We could change a nation and relationships if opposing sides did not demonize one another by declaring their view the only and right view. Maybe you weren’t as stupid as I was when getting married. The wife and I didn’t have much conflict in dating so I assumed my wife’s love and respect pretty much meant agreeing with my point of view. I learned the key to a great marriage is accepting differences and finding ways to be happily incompatible. Best friends do it but we tend to take the gloves off inside the walls of marriage.
God-followers must approach the Bible the same way they do marriage. We can never claim our view of God according to the Bible is correct. Imagine how many wouldn’t be turn away from God if all had such an attitude. Literature requires interpretations and even those who respect Scriptures as authoritative disagree. Even if we could prove the Bible was infallible, we still do not know which interpretation is the infallible view of God.
The infallibility of the Bible is a non-starter because we don’t have the original manuscripts and then interpretation is required. We must avoid dogmatism that often drives people away from than toward God. The Bible has inspired millions to lead a less selfish life. The problem isn’t the Bible but how the Bible is represented. The Bible is simply a recording of Israel’s understanding of God, which we can’t prove were perfect, that God can use in understanding what God is really like.
Examples below help support the importance of not claiming we can assume the Bible we possess is infallible or entirely inspired, which often leads to claiming interpretations are inspired. Just one example of later biblical writers/scribes contradicting or adding additional thoughts to earlier biblical writers makes claiming the Bible is infallible or inspired a problem:
- Karen Keen in Scripture, Ethics, And Same-Sex Relationships points out that a scribe added sentences to the oldest manuscript we know of on Isaiah 2: 9-11. Our current Bibles read (The italicized words added to the original): “So people will be brought low and everyone humbled— do not forgive them. Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lordand the splendor of his majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humble and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (p. 59, 126). Later scribes intensified God’s anger which may or may not best portray God’s true nature.
- Keen provides an example where the writer in Deuteronomy 15 alters slavery laws from Exodus though the original slavery law was given by God to Moses directly on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:18-21:11). The updated law in Deuteronomy applies freedom also to female slaves not just male slaves, improves circumstances for slaves, etc. (p. 60-61). The writers of Deuteronomy had no problem updating supposed spoken words from God to Moses best for their circumstances. We have to be open-minded which laws are wisest in our circumstances.
- It would seem throughout the OT that animal, blood sacrifices are necessary for God to forgive. But, why did later OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6)? Why wouldn’t writers at least say both animal sacrifice and contrite hearts are necessary? This leads to very different interpretations of the Cross and view of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or to prove God’s amazing love so we might follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
- Keith Giles points out in Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word Of God From The Bible that 2 Sam 24:1 says God incited David to take a census of Israel which lead to massive slaughter. But, I Chron 21:1 says Satan incited David (pp. 136-37). Did NT writers understand God better by writing that God, no matter how Holy God may be, never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13). What many assume of a good God doesn’t always match what the Bible says!
- Deut. 28:63 says God takes pleasure in destroying. But, Ezek. 33:11 says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So, which view portrays God most accurately? Paul says the Spirit helps us make final judgments (I Cor. 2:15), but we must respect one another’s opinion.
- NT writers relied on a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT called the Septuagint. This is an older version of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Masoretic text which came later and from which most of our OT Bibles are translated today from. There are many differences. In the story of David and Goliath, the Masoretic text our Bibles use has many more details and it twice as long as the Septuagint version (Giles, p. 139). Thus, the version we read in our Bible is an expanded version of the original, supposed inspired version. Later biblical scribes felt completely free to update earlier scribes, perhaps to make their point.
My point is not to emphasize that our Bibles are full of errors but to encourage us to change how we read and represent the Bible to others. Uncertainty is not the problem! Uncertainty can lead to more loving actions by accepting one another’s differences. Certainty often leads to opposing sides demonizing one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Certainty rather than open-mindedness about God has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. Let’s have a discussion than demonize one another and turn others from God when we could be wrong.
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