The inspiration of Scripture comes in various forms

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Published: 10 September 2019 (GMT+10)
holy-Bible

Most evangelical Christians would say the Bible is “inspired”. Yet if we scratch beneath the surface, most would be hard-pressed to explain, much less defend, the inspiration of Scripture. Many Christians only have a vague idea how we got from the original papyrus and parchment scrolls and letters to the leather-bound collection of documents we carry to church on Sundays.

Until relatively recently, this wasn’t a huge problem. But with the rise of Internet skepticism, anybody can copy a list of “100 Bible errors” and use it to assail their unsuspecting but well-meaning Christian ‘friends’. Thus, the average Christian needs to be more prepared to defend their faith. The good news is that the doctrine of inspiration is easy to explain, and with just a little effort you can confidently believe this important idea and easily defend it against the unsupported claims of unbelievers and skeptics when you are called to share your faith with them.

Defining inspiration

CMI affirms biblical inerrancy in our Statement of Faith:

“The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority, not only in all matters of faith and conduct, but in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.”

This closely follows The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. But there are several questions we need to ask if we are going to understand what ‘inspiration’ means.

Defining the autographs

First, we need to know what is meant by “the original autographs.” This refers to the first copy of a book or letter. For some books, identifying the autograph is straightforward. The autograph of Romans is the letter Paul (Romans 1:1) dictated to a man named Tertius (Romans 16:22) that was then carried to Rome by a woman named Phoebe (Romans 16:1–2). It is simple to explain the autograph for most of the New Testament (NT) books because the history of the book is clear. There was not a process of compilation over a long period of time; we can identify the author and when the book was written.

But what about something like Proverbs—which was compiled anonymously, over time, with contributions from multiple authors? Many of the Old Testament (OT) books were similarly compiled over time from previous sources (e.g. the books of Kings and Chronicles). But even if we can’t define the moment the book came into existence, we know that there was an autograph, and that the inspired text at that point was preserved and passed down to us in what we call Scripture.

How can we be certain that Scripture was preserved, especially since the earliest copies of the OT books we have were written hundreds or even thousands of years after the originals? One big reason is that Jesus never felt the need to correct the Scriptures that they had in His day. In fact, it was preserved so well that He could turn an entire argument on a verb tense (Matthew 22:32). Especially since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that the OT Scriptures we have today are the same as Jesus had in His day. Therefore, we can take a short cut and simply use Jesus’ affirmation as our foundation for belief in OT inerrancy. We can still have interesting discussions about the history of certain OT books and how they might have changed over time via scribes and textual updating, but we can simply point to Jesus’ acceptance of the OT as the Word of God without correcting or revising it. Think about this—when God came in the flesh, He authenticated His teaching by grounding it in what He had already spoken in the Scriptures!

This is a significant way that a faithful doctrine of inspiration departs from a more ‘academic’ discussion. We have an explicitly Christological foundation, so we are not restricted to the textual evidence only. If all we had was the text, without Christ’s affirmation, we would have a much more difficult task. Building a case for OT inspiration would not be impossible, but our job is much easier because of Jesus’ straightforward affirmations.

The spectrum of inspiration

Another question we have to answer is, “How did God inspire Scripture?” Did God directly speak into the author’s brain so all he had to do was copy down what he heard? Did God show them scenes to write about, but leave it to the author’s own terminology and understanding to describe them? Did God allow the authors of Scripture to write with their own emotions and experience, superintending it with His Spirit to ensure the resulting product was free from error? The answer is, “Yes, all of the above!”

It only takes a cursory look at the Bible to notice that there are different types of writing within it, which means that God didn’t always inspire in the same way. Sometimes God told a prophet “Write this down” and then dictated, word-for-word, what He wanted the prophet to say. In other places, it is clear that someone built up a text by compiling notes from various sources. In yet other places, it is clear that the author is dealing with very personal matters and the writing is fraught with his own emotions.

In short, Paul’s outraged polemic against the Judaizers1 in Galatians is just as inspired as the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, which are just as inspired as John’s account of his visions in Revelation. We need a doctrine of inerrancy that encompasses everything, from God’s dictated words, to the overflow of David’s praise recorded in the Psalms, to the research process that led to putting together of Luke’s Gospel.

There are other factors that make this discussion even more interesting. For example, Paul often used what is called an amanuensis (professional scribe) to help him write his letters (For instance, see Romans 16:22). He may not have actually penned any NT book, although he often signed his books to mark them as authentic (e.g. Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Galatians 6:11). This means that the amanuensis may have added personal flourishes to Paul’s writing as they took their notes and turned them into the final document. Paul’s writing often sounds more like preaching than a personal letter. Part of this was likely because Paul was dictating to someone else as they took notes, which were then ‘cleaned up’ in the final version. This would easily and naturally sound more like preaching. The careful reader of Scripture will notice that most of Paul’s letters are coauthored (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1), even though Paul speaks in the first-person singular most of the time. All of this can easily be accounted for while maintaining inspiration and inerrancy.

Styles of inspiration

All Scripture is inspired. Therefore, the Bible is completely true. But recognizing the different types of inspiration and what went into composing the document from a human standpoint makes it easier to defend the doctrine. While not necessarily an exhaustive list, these are a few different types to think about, with examples:

  • Direct dictation from God. The context makes it clear that the author is directly dictating the words of God by including wording such as “The Lord says”. Much of the prophetic literature is like this.
  • Description of apocalyptic vision. The prophet is shown a vision of future apocalyptic events and directed to write about them. Examples: Revelation, Ezekiel.
  • Biography. The Bible contains an early form of biography that presents factual information about an individual that is intended to persuade the reader about the positive or negative qualities of the subject. Examples: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • Historical narrative. The author conveys factual information about people, places, and events. Examples: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, the Acts of the Apostles.
  • Historical compilation. A document compiled from previous existing accounts. Examples: 1–2 Samuel, 1–2 Chronicles, 1–2 Kings. See 1 Chronicles 4:22 for an interesting admission to the struggle scholars have when working with source material.
  • Letter. Personal correspondence from the author(s) to an individual or group of people. Examples: the NT letters to various audiences from Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John.
  • Poetry. Aesthetically structured writing using heightened imagery, sometimes intended to be sung. Examples: Psalms, Song of Songs.
  • Wisdom literature. Centered around how to be wise, philosophical questions, and life problems. Examples: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job.
  • Suzerain-vassal treaty. A highly structured treaty between a lord and his subjects listing obligations and privileges on both sides. Example: Deuteronomy.

Note, sometimes these categories overlap. Sometimes direct dictation from God takes a poetic form, or a historical anthology might include portions of a letter. A description of an apocalyptic vision might also include direct words from God. All of these are “inspired” forms of writing.

What about historical updates?

There are some places in Scripture that appear to have been updated by later scribes. For instance, Moses is the traditional author of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), but he probably did not write the account of his own death (Deuteronomy 34) or claim for himself that he was the most humble man in the world (Numbers 12:3)! There are also statements that certain monuments, cities, and people groups exist “to this day”, which do not seem to make sense if they were written when these monuments were being erected, etc.

Whoever made these statements was familiar with the lands, customs, and peoples in and around Israel, and nowhere else. The first examples appear in places like Genesis 13:10 (discussing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and Genesis 19:37 (discussing the Moabites). As far as we could find, no editorial remarks are made about the pre-Flood world or any person, place, or event outside the general region of Israel. In most cases the remarks could have been made by the traditional author of the book in question if he, for example, were writing toward the end of his life.

The following is a table of just some of the editorial explanations about practices and monuments with which the Israelites would have been familiar:

Passage Commentary
Genesis 13:10 “This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah”
Genesis 32:32 “to this day” Israelites do not eat the hip tendon of animals
Genesis 35:20 Pillar of Rachel’s tomb “there to this day”
Genesis 47:26 Explaining why Pharaoh collected 1/5 of the grain crops “to this day”
Joshua 4:9 Monument at the site of the Jordan crossing “there to this day”
Joshua 7:26 Name and monument at the Valley of Achor “to this day”
Joshua 8:29 Heap of stones at Ai “there to this day”
Joshua 15:63 Jebusites dwell with Judah at Jerusalem “to this day”
1 Kings 8:8 Poles in the inner sanctuary “there to this day”

We can see that these editorial comments come in different forms and have different possible historical contexts. The statement in Genesis 13:10 was made after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. But since they are still destroyed, obviously, the comment could have been made at any time. Yet, most of these “to this day” statements are not true in 2019. But they were true at the time the comment was inserted into the text. This could have been done at the time of writing; Moses could have been the source of all the editorial comments in Genesis, for example. Sometimes, the comment puts limits on when it was added. For instance, the addition in 1 Kings 8:8 must have been written after the Temple was constructed sometime around 950 BC and before it was destroyed in 586 BC.

Either way, this is not a serious challenge to the doctrine of inspiration. We know somebody made these editorial comments. We know they were made near-contemporaneously with the events in question. And we know the person doing the editing was both careful and capable. However, a good Bible student should be aware of them so that they don’t get caught flat-footed when challenged.

What about changes in language?

We do not know what form the early Hebrews wrote in, or even if they wrote at all. Traditional accounts could have been orally passed along, to be written down, for example, in the time of Moses. The earliest alphabetic script seems to be an early Hebrew writing system, but this dates to a long time after some of the events described in the Bible. Also, all languages change. Even though the Hebrews held onto a Semitic language during their centuries-long sojourn in Egypt, it would be nearly impossible for their language to not be influenced by the dominant culture in which they lived. Yet, this does not matter much. Even if the author was pulling from some historical work (like some old family account of Adam or Noah that was either an oral tradition or written in another script like cuneiform), he would have put down the words into the then-current language and there is little reason to think the language, at least in its written form, changed much since the time of Moses. This has little to do with the doctrine of inspiration, but it is good to know about it in case it comes up.

Case Study: Rameses

There is an interesting reference to a common Egyptian name in the OT: Rameses. Genesis 47:11 says the Israelites settled in the land of Rameses during the time of Joseph. Centuries later, Exodus 1:11 says they were forced to make bricks for the building of the city of Rameses. Numbers 33:3 says they set out from Rameses at the beginning of the Exodus. After the Exodus, the Bible never mentions the name again.

The first kings of Egypt named Rameses did not appear until the New Kingdom’s 19th Dynasty. Rameses II (aka Rameses the Great) was the third and most famous of these. He has often been cited as the pharaoh of the Exodus because he was a great builder, because the Bible says the Hebrews were tasked with building projects, and because the Bible says the Hebrews built of the cities of Pithom and Rameses (Exodus 1:11). The 19th Dynasty began several centuries after the assumed date for the Exodus, according to a straightforward reading of the biblical timeline. Skeptics have asserted that the Exodus must never have happened, because the name Rameses was not yet in use in Egypt when the Israelites were supposedly there. Alternatively, many Bible commentators have insisted that the Israelites must have been in Egypt later than the Bible suggests. This ‘late Exodus’ hypothesis is quite common among scholars. However, 1 Kings 6:1 tells us that Solomon began to build the Temple 480 years after the Exodus. Using other chronological statements, we can calculate that the Exodus was approximately 1446 BC, which is hundreds of years before any known Rameses lived.

The city of Ramses was originally called Avaris when it was under the rule of the foreign invaders known as the Hyksos. The Israelites could have arrived in Egypt during this time. But the Hyksos were expelled early in the 18th dynasty period. Several hundred years later, Rameses II later built upon and expanded Avaris in the land of Goshen and he renamed the area after himself. How could the Hebrews live in a region and build a city named after someone who was not yet born?

There are actually several options upon which we can lean, none of which seriously challenges the doctrine of inspiration. First, scholars might simply be wrong about when the word entered the Egyptian lexicon. Second, the word ‘Rameses’ may already have been in use when Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers were written. This would require them to be written a long time after Moses, however. Third, it is highly likely that a later editor updated the text of Moses to reflect the then-current situation as the manuscripts were brought into their final form. Think about it: we know Moses wrote (e.g. Exodus 24:4, Numbers 33:2). But we also know that he could not have written about his own death. Therefore, the books attributed to Moses had to have an editor. We also know that editorial comments (e.g. “to this day”) were sprinkled into the Scriptures and that this was probably from the hand of multiple people. It would be a trivial matter for someone to simply update the name of an Egyptian city so that the people to whom they are writing would understand what was being written.

From the autographs to today

We believe God inspired the original autographs, but we don’t have any of them today. As we said earlier, for some of the OT books, the earliest Hebrew copies are thousands of years after the original was written. It’s important to have at least a big-picture idea of how the documents got from papyrus and calfskin scrolls to the gilded pages of a pulpit Bible.

The oldest Hebrew OT documents are preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), which were written just before the time of Christ. We don’t have any other manuscript evidence for the OT for another 1,000 years when some medieval Torah scrolls show up. But in the DSS, the Great Isaiah Scroll, in particular, is nearly identical to the Masoretic text which forms the basis for the translation we read in our Bibles. From the DSS, quotes in other ancient literature, and the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint, or LXX), we can reconstruct the fact that there were no large-scale changes to the text.

Again, the NT transmission is much simpler to explain and demonstrate, simply because we don’t have a gap of a thousand years between the autograph and our earliest preserved copy. Christians took the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20) seriously, and part of that involved copying and spreading the NT text around. And it didn’t take long for them to start translating the text into other languages. Thus, we have an extremely large number of extremely early copies. These allow us to say with certainty that what we have now is what the NT authors wrote. Scholars can quibble over the minor differences while we rest on the comfortable fact that the NT has been exceptionally preserved.

Defending the inspiration of Scripture in a skeptical society

It is not ‘academically sophisticated’ to hold to the inspiration of Scripture. Some people argue that believing a priori that the Bible is true and without error in anything it teaches is an ‘unintellectual’ position. It is true that with a Christological starting point, we give up any appearance of an ‘impartial, academic’ viewpoint. Yet there are very good reasons to hold to the infallibility of Scripture, as we have argued in this article and elsewhere. As believers, we don’t have to be intimidated by liberals and skeptics when they attack Scripture. Rather, we can stand strong on the foundation of Scripture as Jesus taught us to do.

References and notes

  1. False teachers who tried to mandate circumcision for Gentile converts to Christianity. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
From
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Readers’ comments

Leslie B.
Please bear in mind that "all scripture" is "God breathed", that is spoken by God, and that the words, that the writers used, did not come from their own wisdom, but were revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, based on God's Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:13). The different kinds of words, some simple and others not simple, were used by God to different authors, depending on their level of education, so that they may understand what God was saying to them, just like a teacher will use simple vocabulary to Grade 7 students, but use high vocabulary to Grade 11 students. In addition to this, just as you may report a point of view, which you disagree with, God has revealed points of view that He disagrees with, in order to correct these erroneous points of view with His own revelation.
Rodney P.
One strong piece of evidence that has become clearer and clearer to me is the unity of THE MESSAGE that comes through so many messages and messengers over so many centuries. The messages in the various books by various authors all cohere into a grand message. Often the Bible writers cross reference to other books of the canon. After His resurrection, Jesus taught that He is the theme of this grand message. Luke 24:27 (KJV) "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
Jim M.
Great article. The point about Jesus taking the OT Scripture as is without adding or correcting it is important. But truth is only true if we assume the NT documents are also reliable - which I believe, but that does lessen the effectiveness of this point a bit. I see you did include a link to an article on the NT as well so I will take a look at that. Thanks. I understand that you can't cover everything in a short article.
Geoff C. W.
What you say about the NT spreading quickly and about the Dead Sea Scrolls confirming OT Scripture seems to be good information for explaining to Mulsims that the Bible is not corrupted, as they suggest. On an ever-so-slightly lighter note, if Moses were around today, he would have trouble claiming the title of most humble. I believe I can lay claim to that. The proof is that I was once given a badge to say that I was the most humble person alive. They did take it away again when I wore it :( . Not only did they have writing in ancient Egypt, there is evidence that they also had cars. One tomb was found with a sign above it which said, loosely translated: 'Toot an' come in'.
King T.
Wow!. Thank you very much for this article, Lita. It is so timely - I was just about to start looking into writings on the subject "How we got our bible". Your article really sets the stage.
Gian Carlo B.
This is the concursive operation of the Holy Spirit approach that JP Holding and Nick Peters talk about in their ebook “Contextualizing Inerrancy”. There certainly some parts where God allowed the writer to lay its own literary style while preserving crucial truths that God expects the writer to include. Excellent article.
Matthew B.
Thank you, Robert and Lita, for this excellent article on Bible inerrancy. It covers various angles to the origin of the Scriptures well, and I’ll share it with my friends. It was not your intention to look at many details because of space, but if you allow me, I can point readers to a possible solution for the Bible “contradiction” in Mark 2:26 that overthrew Bart Ehrman’s faith, according to him. Searching your site gave no reference to this infamous alleged discrepancy, except in a book review of 2016, “From Creation to New Creation”, in JoC 30(3).
Wilbur Pickering addresses the Abimelech-Abiathar discrepancy in The Identity of the New Testament Text, IVth edition, pages 216-217.
Also, the book Truth Matters addresses the alleged Abiathar/Ahimelech contradiction on pages 91-94.
Both books suggest that Jesus had a very good reason to say “Abiathar” in Mark 2:26, even though he became High Priest only after the story of 1 Samuel 21 took place. Truth Matters suggests that Jesus used “Abiathar” to direct his listeners to the right period of history or to the right part of the Bible. The Identity of the New Testament Text IV suggests that Jesus said “Abiathar” to remind his listeners of the consequences of David’s choice and Ahimelech’s decision—that Abiathar’s family was killed and he was the only one left to become High Priest.
And thanks for pointing out that the Exodus took place many years before Ramesses II became pharaoh. If we believe that the Biblical chronology is correct, this is important to keep in mind.
Richard P.
You've made a good case for the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. But then you speak of believing 'a priori' that the Bible is true. If a case must be built for it, then how is this an 'a priori' belief?
Robert Carter
This is not an "either/or" but a "both/and" issue. It can be argued either way. Since we were talking to people who mostly already believe the Bible is true, using this one presupposition allows the conversation to get much further and in less time than it otherwise would. Yet we did not necessarily skip over other important aspects of the issue of biblical inspiration. For example, by explaining the stylistic differences found within the pages of the Bible, many skeptical objections are effectively nipped in the bud. And, we do have other articles on Creation.com that flesh things out even more. Follow the links provided within and below the article.
Chuck R.
Good article on the inspiration of Scripture yet the influence of our world is shown with the statement "or even if they wrote at all."With the incessant repeating of the doctrine of evolution, people have come to think that as we go back in time, and people are dumber and the farther we go back the dumber, less evolved people are and are not intelligent enough to know how to write.I suggest that thinking is completely wrong and the reverse is true.Adam would have been the most physically fit, most intelligent man to ever exist and initially would have been sinless.With his ability to name the animals and walks with God he was obviously created with the capacity for language, and with the increasing sin in the world and that they lived for hundreds of years, he and his descendants would have quickly realized that they needed to document transactions between individuals.Considering how large the Ark was, Noah must have been a very wealthy individual as he would have hired help and purchased materials for its construction all requiring a writing system, and he very likely on his one-year-long boat ride had or compiled documents of the pre-Flood history which are lost to us today but Moses had access to.Abraham and Lot were very wealthy men which caused the conflict and is why they separated. Abraham was able to muster 318 trained servants.The Egyptians had a writing system 2500 years BC that we still struggle with deciphering today. Moses living within Pharoes family would have been highly educated and during his 40 years in the wilderness compiled Gods instructions and from documents that again are lost to us today, compiled the 5 books.So while they didn't have laptop computers to type out their documents on, these men were very intelligent and wise and capable.
Robert Carter
Your statements are no less speculative than what we wrote. If they were that intelligent (and I am not saying they were not) they could easily have had a better memory. Put that together with their long and overlapping lifespans and writing things down may not have been as important, at first, as it is to us today. Also, language systems clearly change and develop over time and there is no archaeological evidence for the alphabetic script of the Hebrews until well after the establishment of civilization. Sure, hieroglyphics existed from early times, as did multiple cuneiform writing systems, but not the alphabet, as far as we can tell from the evidence. We were not making any suggestion that the first peoples were less intelligent and there was not even a hint of a taint from evolutionary theory in our statement. We were, however, trying to be careful in our wording while at the same time laying out several acceptable alternatives.
Michael B.
I remember as a youth being told how the earliest stories would have been handed down orally and being told how that would have caused the stories to change over time but they did not take into account that Noah and Shem were both still alive when Abraham arrived on the scene with Shem continuing on until Jacob was in his 30s so this brings the ability to have first hand accounts of the antediluvian world, the flood, and post flood events much much closer to the writings.
Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Chuck R.
The danger is not seeing the 'taint.' I have had a long discussion with others who use the oral tradition as a way to undermine the recorded OT history and as the discussion progresses, it becomes very obvious that evolutionary thought has influenced them, particularly that we are so much more intelligent and knowing and what we are told today is right because we now have it all figured.
Even your initial statement "If they were that intelligent" shows the doubt in your understanding. Adam was the first and most perfect human ever: the original God-created man. We are but degenerate copies of Adam.
Robert Carter
You are reading things into our words that simply are not there.
RONALD M.
This was an interesting and helpful article. I will recommend it to others.
I would question one statement, and I know this is not a doctrinal statement and it is not a main issue. You said, "The careful reader of Scripture will notice that most of Paul’s letters are coauthored (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1), even though Paul speaks in the first-person singular most of the time." I would not agree with this because it seems Paul just politely mentioning his traveling friends and helpers - for certain important reasons, perhaps. You did not mention Galatians 1:1-2 where a whole team are surely not co-authors. In the end, we likely agree that every word and letter in the original autographs was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, or, if not, we do not have assurance of absolute truth in every thing the Bible says.
Lita Cosner
No, Paul mentions "people who say hi" near the end of the letter. For instance: Romans is authored by Paul alone (1:1) and written down by Tertius (16:22), but much of chapter 16 is taken up with mentions of notable people who are with him. 1 Corinthians is by Paul and Sosthenes (1:1), but Aquila and Prisca are mentioned near the end as sending greetings (16:19). 2 Corinthians is by Paul and Timothy (1:1), yet 'all the saints' also say hi. Philippians is by Paul and Timothy, yet everyone says hi, particularly those in Caesar's household (4:21). Colossians, by Paul and Timothy, but Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus who is called Justus say hi from among the Jews, and so do Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (4:10-14). This is enough to establish the pattern. "X says hi" goes at the end of the letter, the senders of the letter go at the beginning.

So what about Galatians? It's the only letter that claims to be from "Paul and the brothers who are with me"--the others name people. Paul is likely indicating that this letter is not simply his personal opinion but is backed by the entire body of believers. Interestingly, the apostles and elders in Acts sent a letter from "The brothers, both the apostles and the elders", when they wanted to repudiate the doctrines of the Judaizers (Acts 15:23), which is a direct parallel to the beginning of Galatians, for similar reasons. I hope this helps to clarify.
Seth C.
Ah, those lists of supposed Bible contradictions. I've never come across a single one that didn't have a satisfactory explanation, if not easily countered with basic logic and context. It's saddening that anyone can fall for such blatant sophistry, but I can't say we should be surprised; the Bible tells us why.
Dreme O.
Excellent article! Well done, Lita and Robert. This should be required reading for all Christians or at least read out loud to congregations once a year. To Michael B., the Masoretic makes no mention of Noah and Shem ever interacting with Abraham, yet the truncated ages when 1st sons were born to patriarchs seems to suggest that Shem would have been a contemporary of Abraham's. Multiple other ancient geneologies (the LXX, Josephus' Antiquities and others) agree that over 600 years was cut out of the Masoretic. Search for the youtube video "were the pyramids built before the flood." This entertaining video shows that the Masoretic stands alone in disagreement with other ancient records on the patriarch-to-patriarch durations between the Flood and the Tower. Long story short, Shem was dead for hundreds of years before Abraham, and the corrected durations (when plotted as a Gantt chart) conform to a mathematically steady reduction in longevity.
Robert Carter
While we appreciate the compliments and the fact that you took time to read this article, may we please encourage you to continue reading? We have dealt with the LXX vs. MT argument in considerable depth on the pages of creation.com. This is a multifaceted argument that is going to take you a little while to research, but the video you mentioned is extremely misleading. I allowed your comment to be posted because we have been asked about it multiple times and it gives me an opportunity to debunk it, again, for the rest of our readers.

First, let me point out the false controversy the narrator begins with: The reason the pyramids must be before the Flood is not because they have no water damage. They are post-Flood because they are sitting on, and built with, Flood-derived limestones. If that is his starting argument, I would expect, and I was not wrong, his arguments to go downhill from there:

1. Egyptian chronology is a massive mess. The speaker started off with a giant assumption that is almost certainly incorrect.

2. The Biblical Age of the Earth as presented by "creation scientists" is not what he suggests.

3. The Masoretic is not a "corrupted copy" of the original, and one does not have to have the LXX to believe the Israelites were in Egypt for only 215 years. Ussher held to the 'short' sojourn and he needed this to get his famous (but incorrect, see Biblical Age of the Earth link above) "4004 BC" date for creation. Note: this was prior to wide circulation of the LXX among Western scholars.

4. "Grief". Good grief. This is a non-argument.

5. The LXX has been extensively studied here in this office and we have found nothing in it, or in the arguments of LXX supporters, that suggest it was the original. See Textual Traditions and Biblical Chronology and The Masoretic Text of Genesis 5 and 11 is Still the Most Reliable.

6. Population growth is important, but do not assume the Tower of Babel was a ziggurat! These were massive structures that were being built after a huge population had developed. Babel happened (in the MT chronology) just 100-200 years after the Flood. There were not millions of people around and it is only modern biblical myopia that gives us the impression that Abraham was in lower Mesopotamia.

(note: I stopped watching at this point. I think I saw enough.)

The speaker is rather confident, but he is speaking in ignorance. This is standard fare for YouTube. His presentation is decidedly non-scholarly and real scholars would never get caught making such emphatic yet erroneous statements. They would not only know there is considerable debate over each and every inch of this topic, which tends to make one cautious, but they would also be trained not to stick their necks out so far and be dogmatic about things that might get contradicted in the future.

If you want to truly answer what he is saying you are going to have to do a lot of background research. Those links will get you started. I trust you will see that there is a comprehensive, non-contradictory, and well reasoned understanding of these things on creation.com.
Mitch C.
This is an excellent article! Thank you for publishing it. You mentioned "Historical Updates" made by people other than the original authors, and observed that these updates were made by careful, capable editors, but It was not clear to me that you addressed the issue of whether they too are divinely inspired. We also regard these Historical Updates as God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), right? Otherwise, scripture would be a mixture of inspired and uninspired statements.
Lita Cosner
I think we would have to differentiate between careful edits made around the time of authorship while the work was still 'in progress', and edits by much later writers. But Jesus did not feel the need to correct the Scriptures that were available to the people of His day, so that gives us a great deal of confidence when we're trying to make these decisions.
Louis C.
Sceptics are exactly that: sceptics. Often without any good reasons or noteworthy research skills. They aren't sceptical because of facts or their rational reasoning about the matter at hand. They are just sceptical because they are sceptical. Yet they succeed to shout their mistaken views so loudly and forcibly that many people believe them. Thanks for providing a calm, reasoned examination and ultimately refutation of their weak arguments! Please continue to do so in such a brilliant fashion as you do here at creation.com. It is very necessary and much appreciated by the body of Christ!
Mike T.
I've been struggling with this question a lot in the last few weeks so this was an extremely timely article for me. Thanks very much for putting this together. I guess to summarize the inerrancy of the OT, if Jesus affirms the OT, and we believe Jesus is who he says he is, then we have no need to question the inerrancy of the OT. This is helpful if you believe Jesus is God (which i certainly do!). But I'm thinking about how I would discuss this with my skeptical friends. What if you question who Jesus is? This might even be detrimental to belief in Jesus and look even more like just "blind faith" if we don't seek answers to anything in the OT just because Jesus didn't. It will be difficult to say "don't worry about the OT" and just direct them to Jesus. My skeptical friends would rather be skeptical of the entire bible (even more so of the OT) than only Jesus. Thanks again!
Claus T.
Thank you for a very interesting article. To your section about changes in language it is probably necessary to add that the Hebrew spoken at the time of Moses was probably considerably different from the Hebrew spoken just before the Babylonian exile, about 850 years later. Just think about how much English has changed since the 12th century. However - as far as I know - we see few such language changes in the OT. I think we have to assume that the language of Moses' writings was "modernized" somewhere along the line. Of course, this does not change the reliability of the accounts.
Christopher W.
I'd suggest that the historical edits adds to the case of accuracy not detracts from it. Its well accepted that Moses "put together" the 5 books of Moses which includes Genesis. Why would he not have had / used extant written sources available to him? That genesis is not a continuous narrative, that it frequently uses a present tense for events that were past events as far as Moses was concerned and has numerous "updates" - eg place name updates tells us that Moses was consolidating multiple accounts already ancient by the time of the Exodus. At the same time Joshua cross ref's with Genesis, so it's all or nothing. There is enormous evidence that each account in Genesis may well have been written within the living memory of each Patriarch. Today, our current literary standards demand that we include corrections / clarifications in brackets when quoting a source. Guess what Moses did? It also tells us that Moses (or anyone else) did not alter the records - why bother quote an ancient name and put its then modern equivalent in brackets if you were story telling - you'd simply give it its then current name and be done. We should stop thinking of these books as "historic", but as the "current affairs" of the time, frozen in time. I'd posit that an aspect of "inspired" we also overlook is "Holy Spirit Protection" of written records prior to their inclusion in today's cannon of scripture.

If we move towards thinking of these records in Genesis to be contemporary to the events recorded, the other "non-argument" that the Hewbrews copied pagan stories also evaporates. The summerian gilgamesh epic is interesting. Its dated circa 2100BC (ish). The hero, claimed to have met a flood survivor ! Prehaps Gen 10 and 11 are also from 2100BC. I fully belive that.
Rich B.
I did a college paper on inspiration once. I am an artist by trade, and i liken it to paint brushes. Each paint brush is a person. There are various types of paint brushes, some with hairs missing, etc. But God as the artist creates exactly the painting he wants even though the paint brushes have flaws and variations.

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