This article is from
Creation 6(1):34–35, July 1983

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

The Bible is infallible, but!

by

Photo wikipedia Nikolaus Kopernikus
 Nicolaus Copernicus.

“Words just don’t seem to mean anything any more,” said my friend.

We had been listening to a theological lecturer who, after assuring us that he was an evangelical Christian and believed in the infallibility of Scripture, then proceeded to compare what he called the Genesis creation myth with the Babylonian and the Baalic myths.

From the lecture we gained the impression that, while Scripture was certainly inspired by God, the interpretation is left to the individual guided by tradition, literary criticism or even science.

One student who was listening went so far as to suggest that you cannot really understand Genesis unless you know Hebrew.

The interpretation of Scripture

This has been a source of controversy for hundreds of years. For example, when Copernicus (1473–1543) and Galileo (1564–1642), after careful observation and experimentation, advanced the view that the sun did not revolve round the earth, but rather that it was the earth’s rotation on its axis which caused night and day, they were accused of heresy. This was because the church at that time had borrowed from the pagan Greeks the scientific theory that the sun went round the earth.

They were comfortably entrenched in defending this ‘intellectual’ view.

They even supported it by biblical texts, particularly Psalms 19:4,6 and 93:1,2. Copernicus and Galileo found these passages from the Bible being quoted against them, and Galileo had to face imprisonment by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for his beliefs. The theologians were interpreting Biblical texts to justify a non-biblical idea taken from the ancient Greeks, and thus to oppose the scientific views of Copernicus and Galileo.

As a parenthesis we may ask: Can modern creationists be accused of making the same error as the theologians of the Inquisition?

Are we ever guilty of taking ideas derived from outside Scripture and then looking for proof texts from the Bible to support them? If we are, how can we recognise that fact? This leads us back to the topic of interpretation, for to avoid these errors we must understand the principles by which we interpret Scripture. Using Genesis 1–3 to illustrate, these principles are:

Principle 1: Consider the context

The context is that of the God-given account of the origin of the world. In particular we are told that the world was created GOOD. It therefore makes no sense to understand Genesis as a parable of evolution, since evolutionary theory majors on cruelty and the death of millions of animals over long periods of time, including some which were supposedly turning into humans.

Principle 2: The force of repetition

The fact that God created the world in six days is repeated in Exodus 20:9–11 and again in Exodus 31:13–18. Read verse 18 and see the autograph of God himself. One day of rest in seven has been confirmed by inference every week from the time of its institution to the present. To claim that these days are unimportant, or mysterious, or of unknown duration is to fly in the face of the Biblical text.

Principle 3: Consider the total thrust of Scripture

The Gospel does not make sense without the creation story. For there to be a Fall there had to be a GOOD earth, with a sinless man and woman on it. This idea is repeatedly confirmed in the New Testament. Look, for example, at the way Peter uses the word ‘restoration’ in his sermon at Solomon’s gate. (Acts 3:21) Peter tells us that Christ must remain in Heaven until the restoration of all things, that is, until the time comes for him to restore the whole earth. But restore it to what?

The only worthwhile restoration would be to a perfect world, as it was before man ruined it by sinning. (Similarly see the word reconcile in Colossians 1:16,20).

Principle 4: Nothing must be added or taken away

Nowhere in the Bible is there any hint of evolution or eons of time. Indeed the opposite is true: we read of decay, not evolution. The creation was cursed by God because of man’s rebellion and is now subject to decay. There is every indication in Scripture that the world is getting worse not better, and will continue to do so till the end of time. (Matt. 24:6–12, 22, 29). Finally, if the Scriptural account of the origin of the earth in six days is God’s revealed word to man—all this was the universal belief of Christians until the 19th century—then presumably any theory at variance with God’s account must be considered as either incorrect, or as a new revelation from God.

Man is now being told that the story of origins as originally given was in error, or at any rate, that the church down the centuries has been misguided in its interpretation of Scripture.

In 2 Peter 1:20 we read the statement: “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation”. Tyndale and the other reformers taught that the plain words of the Bible could be understood even by the unlearned. Interpretation by experts is not required. (Although in saying this we are in no way degrading sound scholarship).

God, who is the Word, has not left us in darkness. Scripture can be understood even by babes (Matt. 11:25). It is the ‘clever’ people who make the difficulties.

Helpful Resources

15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History
by Dr Don Batten, Dr Jonathan D Sarfati
From
US $3.50
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
From
US $10.00

Readers’ comments

Don D.
This is obviously an ongoing issue for many. I note that this article was originally published in 1983 and yet the issues still seem relevant today. The comment that you must know Hebrew to understand Genesis though is thoroughly wrong-headed. I have a certain facility in learning languages. I have studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French and English and probably know best those languages in reverse order. So, my native language is the one I know best, and yet, I am still very much aware that I do not always correctly understand it. There are still nuances that I may have studied but, because I do not use them in the course of my everyday speech, I have forgotten that they exist, much less how they may affect the meaning of a particular sentence that I read.
I have now used French, almost daily for over 30 years and am the more convinced that I am not trustworthy if a precise translation is required, even though I can rip off a mostly acceptable translation in seconds!
To fully understand nuance and context and literary figures, of course you need to know the original language AND culture AND historical era and possibly other factors too. True scholars have a wonderful role to play in enriching our understanding...but they have already done an amazing job in providing us with clear, readable, true to the original texts for us to read in literally thousands of languages.
Tyndale in the 1400's said that his goal was to produce a text that would enable the simplest plow boy to understand the Bible in his own language such that he would know the Bible BETTER than the clergyman who relied on his training and church traditions.
God still speaks to us in our own language(s). Read the Bible prayerfully, carefully, humbly and the Holy Spirit will teach us all what we need.
Jason V.
In 2 Peter 1:20 we read the statement: “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own private interpretation”. Tyndale and the other reformers taught that the plain words of the Bible could be understood even by the unlearned. Interpretation by experts is not required. (Although in saying this we are in no way degrading sound scholarship).
Indeed, sound words that should have been seriously considered in Lita Cosners ' article on Eve 's offspring and the serpents!
Shaun Doyle
We're glad that you agree with the sentiments of this article, though I would agree with Lita's answers to you in Eve’s offspring, the serpent, and his offspring—Part 1—she has reasonably established why the line of Cain as opposed to the line of Seth is not 'the seed of the serpent'.
Ferdinand III S.
This objection to scripture was common in the 19th century. I would suggest everyone who wants to know the truth - that scripture preceeds the Mesopotamian myths - read an excellent book by Bill Cooper entitled 'Authenticity of the Book of Genesis.

To whit:
"Sumerian mythology is interesting. It is the earliest that was developed by man, and is remarkable for several reasons. It contains a very real and detailed memory of the events described in the earlier chapters of Genesis, and at the same time a surprising level of the corruption which that remembered detail underwent."

"Not by any stretch of the imagination could it ever be proposed that Genesis owes its origin to the often senseless, occasionally obscene, and always pagan babble of Mesopotamia, no matter how subtle or clever was the person who tried."

Smith, a Christian missionary archeologist from the mid 19th century proved that the Bible predates all of the Sumerian-Babylonian-Meso mythologies. In fact many of them garble and jumble the early chapters of Genesis.

So the theologian arguing that the Bible comes out of these cultural artifacts is only 150 years behind science and knowledge.
Carolyn H.
why question God, the Bible as it is today, is exactly enough to save us, no matter what interpretation ! Jesus is our advocate...
John C.
Thoroughly enjoyed Professor Rendle-Short's excellent and concise article. His statement that "Nothing in the gospel makes sense outside of Creation" would be a great Creationist "Dobzhansky rule" substitute. This is something theistic evolution friends are either willfully or unmindfully ignorant of.
Charles T.
"...and Galileo had to face imprisonment by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for his beliefs."

John Rendle-Short

Greetings;

Would it be more accurate to say that Galileo was put under house arrest? I don't believe there is any proof he was imprisoned, a far different outcome! "Prison and torture" are the phrases still thrown around by those who despise creationists.

cordially,

Charles T.
Thomas J.
"Scripture can be understood even by babes (Matt. 11:25). It is the ‘clever’ people who make the difficulties." When growing up I was very interested in paleontology, archaeology, and science in general. One never wanted for popular books penned by scientifically trained authors that gave to young people a true, yet often greatly simplified, account of scientific ideas. Sometimes even the scientists themselves explained themselves popularly. They often did so using helpful analogies clearly stated to be simply analogies. Why is it, then, if we can allow those in the image of God the capacity to write with clear and accurate simplicity that we cannot grant God that same capacity? There is a curious rush by too many evangelicals to pass off the expired canned goods made in secular factories as more nourishing than the pure and simple milk of the word.
Gennaro C.
Thank you Professor John Rendle-Short. Very few words but exhaustive. There are rules to be followed to understand the whole meaning od a text. And I like to paraphrase v.2 of Psalm 19 with: "Book (Bible ones) after book they pour forth speech; page after page they display knowledge". And Paul in Col. 3:16 sais: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ...". If we are use to feed on the Bible - in a spirit of devotion, we will need of no Pindaric flight to build up castles that turn to be made of paper, thank God!
Eileen T.
thank you for this much needed exhortation in these days of terrible apostasy, but, by God's grace I think more genuine Christians are waking up to it!
S. G.
Indeed, this kind of lectures are all too common, so even I have come to the conclusion that I need to learn Hebrew or only trust teachers who know Hebrew themselves. Gratefully, I find the Holy Spirit giving clear signs concerning which teacher to trust. But still I have a hunger for more preaching - once stepping out of a meeting because the pastor undermined our love and confidence for the Apostles in giving the evolutionist-type eyewitness account (about Kefa) when I couldn't stand up to ask: Were you there?

Gratefully,
C
Wayne M.
Nothing changes, sound like scribes to me. 1Co 1:18-20 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND BRING TO NOTHING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRUDENT." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
Anthony W.
Hi, you're right that it can be disappointing when 'evangelical' Christians become of the 'cafeteria' order when considering early Genesis. I don't disagree with anything you wrote, however it seems to me that you left out a few principles by which scripture is interpreted. Should we not also consider: author, intended audience, literary style and reason for writing? In the instance of Gen 1-3 nothing changes from that which a biblical creationist would already believe. Generally speaking though, shouldn't we also bear these principles in mind? Thanks for all the good work.
Shaun Doyle
Very true, and thus please consider articles such as Is there a universal way Christians should interpret the Bible?, The Bible and hermeneutics, and Should Genesis be taken literally? supplementary to this one.
Edwin M.
Every Word of *GOD* is pure. *GOD* is able to keep *HIS* Word. *He* desires we keep our Word too. Therefore when it is written the WORD Create and then the WORD made and then the WORD formed, We need to honour that and sentences like written in the article. I QUOTE:
"The fact that God created the world in six days is repeated in Exodus 20:9–11 and again in Exodus 31:13–18."
Then we have lost our integrity as 3 WORDS are used, and for great reason. Consider the unbeliever who is not spiritual but soundly intellectual in an area and we take liberties in compounding create, made, formed together in our thesis. Are we not then giving place to the devil who the Psalmist warns us is faultless in finding fault, particularly in `Christs`if he can: Ps 59:4. KJV. Consider for a moment that the first verse of the Bible read thus: In the beginning *GOD* created the subatomic particles *HE* would later speak too and make a visible world. (People,when did the first day start.? Be sure your sin will find you out. But HALLELU *JAH* WE HAVE A SAVIOUR AND 1Jn 1:9 as we walk in the light of *HIS* *WORD*. AMEN,THANKS OUR MAGNANIMOUS *FATHER*.

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