Chapter 3    The Case Against Biblical Infallibility and Fundamentalism

Jesus said in a prayer to God in John 17:17, “Your word is truth.”   Notice that He said “God’s word was truth” He did not say “all scripture” is truth.  He did not say, “All that the prophets have written is truth.”  This latter meaning has been implied to the Bible as a whole by many fundamentalist believers.  It is a common trait for believers in many religions to hold their “scriptures” as infallible truth (Marty and Appleby 1991).  Of course only the Old Testament scriptures had been written at the time.  But fundamentalists usually include the New Testament scriptures as well, which hadn’t been written in Jesus’ day, into such a conclusion. 

The Bible may contain “God’s word” but it also contains much other written material.  The Bible has been written by many different authors at many different times.  Their writings have been copied and edited by many others, and translated by still others.  The writings considered “inspired,” or at least “helpful,” were then eventually gathered together, with much argument, by still other religious authorities to form the canon of the modern Bible.  Thus, those who canonized the writings turned the words of men into the words of God.  Is this rational?

Did God directly inspire all these steps?  Did He also inspire the translators?  Or did He quit inspiring at the translation process?  We have multiple translations today.  Which are inspired?  Which are not?  Are they all inspired? 

Was the Bible only fully inspired in its original texts?  But we don’t have the original texts of the Bible.  So where does that leave us?  We only have copies of copies.  Most of these were made hundreds of years after the original.  Where does that leave us? Are we thus left without any inspired texts? 

Advice from the Proverbs might be considered...

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
6 Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

What is being said here is not to imply that the Bible contains no inspiration from God.  It is the  primary record of how God was dealing with the people of Israel and later with the gentiles who were added into the family .  It contains the revelation of God’s realities to them.   This automatically requires a certain level of inspiration for the believer.  But all biblical writings do not have the same level of inspiration as others.  Certainly the giving of the Ten Commandments and the story of Balaam and his talking to his ass are on greatly different levels of inspiration and truth.  What is most evident when we look closely and critically is that every part of every text in the Bible is not perfectly inspired.  There are errors and contradictions here and there.  Some of these will be pointed out as we go along.  Others will be left for the reader to discover.  It is the carte blanche attribution of total, literal perfection and infallibility to the Bible that doesn’t square with reality.

 This is not a minor religious issue.  A rigid fundamentalist understanding of the Bible cuts off a true understanding of God and the Bible for many modern educated people.  By adopting a fundamentalist understanding one can even cut oneself off from a true and clear understanding of both the Bible and of the physical world.  A superstitious attachment to fundamentalism misdirects biblical and scientific understanding.

The insight of James Barr is worth considering.

If fundamentalism is faulty, it is not because it contradicts critical methods, but because it contradicts the material of scripture itself… (Barr 1984:66).

It is quite common for religious people around the world to attribute infallibility and absolute truth to their religious writings.  The Western Protestant fundamentalists are certainly a good example of this.  The history of the rise of fundamentalism in America has been described by Nancy Ammerman (Ammerman 1991).  

Many Jewish believers have for years attributed the same quality to their Old Testament scriptures.  It’s a religious thing to do.  This quotation by Frank Moore Cross speaks to this.

…the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible has been obscured by an assumption or dogma on the part of the ancients, rabbis and church fathers alike, that the Hebrew text was unchanged and unchanging, unaltered by the usual scribal realities that produce families and recensions over long periods of transmission.

This dogma of the Hebraica veritas already found expression in Josephus’s apologetic work, Contra Apionem, penned between 94 and 100C.E.  “We have given practical proof of our reverence for our Scriptures.  For although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as decrees of God, to abide by them, and if need be, cheerfully to die for them.”  (Cross 1998:205)

Apparently sometime around the first century CE a text of the Hebrew Bible was assembled from various sources and given the status as “the inspired word of God and set in stone.”  This generally became the basis of the Masoretic text.  This was apparently done under the influence of the Hillel school of Pharisees.   This was done to avoid the proliferation of texts of the various books that were developing at that time. The Septuagint version was thus rejected by this process.   We should remind ourselves that the Apostle Paul used and quoted from the Septuagint extensively in the New Testament.  Does this taint the “inspiration” of the New Testament?

A compact and illuminating history of the development process of the Pharisees putting together a “canon” of scriptures that ultimately became the Masoretic text is given by Cross (Cross 1998:205-218).  The selected books have later become “the infallible word of God” to many Jews and Christians.

 A quote from Brevard Childs further emphasizes a few important points about the flexible development of the Masoretic text.

…a great diversity of textual traditions had existed before the establishment of an officially promulgated, standard text which finally formed a confluence from different textual streams.  …deriving the establishment of the MT from a rather arbitrary set of decisions by the rabbinic academy. 

…Behind the apparently monolithic structure of the MT lay a long history of textual development in which the state of the text was in great fluidity.  During several centuries prior to the stabilization of the Hebrew text in the late first century, rival text traditions competed with each other without there emerging any official or authoritative text.  The authoritative role of the proto-Masoretic tradition derived from a variety of historical factors many of which remain unknown.  However, the authority of the MT did not necessarily entail a textual superiority, in the modern sense, as being the grounds for its selection.  (Childs 1979:91-2)

 Paul made a statement to Timothy that can be over-interpreted to support the fundamentalistic interpretation of the Bible.  

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This is a useful but offhand comment made by Paul.  It is not being framed in context as a major statement of doctrine that every word of the Bible has been directly inspired by God, Greek “God breathed.”  To which translations should it apply?  All of them?  Is every modern translation of the Bible “God breathed?”  Are all verses in the Bible “God breathed?”  Does this only apply to the Old Testament?  Or also to the New Testament which wasn’t written at the time?  Did “God breathe” the Septuagint text which Paul so often quoted in his writings and that Timothy was likely using?  Or did He “breathe” the Masoretic text that was the official text of the Pharisees and in many ways different from the Septuagint? 

Such a poorly defined statement leaves too many questions to be a viable statement for doctrine and belief.

Carrying such an interpretation to an extreme doctrinal position, which Paul obviously did not mean by this statement, would make God out as inconsistent.  We will explore changes from Old Testament to New Testament and errors that are found in the Bible.  A fundamentalist interpretation that claims infallibility misrepresents the Bible for what it really is.  Such a conclusion allows the Bible to be discredited by those who discover what is really true!  Fundamentalists are not supporting the Bible but rather setting it up for ultimate discredit by setting it against known facts.

 Sometimes Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 1:20-21 is used to support the same conclusion.   While I certainly believe in principle this is generally true, it can likewise be over-interpreted in the same way as Paul’s statement to Timothy and made to be more inclusive than it should be.  

Another scripture is also sometimes used to support the infallibility of scripture is John 10:33-39.  In this instance I would conclude that Jesus was using the Jews’ belief in the infallibility of their scriptures to win an argument against them.  I would interpret this that He was simply repeating their belief to show the illogic of what they were accusing Him.  Notice He said it is written “in your law”, He did not say it was the “word of God.”  As we will see later, Jesus was not a fundamentalist.  The Pharisees were the fundamentalists. 

The writings of James Barr can be helpful in pointing out some of the pitfalls of claiming biblical infallibility and fundamentalism (Barr 1981, 1984, 2002).  The common occurrence of fundamentalism worldwide in both Christian and non-Christian religions is extensively explored by Marty and Appleby (1991).

Fundamentalism leads one to misunderstand both the Bible and God!  If one believes that every word of the Bible is to be taken literally and is directly inspired by God, it will lead to a misunderstanding of both the Bible and God.  While the Bible is without equal for establishing faith, God is greater than the Bible.  The earth, the living and fossil life on it, and the universe, as well as the Bible, reveal things to us about God.  The understanding that all these sources provide must be assembled as truthfully and accurately as is possible for a sound faith.

The contradiction of Genesis 1-11 scriptures with the physical record

Perhaps the best place to start on this subject is to look at the type of errors we find in the Bible when we take it literally and expect it to be perfectly true to fact.

The most obvious contradiction in biblical material is found in Genesis 1-11.  This is covered more thoroughly in chapter 4.  Only the highlights will be listed here.

1. The heavens, earth and life upon earth were not created in six days 6-10,000 years ago.  Extending the “days” to be thousands or millions of years long does not fit the physical evidence either.  The “Gap theory” contradicts the physical evidence as well.  Genesis 1-11 contains “parable type” teachings that have been effective for 3,000 years for introducing the Bible, teaching some basic spiritual principles, and filling the tremendous time gap between “creation” and Abraham.  But those teachings must now be re-examined in light of true scientific understanding that was not available, nor could have been understood until thousands of years after the time of Genesis 1-11’s writing.  “When I was a child I thought as a child.  I understood as a child.  But when I became an adult I put away childish thinking.”

2. In one part of the story humans were originally created male and female after the animals.  In the story in the next chapter a man was created first, than the animals, and then the woman.  These may be  teaching stories, but if read as literal, factual history they contradict one another. 

3. There is a total lack of any physical or historical evidence that humans could have ever lived for hundreds of years.  There is overwhelming evidence in the archaeological record for the typical human life span.

4. There was not a worldwide flood about 2350 BCE.  Even Egyptian and Southern Mesopotamian cultures continue through this time period without major interruption or replacement.  Sargon of Akkad built one of the world’s first empires extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean conquering many peoples shortly after this time.  There was a large population and many governments to conquer.  The area had not been recently decimated by a flood.  The empire was centered in the low, flat heartland of Mesopotamia which would have been destroyed by a “local” flood as well, so that is not an option.   The earth’s geologic evidence witnesses against such a worldwide flood at any time during human existence. 

5. The genetics of the earth’s population do not reflect descent from 8 people that got off the ark about 4350 years ago.

6. Neither knowledge nor eternal life can be gained by eating the fruit of a tree.  The trees of the “garden” may be part of a symbolic story, but their reality is definitely not literal.

7. Even the story of the Garden of Eden has all the earmarks of being a symbolic story, not a literal history.  Archaeology shows human beings have lived on earth for thousands of years before this time period.  This is covered in chapter 10.

This is a mere summary.  Some of these questions are dealt with more completely in chapter 4.

Some or all of these things may be spiritually symbolic stories and useful for teaching, like Jesus’ parables.  But they are not literal science or history and should not be taken as such in a fundamentalistic manner.  We must let the Bible be what it really is.

Later in the Bible we find more contradictions and factual errors.  Let’s consider a few of these.

Length of Israel’s time in Egypt

Bibles based on the Masoretic Text tell us in Exodus 12:40 that Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years.  However, in Galatians 3:16-17 Paul would cut that time period approximately in half.  He states it was 430 years from the time of Abraham to the giving of the law at Sinai which occurred after Israel left Egypt.

The promises were made to Abraham when he was alive.  To Abraham was born Isaac, to Isaac was born Jacob.  It was Jacobs’s sons (the fourth generation from Abraham) who went into Egypt.  Paul stated that it was 430 years from the promise given to Abraham to the giving of the law soon after Israel left Egypt.  This would mean Israel could not have been in Egypt for 430 years.  One of these figures has to be wrong.

We read in Gen. 15:16 that they would come out of Egypt in the fourth generation, which it seems that they did (Num. 26:58-59  gives the lineage of Moses to be …Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses …four generations).  These four generations would span a time period of far less than 430 years.

 We know Paul had Israel in Egypt for a much shorter time period than is stated in Exodus because he was using the Septuagint version of the Bible, while in most Bibles the Exodus figure comes from the Masoretic version of the Old Testament.  The Septuagint states that “…they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, …four hundred and thirty years” 

A separate chapter deals with the exodus and discusses additional problems with times, dates, and numbers.

The genealogy of Jesus

We could also consider the genealogy of Jesus.  It is given in two different places and they are different.  One is given in Mathew 1, the other in Luke 3.  Jesus is said to be of the line of David and both are linked to David through Joseph, Jesus’ physical father.  However, Luke’s genealogy links Joseph to David through David’s son, Nathan.  Mathew’s genealogy links Joseph to David through David’s son Solomon.  Both genealogies can’t be correct.  Some suggest that one genealogy may be that of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  But this is not what the scripture says so there is an error either way one looks at it.  In addition, Luke tells us that Mary was a relative of Elizabeth who was “from the daughters of Aaron.” (Luke 1:5 & 36)  Was Mary also of Levite stock and not of the line of David?  This is only a question, not a proof.  Both genealogies include “Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel.”  Could this father and son likewise come from two different sons of David?  Innumerable scholars have weighed in on the issues of these two genealogies with no consensus on how to solve the contradictions.

None of these questions should change the spiritual meaning of the Bible for us if we don’t insist upon the Bible being infallible and the absolute literal “words of God” but allow the writers to have made a few mistakes along the way.  What they should show us is that the Bible has not been preserved in such a manner as to avoid all errors and questionable material.  Therefore it would be wise if we did not take a fundamentalist view and insist that it has been inspired in such a manner. 

The different reasons for the weekly Sabbath

The first giving of the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20 gives a different reason for keeping it than the repeated command in Deuteronomy 5.  This means we are not dealing with a literal word for word repeat of the “inspiration.”  What was really said on Mt. Sinai?  What is written in Exodus 20 or what is written in Deuteronomy 5?  The commandment or its benefit is not changed because of this difference.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist

Jesus upheld the basic Old Testament law.  In the Sermon on the Mount He said the essence of the law would not pass away until heaven and earth passed away.  He also said that treating others as you would have them treat you is the Law and the Prophets.  On the other hand, in the Sermon on the Mount He also made serious changes to what was specifically written in the Old Testament laws.

In Matthew 5:21-22 He greatly expanded the law on murder.  He did the same a few verses later on the law against adultery.  The Old Testament law made divorce an acceptable legal process.  Jesus said that from the beginning it was not designed to be that way.  “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  A very substantial difference from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 10:20 commands one to take oaths in God’s name.  Jesus said, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne...”

Matthew 5:38-39  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person”

Perhaps the most contradictory of concepts is given in Matthew 5:43-44.  Jesus said “... love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

We can find a number of places in the Old Testament where harsh prayers against enemies were written as “scripture.”  Consider Psalm 109:6-20; Psalm 137:8-9; Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Lamentations 3:64-66.  These are certainly contradictions to what Jesus taught.  Jesus’ teaching  corrected and updated them.  Had they been “God breathed” in the Old Testament?

We counter these harsh “scriptures” with Jesus’ compassionate approach on the cross.  He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Jesus taught in parables which are fictional stories.  Excellent for teaching, but not factual, nor are they meant to be taken as literal history.  Wrong understanding can be concluded if a parable like Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) is made to be literal.  These examples should be a lesson against requiring the Bible to be literal and forever binding in every detail.  If we make fundamentalism and literalness the basis of our faith in the Bible our understanding is questionable.

If we allow the new understanding Jesus taught to change our interpretation of many things written in the Old Testament, should we not also allow the true knowledge of the past revealed by geology and paleontology change our interpretation and understanding of the physical reality of the history of the earth written in early Genesis? 

This is what the Bible is.  We must not, using a fundamentalistic approach, try to make it something it is not.  That would break the commandment on false witnessing.  The Bible does not make the claim of being infallible and totally error free.  Men have concluded that.  We need to search out what is really true.  While one may not be in full agreement with the following statement by James Barr, it should prompt us to consider a few points that it raises.

The famous statement about inspiration of scripture (II Tim 3.16) says nothing about historical accuracy, nothing about scripture being the foundation and final criterion for faith, nothing about what books are contained or not contained in scripture: all it says is that scripture is practically ‘useful’ for correction and training in righteousness. (Barr 1981:xviii)

Interpretation of the Bible requires balance and judgment.  It is not all purely “the word of God.”  This should not lead one to the other ditch of saying it does not contain the true “words of God” and valuable instruction for life.

The truth is that we really don’t know who wrote much of the Old Testament.  Attributing the whole Pentateuch to Moses has proven totally unreasonable.  Removing his exclusive authorship has opened many other possibilities.  Textual studies can point out much that needs to be considered, but too often may not give conclusive answers either.  Many arrogant scholars, materialists, atheists, and others have taken it upon themselves to confidently explain and change the meaning of scriptures as they see fit to support their own speculative ideas.  This is another ditch to understand and avoid.

One can believe in the God of the Bible as Creator, His periodic intervention in human affairs, the witness of Jesus’ miracles, the beneficent wisdom, laws, and morality of the Bible, and the general story of Abraham and his family from Genesis to the New Testament …without having to make the Bible infallible in every word and detail.  Words of God and words of inspired prophets are found in the Bible, but why should the totality of the Bible be interpreted as the infallible, literal word of God?  …Especially when physical evidence witnesses against such a conclusion.  …And the Bible itself does not direct one to do it.

 What the Bible slowly revealed about itself

For centuries it was believed that Moses, under the inspiration of, and perhaps direct dictation from, God wrote the Pentateuch.  As more and more scholars critically read the Pentateuch they discovered not just one author, but many authors.  By very strong evidence, the Pentateuch  itself witnesses to having been written and edited by multiple individuals at vastly different times.

One of the first recorded individuals to begin to question Moses’ sole writing of the Pentateuch was a Spanish Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164 CE).  Later in the early years of the European Renaissance a number of scholars and philosophers picked up on the early lead of Ibn Ezra and greatly expanded his earlier studies.

 His insights were apparently picked up by the Jewish philosopher Spinoza (Ska 2012:10).  Spinoza (1632-1677 CE) used this information to revolt against the rigid Jewish fundamentalistic belief of the scriptures.  He was harshly disfellowshipped for this lack of belief which only enhanced his hostility toward the Bible. (Durant 1961:115-127).   This start of biblical criticism was expanded greatly by the European scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries.  The story of biblical criticism is much more than can be effectively summarized here.  A brief paragraph from the Encyclopedia Britannica article Pentateuch introduces the start of the process.

Jewish and Christian tradition until the 19th century, with a few rare and uninfluential exceptions, attributed the Pentateuch to Moses.  The French physician Jean Astruc suggested in 1753 that Moses compiled Genesis from two documentary sources, one of which employed the divine name Yahweh and the other the divine name Elohim.  Astruc did not intend to question the authorship of Moses; but his introduction of the divine names as a criterion of documentary sources gave the impulse to the literary criticism of the Pentateuch which engaged almost every major biblical scholar of the 19th century.  The text of the Pentateuch exhibits numerous traits which indicate a complex literary origin.  (Ency. Brit. 1972 art. Pentateuch, p. 581).

Over time more and more scholars began to think they saw more and more hands in the work.  One made a name for one’s self by discovering a new hand or source.  Gordon Wenham points out this problem in the book of Genesis…

It seems likely then that a number of written and oral sources were used to compile Genesis.  Defining and identifying these sources is much more difficult.  Ockham’s razor “Do not multiply entities beyond necessity” and C. S. Lewis’s complaint that biblical critics claim to see fern seed when they cannot spot an elephant ten yards away make me very cautious about complex source-critical analyses.  That Genesis makes use of multiple sources is doubtless true, but it is much more difficult to be very specific about where one source ends and another source or editor begins.  (Wenham,1987::xxxviii)

Interpreting sources is a very complicated process that has extended for two centuries.  In depth explanations and histories of textual and other varieties of criticism can be found in the following sources: Nicholson 1998, Rogerson 1984, Evans, Lohr, and Petersen (Editors) 2012, Wellhausen 2008, Driver 1904, Skinner 1910, Speiser 1964, Gunkel 1997, Von Rad 1966, Von Rad 1972, Westermann1984.  Full references for these can be found in “References ” at the end of the chapter.

The studies were carried out by scholars from a wide variety of perspectives.  Some were believers and theists, but others were materialists, agnostics, and atheists.  The spirit of these years was largely one of rationalism, materialism, and anti-religion.  The scholarship of the times reflected those approaches and philosophies.  One needs to appreciate and accept their facts but not be mislead by their philosophies.

 The major approach of the scholarship of the times is well illustrated by Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776).  One can get a feel for the philosophic orientation of the day by reading his “Of Miracles.” (Hume 1910:396-415).  Following the philosophic approach laid out in that article one could hardly adopt the Christian faith.  One result of his philosophic approach can be found in the compilation of Thomas Jefferson’s “bible,” which he titled: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It was extracted textually from the Gospels written in Greek, Latin, French and English.  He removed all references to “superstition and the supernatural” in the Gospels.  This would include all miracles following Hume’s philosophical approach. (Jefferson 2011:7).

One should always accept truth from wherever it comes.  Geology and paleontology clearly prove the Genesis 1 account of creation of the earth is not to be taken as true history or science.  Does that invalidate the entire rest of the Bible?  It does this only if we adhere to a disproven and obsolete fundamentalism and infallible interpretation of the Bible. 

The Bible is very important and should be a life changing book.  But it is a book written by humans and it contains errors.  A mystique from outside the Bible has developed the concept that the Bible is infallible …That every word and concept in the whole compiled assembly of “books” was directly inspired by God.  Believing and over extending this mystique causes one to make the Bible wrong.  By adopting its infallibility we force the Bible to be wrong!

One must sort and prove the truth found in the Bible.  A good science textbook may be very valuable, but it is not, nor would we expect it to be, infallible and free from any error.  Some things in it may be outdated that were based on previous understanding.  Some may be plain errors in the editing and printing process.  Others may have been proven wrong by new knowledge.  What may have once been thought to be true may now be proven to be wrong.  Things change.  Knowledge increases.  This doesn’t mean we throw out the book that is maybe only 99% true.  We reject the error but value the truth.  If we say the book is perfect we are only deceiving ourselves, not changing the reality.

In the Bible we have a book written, edited, evaluated, assembled, and translated by hundreds of people over a period of about 3,000 years.  Why would we consider it perfectly infallible?  Especially when the book itself makes no such claim?  And when it does contain proven errors?  Who spawned the idea of infallibility? 

Fundamentalism is not a better way to understand the Bible and the God behind the Bible.  Fundamentalism will take one up a box canyon for understanding the Bible and its true relationship to the true history of the earth and life upon it.  This includes understanding the God who created it all.  By holding an erroneous interpretation of the Bible we bring it into conflict with the realities of the physical record.  We discredit the Bible for those who understand the physical realities.

Many have been reared in fundamentalism with the superstitious mindset that every word of the Bible is directly inspired and preserved by God Himself.  Such a belief will not hold up in light of the true knowledge.  Retooling this belief can a challenge.  However, modern knowledge makes it mandatory that we readjust our understanding of the Bible and how it was written.  Otherwise, our faith becomes obsolete! 

 Faith is faith, not provable science.  However, faith, to be valid, must be directed by truth.  This is very clear in the teachings of Jesus.  If we have faith in something that has been proven to be untrue, we need to upgrade our faith.  This can be upsetting and a challenge.  But to avoid changing faith is an even bigger problem.  That postpones the day of reckoning when it may be even more difficult to alter our faith.  It passes on a wrong faith to our children and grand children.

The words of the prophet Hosea are worth considering in regard to true knowledge.

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV)
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me…

It seems Proverbs 1:20-25 may fit the situation even better…
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
21 She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
23 Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke…

We would do well to deal with true knowledge when it comes to us.  It has been said, “Many people stumble over the truth but pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go on as if nothing ever happened!”

Of all the ancient gods of the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks none remain viable possibilities except the invisible, Creator God of the ancient Hebrews… The God of the Bible.  Here we are dealing with a God, not created by humans, but one who has imposed and impressed Himself and His way of life upon humans.

However, if we approach and understand the Bible from a traditional fundamentalist and literalist point of view… that every word and story is literally true and directly inspired by that God, we set it against much truth and scientific understanding.  Such an approach to the Bible sets it not only against scientific reality, but also against a true understanding of the Bible itself.  The biblical God is of all things is a God of truth.  True, proven science is truth and must be taken into consideration for a true faith.

In conclusion…

Fundamentalism gives a comfortable, simple, convincing, and wrong way to understand the Bible.

All parts of the Bible were not created equally when it comes to historic veracity.  Nor is the Bible perfectly constructed to be free from error.  This is the nature of the book.  We cannot, and must not, make it something it is not.  Much in the Bible may be inspired by God but it is a humanly written book containing a number of human errors.  In spite of these errors it reveals priceless instruction for our lives.  The Bible is the story of human interaction with the creating God, written by the human witnesses.  They did a good job but not a perfect job.

If we find facts, statements, or concepts in the Bible that are not true and we accept the biblical statement “Your Word is Truth,” we need to go back and redefine how we understand the Bible.  If some parts are not true they cannot be “God’s Word.”  They are someone else’s words.  It is that simple.  Truth is the ultimate test. 

One need not believe the Bible is infallible to believe it contains God inspired messages and guidance for us today.  Attribution of infallibility to religious writings is common among many religious people.  It is a human thing to do.   The Bible does not teach such an attribution.  It deals with provable truth, not with baseless superstitions about ancient writings.  Jesus emphasized truth and righteousness.  He said the spirit of truth would lead His followers into truth.


References for Chapter 3  

Ammerman, Nancy T.
1991   North American Protestant Fundamentalism.  In Fundamentalisms Observed, edited by
                 Martin E. Marty, and R. Scott Appleby,  pp. 1-65.  The Univ. of Chicago Press.
Barr, James
1981  Fundamentalism, 2nd ed.  SCM Press Ltd.
1983  Holy Scripture: Canon Authority Criticism.  The Westminster Press, Philadelphia.
1984  Escaping from Fundamentalism.  SCM Press Ltd.
2002  The Scope and Authority of the Bible.  SCM Press Ltd.

Childs, Brevard S.
1979  Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.  Fortress Press, Philadelphia.

Cross, Frank Moore
1998  From Epic to Canon.  Johns Hopkins University Press.

Driver, S. R.
1904  The Book of Genesis.  Methuen and Co., London.

Durant, Will
1961  The Story of Philosophy.  Simon & Schuster.

 Evans, Craig A., Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, editors
2012  The Book of Genesis, Composition, Reception, and Interpretation.  Brill.

Gunkel, Hermann
1997 Genesis.  Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia.

Hume, David
1910   Of Miracles.  In English Philosophers of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,
           vol. 37, pp. 396-415.  The Harvard Classics, P. F. Collier and Son, New York.

Jefferson, Thomas
2011  The Jefferson Bible.  Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

Marty, Martin E, and R. Scott Appleby, editors.
1991  Fundamentalisms Observed.  University of Chicago Press.

Nicholson, Ernest
1998  The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century.  Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Rogerson, John
1985  Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century, England and Germany.  Fortress

Ska, Jean-Louis
2012 The Study of the Book of Genesis: The beginning of Critical Reading.  In The Book of
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Skinner, John
1910  Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis.  T and T Clark, Edinburgh.

Speiser, E. A.
1964  The Anchor Bible: Genesis.  Doubleday and Co.

 Von Rad, Gerhard
1966  The Problem of the Hexateuch and other essays.  SCM Press LTD.
1972  Genesis.  Westminster Press, Philadelphia.

Wellhausen, Julius
2008  Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel.  Forgotten Books.

Wenham,  Gordon J.
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Westermann, Claus
1984  Genesis 1-11, A Commentary.  Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis.