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PROBLEM PASSAGES

While it may be deemed improper to defend vigorously absolute scribal inerrancy in the autographs (which cannot be proven because we do not have the autographs), it does not follow that the presence of errors in the Bible must be admitted, that is that the Bible contains anything that would limit it from teaching what God intends to teach in it or prohibit God from accomplishing through the Scriptures what He desires to accomplish by them.

There are passages that are “problem passages,” but the word “error” should not be used unless it can be shown that the authors deliberately desired to deceive, willfully misled, purposefully communicated falsehood, or that the writings do not teach what God intends to teach. If inerrancy is maintained, then it seems that it must be defined to affirm that the Bible is true in all that it teaches in keeping with the precision that was intended by the authors.

To state that the Bible is Truth,
infallible, and inerrant,
is to affirm that the Bible,
properly understood and correctly interpreted,
teaches exactly what God intends for it to teach.

Relatively speaking the problem passages are very few and mostly involve dates, numbers, chronology, spelling, and differing points of view by individual authors. In no case is any Christian doctrine, duty, principle, or moral teaching, brought under the least suspicion. A consideration of these variant passages must give serious attention to: the intent or purpose of the author, the perspective of the author, and the prevailing custom and practices of the time. A problem is not automatically an error.

An example of a problem arising from two passages would be Second Samuel 24:24 (“So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver”) and First Chronicles 21:25 (“So David gave Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place”). Did David pay fifty shekels of silver or six hundred shekels of gold? Is this an error or just a problem passage? There are several feasible explanations of the problem:

one, there is a deliberate error by one or both of the authors;

two, one account is correct and the other is wrong because the author simply made a mistake, an error;

three, one account is correct and the other is the result of a copyist’s mistake;

four, the oxen were bought for fifty shekels of silver, and the threshing floor was bought for six hundred shekels of gold;

five, the oxen and threshing floor were bought for fifty shekels of silver, and the entire hill (“site”) was bought for six hundred shekels of gold.

The first two explanations bring into question the integrity of Scripture and its claim of Truth (assuming God’s purpose was to teach specific amounts), whereas the last three explanations maintain the Bible’s veracity. A problem is not automatically an error. If a reasonable explanation to a problem is given then the integrity of Scripture is not undermined. In addition what was the author’s intent, that is, what was God seeking to teach through the Revelation given to the writer?

The point of the passage is that David’s offering to God stopped the plague, and David did not want to offer God a sacrifice that cost him nothing; the purpose was not, perhaps, to give the partial price or the total price of the offering. If we knew more we would understand and be able to explain the passage better. Maybe one of the latter two explanations is the right explanation.

But these and similar passages are not sufficient to compel the believer to admit error and, thereby, to bring into question the Truth of Scripture. The “problems” of Scripture would disappear if we only knew God’s intention and the full history of the text.

The law of YHWH is perfect, converting the soul;
the testimony of YHWH is sure, making wise the simple;
the statutes of YHWH are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of YHWH is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Ps. 19:7-8


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