English blog

in search of errors in the Bible

19-10-2011 - Posted by Andre Piet

Adrian Verbree devoted, the month July, his weekly columns in the Dutch newspaper, het Nederlands Dagblad, to (according to his idea) errors in the Bible. As a good theologian, he continuously hastened to say that these errors do not effect the credibility of the message, as such. In his first column he wrote about the lost altar of incense in Heb.9:4. In response, I wrote a weblog, which a few days later was published as an article in the ND. In it I asserted that Heb.9:4 is not about the altar of incense, but about the “golden censer”. Although Verbree responded in the newspaper, but unfortunately he bypassed the indicated disagreement. Then, Verbree came up with the notorious “mistake” in Mat.27:9. In that verse, Matthew quoted (according Verbree, wrongly) the prophet Jeremiah, while it is a quotation from Zechariah. However, this ‘error’ is based on careless reading. Matthew does not claim that this particular prophecy had been written by Jeremiah, but that it was spoken by him. This formulation in Matthew leaves it wide open that it later on was recorded by Zechariah. Well, that was ‘error’ number two … error of Luke…? In today’s newspaper (August 6), Verbree further elaborates on another flagrant “error” in the Bible.

An example of incompatible recordings from the book of Acts: Luke tells us that when Jesus stopped Paul on the road to Damascus, his companions heard a voice but saw no one. In Acts 22, Paul, himself, tells (through Luke’s pen!) the Jews about this event and says, among other things: “The men that were with me saw indeed the light but heard not the voice of him who spoke to me.” The two versions of the story are squarely in opposition to each other. One of the two is wrong.

Let us again check Verbree’s assertion. In Hand.9:7 it says that the companions saw no one while Acts 22:9 reports that they have seen the light. This is, of course, no contradiction. More difficult is it with the details given in Acts 9, where it says that fellow travelers heard the voice, whereas in Acts 22 it states that they did not. It does seem difficult to reconcile. However, in the Greek original-text there is a subtle, grammatical case-difference hidden, between the two versions. In Acts 9, it is said that the fellow travelers did hear “of the voice”, while in Acts 22 it says that “the voice” was not heard. That is not the same. It comes down to this: the companions heard the voice, but did not understand what was said. It is possible that his fellow travelers did not know Hebrew, in which Paul was addressed (Acts 26:14). Well, that was ‘error’ number three. he who seeks shall find Verbree will most likely not be satisfied with the above ‘harmonization efforts”. In his eyes, the Bible simply contains unmistakable errors. And here, too: he who seeks shall find. Possibly, I could be of service to him with additional examples. Responding to them, as I did in this blog, is pretty well useless for one who has chosen to travel on such a track. It works, probably, even counterproductive. Refuting the so-called errors in the Bible is like the proverbial killing of a mosquito; ten of them show up at the funeral! Whoever, as a Bible scholar, is able to point out errors in Scripture, apparently believes himself to be at a level well above that of the writers of the Bible. It is an effective way to either get rid of the Bible or (which is essentially the same) to go in various, negative directions with it… inspiration not to be exaggerated… I found the conclusion of Verbree’s column rather amusing.

It also seems bizarre to me, to regard Paul’s request to Timothy to bring along from Troas the cloak and books, especially the parchment, to be a divine word for the church. I will not preach on such a text, simply because it is not a ‘sermon text’. The Bible is inspired, certainly, but we must not exaggerate.

I call it amusing, because not long ago, I spoke on this particular Scripture passage. In 2Timothy (Paul’s testament) Timothy was reminded of the Scriptures, which he, as a Jew, had known from earliest childhood years on (2Tim.3:15). To this, Paul adds that “all Scripture is inspired of God” (:16) and is essential, in order “that the man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good act” (:17). With that, Paul was referring not only to the Tenach (O.T.), but also to the Greek Scriptures, which were written in that present generation. Paul’s concern for the left-behind cloak (??) (i.e., the folder) in Troas, the books (Gr. ta biblia!) and the parchments, can be well understood in that context. Paul did his very best, in the last days of his life, to complete the library of “New Testament”! While Adrian Verbree presents the conclusion of 2Timothy to keep us from exaggerating the inspiration of the Bible, is it precisely this section that shows Paul’s utmost zeal for these same, inspired Scriptures. ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema

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