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Is the Bible infallible?

The Bible is the world's best seller. It is the most widely distributed and read book on this planet. But it is also the most misunderstood and most maligned book ever written. Why?

Millions of people believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God; to them, the Scriptures are inerrant. But to others, the Bible is merely a collection of ancient, uninspired writings that may have some historical, poetic and inspirational value.

Is this venerable Book, referred to by U.S. President John Adams as "the Volume of Inspiration," really the unquestionable, authoritative Word of the living God?

Bruce Barton once wrote a book about the Bible, entitled The Book Nobody Knows. Truly, many of those who believe in the Bible don't really believe it — because they don't believe what it says.


Opposing views

The professed agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899) wrote: "The real oppressor, enslaver and corrupter of the people is the Bible. That Book is the chain that binds, the dungeon that holds the clergy. That Book spreads the pall of superstition over the colleges and schools. That Book puts out the eyes of science and makes honest investigation a crime. That Book fills the world with bigotry, hypocrisy and fear" (Some Mistakes of Moses).

Mr. Ingersoll also asserted: "God made a great number of promises to Abraham, but few of them were ever kept. He agreed to make him the father of a great nation, but He did not. He solemnly promised to give him a great country, including all the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates, but He did not. . . . Their [Israel's] God was quick-tempered, unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising, but never performed."

What about these claims? Many of the world's great men have been readers of the Bible and confessed that some of their beliefs and wisdom came from that Book. President Abraham Lincoln, for instance, often read the Bible and regularly quoted from it.

Sir Winston Churchill was also familiar with many of the teachings of God's Word. He said:

"We reject with scorn all these learned and labored myths that Moses was but a legendary figure. We believe that the most scientific view, the most up-to-date and rationalistic conception, will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible story literally. . . . We may be sure that all these things [mentioned in the Bible] happened just as they are set out according to. Holy Writ; we may believe that they happened to people not so very different from ourselves, and that the impressions these people received were faithfully recorded, and have been transmitted across the centuries with far more accuracy than many of the telegraphed accounts we read of the goings-on of today."

Mr. Churchill went on to make this challenge: "Let the men of science and of learning expand their knowledge and probe with their researches every detail of the records which have been preserved to us from these dim ages. All they will do is to fortify the grand simplicity and essential accuracy of the recorded truths which have lighted so far the pilgrimage of man" (Thoughts and Adventures).

What is the truth? Is there any accuracy in either of these widely divergent views?


The Bible speaks

Now let us look at the Bible, to see what it says about itself.

David said, "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6).

Jesus Christ gave ample testimony to the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. He referred to them as being the very Word of God: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he [Christ] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself' (Luke 24:27).

"And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you . . . that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning, me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (verses 44-45).

The apostle Paul, writing in the middle of the first, century, said: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17).

Humans visit museums and other repositories of historic documents such as Britain's Magna Carta and America's Declaration of Independence and stand in awe at the sight of those documents. How much more should we stand in awe of the very Word of the living God?


Like a puzzle

Through the prophet Isaiah God revealed that He deliberately inspired the Bible in such a way that it is not easily understood.

Isaiah asked: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? . . . For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people" (Isa. 28:9-11).

The Word of God is written so that its various pieces must be put together like a picture puzzle. All the scriptures on any one subject must be viewed together to get the entire picture. But why?

Isaiah answers, "That they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken" (verse 13).

When Jesus was asked why He spoke to the multitudes in parables, He said: "Unto you [His disciples] it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them" (Mark 4:11-12).

Few in the world realize that this is not the only day of salvation. It is merely "a day of salvation" (Isa. 49:8). God is not calling the masses today. He is only calling out of this world His Church (the Greek word for "church," ekklesia, means "the called-out ones"). Speaking of true Christians, God says, "For the time is come that judgment must begin [right now, today] at the house of God" (I Pet. 4:17). God is now judging us — His Church.

But what about the rest of this world's 4½ billion inhabitants? They are not being judged now. Their time will come later. In the meantime, Satan holds full sway over their minds and hearts (Rom. 11:8). For more information, write for our free reprint, "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?"

God has given the vast majority of mankind over to Satan to let him blind them at this time: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:3-4).

How does Satan deceive the masses — the whole world (Rev. 12:9)? He does it primarily through false religious organizations and false clergymen: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (II Cor. 11:13-15).

Just as Satan often quotes scripture (e.g., Matt. 4:6), so do his ministers, but they always either quote it out of context or put a clever but perverted twist on it: "For we are not as many," wrote Paul, "which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity" (II Cor. 2:17).

Yes, God deliberately inspired the writing of the Bible in such a way that the worldly wise and the disobedient will misunderstand it and stumble over it.

The apostle Peter admitted that some of Paul's writings were not easy to understand. He said that "our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles . . . in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Pet. 3:15-16).

How, then, are we, the elect, to understand God's Word? Isaiah informs us of the attitude required: "But to this man will I look [says God], even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

If we wish to truly understand the Bible, we must "Search the scriptures" (John 5:39) as did the open-minded Bereans (Acts 17:11).

One must be careful about how he handles or expounds the Word of God. Paul told Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15). Many, instead of "rightly dividing the word of truth," corrupt God's Word and, as Peter said, wrest it to their own destruction.


How inspired?

Just how was the Word of God inspired?

Peter tells us: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy . . . Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy [in the scripture] came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Pet. 1:19-21).

On some occasions when Old Testament prophets were inspired with a message, they themselves didn't even understand it.

The prophet Daniel said: "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Dan. 12:8-9).