In this chapter, our subject offers the following polemics to open up the chapter, found on page 71:
This is very strong wording indeed that is likely to provoke an emotional reaction of either strong agreement with our subject's words or strong disagreement. But, the honest thing to do is to investigate the evidence that our subject brings forth. Certainly, if even a fraction of his polemics above are true, then we believers have at best a shaky historical foundation for our faith, and at worst our faith is a delusion. We must always keep in mind that our faith is a historically based faith whose foundations rest on the alleged occurrence of certain phenomena in human history. If the Bible is as our subject claims, then our faith is reduced to a fideistic position or an existential one. Both positions are not satisfying for myself. So, in this essay, our subject's claims are taken and analyzed in the light of the research of a student of Bible issues possessing a genuine interest into whether certain Scripture-related claims are true and is willing to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.
To begin, let me state who the intended audience is for this essay. I am writing this essay for the Tekton site to Christians with the attitude of genuine inquiry. I do not want to be a Christian if the Bible is as our subject claims, for I will have nothing on which to base my faith. I do not know how skeptics, freethinkers, and thinkers holding opposite persuasions will react. Regardless, I would hope both sides would at least acknowledge that facts and issues have been presented fairly and honestly here. I shall endeavor to avoid hostile and ad hominem rhetoric that distracts from the issues. Also to be avoided are statements concerning people's character. However, this must not be taken to mean that when I see what is to me a spade I will not call it as such. It is the evidence for and against our subject's claims that we must examine. Psychologizing an opponent's position does not address the issues raised, nor do inflammatory words.
Something now should be added concerning the a priori views that I bring to this essay. This must be done so that deductions and contentions concerning the evidence can be separated from my assumptions. I am a Christian and a communicant in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). I approach the Scriptures from the view that the Biblical texts in question are innocent of error until proven guilty. For those who approach the Biblical texts in question with the opposite framework, it must be said that their approach does evangelical scholarship a favor by keeping it on its toes. It would be best to be able to cheerfully state something like "We will approach the points raised by our subject in a completely unbiased way", but it seems that ultimately a person will in practice follow a guilty-until-innocent approach or the opposite one.
Why do I take the innocent-until-guilty approach instead of the guilty-until-innocent approach of the Bible's attackers? It is not an arbitrary decision on my part to take this approach. I consider it the most natural and reasonable of the two starting points because human language and communication break down with the guilty-until-innocent approach. Secular historians give documents from ancient times the benefit of the doubt. When we hear something, we at least for an instant seem to naturally operate under the assumption of the truth of the that something we have heard. It is only when that something overwhelmingly conflicts with our sense of reason that we begin to doubt the truth of that something. Imagine yourself having to verify beyond a shadow of a doubt everything that you say -- imagine yourself being assumed wrong for everything until you could exhibit evidence for it. I personally would not appreciate that approach (and fortunately humans don't operate under that approach) and thus I find no good reason to abandon this approach for the study of Scripture, which, after all was written by human beings (and we believers would also say under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit). The starting point for any study of an allegedly historical document or an alleged ancient account of something is to allow the possibility that what the document says is true in [at the very least] part of what it says. It is strange how people can forget this general (and common-sensical) principle as soon as the Biblical texts are mentioned.
And now, if the reader can permit me a few personal statements which are offered to further understand my background and approach, let me state that I am a new academician by profession, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. I have developed an interest in Christianity-related questions, both positive and negative, through the development of critical thinking skills that mathematics and philosophy have developed in my mind. I am also a former hardened skeptic and thus can lay claim to the right to assert that I have been on both sides and have at times in my life made arguments from both sides. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your persuasion!) I was won over to Christianity by my studies. As of the present I think that I am right with my worldview. Others might say that I just was not a very good skeptic.
And finally, as if this introduction was not long enough, let me state some points that might be painfully obvious to the reader, but should be mentioned just so no misunderstandings arise. In discussing various problems that arise in the Biblical texts, there are two rocky pillars that must one must navigate his mental ship through: the first is to be satisfied with an answer because it alleviates the problem and not on its merits, reasonability, precedent, etc. The second extreme is to fail to recognize that a proposed solution is in fact a reasonable parry to the charge of error and contradiction. There are certain places in this chapter of our subject's books where I feel that I would be committing an error of the second kind if I acquiesced to our subject's contentions. In other places, I would be committing an error of the first kind (in my opinion) if I disagreed with his negative criticism of previously-offered solutions. These will be mentioned as they arise, and it is left up to the reader to determine for himself or herself whether I am being reasonable or am committing one (or both!) of the errors given above.
Let me state the goal of this essay. I am not here to prove Christianity, nor am I attempting to prove that certain miracles happened at certain times in human history. I am not attempting to prove the veracity of every sentence of Scripture. What I am attempting to do is to show that the allegations of error and contradiction advanced by our subject are either fallaciously based or are so inconclusive that any dogmatism for skeptics is unjustified. The reader must decide for himself or herself if my attempt is successful.
2. The Nature of Contradictions.
Here let us briefly consider what a contradiction is. There is a narrow and strict sense in which the word "contradiction" is used, and there is a wider sense in which the word is used. The narrow usage of the word is defined as an objective propositional statement (ops) (that is, a group of words that express a meaningful concept that has an intrinsic truth or falsity to it) that itself contains an ops conjoined to its negation. Some examples of this narrow usage of the word "contradiction" can be given:
Now let us discuss the broad usage of the word contradiction. Often two statements that are hard to reconcile are called contradictory. For example, the statement "Steve was born in Cook County" is hard to reconcile with the statement "Steve was born in Smith County". These two statements may be called contradictory in the very broad sense. I personally find this usage of the word "contradiction" and its variants to be rather misleading, but the usage of the word "contradiction" in this broad sense is out there and must be dealt with. For the two ops's above, and, in general, for any two statements that are not immediately reconcilable, there are the following options:
The trailing qualifier "when all information is known" keeps us humble when it comes to being overly dogmatic about which of the three positions to take. If Steve was in fact born in Cook County, but then, say, Smith County absorbed Cook County after Steve was born, then this critical piece of information allows us to claim that both statements are true. Without this piece of information, though, our natural instincts would point to the first two possibilities.
It should also be mentioned that when human language, cognition, and idioms of speech are involved, two statements might look contradictory in the strict sense upon first glance, but in fact be reasonably harmonizable. For example, consider the statement that I made to a friend once in a conversation: "faith saves". Not much later in the same conversation I stated that "faith does not save us". Both of these statements at first glance seem quite contradictory, for on the surface it seems that the truth of one of these ops's necessarily implies the falsity of the other. But the nature of human discourse, of human writing, and of human language is much more vibrant and three dimensional than we often give it credit for. The reader should now be made aware of the fact that in the former statement I was using the word "faith" in the Pauline sense: a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit that produces the fruits of repentance and works pleasing to God. In the latter statement I was using "faith" in the sense of mere religious sincerity. It is now seen that there is no logical contradiction between the two statements once this information is made known. Certainly both statements could be false, or one could be true while the other is false, or both could be true, but it is not valid to state that it is necessarily the case that the truth of one excludes the truth of the other.
Another example will perhaps help. Consider the following famous argument:
This syllogism is valid if "men" and "man" in major and minor premises have the exact same meaning. But context indicates that they do not. "Man" is used in the homo sapiens versus non-human life in the first premise, whereas the second premise is using the word in the male human versus female human context. Speaking in the strictest and most formal logical sense, the syllogism may still be true, but in that case it will not be because of the logical structure of the syllogism. (To bail myself of any vats of boiling oil that await me, let me add that the conclusion is NOT true.) I would hope that readers would not find it reasonable to press the fact that the same word "man" is being used in both premises -- it must be taken into account that different shadings are used to the word. Many alleged contradictions in Scripture arise because the basic fact of literary flexibility and multiple shadings of words seem to be lost on skeptics and those who vociferously attack Scripture's trustworthiness.
The above demonstrates the flexibility of human discourse and speech. One might raise the objection that words should not be used in more than one sense, but that objection -- which sounds reasonable in principle -- is vitiated by the plain fact that we humans often (but not always) use words which can have a plethora of shadings and different meanings, with the context hopefully determining the correct shading. In the course of the aforementioned conversation with my friend, the context of our conversation made it clear which shading of "faith" was being used and no confusion arose. For the eavesdropper who could only hear selected tidbits, then confusion would more likely arise than not. Unfortunately, given the flexible nature of human discourse, whether written or spoken, it is actually much more work to reasonably assert a discrepancy in Scripture than skeptics seem to appreciate.
And so it is with the many allegedly contradictory passages that honest students of Scripture come across. Usually, but not always, the problem can be quickly resolved, harmonized, or even solved beyond reasonable doubt if extra information, possibly even non-Biblical information is made available. Sometimes, the available information may make things harder for the defender of the passage in question. And, in some cases, there may just not be any information to evaluate conflicting passages. In this latter case, the a priori of the student manifests itself, for in the darkness of apparently conflicting texts with no illuminating information, the hardened skeptic will have (in his mind) a contradiction or a new tool to question the Bible's truthfulness, and the believer will assert that the discrepancy is but apparent, with future information one day resolving the issue.
In evaluating our subject's many claims, we must thus ask the question of whether a reasonable amount of clarifying information has been presented along with the conflicting texts. If extra information presents a reasonable and possible solution to the discrepancy, then we can perhaps still agree with the skeptic that the reasonable and possible solution is after all just only possible and not necessarily the solution, but we cannot agree with those who refuse to consider evidence against their case and maintain that there is a necessary contradiction here. Thus, my approach will be to show that in many alleged discrepancies that our subject brings up there is in fact a reasonable solution that may very well be correct, though this possible solution may or may not in fact be the correct solution. Of course, people will have their own definition of what constitutes "reasonableness". The reader might have an intrinsic definition of "reasonable" that agrees with our subject's. Or the reader might have one that agrees with me. Or, the reader might have his or her own that is not comparable to either our subject's or mine. Ultimately, the reader must decide for himself or herself if my deductions and statements concerning our subject's claims are reasonable or are not. And now let us consider some of the points that our subject brings up, one by one.
3. On the Number of People who Went to Egypt. Answered here.
4. A Problem With Military Numbers Between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. Now answered here.
5. A Problem With the Number of Michal's Sons.
Now answered here.
6. Where Did Cain Find His Wife? Answered here.
7. In the Day Thou Eatest Thereof Thou Shalt Surely Die.
Now answered here.
8. Does Wisdom Bring Happiness of Grief?
Now answered here.
9. A Review So Far. It is always good to review one's standpoint so that one might continue to strive for clarity of presentation. So to restate: I am endeavoring in this essay to show that for those who take the innocent-until-guilty approach to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek autographa of Scripture and are willing to let possible evidence convince them that there is a reasonable case against inerrancy, the items addressed in this essay (brought forth as evidence by McKinsey) fall substantially short of convincing proof.
On the other hand, it should be stated again that our subject and those who vociferously attack inerrancy approach the Scriptures from the standpoint that any divergence is an error which requires convincing proof to the contrary. If one adopts this tack, then the claim of inerrancy is indeed hard to swallow intellectually. our subject's fourth chapter and the copious list of alleged contradictions presented is testimony to this a priori .
For the reader's sake, let me get somewhat personal here. In the copious list of allegations in McKinsey's fourth chapter, one might be inclined to think that with the numerous points raised our subject would have a convincing argument for those who hold to an a priori fidelity of Scripture but are willing for reasons of integrity to test that a priori against any charges of error. This is a temptation that I must avoid -- for it is not reasonable to assume that (say) 50 points brought up by somebody yield no convincing arguments. And, indeed it is most unreasonable, given that both parties in the discussion have the same assumptions and evidential framework . Had I the same bag of assumptions as McKinsey, I would have agreed with him after the first or second example. But our assumptions are not the same as his. It has been my observation that both believers and their more militant opponents fail to keep the fact of different starting points in a clear perspective. It is unrealistic to expect to convince someone who approaches the text with different assumptions that certain facts are present and that certain deductions and hypotheses are reasonable. The discussion must be waged over philosophical presuppositions. Skeptics will see contradictions where it pleases them, because they do not consider it reasonable to take context, idiom, genre, linguistics, etc., into consideration. One who approaches the text with a 20th century Western mind and expects a 20th century Western historical account will run into so many contradictions in Scripture that he will not have time to write them all down. One who believes in approaching the text in as Semitic or Greek a fashion as possible, letting idiom and internal factors help clarify shadings, and nuances, and the main points of the text, can parry off many of the errantist's thrusts. Thus, this is why our subject and I have the same text before us, yet come to radically different conclusions.
With these points stated, let us return to some selections from our subject's list.
10. An Alleged Multi-Discrepancy Between 2 Sam 10:18 and 1 Chr 19:18. Now answered here.
11. The Divergences Between Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Now answered here. Excursus. The reader who knows Greek and/or Hebrew and takes the time to study Scripture in its original languages probably has one of the critical edition testaments. Most likely, the reader has a UBS Greek New Testament (3rd or 4th edition) and/or a Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece by UBS as well (26th or 27th edition); for the OT the reader probably has the UBS version of Biblia Hebraica . The discussion of the possibility of copyist errors for some of the divergent figures in this section is given by McKinsey:
The question in square brackets is my own question, not McKinsey's.
I suppose that the critical apparatus in my Hebrew Bible, the product of thousands of man-hours of tedious scholarship, as well as books such as Aland and Aland's The Text of the New Testament and Wurthwein's The Text of the Old Testament are studies in a field which allows "sophisticated intellectual evasions". I personally would like to hear McKinsey give this speech at a seminar for textual criticism and have him defend his words reasonably. As far as his remark that apologists love the copying error excuse because there is no way that it can definitely be checked, I find myself in the bizarre situation of being psychoanalyzed by a man who has never met me. I would personally love to see what the originals said. The we could have definitive answers as to whether there are errors or not. If there are errors then as an inerrantist I am wrong. If the originals don't have errors then our subject is wrong. I would rather be able to have access to the conclusive truth by possessing the autographs. But we don't have the originals. So textual matters are important, even when words by our subject argue to the contrary. I would be interested in hearing a rational presentation for his opinions without all of the hostile snarling that pervades his work.
12. Temptations. Now answered here.
13. Midianites or Ishmaelites? Now answered here.
14. Fish or Whale? (It Can't Be Both!) Now answered here.
15. Was Lot Abram's Nephew or Brother? (He Can't Be Both!) Now answered here.
A general note should be made about scholarship here. It is very easy in general to raise questions, and it is often very difficult to answer them. In two minutes, I could ask more questions that are philosophically challenging to classical theism than I could probably answer in a millennium of research. And the same goes for Biblical questions. Certainly one can read the text superficially, not taking into account idiom, context, genre, word-studies, history, archaeology, a working knowledge of the original languages, and so on, and find alleged discrepancies. But when one charges a document with errors, one should be honest and investigate whether such a charge is merited based on the evidence. McKinsey fails, as do the some of the others who feel called to attack the trustworthiness of Scripture, to begin a fair examination of the evidence for and against a position. If McKinsey knows anything about the original languages, his work certainly does not show or exhibit such knowledge. If our subject appreciates context, genre, and idiom, as any thoughtful study of literature both secular and sacred should entail, he does not exhibit such appreciation. If he values honesty and fairness in discussions, he does not exhibit it with his cavalier dismissals of other apologists' writings and with the temper tantrums that mar his writings in many places. If he has a basic core of civility and gentlemanship, he fails to exhibit it. In short, our subject fails to prove to me that he deserves to be taken seriously in good discussions of problems and facets related to Scripture.
16. On the Satan/Yahweh Census Incitation of David. The reader is encouraged to see the most excellent article by Glenn Miller on this issue in his Christian Thinktank here
17. The Witness of Jesus: True or Not True? Now answered here.
18. Who was Joseph's Father? I am personally amazed at the fact that this allegation is trumpeted so often. Our subject states "Matt 1:16 states that Joseph's father is `Jacob', while Luke 3:23 says it's `Heli'. The reader who wants a fine discussion and probable resolution of the differences of names in the Matthean and Lukan genealogies is referred to the commentaries of William Hendriksen on Matthew (pp. 105-130) and pages 220-7 of Luke (volumes in his New Testament Commentary series, and to a most excellent discussion by Norval Geldenhuys in his New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) volume on Luke, pages 150-155. (These page numbers correspond to the latest printing of Geldenhuy's classic commentary by Eerdman's Publishing. I do not know how the page numbers line up with the earlier printings.) After studying these clerics' solutions and hypotheses, I find nothing about them that is unreasonable. I would be interested to hear from any skeptics or serious students of the Bible who could make the case that the hypothesized solutions of either Hendriksen or Geldenhuys are not feasible. And the serious student should study these solutions for profit. Until skepticism can bring up some honest and reasonable objections to the hypothesized solutions of Geldenhuys and Hendriksen (which solutions themselves are the "classical" solutions), students of the Bible who are inerrantists have very reasonable reconciliations for the differences among the names in the Matthean and Lukan genealogies. I personally wished that our subject would have explored the options and presented his findings to the readers so that his argument's strength could be fairly evaluated.
19. For Your Perusal Speaking on apologetics, our subject states:
It is a strange feeling to find myself suddenly associated with people devoid of truth and objectivity when I have always been associated with those people who do have truth and objectivity. I have spent not a few dollars and hours studying books and arguments pertaining to Biblical issues. I have taught myself the languages and seek to learn more languages so as to help me understand the text so that I could approach the texts with honesty and objectivity. It is also strange how our subject can proclaim with complete assurance that my thought processes make defending Jesus and the Bible the priority of priorities. My thought processes were dedicated to writing my doctoral dissertation in mathematical statistics and submitting the thesis chapters to various professional journals so as to help my tenure prospects. Apparently, he knows the state of my mind and my life events better than I do. And, somehow, my entire essay would appear to fall under the war cry of "Damn the facts!" Am I really that deluded or do I ignore facts to protect a dogma that no rational man can hold? Apparently our subject thinks so. Considering that McKinsey has never met me in person (and he is invited to), he might want to learn restraint in making hasty ad hominem generalizations about those people who fail to see eye-to-eye with him on certain issues. Why is this difference of opinion so enraging to him? Why the intense personal affronts and continual baiting of those who disagree with him? I cannot answer these questions, but I am curious. Perhaps he can inform me at some later time in a civil tone of voice that befits a mature adult. It is one thing to discuss somebody's research, theses, and views -- it is quite another thing to speak in hateful and provocative language about the somebody. Skeptics have every right to disagree, and some very good skeptics have very good arguments that cause one to think and spur one on to further personal investigation. For that I am grateful. Yet, why the hate on our subject's part? I do not know.
20. Is John the Baptist the "Second Elijah" or Not? Now answered here.
21. How did Judas Die? Now answered here.
22. Who Bought the Field: Judas or The Priests of the Temple? Now answered here.
23. Who Killed Saul? (Or How Did Saul Die?) Answered here.
24. How Old was Jehoiachin When He Became Monarch? 25. How Long did Jehoiachin Reign? Now answered here. The reader is encouraged to examine our subject's fourth chapter carefully, and to see the highly cavalier fashion with which text-critical questions are shrugged off or pushed aside. If our subject knows anything about the guiding principles of sound textual criticism, he does not begin to exhibit such knowledge. As a result, readers of his book are robbed of a chance to see both sides in order that they can have a good survey of the situation.
26. Seventh Day or Tenth Day? Now answered here.
27. How Many Chief Officers: 250 or 550? Now answered here.
28. Alleged Discrepancies in the Gospels (pp. 82-3).* Here our subject has compiled a list of alleged discrepancies between parallel accounts in the four gospels. The synoptic gospels have long been a supposed feeding ground for skeptics and those who question the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. And, when imposing lists such as our subject's are presented to a believer for the first time, such lists can be quite rattling.
A personal note is presented for people's edification. I was very rattled the very first time I ran into my first list of gospel contradictions. There were so many on the list -- how could all of the alleged contradictions be wrong? I believe that we must follow the facts where they lead. And let us not be deluded as to the importance of the trustworthiness of the gospels. If skeptics can indeed demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the gospels, read in the original language with a sensitivity to idiom, internal literary styles, word-usages, and the like, have errors, then we are placed in an epistemological darkroom with regards to the historicity and the words of Christ. For if there are errors in the Greek autographa of the gospels, then those of us two millennia removed from the alleged historical events that give the Christian faith its non-existential character have to be infallible in separating truth from error. I can vouch for my fallibility, and it is a safe bet that most people will vouch for their own as well.
The key to studying the differences and divergences in the gospels is to always remember that style, structure, idiom, and syntax are flexible creatures. Sometimes it is clear that a particular gospel writer is grouping things together in a topical order and not a linear chronological order that we 20th century Westerners assume and often take for granted. If this fact is lost sight of, then one will find an abundance of contradictions in the gospels.
More exhortations from somebody who has fought in the trenches: sometimes one gospel writer gives a more complete account than the other. Sometimes in similar accounts different perspectives will be emphasized. Sometimes it is lost sight of that as an itinerant preacher Jesus said the same thing more than once. Other times it is lost sight of that certain accounts are only superficially parallel. There are other factors to consider as well. The important thing in approaching the gospels honestly and faithfully (according to literary standards) is to conscientiously try to remember that the 20th century idioms of speech and conventions cannot be forced on the text.
Even if one is careful as the above paragraphs warn, there are still going to be a few places where research does not allow one to be conclusive either way. For me, how John reckons the hours in various accounts is still a bit mysterious -- perhaps I am too fussy with the current solutions offered, (see Morris' revised The Gospel of John , pp. 684-95 for a most excellent and sober presentation of the problem), or perhaps my guardedness is proper.
So when a person runs into problems in the gospels, and it is certain that a person will, does this prove the skeptical claims that there are errors in the originals? I would suppose that the answer depends on your presuppositions. For myself, it is to be expected with certainty that even if four people faithfully describe a person and selected events in that person's life, there will be items that appear to be hard (or even next to impossible!) to reconcile. If we were there and knew all of the facts, we would be in a position to more authoritatively evaluate matters. But we weren't there in Palestine 2000 years ago, and the gospels present only a few selected pictures of Jesus' and the disciples' lives. We have no right to be dogmatic either way about errors here and errors there. Believers in many instances should not propound a solution as being necessarily correct, but should be content with asserting and reasoning that a solution has reasonable probability. Likewise, skeptics must exercise discipline before jumping to dogmatic conclusions of the opposite nature. We are all, believer and skeptic alike, in the same boat as not having much information. Let us stay humble and acknowledge the particular strengths of good arguments for or against errors in the originals.
My friend and colleague JP Holding informs me that the list of alleged gospel contradictions put forth by our subject have been addressed in the series of essays (which I find most excellent and solid) here. If competent skeptics have any factual or logical rebuttals to these essays on harmonization in the gospels, I would appreciate being informed of them via correspondence.
Another collection of heavyweight essays is written by apologist extraordinaire Glenn Miller in his most excellent "Unraveling Wittgenstein's Net: A Christian Thinktank" website. Selected essays for the reader's benefit are found on the following URL's:
29. Does Jesus Judge or Not? John 5:22 versus John 8:15 and 12:47. Now answered here.
30. Matt 26:52 versus Luke 22:36. Now answered here.
31. If the Father Has Given All Things into Jesus' Hand, Then How Can Jesus Tell James and John That Sitting At His Right Or Left Hand Is Not His To Give? Now answered here.
32. A Most Important Question: Does Faith Alone (Sola Fida) Save or Not? Paul vs. James. Now answered here.
33. Are Children To Be Punished or Not To Be Punished For Their Parents' Deeds? Now answered here.
34. Is God the Author of Evil or Not? Now answered here.
35. The Quest for a Righteous Man. Now answered here.
37. Unclean Spirits from God? Now answered here.
38. On Swearing. Now answered here.
39. To Kill or Not? Now answered here.
40. General Comments The remark that it takes time and effort to study the Bible is usually greeted with surprise even in the Church. Yet I have found that time and effort are necessary staples of patient study. We are dealing with documents millennia old, translated from other languages, written for people in different cultures and who had far different customs than we Occidentals have. As such, we must continually realize that Scripture is not a 20th century "how-to" manual that tells us everything we want to know or explains everything to our satisfaction. Skeptics often fall prey to the idea that Scripture must be as we would think it to be in the 20th century. And when this 20th century ideal is violated, the litany against Scripture begins. And yet, such a litany is fallacious, for where is it necessarily the case that Scripture must fit out 20th century ideals? One can emote all one wants [as our subject does] about this and that, but where does this excuse one from patient study of the texts and a continual consideration of idiom, context, genre, etc? Emotion is not logical argument. Emotion, while used quite liberally as a substitute for reason in our postmodern culture, still does not make the text errant or inerrant. My emoting will not change whether Scripture is true or not. Nor will any skeptic's emoting.
I hope that long ago the reader has realized that most of the allegations of contradiction which were brazenly trumpeted by our subject [and others throughout history] really have no foundation in logic or critical thinking. The reader might have been overwhelmed with the sheer number of allegations, and one could not be blamed for thinking that there had to be some undeniable allegation in the whole lot. Yet, I believe with all intellectual honesty that in all of what has been presented so far, there is not one compelling case for contradiction. There are a few interesting problems indeed in places where harmonization is not obvious. Yet, it is the height of intellectual arrogance to pronounce the case as settled, for we don't know all of the facts.
We Christian students should never be afraid of acknowledging that there are places in Scripture where the ultimate solution escapes us. our subject has listed a few places. And yet, the case is not convincing. If there are/were errors in the aforementioned texts of Scripture, we don't have enough evidence as of yet to make a dogmatic pronouncement. There simply are too many unknowns in these places to be dogmatic either way. We cannot prove that the texts are true with respect to idiom, language, genre, etc, and skeptics really cannot prove the reverse. All both sides can do is study the issue and remain humble in light of the dearth of facts.
So why do I call myself an inerrantist in the light of what I have said above? The answer is that enough of Scripture which I can verify has checked out to be true so that I can reasonably have confidence that the areas where all or most of the facts are unknown would indeed check out were I to come into greater knowledge of the facts. In other words, the track record of those verifiable parts of Scripture allows me to have confidence in the as-of-the-present unverifiable parts of Scripture. This principle is not one that I apply to Scripture in contradistinction to all other things. It is a principle that I apply to everything. If I can trust something for most of what it says, then it is reasonable to have confidence that the unverifiable statements are true. This confidence does not excuse the student of studying the problem areas, but it gives him a reasonable justification for being humble when there are surface discrepancies that are not immediately resolvable.
Therefore, when skeptics make claims that our case is not proven until all of the Bible is proven true, they are correct in the strict logical sense. My position of inerrancy is not rigorously proven until all of Scripture is shown to be true. And we must realize that there will never be a day when this will happen, for there are some questions about the past that will apparently never be answered definitively. But skepticism of our subject's stripe really doesn't accomplish much by beating on the areas where facts are not known, for these question areas are historical mysteries to both sides equally. Merely raising the possibility that something cannot be true does not do anything for demonstrating that a statement [or set of statements] is necessarily false and/or contradictory.
41. On Blasphemy . Now answered here.
Excursus to 41 -- Ignorance on Display. In the discussion of blasphemy, our subject later makes the rhetorical question "Does that make sense considering the fact that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equal? How can you believe in Jesus and not the Holy Spirit and vice-versa?" The Nicene and Athanasian creeds of the Church completely deny that the Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equal in the universal sense that our subject poses. The creeds assert that the Christ is true God and true man, whereas the Spirit is "Lord and giver of life", that the Person of Christ is not to be confused with the Person of the Holy Spirit, etc. Here, the person rattled by our subject's claims or one who is giving them credence should be made aware that our subject is unaware of the most basic teachings of Christianity concerning the nature of God. Again, our subject deserves a 10 for emotion, and a 0 for actual knowledge in this defining doctrine of the Church. (Again, see here for a refuting exposition.)
42. Lying Spirits. Now answered here.
44. Rest, Discipline and Tribulation. Now answered here.
45. Resurrection or Not? Now answered here.
46. Who Rose from the Dead First? Now answered here.
47. Ascent to Heaven. Now answered here.
48. Flesh and Blood and Heaven Too. our subject charges thus:
Answered between this and the link in entry 47 above.
49. Anger. Now answered here.
56. Some More Claims of Error. Answered here.
57. How Many Baths? Now answered here.
58. How many horsemen? Now answered here.
59. How Old Was Ahaziah at Inauguration? Answered here.
Conclusions on our subject's Allegations. Our subject wraps things up with
I hope to have shown in this essay that despite all of the bluster and despite the many allegations of error and contradiction, there is not one convincing case for an error in the autographa. A large majority of the allegations were readily dealt with on the basis of our subject's failing to note the context. Some allegations were handled because our subject did not bother to read the Greek or Hebrew text. Some allegations were handled by noting that our subject read a contradiction into passages that dealt with different topics. Some allegations were handled by noting that our subject did not take textual criticism into account.
What we have seen is that, apart from a very small minority of charges, the allegations are groundless when examined carefully. The small minority that can present problems seem beyond any dogmatic claims by either the apologist or the skeptic. Perhaps these are genuine errors and contradictions. Perhaps they are not. We just don't have any information to make an informed judgment either way. So the case is inconclusive for those charging error and contradiction to these passages. Perhaps new information will come to light which helps one to make a more informed judgment. Until then, it is wise to refrain from making strong assertions either way. Those of us in the inerrancy position will maintain that it is reasonable to give the text the benefit of the doubt in areas where we lack information.
I write this paragraph for the student of Scripture who is rattled by skeptical claims. First, the student should not be overwhelmed or intimidated by the bravado of many skeptics. Second, the student should always realize that it is quite easy to sound and look informed and educated when attacking Scripture. our subject's list of contradictions took about 17 pages in his book. This essay, when printed, takes 50+ pages, and many of the allegations were handily disposed. It is quite easy to attack Scripture and to look correct without further investigation; it is quite dull and unexciting [and not too glorious] to actually research the claims themselves. Third, the student should have access to the original languages or at least be willing to look that way. Fourth, the student should realize that there will invariably be some places that make one pause and scratch his head. In a book as large as the Bible, with so many different authors writing at different times, such places are really inevitable. Yet, one must always approach the unknown from the known and not the other way around. So we don't have a necessarily correct solution to some problems; that does not affect the fact that we do have clear solutions to alleged problems in many other places. Expect problems here and there, and don't be surprised if these problems are not solved easily. Nothing in Scripture promises that reading Scripture is easy and effort-less. It is a red herring fallacy when skeptics make the claim that the difficulty in reading Scripture somehow implies its invalidity. Remember that they have to prove [not just assert!] that passages are necessarily contradictory. I hope I am not sounding too pedantic here. I just write this as one who has had to learn these things on his own.
I write this paragraph for skeptics: I believe that what I have written is fair and faithful to the ideal of sound inquiry. Any factual errors or well-argued rebuttals to my arguments are welcomed by myself. Much of what I have learned in the defense of Scripture has come from healthy dialectics with skeptics. I have been corrected at times and I have done my share of correcting. If those of you who call themselves skeptics want to be taken seriously, then you will have to present far better and more detailed allegations than has our subject in his fourth chapter. Maybe some of you will end up convincing me that I am in the wrong position. Maybe not. But if you consider our subject's and Farrell Till's work to be rigorous and logical, you will not convince me, nor will you educate me. If you aspire to be more logical than these two representatives, you shall always have my attention and friendly curiosity as to your opinions and reasoning.
I offer the following conclusions in a matter-of-fact sense, and not as an ad hominem type of argument. I conclude that (1) our subject has shown himself to be completely unqualified to speak on Biblical issues; (2) our subject has shown himself illiterate when it comes to context, genre, idiom, etc; (3) our subject has shown himself ignorant of textual criticism; (4) our subject has shown himself ignorant of the languages; (5) our subject, if debated on these issues, would lose to somebody who did know context, genre, idiom, the languages, etc; and (6) our subject is incapable in this area of presenting sustained logical argumentation.
This essay is already much longer than I expected it to be. I hope that it has done some service to honest students of Scripture. What started out as a little essay by a well-read layman turned into something much larger. If any of the research in this essay helps anybody to understand the Scriptures better and to study them any more systematically, I shall be content.
-Eric M. Vestrup
 Amazon.com publisher review, readers' reviews, various.