Skeptic Tank Text Archive File

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Pages 7-9: winter 1990 A reply to "The Last Hurrah...." THE INERRANCY DOCTRINE IS FOUND TO BE IMPREGNABLE Jerry Moffitt It is with great pleasure that I lift my pen in defense of God's word. Surely it is an act of grand benevolence that men can be allowed to so serve an all-powerful God. But God's goodness toward us is surely equaled by His love and patience toward skeptics in that He allows His eternal existence and His act of revealing His will to man to be so loudly but ineptly challenged by what must appear to Him to be but microscopic specks in the universe. Yet, I do not want to take away from the fact that the editor of The Skeptical Review graciously invited me to respond to the article "The Last Hurrah of the Inerrancy Doctrine." On the editor's part, it is truly an act of justice, honesty, and fairness, all of which traits Mr. Till learned from the Bible rather than from skepticism. As a soldier of Christ (II Tim. 2:3), whose weapons are not of the flesh (II Cor. 10:3-5), I do not want to appear crass, cold, or vituperative. However, Jesus dealt with different people in different ways, so in this situation I choose to be bold, frank, and bluntly honest throughout. Mr. Till's article seems to me to be little more than several pages of orchestrated malarkey. It is held together with bubble gum and kite string. He comes to us bent over double with wild assertions, and if he has one keen ability, it is to invent imaginative straw men none of us ever believed. The article starts off "kind of funny in the head" and then it gets even worse. Let me quickly deal with all that sort of "stuff," and then I want to deal with the two best of what could be called arguments. ASSERTIONS He claims there are discrepancies, absurdities, scientific errors, and contradictions in the genealogical records and the synoptic gospels that make the Bible a veritable maze of irreconcilable contradictions. He claims that an age of increased scientific enlightenment has cut deep inroads into the inerrancy doctrine. Now if such assertions were facts, inerrancy would be in extremely deep trouble. But such boastful claims are not new. Thomas Paine thought his The Age of Reason would destroy the Bible. He predicted that within one hundred years Bibles would be found only in "museums or in musty corners of second-hand bookstores." He died in 1809, and today the Bible remains a bestseller. Voltaire said it took centuries to build up Chris- tianity and "I'll show how just one Frenchman can destroy it within fifty years." Twenty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society purchased his house to be used to print the Bible. Later it became the Paris headquar- ters for the British and Foreign Bible society. I do not wish to be unkind, but I sincerely believe Farrell Till is no Voltaire, and The Skeptical Review is no Age of Reason. I challenge Mr. Till to continue to invite me and his other opponents to review every so-called discrepancy, absur-dity, and contradic- tion he imagines. We will, by God's help, show that there are no true contradictions proven to be in the Bible. Further, we will be glad to show just how kind archaeology has been to the Bible. But this one thing we will admit: the Bible predicted that there would always be apostasy and false teaching (II Tim. 3:13; I Tim. 4:1-3; I Jn. 4:1; II Pet. 2:1-3). Liberalism, modernism, and higher criticism fulfill, in part, those predictions. We do not find it strange that liberals deny inerrancy. Knowing that they also deny almost every other major doctrine of Christianity as well makes it useless that Mr. Till the skeptic seeks help from them. Liberals do not believe in iner- rancy, true. They also do not believe in biblical miracles, hell, heaven, that Jesus Christ was God, or that there is a personal devil. The problem is not the Bible; it is a problem of liberalism, which is simply the age-old prob- lem of unbelief. Mr. Till asserts that early Christian apologists claimed all copies and translations were inspired. We all, even today, speak in similar language of copies and versions. That does not mean we do not recognize tampering exists, that parts of a version may not have been rendered faithfully by translators, or that only the originals were inerrant. The apostles knew their words could be twisted (II Pet. 3:16). They even warned against adding to or taking from them, (Rev. 22:18-19). Pickering (The Identity of the New Testament Text, p. 107) says the following: Marcion's truncated canon evidently stirred the faithful to define the true canon. But Marcion also altered the wording of Luke and Paul's Epistles, and by their bitter complaints it is clear that the faithful were both aware and concerned... Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth (168-176), complained that his own letters had been tampered with, and worse yet the Holy Scriptures also. Irenaeus defended 666 over 616 as the correct number in Revelation 13:18. He warned of future punishment for those who changed the text. No, they did not argue that every version or copy was inspired, inerrant, untampered with or unchanged; they knew certain versions, like Marcion's, could deviate from the original. Till asserts that after losing a decisive battle on all copies and transla- tions being inspired, we retreated to the position that only the original manuscripts were inspired. The above quotations regarding Marcion's version prove that claim silly, and for lack of a better name we will call all that "unremittent hokum" and go on toward more responsible claims. As for higher criticism, the more we study it the less confidence we have in it. Spawned by German liberalism, which denied the miracles of the Bible, its roots lie in the attempt to explain away miraculous prophecy. To do that, they must try to prove the prophecy was made at the same time or after, not before, the event. Thus, they have to claim the prophecy wasnot made at the time it claims or by the prophet it claims. Having first settled all that in their minds, they then set out to prove it by higher criticism. Again, I do not want to be uncharitable, but I suspect that regarding such writers the more warm and overheated their imagination, the more the editor of The Skeptical Review will cherish them. He claims that the theist who says, "You cannot disprove the existence of God, so it must be true that God does exist," is guilty of the argument from ignorance. So he says that to demand that those who question the iner- rancy doctrine prove that inerrant original autographs did not at one time exist is a resort to the argument from ignorance. Will someone inform him it is equally true that to demand proof from opponents of his errancy doctrine that errant original autographs did not at one time exist is a resort to his argument from ignorance? What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gan- der. The truth is, what we say is this: he must take the multitude of copies that do exist and show that no other explanation is possible than that they came from errant originals. If he fails to do this, he utterly fails to disprove the Bible is inspired and inerrant in the original autographs. ONE "ARGUMENT" He argues through Paul Achtemeier that the inerrancy doctrine makes God look perfectly ridiculous for this reason: "If God thought errorless Scripture important enough to inspire its composition, he would surely also have further inspired its copying, so that it might remain error free.... If it is not important for us, why was it important originally?" First, we are not so bold as to decree what is and what is not important to God. For all we know, He may well have gotten across His will to man through errant originals if He had chosen to do so. The originals may just happen to be inerrant because in the truest sense of the word they are God's word, and God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2), and neither can the Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13) affirm error. Second, God often brings an original thing into existence--as He did Adam and Eve--by miracle; then He wants that item to carry on and produce naturally, under mere providence. Third, on top of that, we have a Bureau of Standards on which we may check all copies. God may have wanted perfect standards to be available to those who really seek. We believe that in the thousands of manuscripts available today, we have all the original readings. The science of textual criticism assures us of that very fact. After all, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," (Matt. 24:35). ANOTHER "ARGUMENT"--EXODUS 6:16-20 Mr. Till says according to Exodus 12:40 the Israelites sojourned in Egypt 430 years. But Exodus 6:16-20 indicates that there were only three genera- tions between Levi and Moses and Aaron. That would stretch things to get even 352 years from those generations. We agree with that, if there were only three generations, but the Bible often gives genealogies by listing the main characters in the genealogies according to the general purpose of the writer. Notice Matthew 1:1: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Between Christ and David 26 ancestors are left out. Between Abraham and David 12 ancestors are left out. That was the way they abbreviated accord- ing to their own individual purposes. As for Exodus 6:16-20, I Chronicles 6:1-3, and I Chronicles 23:6-16, let us notice it is a similar case. Gleason Archer (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficul- ties, pp. 111-112) says: In common with almost all the genealogies of this type recorded in the Pentateuch (cf. Numbers 26:28-34), the general practice is fol lowed in Exodus 6 of listing a person's family tree by tribe, clan, and family group. Archer further points out that Numbers 3:27-28 says the combined total of Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites came to 8,600. If Amram claimed one fourth of those and if that same Amram fathered Moses and Aaron, as Till argues, Moses and Aaron (by Till's argumentation) would have had around 2,150 brothers. That should be hard for even a dedicated skeptic like Farrell Till to swallow. No, these figures indicate the genealogy of Exodus 6:16-20 is listing only the main links just as Matthew does in Matthew 1:1. The first Amram is a kind of clan head of a person's family tree. Furthermore, Archer points out that other genealogies in I Chronicles indicate that there were nine or ten generations between the sons of Jacob and the time of Moses. There were ten links between Ephraim and Joshua (I Chron. 7:25), seven between Bezalel and Jacob (I Chron. 2:1-20), and nine between Elishama and Jacob (I Chron. 7:22-27). Nine or ten links fit the 430-year time span perfectly. Agreeing with all this, Arndt says (Bible Difficulties, p. 80), "It was not at all uncommon in the Hebrew genealogical tables to omit names which were considered unimportant." In the old classic work of John Haley (Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, p. 420), Haley says, "It has been conclusively shown by Kurtz and others that the omission of several names in a genealogy was common; and the words 'bear' and 'beget' are used with reference to somewhat remote ancestors." So all that is the best Mr. Till can bring up, and it has all been an- swered time and time again, long, long ago, over and over. CONCLUSION The truth is that the Bible is inerrant, absolutely so in all its original autographs. God cannot lie and scripture is His word (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; I Jn. 2:21; II Tim. 3:16-17). Notice a few quotations: "Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is truth," (Ps. 119:142). "The sum of thy word is truth," (Ps. 119:160). "And now, O Lord Jehovah, thou art God, and thy words are truth," (II Sam. 7:28). Jesus said not one jot or one tittle would pass away from the law till all things be accomplished, (Matt. 5:17-19). A jot was not only a single letter; it was the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Some Hebrew characters looked alike, so writers distinguished between them by putting a little horn out on the ends of some of them. That tiny horn was called a tittle. It is Jesus' way of saying the dotting of the i's or the crossing of the t's would not pass away until all things were accomplished. Truly, "the scripture cannot be broken," (Jn. 10:35). (Jerry Moffitt's address is 709 Cass, Harrisonville, MO 64701.) EDITOR'S NOTE: With a few inches of available space left in this issue, we were tempted to comment on Mr. Moffitt's "explanations" of the contradictions identified in the article he replied to, especially the old "skipped-generations" theory he used to reconcile the Exodus-6 genealogy with the Bible claim of a 430-year Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Not wanting to take unfair advantage in a situation Mr. Moffitt could not immediately react to, we proposed another exchange on the subject for our spring issue that will be mailed in late March, and he has accepted the invitation. Farrell Till will show that, con- trary to the Archer-Haley-Arndt-Moffitt theory of skipped generations, a proper interpretation of the Bible proves that the writer of the Exodus-6 genealogy intended for readers to see it as a complete family tree from Israel (Jacob) through Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron. Mr. Moffitt will respond. We suggest that readers keep this issue of TSR available for reference. In his article, Mr. Moffitt challenged us to continue to invite him and others to "review every so-called discrepancy, absur-dity, and contradiction he (Till) imagines." We hope this second invitation will convince him that we intend to do just that. (Jerry Moffitt's address P. O. Box 1275, Portland, TX 78374-1275.) ******************************** FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to The Skeptical Review can be obtained by writing to P. O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank