Hello brothers and sisters of Testify God:
Lately I’ve been confused about something, and I’d like to seek your help. I’ve believed in the Lord for decades, and I’ve always thought that the Bible was inspired by God. But lately, as I was reading through the scriptures, I was surprised to discover that the records in the Bible aren’t consistent. For example: In the Bible’s records regarding Peter’s three denials of the Lord, Matthew 26:34 says, “Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, That this night, before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.” But Mark 14:30 says, “And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, you shall deny me thrice.” Although both these passages regard the Denial of Peter, one says Peter will deny the Lord three times before the cock crows, and the other says before the cock crows twice, so there is an obvious inconsistency in the time. Also, the Old Testament records David numbering Israel. Samuel 24:1 states, “And again the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” But, 1 Chronicles 21:1 states, “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” Both passages relate to David numbering Israel, but one says that Jehovah moved David to number them, and the other says Satan moved David to number them. They are completely opposite in meaning. I was shocked when I discovered it. Why would the Bible contain contradictory records of the same event, even to the degree of being directly opposing claims? If all the words in the Bible were God’s Words and inspired by God, there shouldn’t be even the slightest error! I’m curious to know your views on this question? I hope my brothers and sisters at Testify God can help me resolve my confusion!
Hello Brother Liu Xun,
Greetings! The question you’ve asked is one that confuses many brothers and sisters. Why are there inconsistent records in the Bible?
To understand this question, we first have to know how the Bible was created and just what type of book it is.
Actually, many of our brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord know that the entire Bible is composed of the prophets’ books of prophecy, historical records, David’s psalms, the Book of Wisdom, the four gospels of the New Testament, the letters of the apostles, and Revelation. Of these, only the prophets’ books of prophecy and Revelation were inspired directly by God. The other portions, such as the five books of Moses and the books of Joshua to Esther in the Old Testament and the four gospels and letters of the apostles in the New Testament, are records written by people after experiencing God’s work. For example: From the historical records of God’s work in the Age of Law in the Old Testament, we can see how God chose the Israelites, how He led the Israelites out of Egypt, how they crossed the Jordan river, and how they entered Canaan; we can also learn of Saul’s, David’s, and Solomon’s reigns as kings. These historical records were all written from the memories of contemporary witnesses or later compilers, and they present a record of historical facts that actually happened. They were not inspired by God. In the New Testament, the four gospels written by men, such as Matthew and Mark, as well as the letters of people such as Peter and Paul also fall into this category. The gospels are records written down by men of things they saw and heard after becoming followers of God, and some are written for their brothers and sisters based on the circumstances of the church. Therefore, the four gospels and all the letters were not inspired by God either. Since only the books of the prophets and Revelation were directly inspired by God, and the other portions of the Bible are all based on the knowledge and experience of man, is it surprising that they contain inconsistencies? Is it possible that human notions wouldn’t contaminate them? It’s just as when people write about things that happened years ago. Who could write what happened without any errors or additions and subtractions? That’s impossible! This is why there are inconsistencies when Matthew and Mark recorded the Denial of Peter in the New Testament, and when Samuel and 1 Chronicles recorded David numbering Israel in the Old Testament. This is difficult to avoid. Human records will always contain errors, so this is easy to understand.
Are All the Words in the Bible Inspired by God?
But, if we say that only the books of the prophets and Revelation in the Bible were directly inspired by God, and the other portions of the Bible are all based on the knowledge and experience of man, then why is it written in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”? First, we must understand that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” was Paul’s own viewpoint. Did the ever say these words? Did the Holy Spirit ever testify to this fact in the Bible? If we investigate the Bible, we see that the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit never testified this fact. That Paul said this only represents that it was his own opinion, but this is not in accord with the truth.
Also, if we look at Paul’s statement, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” what portion of “scripture” is he referring to? We all know that Paul wrote 2 Timothy more than 60 years after the Lord came, and that the New Testament of the Bible had not been written into a book at that time. Only the Old Testament existed. It was only over 300 years after the Lord came, at the First Council of Nicaea, where religious leaders from every country selected the four gospels and the letters of men such as Paul, Peter, and John from among the many available, and then compiled these with Revelation as written by John to create the New Testament Scriptures. Afterward, they bound the Old Testament and New Testament to form today’s Bible, which is made up of both. This tells us that Paul wrote Timothy more than 200 years earlier than the New Testament Scriptures were decided, which in turn confirms that when Paul wrote that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” in his letter to Timothy, the “scripture” he referred to did not include the New Testament. From this, we can see that the belief that the entire Bible, though written by man, was inspired by God, is an absurd human understanding, one that does not fit with the facts.
I also read something related to this matter in another book, “Not everything in the Bible is a record of the words personally spoken by God. The Bible simply documents the previous two stages of God’s work, of which one part is a record of the foretellings of the prophets, and one part is the experiences and knowledge written by people used by God throughout the ages. Human experiences are tainted with human opinions and knowledge, which is unavoidable. In many of the books of the Bible are human conceptions, human biases, and human absurd interpretations. Of course, most of the words are the result of the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and they are correct interpretations—yet it still cannot be said that they are entirely accurate expressions of the truth.” “In fact, apart from the books of prophecy, most of the Old Testament is historical record. Some of the epistles of the New Testament come from people’s experiences, and some come from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit; the Pauline epistles, for example, arose from the work of a man, they were all the result of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, and they were written for the churches, were words of exhortation and encouragement for the brothers and sisters of the churches. They were not words spoken by the Holy Spirit—Paul could not speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit, and neither was he a prophet, much less did he see visions. His epistles were written for the churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, Galatia, and other churches. And thus, the Pauline epistles of the New Testament are epistles that Paul wrote for the churches, and not inspirations from the Holy Spirit, nor are they the direct utterances of the Holy Spirit. … If people see the epistles or words like Paul’s as the utterances of the Holy Spirit, and worship them as God, then it can only be said that they are too indiscriminating. To speak more harshly, isn’t this nothing but blasphemy? How could a man talk on behalf of God? And how could people bow down before the records of his epistles and of the words he spoke as if they were a holy book, or a heavenly book? Could the words of God be casually uttered by a man? How could a man talk on behalf of God?” (“Concerning the Bible (3)”).
This book states very clearly that the Bible contains God’s words, but it also contains beneficial letters from the apostles to their brothers and sisters in the church to address their burdens in life. This is a fact, so we should have discernment and view the Bible correctly. In the Bible, aside from the prophets conveyingand Revelation, God never directed anyone to convey His words, and even though the apostles’ letters are included in the Bible, they never claimed to have the inspiration of God in their writing. Before any of God’s words in the Bible, it is directly written that “Jehovah appeared to such and such a prophet,” “such and such a prophet was inspired by Jehovah,” “Jehovah said,” “Jehovah stated” or “the Lord Jesus said.” Anything fallout outside this category are the words of man, not God’s Words. If, because we are superstitious about the Bible or worship it, we say that all the words in the Bible are directly inspired by God or are God’s Word, this is an absurd misunderstanding that blasphemes God! Man’s words are man’s words, even if they are included in the Bible. This is an undeniable fact.
I hope our fellowship can help you see the issue more clearly. If you have any further questions, you are welcome to post again.
» You might be interested in: What Kind of Book Is the Bible?