Why Are There Errors in the Bible? The Truth Has Changed Me
By Zhang Ming
In my years of believing in the Lord, the status of the Bible was supreme and holy in my heart, because this is written in it, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Because of this, I thought every word and sentence in the Bible was given by inspiration of God, so the Bible was absolutely reliable; there were not any errors in it, and it carried the highest authority. So I read it every day, treating it as a holy book, and even as God.
One day, however, when I carried out spiritual devotions, some scriptures attracted my great attention. When reading 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1, I found the two verses both record that David numbered the people, but their meanings vary greatly. 2 Samuel 24:1 records: “And again the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” But 1 Chronicles 21:1 records: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” One verse says it was Jehovah God that moved David to number the people, but the other says it was Satan that provoked David to do that. Seeing this, I suddenly became confused: Why are there different records of the same thing in the Bible? What’s more, there is a great difference between them. Isn’t all scripture given by inspiration of God? How could there be errors in it? It couldn’t be. I kept studying the scripture, only to find some errors in other records. For example, 2 Chronicles 36:9 records: “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah.” It says it was at eight years old that Jehoiachin began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days; while in 2 Kings 24:8, it was at eighteen years old that he began to reign and he reigned three months. In addition, the words that the Lord Jesus said to Peter in the New Testament also are different. Luke 22:61 records: “Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.” But Mark 14:72 records: “Before the cock crow twice, you shall deny me thrice.” There is still another example. In Matthew 27:5 Judas hanged himself, but in Acts 1:18 he died with his body bursting open. Obviously, these verses show that there are errors in the accounts of the Bible. How could this be? The Bible is inspired by God! I was really puzzled: Could it be that the Bible isn’t inspired by the Holy Spirit? At the time, I was sunk into deeper thought. Recalling the years when I had believed in the Lord, I always thought that all scripture was given by inspiration of God. So, I put it above all else, and I even saw it as a heavenly book, and a holy book. Today, if I hadn’t personally seen these by studying the Bible, I couldn’t have believed that there are so many deviations in it. How did this come about? In confusion, all I could do was pray to God: “Oh Lord, isn’t the Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit? Didn’t the Holy Spirit instruct people to write it? How can there be so many mistakes in it? Oh Lord, I am really confused with this. May You lead and guide me to understand the reason for this.”
One morning, when I was reading scripture, some verses caught my notice. It says, “For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed” (Luke 1:1–4). I was truly astonished when reading those words. I read and re-read the verses repeatedly, “For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth … Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses.” I suddenly understood: These epistles were recorded according to what the preachers said, not according to the authors’ personal experience. Then, how could there be no deviations in the Bible? The authors wrote the epistles based on what they had seen and heard, and on their own understanding and knowledge. How can those be on behalf of the inspiration of God? If all scriptures really come from the inspiration of God just like the foretellings of prophets and the prophecies of Revelation, how come there are errors in them? Thank the Lord for leading me to know: Not all scripture is inspired by God. For example, the Four Gospels were written according to what the disciples had seen and heard, not according to the direct inspiration from God. The Acts, which records biographies of the Lord Jesus’ disciples who preached His word, is not the inspiration from God, either. I understood that most of the scriptures in the Bible were written by people who followed God according to their personal memories and others’ preaching to record what they had seen and heard during God’s work. Thus, it is no wonder that there are errors in it and it is mixed with human will.
My heart was heavy with this matter. For many years I had believed in the Lord, I never heard anyone in the entire religious world said the fact that there are deviations in the Bible. Now I saw that with my eyes, but I couldn’t be completely certain about that. So I continued seeking and often prayed to God, asking Him to lead me to find more bases so that I could understand it clearly. Thereupon, I sought in another spiritual book and I read these words, “Today, people believe the Bible is God, and that God is the Bible. So, too, do they believe that all the words of the Bible were the only words God spoke, and that they were all said by God. Those who believe in God even think that although all of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament were written by people, they were all given by inspiration of God, and a record of the utterances of the Holy Spirit. This is the erroneous interpretation of people, and it does not completely accord with the facts. In fact, apart from the books of prophecy, most of the Old Testament is historical record. Some of the epistles of the New Testament come from people’s experiences, and some come from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit; the Pauline epistles, for example, arose from the work of a man, they were all the result of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, and they were written for the churches, were words of exhortation and encouragement for the brothers and sisters of the churches. They were not words spoken by the Holy Spirit — Paul could not speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit, and neither was he a prophet, much less did he see visions that John beheld. His epistles were written for the churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, Galatia, and other churches. And thus, the Pauline epistles of the New Testament are epistles that Paul wrote for the churches, and not inspirations from the Holy Spirit, nor are they the direct utterances of the Holy Spirit. They are merely words of exhortation, comfort, and encouragement that he wrote for the churches during the course of his work. So, too, are they a record of much of Paul’s work at the time. … All he said that was edifying and positive to people was right, but it did not represent the utterances of the Holy Spirit, and he could not represent God. It is an egregious understanding, and a tremendous blasphemy, for people to treat the records of a man’s experiences and a man’s epistles as the words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the churches!” “If the Four Gospels all came from the Holy Spirit, then why was it that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each said something different about the work of Jesus? If you don’t believe this, then look at the accounts in the Bible of how Peter denied the Lord three times: They are all different, and they each have their own characteristics. … Carefully read the Four Gospels; read what they recorded about the things that Jesus did, and the words He spoke. Each account was quite simply different, and each had its own perspective. If what was written by the authors of these books all came from the Holy Spirit, then it should all be the same and consistent. Why then are there discrepancies? Is man not extremely foolish, to be unable to see this?” From these words, I understood that a part of the Bible was from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, but most of it came from people’s records. Because each person had his own experiences and understanding, moreover, the levels of their education and caliber were different, so what they recorded was different and the deviations were unavoidable. For example, the Four Gospels all are the record of the work of the Lord Jesus, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each recorded differently, each with their own characteristics. So, the Four Gospels which were recorded by man should not all be regarded as the inspiration of God. Besides, the letters written by Paul, Peter, John and others arose from the work and experiences of man. Because of their burden toward the churches, they wrote letters to exhort and encourage the brothers and sisters of the churches. Although the epistles are edifying and helpful to man, we cannot treat them as the words spoken by the Holy Spirit. Only then was I really certain that not all scripture is given by inspiration of God. From this, I knew my past understanding was too erroneous.
Afterward, I read this passage in this spiritual book, “The Bible is a historical record of God’s work in Israel, and documents many of the foretellings of ancient prophets as well as some of the utterances of Jehovah in His work at that time. Thus, people all look upon this book as holy (for God is holy and great). Of course, this is all a result of their reverence for Jehovah and their adoration for God. People refer to this book in this way only because the creatures of God are so adoring of their Creator, and there are even those who call this book a heavenly book. In fact, it is merely a human record. It was not personally named by Jehovah, nor did Jehovah personally guide its creation. In other words, the author of this book is not God, but men. The Holy Bible is only the respectful title given to it by man. This title was not decided by Jehovah and Jesus after they had a discussion amongst each other; it is nothing more than a human idea. For this book was not written by Jehovah, much less by Jesus. Instead, it is the accounts of many ancient prophets, apostles, and seers, which were compiled by later generations into a book of ancient writings that, to people, seems especially holy, a book that they believe contains many unfathomable and profound mysteries that are waiting to be unlocked by future generations. As such, people are even more disposed to believe that this book is a heavenly book. With the addition of the Four Gospels and the Book of Revelation, people’s attitude toward it is particularly different from any other book, and thus no one dares to dissect this heavenly book — because it is too sacred.” From these words, I was even more certain that the author of the Bible is not God, but men; in other words, it wasn’t directly recorded by Jehovah God, much less by the Lord Jesus, but by those prophets, apostles, and seers. The Holy Bible is merely the respectful title given to it by later generations, not out of God’s will. It’s only that we think it too holy and even treat it as a heavenly book.
Thinking back, the reason why I worshiped the Bible so much was just because I didn’t know the inside story of the Bible, and in my heart, I treated it as a heavenly book, and a holy book. Through seeking, I finally had an understanding of the inside story of the Bible and knew how to treat it correctly. In the Bible, the words of Jehovah and the Lord Jesus, the prophecies of Revelation and the words of God conveyed by prophets — these all are the words of God. With a heart that reveres God, we should treat these words cautiously and cannot be irreverent to them; what’s more, we should treat them as an important part of equipping ourselves at ordinary times. However, for other words like the historical records, the epistles of the apostles, the Psalms and the Proverbs, although some of them came from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, yet they were not inspired by God. Therefore, we should treat them correctly. We cannot blindly worship them, nor treat the words of man in the Bible as the words of God, much less use the Bible to replace God’s place in our heart. Believing in God, we should neither worship the Bible blindly nor think that belief in the Bible is belief in God. Of course, we cannot despise it or deny its value just because of a little human will or the deviations. Although there are errors in the human records, the work God did is always true. The value of the Bible completely lies in its record of and testament to the first two stages of God’s work. From the Bible, we can know the utterances and deeds of God, and can have knowledge of the omnipotent wisdom with which He created and rules over everything, and it is very helpful for us to know God, follow God and worship God. But the words and work of God recorded in the Bible contain only a very limited portion, not all His words and work. Especially the words of Revelation that God inspired to John is what He will accomplish during His work in the last days, which is not recorded in the Bible. In order to hear the voice of God in the last days, we should seek God’s work and words outside of the Bible, instead of confining His work and words to the Bible. When treating the Bible correctly, we will be after God’s will, because it is God that we believe in, not the Bible. Only God is the truth and the ever-flowing wellspring of living water of life. Only by closely following the footsteps of the Lamb can we gain God’s promise.
Thank God for guiding me and allowing me to have a new understanding of the Bible. I knew the Bible isn’t entirely inspired by God. Moreover, it is only a bridge to help us to know the work of Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus. The Bible cannot be mentioned in the same breath with God, nor be treated as God. Otherwise, it will be a great blasphemy against God. Thank the Lord for allowing me to walk free from the mistaken viewpoints and know how to treat the Bible correctly. All the glory be to God!