Is the Bible 100% Accurate?
Question: Do you think the Bible is 100% accurate? If so, could you lay out a few arguments as to why, or reference a good website or book?
Response: That’s a huge question that I’ll try to answer really quickly…so it will be inadequate.
Do I answer as an engineer, theologian or poet? And is “it” the original manuscript, the copies, or the numerous translations? I’m sure there are tons of good books on this, and I studied it quite a bit in seminary, but I don’t know of one particular book I’d recommend.
So here are a few of my thoughts:
- Human words can never be entirely accurate representations of the thing they are meant to describe. I can use a word like “gay.” What does that mean and to whom? Even a word like “cat.” You’re picturing one thing I’m picturing something a little different based on my experience with cats.
- This gets even more pronounced when words are translated. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic to His disciples. That gets translated into Greek. Then, we translate it into English.
- We don’t have the original manuscripts (or if we do, we don’t know it). We have thousands of ancient copies and fragments. They do not all agree. They don’t disagree on important things like whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, but on verb tenses, a word added or subtracted here or there—the kind of thing you might expect when you realize that manuscripts were copied by hand.
- 100% accurate for a poet is very different than 100% accurate for an engineer. In other words, you have to pay attention to context. Parts of Scripture are written for “engineers”—the details of the law etc. Parts of Scripture are poetry. Read the Song of Solomon and ask yourself is it 100% accurate—Were her breasts really “fawns, twins of the gazelle?” Well NO, and yet to her lover, the poet, YES. Much of Scripture is history, but sometimes the line between history, poetry, and metaphor gets confusing. For instance, the name “Adam” means mankind, yet Jesus refers to Adam, seemingly as a man, and in the story, there’s clearly a dude named Adam. So I suspect there was a dude named Adam. And I suspect that the story is truly about all humanity. Did humanity eat from the tree? I’d say, “Yes, that’s 100% accurate!” Others might say, “No, how silly. How could all humanity eat from one tree?”
- Jesus said (and of course this is recorded in the Bible), “Scripture cannot be broken.” I believe that. So I like to say, what many say, “Scripture is authoritative in all matters to which it speaks.” In other words, the authors didn’t lie, and they were inspired by God. Jesus is the Word and the Scriptures are an accurate representation of the Word.
- A great example: Look at the four places the Bible records the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. You’ll find them in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1st Corinthians. No two accounts are exactly the same, and yet no two accounts contradict at the level of meaning. Are they 100% accurate? Well, I suppose Jesus could’ve said each line one after the other—like He said all the verses and each account represents one of the lines—but that would’ve sounded totally ridiculous at the time, and He would’ve said it in Aramaic, that was then translated into Greek.
See? I think Jesus said His line (not four different versions of the same line), and then they each translated it a bit differently and probably each heard it a bit differently, but what they each heard was true. Each statement is authoritative. Actually, I have a theory that God arranged it this way on purpose, precisely because He didn’t want us worshiping formulas and words in books but the One to whom the formulas and words point. At the same time, we’re not just free to simply pick and choose what we like. When we do that, we are no longer students of the Word in Scripture but editors of the Word in Scripture—we crucify Jesus, trying to make Him in our own likeness.
Hope that helps!