Myth 1: “While the Bible may be ‘inspired,’ by God, it’s not ‘inerrant’ and parts of it are just myth."
Below is a summary of Myth 1. For the full chapter on this topic, download the Seven Myths book here.
Myth number 1 is: “While the Bible may be ‘inspired,’ by God, it’s not ‘inerrant’ and parts of it are just myth. Some professors may also challenge the historical validity or reliability of the Bible. Inerrancy refers to God’s original Word having no errors. Why is inerrancy important? Well, the question of ultimate authority is of the highest importance to the Christian. It’s not just a theological argument. You see, we can’t offer the world a reliable gospel if it comes from an unreliable Scripture. How can we offer the truth on any issue if we’re suspicious of errors everywhere?
Airline pilots will ground their planes even with the most minor of faults, knowing that one fault can destroy confidence in the whole machine. If you pick your car up after being serviced and find out they missed something simple, wouldn’t that call into question the rest of their work? The entire core message of the Gospel, including sin, redemption, and forgiveness, is rooted in Genesis history. If these core events are not true, how can we trust the theology behind them? Did Jesus die for the sins of a mythical Adam who lived in a mythical garden?
The Bible itself claims to be much more than myth—it claims to be God’s Word delivered through human authors to all humankind. Passages like 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:16 assure us that God Himself authored the Scriptures. Psalms 119 verse 89 also makes clear that God’s Word is “fixed” or “settled” in Heaven.
Jesus confirms this by saying that not even a dot on a letter will pass away from God’s Word until heaven and earth pass away. He also prayed to the father saying, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Jesus also confirmed that Moses authorized the Torah, rather than it being a compilation of Ancient Near East mythology. Jesus referred to the Old Testament over 40 times and every time he treated it as real history, including Creation, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah and the fish, and the account of Cain and Abel. To Jesus, the Bible was clearly inerrant, inspired, and historical.
The New Testament writers were so convinced that the writings of the Old Testament were the actual words of God that they even claimed “Scripture Says” when the words quoted actually came directly from God. In Romans 9, Paul accepted that God delivered His Word directly to Moses. Paul also treats Isaiah’s words as God Himself speaking. In Acts 4, both Peter and John affirmed the creation account in the 4th commandment written by God. The believers who heard Peter and John also acknowledged that David wrote Psalm 2 by the Holy Spirit.
There are some classic historical tests we can use to evaluate the validity of the New Testament writings. First, we can determine whether what we have today matches what was written originally. Second, we can evaluate whether the recorded events describe true, historical events. Let’s see how the Bible holds up to each of these tests.
One way to apply the first test is to look at the time gap between the original writing and the copies that still exist today. The closer the copy is to the original, the greater chances that it more accurately represents the original. Ancient manuscripts like the New Testament were written on fragile material such as papyrus. This required ancient writers to continually make new copies.
When we evaluate the number of New Testament manuscripts we have compared to other famous works of antiquity, the Bible exceeds them all with 5,366 manuscripts! Adding the copies from other languages (such as Latin, Ethiopic, and Slavic) results in more than 25,000 manuscripts that pre-date the 15th century printing press! By comparison, the runner-up historical text (Homer’s Iliad) has only 643. We can also see that the time span between the original and these copies is closer than any other work compared. There is more. Even if all the copies of the Bible from A.D. 350 to today were destroyed, the entire New Testament (except for only 11 verses) could be reconstructed using only quotations by the Early Church Fathers in the first few hundred years after Christ! This is because the Church Fathers frequently quoted large sections of Scripture in their letters to each other.
Next, we can test to see if what was written down actually happened. The gospels written by Matthew, Mark, and John were written with or by direct eye witnesses of the events in Jesus’ life. Luke, a physician, wrote the account of Jesus’ life for Theophilus, a high-ranking official. Luke said: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” Luke continues to state that he carefully vetted his account of Jesus’ life and ministry: “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Other New Testament writers had similar testimonies: First John 1:3 states: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us...” Second Peter 1:16 says: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
We should also consider that 11 of the 12 disciples died terrible deaths—being killed for their unchanging testimony of who Christ was, and of His resurrection. They were so sure that Christ was who He claimed to be that they signed their testimonies with their own blood! Who would die for a resurrection that never happened? Paul said that without the resurrection, “we are of all men the most pitiable,” if indeed they suffered persecution for a falsehood.
It’s also incredible that numerous Bible prophecies have come true over the years—even prophecies that we now can confirm were written before the actual events occurred. For example, Isaiah 53 specifically foretold Christ’s trial, crucifixion, and burial. Isaiah 53 describes a Messiah—a Savior—who would be “Despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. A man who would be despised and not esteemed by others. One who would bear the griefs and carry the sorrows of humanity.” These descriptions could apply to many people throughout history. But it gets a more specific as it continues by saying that people would consider him to be “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” and that He would be “wounded for our transgressions; bruised for our iniquities” and the “punishment for our peace” would be set upon Him. Then it says, “by His stripes” we would be healed and that the Lord would “lay upon Him the iniquity, or sins, of us all.” The passage continues to be incredibly specific about Jesus’ death and crucifixion by stating that He would be “oppressed and afflicted,” yet, like a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers would be silent, He would not even open his mouth in defense. It even says that He would “have no offspring,” and that his grave would be “made with the wicked” and his “death with the rich.” Even the very purpose that Christ came was foretold by this chapter, stating that He would “pour out His soul unto death” so that He would “bear the sin of many.” Is there any other person throughout recorded history who fits these descriptions better than Jesus Christ? Not only does this chapter show how the Bible predicted Christ’s life, crucifixion, and burial, it demonstrates just how reliably the Bible has been transmitted over the centuries.
Consider this: There’s the original book of Isaiah written in the 8th century before Christ. Next there’s the copy found in the Dead Sea Scroll collection that dates about 125 before Christ, then we have the copies that are from about one thousand years ago, and finally today’s version. Now that the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered, we have proof that these incredibly specific prophecies were written before Christ was even born, showing their divine inspiration.
We can now also test how reliably the Bible has been transmitted over a 2,200-year period! The results? Incredible. Famous theologian Dr. Norman Geisler writes: “Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word ‘light’ which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly. Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word with just three letters in question after a thousand years of transmission—and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.” Wow—over 2 millennia of copying this text and over 99% of it matches an original written before Christ. And the incredibly specific prophecies it tells about Christ—all of them came true!
It’s no surprise that the field of archeology continues to confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible—check out this list of 53 people in the Bible confirmed by archeology. These are some of the reasons why tens of thousands of ministry professionals have signed the Bible Petition, affirming that the Bible alone, and in its entirety, is the infallible written Word of God in the original text and is, therefore, inerrant in all that it affirms or denies on whatever topic it addresses.
So—this leaves us at a crossroads: either this book is divinely inspired and true in all it says including historical events, or it’s not. It can’t be true and untrue at the same time. What gives us the right to pick and choose which parts we want to believe? People understand: If the Bible is not based in real history but claims to be historical, it’s not authoritative, and if it’s not authoritative, they won’t follow and obey it. If it is not true, then there’s no reason to submit to it. Since the Bible is true it has authority over all matters of life. When Christians understand that the Scripture is inerrant and historically valid, their faith and their minds are fused together—like two pieces of a puzzle. This provides a solid foundation for their faith in the work of Christ as revealed in the Words of Christ, resulting in a solid foundation for their faith, a real faith that produces good fruit. While the original writings were in fact straight downloads from Heaven, 3,500 years of transmission did allow for some copying mistakes to become part of the manuscript traditions. However, we can trace their history and there are very few relative to the text as a whole. Even when there are differences, there are none that change any core doctrines of Christianity. So, there we have it: one authorized compilation with 66 books spanning over two millennia with incredible reliability and accuracy. Governments ban it; philosophers dismiss it; scientists ridicule it; the media makes fun of it; but most in our society simply ignore it. But the Bible is still the world’s best-selling book, with over 4 billion copies sold over the last 50 years. Currently the complete Bible is available in over 600 languages and rising. Nothing can equal its power to change lives and an unbelieving world cannot change it from being God’s authoritative revelation to mankind.