Is the Bible Perfect?

Here’s the link to this article by Merle Hertzler.

Before reading Hertzler’s article, look carefully at what the Southern Baptist Convention says about the Holy Bible:

I. The Scriptures

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

(excerpted from the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, here) :

And, read what a local church, Mount Vernon Baptist says about the Bible:

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. 

Church website, here.

They’re the same. Right? Now, look under the hood by reading Hertzler’s article.

Old vintage bible with worn

We have seen how I have come to the conclusion that the earth is billions of years old, and that we humans are the product of evolution. Many of you might see the value of my arguments from science, but you keep wondering how this all fits in with the Bible. Does not the Bible teach specific creation in 6 days? Well, yes, it does. That is literally what it says.

In response, many have found ways to interpret the Bible in a way that is consistent with evolution. I have read their arguments and somehow, I am not convinced. It seems to me that Genesis conflicts with science. So, I turn now to another question: “Is it possible that the Bible is mistaken about creation?”

Now I am sure that this question raises a few eyebrows. How dare I question the Bible? Is not the Bible infallible?

I am sorry, but it does seem like a good question to ask. So let us ask it. After all, if we were to declare all questions about the Bible to be off limits, how would we ever know how the book would stand if questioned? If the book is indeed inerrant, shouldn’t the case for the book be even stronger after it is questioned and found to stand firm?

Similarly, some have told me that the Quran is without errors. Should I accept what they say, and never question the assertion? Surely it must be okay to question the Quran. If I may question the Quran or the Book of Mormon, then why would you object to me questioning the Bible?

And so, rather than resolving the conflict between Genesis and science by creative reinterpretation of scripture, perhaps we could ask if Genesis could be mistaken. It is a good question. And I see no harm in asking. Could the Bible have some errors? If it does, then perhaps Genesis 1 is in error.


I have read the entire Bible six times. Whenever I read the Bible, it does not take long to find something that does not look right to me. By example, Lev. 11:4-6 says, “‘Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud…the camel…the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you.”

Wait, what? Rabbits don’t chew their cud. Something is wrong here. Have we found a mistake?

Believers will argue that this passage is not mistaken. Some have told me that rabbits can ingest their feces, and this has some similarities to chewing the cud. Well, perhaps, but this verse does not say that rabbits do an action similar to chewing the cud. It says they chew the cud. And the original Hebrew is even stronger. The words literally mean, “bring up the cud,” In no sense does a rabbit bring up the cud.

Nope. He is not chewing his cud.

Others have told me that rabbits move their mouth to look like they are chewing the cud, and this is what the verse means. If this is the case, then the writer is mistaken. He doesn’t say they look like they chew the cud. He says they chew their cud. This statement would not be true if they merely looked like they were chewing the cud.

Others have suggested that this refers to an extinct rabbit that used to chew its cud. But we find no evidence for such a rabbit. If the writer intended modern readers to read this verse, wouldn’t he explain that he is referring to an extinct animal that is not to be confused with modern rabbits?

Not only does the verse appear to be wrong, but it appears to be rather pointless. Why do we need a verse forbidding rabbit stew? Hunters simply ignore this command. Why does the Bible condemn rabbit stew?

But some will look at these verses and explain to me that this is one small detail that we do not understand. They will tell me that God knows the solution, and that I should move past this small question to get into the big truths of the Bible.

Now if this was the only such problem, explanations like this might be acceptable. But alas, I find many similar problems in the Bible. In addition, when I look at the explanations that believing scholars have offered to defend these verses, I find much of their reasoning is just as contrived as the explanations for the rabbit verse.

Now if I am to believe that the Bible is inerrant, I must either believe such wild explanations in every case, or I must accept that at least one error could exist in the Bible.

Let’s look at another example of an apparent error. I Kings 4:26 says Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen.”

But II Chronicles disagrees. It tells us, “Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen.” (II Chronicles 9:25 )

So was it 4000 stalls, or 40,000? One of these verses must be wrong. Do you agree?

Granted, these issues seem trivial. Who cares how many stalls Solomon had? Who cares if rabbits actually chew their cud? What does it matter?

It matters to me. In each case, at least one of these verses must be wrong. If these are in error, then the Bible is not inerrant, and it is not perfect. If one of these verses is in error, we would need to conclude that the Bible we are reading is imperfect.

Errant Copies

However, some of you will not agree. You will tell me that God inspired the writers of the Bible to write his perfect word. Even if one believes this, he does not necessarily need to believe that the Bible he holds has no errors. After all, he is not holding the original copy that was said to be inspired.

In fact, leading Evangelical scholars often admit that the Bibles they hold may have errors.

For instance, the conservative Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy affirms that the scriptures are the authoritative Word of God, but includes this caveat: “Copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.”

Do you see what these authorities are saying? You may hold a copy or a translation of the original in your hands. But you do not hold the original. They declare such copies are the authoritative Word of God only to the extent that they faithfully represent the original. In other words, they are admitting that the copy you hold in your hands might not always faithfully represent the original. Where your copy differs from the original, it might not be authoritative; it might not be inerrant; and it might not be the exact Word of God. This caveat blows the whole claim of inerrancy wide open. The copy you hold in your hands might be mistaken.

Surely this is a reason to question claims of inerrancy. Nobody has the originals. Nobody knows what was written there. Yes, one can claim that the originals were perfect, but we can never test that claim unless we were to see an exact representation of the original. If we cannot test the claim, nobody can be sure it is true. So, we will have to settle for the copies that we have, and they might be flawed. If your copy does not faithfully represent the original, then most Evangelical scholars would say your copy could be in error at that point.

Nobody knows exactly where her copy differs from the original. Therefore, nobody knows for sure if what she is reading might be mistaken.

Now let’s look at how those errors might have gotten there.

Translation Errors

First, translation errors have occurred. After all, we have many translations and they sometimes conflict with each other. Are all of those translations perfect? I doubt that anybody makes that claim. Are some of those translations perfect? If one was, how would we know it?

Most Christians acknowledge that all the translators are human. They may have made a few mistakes. Your translation may have errors.

Text Selection

The problem goes deeper. Which text are we going to translate from? There are thousands of manuscript copies, with thousands of differences. There are 1438 significant disputed readings in the New Testament alone, not including spelling errors. [1] No two manuscripts of any significant length agree on everything. So which manuscript will you select? Why should we use the one that you choose? If they all differ, and you have no good reason for declaring one to be perfect, then the one you select probably has errors.

Most translations recognize that no manuscript is perfect, so they use a document that is a combination of many texts. Scholars analyze the passages that differ and try to select the reading that has the greatest support in the available manuscripts. Do you know if they have made the right choices? They probably have good reasons for their choices. That is not the question. Are they perfect in their choices? Probably not.

For example, in II Sam 21:8, some translations speak of the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab. Other translations translate it as the sons of a different daughter, Michal. Why the difference? Some translations have a footnote explaining this. For instance, the English Standard Version tells us that two Hebrew manuscripts and the Greek Septuagint support the reading Merab. But it also notes that most Hebrew manuscripts read Michal. Which is correct? How would you possibly know?

The difference is important. Why? Because II Samuel 6:23 tells us that “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” So, if chapter 21 is indeed telling us that Michal had 5 children, how can she have had no children to the day of her death? The reading Michal in chapter 21 is supported by the most manuscripts. But if that reading is correct, then we have a contradiction with chapter 6.

You see the issue. Translators could either follow the majority of manuscripts, and translate II Sam 21:8 as Michal. But then they have a contradiction with chapeter 6. Or they could follow the 2 manuscripts that say Merab in chapter 21. Presto! Contradiction gone. But is the choice Merab justified based on only 2 manuscripts?

Regardless of which word choice is correct, we all can see the dilemma. The translators had to choose between the available manuscripts. Do they follow the majority of manuscripts that say Michal, or do they follow the few that say Merab? If they choose wrong, the Bible they give us is not matching what the original said.

So, a possible source of error is that translators selected the wrong manuscripts.

Possibly they even followed the temptation to deliberately choose the less supported reading in order to put the Bible in its best light. After all, if they wanted to sell Bibles, they would need to consider that their readers wanted a version without this contradiction in it. Did this bias affect the manuscripts they chose?

Your Bible may sometimes be using the wrong source.

Copies of Copies

How did all of those differences end up in the various manuscripts? Well, first there are copying errors. Scribes copied documents by hand, and sometimes made mistakes.

But there is another reason that the copies differ. Perhaps the scribes were not honest. Perhaps they changed the text on purpose.

For instance, it looks like 1 John 5:7 was inserted many years later. How do we know this? No Greek manuscript before 1500 AD had this verse. None. It appears certain that this verse was added after that date. Was it an accident? I doubt it. How does one accidentally insert a whole verse into the Bible? Most likely somebody did it on purpose. The verse became popular and was included in many copies, eventually becoming incorporated into the King James Version. But modern scholars do not recognize it. If you have a modern translation, that verse is probably missing, or a footnote indicates that it is doubtful. Somebody inserted it years later.

Another example is Mark 16:9-20. These verses do not appear in the earliest manuscripts we have. Were they added later? Again, modern Bibles indicate they probably were. They suggest that somebody came along and added 12 verses to Mark. Now, when I was growing up, these 12 verses were still in the Bible. Preachers preached that it was wrong to remove these verses from the Bible. Now we carry around Bibles that say they probably don’t belong. Times have changed.

All of this causes me to question. What other insertions have been made to the Bible? We don’t know. The above insertions can be detected because they were made many years after the Bible was written. Other copies existed when the change was made, and so we now have copies that differ. But what about changes that were made before copies were widely distributed? It would have been easy to make changes the first couple of times that the book was copied, and such changes might appear in all surviving manuscripts. You may think that people had too much respect for the Bible to alter it, but the examples above indicate otherwise. People have tinkered with the Bible.

Will our grandchildren find that additional verses in our copies need to be deleted or changed? Will they delete those verses just like we have deleted the ending of Mark; the ending that our grandparents thought surely belonged there?

In conclusion, it seems we need to admit that things have been added to the Bible. This is another source of error.

The Canon

There are other reasons that errors might be there. Even if we assume that God has specifically inspired books of the Bible to be error-free, how do we know which books he has selected to be part of that error-free Bible? Do Hebrews and Revelation belong there? How about Macabees? The Shepherd of Hermas? The Epistle of James? The Epistle of Barnabas? Daniel? These books were all disputed for years. There were many books to choose from. Which ones belong?

The Protestant Bible with its 66 books is so familiar, it is easy to assume that these books were always joined together as one book. They were not. Christians have had many canons (the collection of inspired books). Which canon is correct? Are you sure you are using the right one?

We find no reference to a specific set of books anywhere in the writings of the church before 140 AD. We find only scattered references to tradition and to some of the books. Nobody seems to have gathered the inspired books into a common collection. Why not? Would not the followers of Peter and Paul want to gather the inspired writings together? Would not someone make a list of these books? Would not the Christians want to know which were genuine, which were inspired, and which were not? We find no such list.

In fact, many of the books of the New Testament are almost completely unknown before 100 AD. It appears that the early Christians did not think that these were special, inspired books. Clement of Rome, for instance, a leader in the Church at Rome at the end of the 1st century, appears to be completely unaware of the four gospels. Apparently, the whole idea of recognizing an authoritative set of books–the “canon”–did not occur until years later.

Marcion wrote the first surviving New Testament canon around 150 AD. It consisted of one gospel, the Diatessaron, (which we no longer have) and ten epistles. Was he mistaken? But his is the earliest canon on record. How do you know that the later canons are better?

Around 200 AD, the scholarly Clement of Alexandria recognized Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Traditions of Matthias, Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Didakhe, Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation, and various oral traditions. This is quite different from the modern list. Was he wrong?

Then there was the Muratorian Canon (date unknown) which lists the 4 gospels, Acts, the Apocalypse of John (not to be confused with Revelation), the Apocalypse of Peter, the Book of Wisdom, and all the epistles accepted today except for Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and 3 John. Once again, this is far from the list that is recognized today. What is wrong? Why are we finding no lists that look close to today’s lists?

Then there was a list from around 300 AD. It includes the four gospels, Acts, the Acts of Paul, 10 of Paul’s 13 epistles, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, James, Jude, 1,2, and 3 John, Barnabas, Hermas, Apocalypse of John, and the Apocalypse of Peter. Again, we find many books that modern Christians exclude. Many books from today’s list are missing.

The lists differ. Modern Christians say none of these lists are correct.[2 ] How is it that none of these early Christians got it right? None of the canons from the first 3 centuries is close to ours.

Later developments of the canon began to approach the list we now recognize. In 327 AD Eusebius recognized the four gospels, Acts, the Epistles of Paul (possibly including Hebrews), 1 Peter, 1 John, and the (now unrecognized) Apocalypse of John. He lists some texts separately as disputed texts including the now accepted books of James, Jude 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. He also lists as “disputed” the Acts of Paul, Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Gospel of Hebrews, Teachings of the Apostles, and the Apoclypse of John, none of which we recognize today. (Confusingly he lists the Apocalypse of John in both lists.)

The Codex Sinaiticus, a surviving manuscript of the whole New Testament from that period–possibly by Eusebius himself–includes the 27 books we now recognize, as well as the Epistle of Barnabas and Hermas. The surviving document ends in the middle of Hermas, so we don’t know if it originally included any other books.

In 350 AD Bishop Cyril issued an official pronouncement declaring that there were 26 books in the New Testament. He did not include Revelation. So, by 350 AD we are finding canons that are very close to modern canons, but still nobody has yet mentioned the exact list we have today. And this is over 300 years after the reported life of Christ.

All of these canons consist of the opinion of one person only. We do not have a single list that was published by a council of leading church officials before 363 AD, when the Synod of Laodicea decreed that there were 26 books in the New Testament. They excluded Revelation. So, we finally have a group pronouncement. But modern Christians would say they got it wrong! Their list differs from today’s list, for it leaves out Revelation. Do you think they made the wrong decision? If so, how do you know that you are right, and they were wrong?

In 367 AD Athanasius declared that there were not 26, but 27 books in the New Testament. His list matches the list that we have today. Finally! But it is only the stated opinion of one man. No church organization has yet endorsed this list as the correct one.

Finally, in 393AD, 397 AD, and 419 AD three councils met and confirmed this list. These councils represented the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which had taken control. They were able to force their will over most of Christendom. Does that make them right? No? So why does your Bible use their list of 27 books, and not use one of the earlier lists? [2]

Flaws in the Process

Some may argue that it took time to sort things out, and that the surviving books are the ones that truly belong. But one needs only to look at the process to see how wrong this view is. Look at the reasoning that was used to put the canon together.

Irenaeus, for instance, decreed that there must be exactly four gospels, for there are four directions and four principal winds. Uh, no, that is not sound reasoning.

The Muratorian Canon says it rejected the Apocalypse of Peter because church leaders did not want its disturbing descriptions read aloud. Does that prove anything? Can we throw out a book simply because it is disturbing to read?

Eusebius writes that he accepted those books that were accepted by every orthodox leader he knew. Who was orthodox in his view? Of course, it was the ones that agreed with him! He ignored the lists of leaders like Marcion with whom he disagreed. So, we find that everyone that agreed with the list of Eusebius agreed with the list of Eusebius. Yes, indeed. What does that prove?

The New Testament canon selected by the councils at the end of the fourth century was accepted by most later Christians, but it was far from final. Martin Luther, for instance, did not accept Hebrews, James, Jude or Revelation. The Syrian Orthodox Church still does not accept the book of Revelation. And Catholics accept a number of books written before the New Testament–known as the Apocrypha–that Protestants do not accept.

The Formation of the New Testament Canon Excellent!
The Canon of the Bible Are you sure that all of these books belong?

Links on the Canon

Perhaps our list is wrong. We really don’t know which books, if any, God has selected. So this is another source of error. Perhaps an errant book has somehow slipped into the Bible. After all, an unauthorized ending was apparently appended to Mark. How do we know that nobody ever inserted a whole book that didn’t belong? Perhaps James or even Genesis doesn’t belong there. If they don’t belong, then they might be in error.

Some might suggest that Genesis definitely belongs because other books quote it. What does that prove? Jude quotes the book of Enoch, but we do not include that book in the Bible.

Perhaps you would argue that God guided the process. How so? If God was selecting the books, how did he allow so many differences in the early lists?

Perhaps your parents or church or denomination have told you that the books in their Bible are the correct ones. If you agree with them, then you must think that all lists that differ with yours are wrong. What reason do you have for believing that your list is right, and other lists are wrong?

If there is one thing that my years of debate have taught me, it is that we had better have a good reason for telling another person he is wrong. One cannot simply go to somebody and tell them that their list is wrong.

The fact that your pastor or mother agree with you is not sufficient reason. After all, a Mormon’s mother might agree with him. Does that prove that he is right and that you are wrong? No? It is not sufficient to say that many people agree with you. More people reject your list of books than accept it. If we go by a popular vote, you lose.

If we cannot think of a convincing reason for people to accept your list, then it seems to me that you ought to admit that your list might possibly be wrong. And if your list might be wrong, then you could be carrying around books in your Bible that don’t belong there and are in error.

In conclusion, we may have some misplaced books in our Bible. We have another possible source of error.

Errant Originals

There is one other error source that we need to consider. How do you know that the originals had no errors? Even if you believe that God inspired the originals (a claim we will examine later) isn’t it possible that the original writers got some words wrong? Isn’t it possible to be inspired yet fallible? Most evangelical scholars think the current versions of the Bible are inspired yet have errors. And they believe God can still use them. So, if you think that God uses these books today, even if they have errors in them, couldn’t he have used errant originals?

And so, even if God’s Spirit told the original writers what to write (a claim I will critique later), we would still have many possible sources of error. There may be translation errors, manuscript selection errors, copying errors, deliberate insertions or changes, wrong selection of books to include in the Bible, and misunderstandings by the original authors as to what the Spirit was saying. Even if you do not agree with all of these sources, if you agree to at least one, you agree that the Bible may be mistaken.


With this in mind, let’s look at some of the claimed errors. Let us not approach the problems with the attitude that the Bible cannot possibly be wrong, for we have found good reasons to believe that the copies we hold in our hand may be wrong. So perhaps, when we examine the claimed errors in the Bible, we will find that there are indeed real errors. Here is a table showing some examples, but there are many, many more.


Who was Joseph’s father?

Matthew 1:16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.


Luke 3:23 When He [Jesus] began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

How did Judas die?

Mt.27:5 And he [Judas] threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.


Acts 1:18 (Now this man [Judas] acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.

Has anyone seen God?

Gen.12:7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ” To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.

Gen.32:30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ” I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Ex.33:11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.


Jn.1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

1 Tim.6:16 who alone possesses immortality and) dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

1 Jn.4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

To whom did God speak at Jesus’ baptism?

Mk.1:11 and a voice came out of the heavens: ” You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Lk.3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Vs.

Mt.3:17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Is it permitted to divorce an unchaste partner?

Mk.10:11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her;

Lk.16:18 Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.


Mt.5:32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mt.19:9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Was David alone when he asked for holy bread?

1 Sam.21:1,6 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” 6 So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away.


Mt.12:3-4 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry , he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?

When did the cursed fig tree die?

Mt.21:19-20 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. 20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?”


Mk.11:13-14, 20-21 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening. 20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

How should parents be treated?

Ex.20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.


Lk.14:26 If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

Did Jesus come to bring peace?

Lk.2:14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”


Mt.10:34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

How many years of famine were offered to David?

II Samuel 24:13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”


I Chronicles 21:11-12 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Take for yourself 12 either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”

Should children be punished for the sins of their fathers?

Isaiah 14:21 Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter Because of the iniquity of their fathers. They must not arise and take possession of the earth And fill the face of the world with cities.

Exodus 20:5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,


Deut. 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

Ezek.18:20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

Is salvation by faith alone?

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

John 6:28-29 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”


( Matt 19: 16-21 ) 16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, ” YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; 19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Bible Numerical Problems
Old Testament Problems
New Testament Problems
Skeptic’s Annotated Bible: Contradictions By Steven Wells. Why isn’t the Bible consistent?
Are There Contradictions in the Bible? by Bruce Gerencser

Links on Contradictions

Notice that the last contradiction mentioned is a very serious one. The Bible is not even consistent on the way of salvation. In some places the Bible says salvation is by faith alone. But in other places, it declares that one must do certain works to obtain salvation. In the passage quoted from Matthew, Jesus is given the chance to settle the matter. His answer is the opposite of what the Bible declares elsewhere. He declares that salvation is based on keeping commandments and giving to the poor. ( Matt 19: 16-21) And so we find that the Bible is not even consistent on important issues, such as the way of salvation.

Apologist Responses

Apologists have many clever ways of explaining away the contradictions mentioned above. For instance, they will tell me that Luke is talking about Mary’s father, not Joseph’s. Hence, there is no contradiction with Matthew. But that is a totally unsupported assertion. Anyone can see that the passage refers to Joseph’s father, not Mary’s.

And apologists will argue that Judas died in a bizarre combination of hanging and a fall, thus making both accounts true. But their account, in which the rope broke, and Judas fell off a cliff, doesn’t really match either passage.

Likewise, they will tell me that the command to hate parents does not really mean hate. Silly translators! If it doesn’t mean “hate”, why did they translate it that way?

The list of explanations is endless. Are the explanations credible? It can be quite eye-opening to see the contortions that some go through to explain away the contradictions.

Now if we had to buy only one of their clever stories in order to believe in inerrancy, it might be possible. But when we see long lists of implausible explanations, what is the chance that every one of those excuses is true? The skeptic must show only one error to prove that the Bible is not perfect.

I cannot escape the conclusion that the Bible is not only occasionally mistaken but is quite frequently mistaken.


We have been dealing only with the copies of the Bible and have shown reasons to think that the copies we have today have errors. We cannot prove that the originals truly had errors. However, the extent of the errors that have been found in the copies have convinced many that the originals also must have had errors.

So, let’s get back to Genesis 1. When I look at the scientific errors in Genesis 1 when read literally, I do not need to develop an elaborate scheme of how it can be interpreted consistent with the findings of modern science. There may be a much simpler solution. Perhaps Genesis is mistaken.

You may not like to think about mistakes in the Bible. You would like to have a perfect book that tells you exactly what to do. That may well be what you want, but we are not here to discuss what we want. We are here to discuss what is true. It will do us no good to pretend the Bible is perfect. It appears it is not.


1. Aland, Barbara et al, The Greek New Testament, 4th rev. ed., United Bible Societies, 1994, p. 2. Cited by Richard Carrier

2. See The Formation of the New Testament Canon by Richard Carrier for more information on the canon.

Copyright Merle Hertzler 2002, 2004, 2005, 2022. All rights reserved.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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