Contradictions — and too many translations: Can we really trust the Bible?
Can we really trust the Bible? After all, critics say it’s full of contradictions. Plus, there’s an alphabet soup of translations — from the KJV to the NIV, and the NASB to the HCSB.
When someone raises the “contradiction” objection, a reasonable first response is, “Show me one.” Often, the person cannot do so. However, it must be acknowledged that there are numerous places in Scripture where there are seemingly conflicting testimonies and apparent contradictions. If the Bible comes from God, and if God neither lies nor makes mistakes, how do we reconcile these Bible difficulties? There are good explanations for these seeming contradictions.
Even so, the explosion of modern Bible translations has led some people to ask, “Which version is right?” and others to conclude that because there is so much variation between translations, none of them is correct. Keep in mind, however, that the autographs, or original documents, of Scripture are inerrant – not the subsequent copies and translations. Even though there are dozens of English translations that differ in varying degrees from one another, we have a high degree of confidence that the source documents from which these versions come are accurate representations of the autographs.
How do I know the Bible is true? Download free study
Christians believe in the reliability and authority of the scriptures. That is, we trust the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God and the authoritative source of all we believe and practice. By inerrant, we mean the original autographs are without error because they come from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). By infallible, we mean the Bible is incapable of error because God, as its author, does not lie or make mistakes (Num. 23:19). By inspired, we mean the Bible is “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) And by authoritative, we mean that the Bible, as God’s Word, is His written revelation to us and must therefore guide our thoughts, words and deeds (Heb. 4:12).
But many people do not share such a high view of scripture. In fact, some raise serious objections to claims about the Bible’s truthfulness and reliability. While there are many objections, eight of the more common objections include:
- No one really knows what Bible says because the original manuscripts are lost.
- The Bible has been copied so many times, with so many variations, there’s no way to know what was originally scripted.
- The books of the Bible were chosen arbitrarily by councils of men in highly political processes. As a result, they left out some very good books – perhaps some equally inspired writings.
- It’s silly to assume that one book – the Bible – contains all of God’s truth and that other great writings, from the Vedas to the Book of Mormon, do not come from God.
- The Bible is full of contradictions.
- The Bible can’t be true because it depicts a different God in the Old and New Testaments.
- There are so many translations of the Bible today, it’s impossible to know which translation is the right one.
- There are so many Christian denominations today, it’s clear that Christians can’t agree on what the Bible teaches.
Responding to these objections is a daunting task – in part because critics raise some valid points. For example, it’s true that we do not have the “autographs,” or the original documents. At the same time, the Bible soars above other ancient documents in many convincing ways, providing evidence of reliability and consistency that gives Christians good reasons to trust it as the Word of God. Our faith is not, as some critics say, “blind faith,” but reasonable faith based on the evidence.
Every Christian should be confident the Bible is true because there are good answers to the skeptics’ objections.
Click here to read the responses.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
How do I know the Bible is true? (Part 7)
This is the seventh in an eight-part series adressing skeptics’ claims against the Bible. Click on the “Bible” link under “Topics” to the right to read parts 1-6.
Objection 7: There are so many translations of the Bible today, it’s impossible to know which translation is the right one.
Keep in mind that the autographs, or original documents, of scripture are inerrant – not the subsequent copies and translations. Even though there are dozens of English translations that differ from one another, we have a high degree of confidence that the source documents from which these versions came are accurate representations of the autographs.
Andreas J. Kostenberger writes: “[T]he task of translating the Bible from its source languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) into a receptor language such as English involves many issues related to the nature of language and communication. Some translators maintain that accurate translation requires a word-for-word approach, called formal equivalence. The King James Version and New American Standard Bible, for example, employ formal equivalence. Other translators, however, contend that a one-to-one correlation between two languages actually distorts meaning. So they employ a phrase-for-phrase approach, known as dynamic or functional equivalence. The New International Version and New Revised Standard Version are among the translations employing this method. The goal, of course, “is the production of an English version that is an accurate rendering of the text written in such a way that Bible retains its literary beauty, theological grandeur, and, most importantly, its message” (“Is the Bible Today What Was Originally Written?” by Andreas J. Kostenberger, found in www.4truth.net).
Next — Objection 8: There are so many Christian denominations today, it’s clear that Christians can’t agree on what the Bible teaches.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips