OBJECTIONS TO VERBAL INSPIRATION
The objections that are brought against verbal inspiration are many and varied. We shall not attempt to note all of them, but shall take only some of the most common ones; trusting that our discussion may indicate how reasonably and easily all other objections may be disposed of.
These objections concern:
1. OBJECTION STATED.
The first objection we shall consider may be stated thus: "Of what value is the verbal inspiration of the original manuscripts of Scripture, since we do not have these original manuscripts, and since the great majority of people must depend upon translations of the original languages, which translations cannot be held to be infallible."
2. OBJECTION ANSWERED.
(1) This objection is correct in stating that translations of the original languages of Scripture cannot be held to be infallible.
*Let no one be disturbed by the fact that translations are not infallible. Our two great English translations (the King James or "Authorized Version" and the American Standard Version of 1901) are good basic translations. Such errors as they contain do not leave any doctrine of the Bible in doubt. Speaking of translations, the author wishes to make it clear that he does not recommend the most recent revision of the Bible under the sponsorship of the International Council of Religious Education known as the Revised Standard Version. This is manifestly the work of modernists who have done everything they dared to do (and modernists are very daring) to obliterate the deity of Jesus Christ. This translation is neither sound nor scholarly, but is rather a piece of modernistic propaganda.
(3) But this objection does not bear against the fact of verbal inspiration; it only questions the value of it.
It is even better to have an imperfect copy of an infallible original than to have a perfect copy of a fallible original.
(5) The objection is wrong again in implying that we do not have a substantially accurate copy of the original.
By means of comparison of the many ancient copies of the originals of the Scripture, textual criticism has progressed to such a point that no doubt exists as to any important doctrine of the Bible. While God did not preserve the original manuscripts for us (and He must have had good reasons for not doing so), He has given us such an abundance of ancient copies that we can, with remarkable exactness, arrive at the reading, of the originals.
(6) And the study of Hebrew and Greek has progressed to such a point and this knowledge has been made available to even the common people in such a way that all can be assured as to the meaning of the original language in nearly all cases.
II. IMPRECATORY PSALMS
Another objection is brought against what is known as the "imprecatory psalms."
1. OBJECTION STATED.
It is said that the psalmist "indignantly cries out against his oppressors," and that we find him using language "which would be unfit for the lips of our Lord," in which we are told can be detected "traces of human prejudice and passion." Such are the objections raised by J. Patterson Smith, in "How God Inspired The Bible."
The objector is wrong here in assuming that the imprecatory psalms express David's personal feeling against his enemies merely because of what they had done to him. David was the sweet singer of Israel, and was not given to manifestations of personal bitterness and vindictiveness. Notice his princely attitude toward King Saul, even when Saul sought his life for no good reason.
2. SPECIFIC INSTANCES CITED BY THE OBJECTOR.
(1) "Break their teeth, 0 God, in their mouth" (Psa. 58:6). A study of this psalm reveals that the above words do not refer to David's personal enemies, but to the unrighteous in general. David was here only voicing the indignation of Him who "hatest all workers of iniquity" (Psa. 5:5). And notice that nothing is said here by David about this judgment being inflicted immediately. We have here only David's inspired sanction of God's final judgment on the wicked. This is evident through a comparison of Psa. 58:9-11 with Rev. 19:1-6. In these Scriptures we have prophecy and its fulfillment.
(2) "Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; let them seek their bread out of desolate places" (Psa. 109: 10).
Acts 1:16 shows that this was not spoken of David's personal enemies, but was a prophetic utterance concerning Judas. And Peter says that the Holy Spirit spoke this by the mouth of David. This imprecation on the children of Judas is according to God's own revelation of Himself as he who visits "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him" (Ex. 20:5).
(3) "O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us, happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Psa. 137:8,9).
But note that the words are not a prayer, nor an imprecation, but only and wholly a prophecy. Then note that this doom was to be meted out to Babylon because of the way she had treated Israel. And then recall the words of God spoken through Balaam: "Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee" (Num. 24:9), in which we have an echo of God's assurance to Abraham (Gen. 12:3).
David's words, like those of Isaiah (Isa. 13) concerning Babylon, have a double meaning. They refer immediately to the destruction of Babylon by the Medes (Isa. 13:7), but ultimately to God's punishment of the wicked at the coming of Christ to the earth (Isa. 13:9-11; 34:1-17; Zech. 14:1-7; Rev. 19:11-21).
As the agent of God, David revealed God's indignation against the wicked, but, so far as his own personal feeling was concerned, he had only mercy and benevolence toward his personal enemies. He refused to molest King Saul when he had opportunity and human justification, and after Saul was dead, he inquired: "Is there any left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness?" (2 Sam. 9:1,2,11).
These instances are sufficient to show how empty are the objections of the critics in regard to the imprecatory psalms.
III. NOAH'S IMPRECATION AND DEBORAH'S PRAISE
Similar objections are likely to be brought against the Bible because of Noah's imprecation upon Canaan (Gen. 9:25), and because of Deborah's praise of Jael for murdering Sisera by treachery (Judges 5:24-31).
The reply here is simple and brief. The Bible does not justify either Noah or Deborah for the utterances mentioned; it merely records the fact that the utterances were made. It is true that Noah uttered a truthful forecast of the nations descended from his sons, but whether God moved him to utter this curse upon Canaan, or merely permitted him to utter the truth in an outburst of anger, is not stated.
The Bible, by no means, sanctions every word and act recorded in it. It records the words and actions of evil men, such as King Saul and Ahab; and oftentimes passes no verdict thereupon. God has revealed His law by which all actions are to be tried. Therefore, it was unnecessary that He should have cumbered the Bible with appraisal of every word or action recorded. Verbal inspiration means simply that those chosen to write the Bible were preserved from error in what they wrote. If their writings represent a bonafide conviction of their own, it is true; but if a statement of some other person, it may be true or false, according as to whether it harmonizes with the Bible as a whole.
Then we are told that certain chapters of the Bible "reek with obscenity from beginning to end."
In reply to this objection, R. A. Torrey says: "That there are chapters in the Bible that cannot be wisely dealt with in a mixed audience, we have no desire to deny; but these chapters are not obscene. To speak in plainest terms of sin, even of the vilest sin, in order to expose its loathsomeness and in order to picture man as he really is, is not obscenity. It is purity in one of its highest forms. Whether a story is obscene or not depends entirely upon how it is told and for what purpose it is told. If a story is told in order to make a jest of sin, or in order to paliate or excuse sin (or in order to gratify lust), it is obscene. If a story is told in order to make men hate sin, to show men the hideousness of sin, to induce men to give sin as wide a berth as possible, and to show man his need of redemption, it is not obscene; it is morally wholesome" (Difficulties and Alleged Contradictions and Errors in the Bible).
If these chapters were obscene, they would make favorite reading in the dens of vice. But did any one ever hear of wicked people reading the Bible for lustful gratification? These get no pleasure out of reading the Bible, but they revel in hearing the obscene remarks of the critics. It is the critic that is obscene and not the Bible. Col. Ingersoll objected to the Bible for relating vile deeds "without a touch of humor," as though it would have made it all right if the Bible had made a jest of sin and immorality.
V. NUMERICAL VARIATIONS
In regard to the number of Jews, we find that the sum given in 1 Chron. 21:5 for Israel is 1,100,000, and for Judah, 470,000, making a total of 1,570,000; while the number given in 2 Sam. 24:9 for Israel is 800,000 and for Judah it is 500,000, making a total of 1,300,000. This discrepancy is easily explained by noting that the number given by Chronicles for Israel was of men "that drew the sword," by which is meant that there was this number of men subject to military service. While Samuel tells us that in Israel there were so many "valiant men that drew the sword," by which is meant that there was that number of men that had distinguished themselves for bravery in actual combat. The difference in regard to Judah was occasioned by the fact that Samuel gave the total number of men in Judah, while Chronicles gives the number of men subject to military service.
In other places, such as 1 Kings 7:26; 2 Chron. 4:5; 2 Sam. 8:4; and 1 Chron. 18:4, the numerical differences are probably due to errors in transcription. Numbers are indicated in Hebrew by letters, and a small alteration of a letter greatly changes its numerical value.
It should not seem strange to us that present copies of the Bible contain some minor errors. It should not surprise us any more than the finding of some printer's errors in our Bibles. We have no more reason for believing in infallible copyists than we have for believing in infallible printers. Realizing the laborious task of copying the Scriptures by hand, it is marvelous that there are not more minor errors.
In another place a numerical difference (Num. 25:9; 1 Cor. 10:8) is to be explained as the perfectly legitimate use of round numbers of exact ones.
VI. MATTHEWS ALLEGED MISTAKE
It is alleged that Matthew attributes to Jeremiah a prophecy that should have been credited to Zechariah.
This supposed mistake of Matthew is found in Matt. 27:9,10. Matthew here seems to quote Zech. 11:13, but that this is not absolutely certain appears from a comparison of the two passages. Matthew does not make a verbal quotation from Zechariah, therefore it cannot be maintained with certainty that he meant to be quoting from Zechariah. And, while we do not have in the extant writings of Jeremiah any passage that really resembles Matthew's quotation, we are far from the necessity of admitting that Matthew made a mistake. We do not know that we have all the prophetic utterances of Jeremiah. In Jude 14 we have a prophecy of Enoch mentioned that we do not find elsewhere in the Bible. We have heard of no objection being brought against this passage. But suppose some other writer in the Scripture had said something similar to the words attributed to Enoch. Then the critic would have said that Jude made a mistake.
Moreover, it may be that chapters nine to eleven of the book attributed to Zechariah were written by Jeremiah. Many critics believe that only the first nine chapters of Zechariah compose the actual writings of this prophet. Matthew was in far better position than any of his critics to know from whom he was quoting. To suppose that he carelessly wrote Jeremiah when he meant Zechariah, and left it without subsequent correction, is to suppose an absurdity. And there is no indication that a copyist made the error.
Our next objection to consider is an alleged contradiction between Gen. 23:17,18 and the words of Stephen in Acts 7:16.
1. Even if a contradiction could be made out here, it would prove nothing against inspiration, for Stephen was not one of the inspired writers.
2. But no contradiction appears here.
The two Scriptures do not refer to the same thing. The sepulchre mentioned in Genesis was in Hebron. The one mentioned by Stephen was in Sychem. This makes it clear that Abraham purchased two sepulchres. In the case of the one at Hebron, he purchased the field surrounding the sepulchre; but, in the case of the one at Sychem, no mention is made of the purchase of the surrounding field.
This latter fact explains another alleged contradiction. It is charged that Gen. 33:19 states that Jacob bought the sepulchre at Sychem. But no such thing is stated in Gen. 33:19. Gen. 33:19 says simply that Jacob bought the field in the vicinity of Sychem; and, since the bones of Joseph were buried in this field, in all probability it was in this field that Abraham's second sepulchre stood. This also appears from the fact that Abraham's second sepulchre and the field purchased by Jacob formerly belonged to the same owners. So in this last case we simply have Abraham buying a sepulchre, while later Jacob buys the field in which the sepulchre stood.
VIII. THE GENEALOGIES OF CHRIST
The two genealogies of Christ are held to be contradictory. For these genealogies see Matt. 1 and Luke 3. The explanation here is:
Therefore, he desired to show his legal right to the throne, which required that he be descended from David through his paternal (supposed to be) parent.
Hence it is natural that he should have given Christ's actual human descent, rather than His supposed and legal descent. But, instead of inserting the name of Mary, Luke inserted the name of Joseph, because it was not customary for the names of women to stand in genealogical tables. Joseph is said to be the son of Heli, but, in a loose sense, this may mean no more than that he was the son-in-law of Heli. The Targums tell us that Heli was the father of Mary.
3. A further difficulty as to the father of Shealtiel, Matthew giving Jechoniah and Luke giving Neri, is to be explained by the fact that Luke gave the full ancestry, while Matthew gave only the royal line back as far as David.
Jeconiah is the same as Jehoiachin, one of the last Kings of Judah.
IX. THE INSCRIPTION OVER THE CROSS
The four accounts of the inscription over the cross have been subjected to criticism. But let us note:
1. We have no indication that each of the writers meant to be giving all that was in the inscription.
2. No one of the writers actually contradicts another.
We can best see this fact by arranging the accounts of the inscription as follows:
Matt. 27:37- "This is Jesus,... the King of the Jews."
Mark 15:26- "... the King of the Jews."
John 19:19- "... Jesus of Nazareth, ... the King of the Jews."
Total... "This is Jesus of Nazareth, -the King of the Jews.
The different aspects of Jesus and His ministry, as they are set forth in the gospels, are indicated in the following verse:
"Matthew, Messiah, Israel's King sets forth, by Israel slain; But God decreed that Israel's loss should be the Gentiles' gain. Mark tells how in patient love this earth has once been trod by One, who in a servant's form, was yet the Son of God. Luke, the physician, tells of a more skilled physician still, Who gave His life as son of Man, to heal us from all ill. John, the beloved of Jesus, sees in Him the Father's Son; The everlasting Word made flesh, yet with the Father one."
It may be that the inscription differed in the three languages, and that this accounts, in part, for the differences in the accounts.
Objections are brought because of supposed contradictions in the different accounts of the resurrection.
1. Matthew mentions only the appearance of an angel to the women at the sepulchre (Matt. 28:2-8), while Mark says that it was a young man (Mark 16:5-7), and Luke says that there were two men (Luke 24:4-8).
There is no contradiction here. The young man mentioned by Mark is evidently the angel mentioned by Matthew. Angel means "messenger." God's messenger to the women was a supernatural appearance in the form of a young man. An angel is a spirit and has no material body of its own, but may assume a body temporarily.
But there is here no contradiction, because Matthew does not say that the women did not enter into the tomb before the angel gave the message.
This is easily explained by supposing that the one who did the talking (and, doubtless, the other also) was sitting when first seen, and that he arose, as would be natural, before addressing the women. Luke does not say that the two men were not sitting when the women entered the tomb, and Mark does not say the one he mentions did not arise before speaking.
4. Luke says, in reporting the message to the women: "They said unto them," while Mark says: "He saith unto them."
One of these men likely did the talking; they would not have been likely to recite the message in unison as school children might do. But the other concurred in the message. Therefore the statement of each writer is valid. When one person speaks and another concurs in what is said, it is perfectly proper to say that they both said whatever is said.
But this presents no real difficulty, for none of them indicate that they are giving the message verbally.
XI. SLAUGHTER OF HEATHEN NATIONS
1. God asserts that He will punish the wicked in hell throughout eternity.
If He has a right to do this (and who will deny it?) does He not have a right to command the taking of their physical life when it pleases Him to do so? Why, then, should it be doubted that God inspired this command?
None of the adults that were slain in their wickedness were of the elect; for all the elect that reach accountability, come to Christ before death; hence it is true that continued life could only involve these peoples in greater punishment.
3. As for the infants among these nations: If God was pleased to take them on to Heaven in their infancy, who should object?
XII. JOSHUA'S LONG DAY
1. Objection has been made to the language.
It is said that the language of Joshua's command and that of the Bible record of the occurrence implies that the sun moves in its relation to the earth. But this is no more true of this language than it is of our language when we speak of the sun as rising and setting. In both cases we have the language of appearance, which is common both in the Bible and in our everyday language.
2. Objection is made to the authenticity of the occurrence. It is said that such a thing as the prolonging of the day could not occur without dire results. But, absurd as it may seem to our would-be-wise critics, records of this long day have been found in Egypt, China, and Mexico. Moreover the fact that an extra day has been added to astronomical chronology is witnessed by three eminent scientists, viz., W. Maunders, formerly of the Royal Observatory of Greenwich, and Professors Totten and Pickering, formerly of Harvard Observatory.
The author freely admits that a slowing down of the rotation of the earth would be attended with dire results, unless the laws of nature had been suspended or some natural causes which we cannot imagine were brought into play. But since we believe in a miracle-working God, we have no difficulty in believing that God could circumvent the calculated natural consequences in either one of the ways suggested.
XIII. JONAH AND "THE WHALE"
It is said that a whale could not have swallowed Jonah. We will note first that, when correctly translated, the Bible does not say that it was a whale that swallowed Jonah. The Greek word for whale in Matt. 12:40 means simply a "sea-monster." On the other hand we will note that the idea that a whale cannot swallow a man is another ignorant assumption. In the "Cruise of the Cachalot," Frank Bullen characterizes the idea that a whale's gullet is incapable of admitting any large object as "a piece of crass ignorance." He relates how "a shark fifteen feet in length has been found in the stomach of a sperm whale," and he describes this monster as "swimming about with the lower jaw hanging down in its normal position, and its huge gullet gaping like some submarine cavern." Into this Jonah could have slipped so easily that the whale would have been scarcely conscious of his entrance. Another remarkable testimony from Mr. Bullen is "that when dying the sperm whale always ejected the contents of its stomach," and he says that when caught and killed, one full-grown whale ejected from its stomach food "in masses of enormous size . . . some of them being estimated to be of the size of our hatch-house-viz., eight feet by six feet by six feet!" And yet the critics say the Bible is wrong! And despite the confident assertion of would-be-wise critics that a man could not survive the action of the gastric juices in a fish's stomach, there are cases on record of men being swallowed by sharks and coming out alive. However, a natural explanation is unnecessary in that the Giver of Life could have preserved Jonah alive miraculously.
XIV. ANIMAL SACRIFICES
On the basis of Isa. 1:11-13; Jer. 7:22; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8 it has been asserted that the prophets denounced all animal sacrifices and did not recognize them as being of divine institution. Such a notion, of course, represents the prophets as being in conflict with the Pentateuch. To see that the Pentateuch represents God as commanding animal sacrifices we have only to examine such chapters as Ex. 12; Lev. 4; 8; 12; and 16.
In reply to the affirmation that the prophets denounced all animal sacrifices and did not recognize them as being of divine origin let us note.
See. Jer. 33: 18. This is to be fulfilled in a day when God says Israel shall be to Him "for a name of joy, for a praise and for a glory, before all the nations of the earth" (Jer. 33:9). Israel shall then be no longer a rebellious nation, walking in stiffnecked disobedience. They shall then do the things that please the Lord, and one of the things they shall do, according to Jer. 33:18, is to offer, through their priests, burnt offerings and sacrifices continually. Jeremiah speaks of this with utmost approval.
See Amos 5:25,26. Along with this idol worship they had neglected judgment and righteousness. For these reasons God hated their feast days. See Ezek. 20:39. They were hypocritical pretensions of respect for Jehovah. For the same reasons God was displeased with their songs. Shall we then conclude that God rejected all singing?
"The difficulty is removed when the precise point of the text is recognized. The word 'concerning' should he rendered 'with a view to the matter of sacrifices.' That is, they are not the end contemplated. They were but means for securing a higher end; and therefore those were altogether mistaken and wrong who limited their view to the formal sacrifice" (Robert Tuck, in A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties).
4. The language of the other prophets is no stronger than language used elsewhere in Scripture, which manifestly cannot be taken in the absolute.
In Exodus 16:8 Moses declared to Israel: "Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord," while in verse two of the same chapter it is said that the children of Israel "murmured against Moses and Aaron." And in Psa. 51:4, David said, in his prayer to God: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight," when it is certain that he had sinned against Uriah. Hence we read: "It is a way of speaking usual in Scripture, to express the preference that is due one thing above another, in terms which express the rejection of that which is less worthy" (Lowth). Again: "Henderson remarks suggestively that it is not infrequent in the Scripture for a thing to be stated absolutely, which is true only relatively. Absolutely God did command sacrifices, but not such as they offered, nor of final obligation" (Tuck, ibid). Further: "The negative in Hebrew often supplies the want of the comparative; not excluding the thing denied, but only implying the prior claim of the thing set in opposition to it" (Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown).
Corresponding to the above we find in Hosea 6:6 both a negative and a comparative clause so placed together as to indicate that they both express the same truth. And the latter clause, "and knowledge more than burnt offerings," provides the key for interpreting all prophetic denunciations of the sacrifices of Israel.
XV. THE LYING SPIRIT IN THE MOUTH OF AHAB'S PROPHETS
In 2 Chron. 18:22 Micaiah is represented as declaring to Ahab: "The lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets." This record causes us to ask if God caused this lying spirit to be in the mouth of Ahab's prophets. The answer is that He did not. The record here, together with a number of other passages, gives a strong expression of what took place according to God's permissive providence or purpose. See discussion of God's permissive will in Chapter on "The Will of God." See also Isa. 45:7, where God is said to create evil. This is to be explained in the same way as the foregoing passage.
This explanation is enforced by a comparison of 2 Sam. 24:1 with 1 Chron 21:1. In the former passage it is said that God moved David to command the numbering of Israel, and in the latter it is said that Satan "provoked David to number Israel." God moved David permissively. All of these passages taken together are mutually explanatory.
XVI. NEW TESTAMENT QUOTATIONS FROM THE OLD
An objection has been brought because of verbal differences between some passages of the Old Testament and the quotation of them in the New Testament.
But as we have already noticed, instead of this being against verbal inspiration, it is argument in favor of it. If God put more meaning into Old Testament passages than the language could convey to men, was it not altogether His privilege to bring out this meaning in the New Testament? God has a right to interpret His own words. Indeed these quotations show the depth and breadth of Scripture, and thus witness to its inspiration.