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live. (Ex. 33:20.)
  • Whom no man hath seen nor can see. (1 Tim. 6:16.)

(Of course, Joseph Smith reconciled these inconsistencies when he explained that no mere mortal cannot see God and live, unless “transfigured” and “quickened by the Spirit.”)

Biblical scholars have carefully studied the inconsistencies in and between texts and canons. The oldest manuscripts vary.  Between 5-10% of the New Testament text is in dispute.   

Verses were intentionally added, deleted, and modified

Portions of the New Testament manuscripts were deliberately added as clarifying commentary. Some “squeamish” sections were deliberately deleted.  Thus, the texts were corrupted inadvertently or deliberately.

For one example, Dr. Lincoln Blumell, an expert on early Christianity, observed that according to the King James Version (taken from 12th century manuscripts) Goliath was “six cubits and a span,” or in other words, 9 feet 9 inches. (1 Sam. 17:4) However, earlier older manuscripts describe Goliath’s height at “four cubits and a span,” which would make in 6 foot 9 inches, a giant for that time.  Apparently, later transcribers did not believe that 6’9” was enough of a giant, and so they embellished the account, like the proverbial fish story.

Another example is the famous trinity verse I John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” That verse is not contained in any of the earlier old manuscripts, but was added about the 12th century.

We do not have any of the original writings. None of the manuscripts were written by the original authors. 

Between the 2nd and 4th centuries the New Testament was a shifting list of canonical books. The oldest complete New Testaments were not compiled until the 4th Century, 300 years after Christ.  They are: the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus.

The Bible is the Word of God

The Bible is the word of God.  However, it is not complete, infallible, and inerrant.  

Scriptures are the word of God revealed to His prophets. God spoke to His prophets in ancient times, and He has not stopped speaking.  “He speaks, not spake.” 

We are in desperate need God’s spoken word today.  He loves us, just as much as His ancient children. Therefore, God continues to speak to His prophets, and the scriptural canon is not closed. (Amos 3:7)

(“Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “Biblical Inerrancy,” “Protestant Bible,” “Bible translations,” “Christian biblical canons,” “Internal consistency of the Bible,” “Development of the New Testament canon,” “Codex Vaticanus,” Wikipedia; Jeffrey Holland, “My Words Never Cease,” Gen. Conf. April 6, 2008; Lincoln Blumell, “The New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament;” Lincoln Blumell, “After the New Testament: The History of Christianity for the First 300 Years,” BYU Course, 2020)

(http://www.londonedition.net)

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