Many who have wanted to defend the credibility of the Bible have claimed that is inerrant—that is, without error of any kind. But the Bible itself does not make such a claim. The Bible does not claim to be inerrant, however it does claim to be true. “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160, NKJV). It is important to note that “true” does not mean “inerrant.” (For more information see the topics: “Bible: Does it contradict itself?” and “Bible: Is it inspired by God?”)
All correct or else not correct?
Some have felt that if the Bible is not correct in every detail, then it can’t be relied upon. However, the “all or nothing” position is not a biblical one, even if it has been proclaimed by great men and spiritual giants. John Wesley, for example, wrote in his journal for August 24, 1776: “Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.” However, Paul tells us, “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9, NKJV). He also counsels us not to “give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4, NKJV).
Once we get over the need to harmonize all the biblical details, fear disappears, and we can turn to the all-important task of listening to the essential message of Scripture, seeking to understand God’s will so that His truth can live in us. Whatever minor contradictions may seem to exist in the Bible, God has apparently let creep in. So although there may be minor discrepancies or details in the Bible, we can trust its teachings completely. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away before any of it would fail (see Matthew 5:17,18).
Over the centuries God has had faithful witnesses to whom He has committed His truth and who have preserved His Word. The manuscripts of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures have been preserved through the ages by the miraculous care of God.
Imperfect, yet trustworthy?
Many Bible readers, if they think they have found an inconsistency in its pages, often take the position that if they cannot trust every detail of the Bible record, they cannot trust it at all. The basic question, however, is: Does trustworthiness demand absolute perfection? If we view the Bible as a treatise on philosophy or science or history, then perhaps one might point to incidental flaws. But Scripture is more like a letter from a dear friend or family member. And if we determine its trustworthiness in much the same way as we do a trustworthy person, then absolute perfection is not required. The Bible has not been given to us in grand supernatural language, but in the language of ordinary humans. In order to reach human beings where they were, Jesus took on the form of humanity—the divine united with the human. Likewise, the Bible is a blend of the divine and human—God speaking to us through human beings.
We need to come to the point where we can take the Bible just as it is—the Inspired Word of God. We need to let God take care of His own Book, His living oracles, as He has done for ages. If those who focus on what they see as errors in Scripture, instead would cling to the Bible and obey its teachings, their criticisms in regard to its validity would come to an end, and not one of them would be lost.
The human and the divine united in God’s Word
For nearly a century liberal, critical scholars have stressed the diversity in the documents of the Scriptures, but current theological thinking contains a renewed emphasis on the essential unity of the Bible. Its great unifying principle, its central theme, is the plan of salvation and the working out of that plan in human history. However, the unity of the Bible must not be interpreted as uniformity. In the various books of the Scriptures the plan of salvation is viewed from various angles and stress is laid on various aspects, with varying emphasis.
Like its author, Jesus Christ, the Bible is the result of a mysterious combination of the divine and the human. Just as the human mind is incapable of fully explaining how Jesus, the divine Son of God, could become a man and live with us on earth, so it cannot fully explain the Bible’s unity of the divine and the human. In writing the various books of the Bible, the authors’ own personalities had full play, and their own style and vocabulary are reflected in the finished product. Yet the Bible, is nevertheless “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV). While men did the writing, they did so as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, in a special sense the Bible is the Word of God.