Although I have shown examples of the amazing accuracy of the Bible in areas of history and science, yet the Bible is often accused of being filled with historical and scientific errors. Sometimes alleged examples of errors are given by atheists and skeptics as being evidence that the Bible is merely an errant ancient document of merely human origin having little value, but these examples of errors are also given by theists and explained as showing that the Bible is “pre-science” and that ancient historians, including the human authors of scripture, were writing history as a story and were not concerned with recording events as they actually occurred. In either case, the idea of the Bible as perfect revelation of an infinite, perfect God is denied. As with contradictions, many Christians have been taught to answer these accusations with a statement of “show me.” Many a young person who was so taught has fallen by the wayside when actual examples were given. They are often shocked by even the existence of examples and confused when he or she cannot come up with an answer. Instead, admitting to the existence of such difficulties and giving a reasoned answer is the proper solution.
As with contradictions, there are many resources available to help an honest inquirer to deal with these examples. The books I listed in my post “All Those Contradictions” also deal with supposed historical errors found in the Bible. As I also mentioned in that earlier post, technical conservative Bible introductions, commentaries, and study Bibles often deal with these alleged errors. The works of the McDowells are especially helpful in dealing with examples of supposed historical errors. Other excellent helps dealing with alleged errors concerning both history and science are the documentaries Is Genesis history? and Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. Websites such as Answersingenesis.com, ICR.com, and CMI.com also have many articles and other resources dealing with such alleged errors. Instead of giving in, an individual confronted with these examples should avail themselves of the many helps that are available.
We must remember, first of all, that history is not always clear-cut. Historic documents and artifacts can give contradictory information and be subject to various interpretations. Rulers generally ignored their defeats and embellished their victories. Ancient historians were often very biased in their writings. Even secular historians who adhere to the same naturalistic paradigm have disagreements. For instance, the various Egyptian king lists are open to several interpretations and there are several theories on their significance. Often critics will accept the interpretation that makes the Bible seem to be in error while ignoring the interpretations that corroborate the biblical account. Furthermore, supposed examples of errors in history are often based on the silence of secular sources. If the only source of an historic event or person is the Bible, it is often considered to be an error. The existence of the Hittites, Belshazzar, and the second official mission of Quirinius in Palestine are all such examples in which the Biblical statements considered in error because of the silence of other sources were later vindicated. There are also examples where secular historians have made statements contrary to the Bible. It is always assumed that the Bible is wrong and the secular historian is correct even though there are many examples of errors in the writings of secular historians. As in so many other fields, one of the most common problems is found in differences of interpretations due to competing worldviews. For instance, any miracle mentioned in the Bible is automatically considered an error by those committed to a naturalistic paradigm.
Alleged scientific errors are especially susceptible to the problem of interpretations based on differing paradigms as those who accept the theory of evolution will consider any statement of creationism to be in error and especially the biblical creation account and flood account. There are also examples of phenomenal language (i.e. the rising and setting of the sun), often used by all of us, being considered to be errors. One common type of alleged errors I have seen have to do with imposing modern taxonomy on the Bible such as the inclusion of bats in the group of fowls in Leviticus eleven. All classification systems we have are artificial and changing. The system used by Moses was not the system we use today. The grouping in Leviticus was of flying creatures and bats are indeed flying creatures. Another example of this kind of error would be the use of the word “leprosy” in Leviticus chapters thirteen and fourteen as well as other places. Today, we use this term only for Hanson’s disease; however, the Hebrew term was obviously used for a wide variety of surface disorders including eczema and psoriasis and even molds and mildews in materials and even walls. That the Hebrew term used by Moses refers to a broader range of disorders than what we use today for the term “leprosy” is not a scientific error. Leviticus eleven is a favorite of skeptics as being the source of a number of alleged errors such as the statement concerning rabbits chewing their cud (vv. 5, 6) and insects walking in four legs (v. 20). Clearly, rabbits are not ruminants and do not chew their cud in the way ruminants do; however, the Hebrew words used in this passage allow for a broader interpretation including the eating of special feces pellets, a process called cecotrophy, that is practiced by rabbits. The fact that insects had six legs was certainly known by Moses (though he would not think of these creatures as “insects,” another modern taxonomical term). However, these verses refer to legs designed for walking. Grasshoppers and locust have four legs specifically designed for walking and two for hopping. Such insects would be considered clean whereas other insects which had only four legs designed specifically for walking but had no legs for hopping, such as mantids and mantid flies, were considered unclean. Other examples of supposed scientific errors involves problems in translation. For instance, the translation “unicorn’ (Job 39: 9, 10 among others verses) has given rise to much ridicule of the Bible’s scientific accuracy when, in fact, the Hebrew word (re’em) does not refer to a mythical horned horse but can instead be demonstrated to refer to a wild ox.
This post cannot cover all the examples given by skeptics nor do I have all the answers. The point I want to make here is that there are real examples of problems that cannot be ignored and need to be addressed; but there are also real helps in answering those very examples. Often critics get away with their examples of errors because most Christians have never heard of the examples or the answers to them (nor, for that matter, have most of the skeptics heard of the answers) and therefore assume that there are no answers and so the examples are valid. Those who are committed to a naturalistic worldview have no motive to find solutions to the problems and so do not do further research. However, those answers are there to be found if one is willing to do the research. The resources I have listed are good places to get help and there certainly are others as well. One needs simply to go to one of the websites I have listed and place the topic in the search bar. We should, therefore, have confidence in the Bible as a revelation of God being accurate in all things it addresses; and so, when faced with supposed examples of errors, not panic, but seek the answers that are, indeed, there.