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Paul Meyer's First Defense

Contrary to your opening statement, I did not use the Bible as a means to defend itself, but rather as a means to show the authority, definition and origin of a belief in inerrancy. I have always found it helpful to define these things at the opening of a debate or a discussion such that both parties can at least agree on what they disagree.

As to your understanding of how God would choose to preserve a communication from Himself to man, I rather think He can do as He chooses. Your argument is, if God inspired the original writers then He must equally inspire every translator, copyist and editor down through the ages in a similar way. It is a weak argument to attack inerrancy on the basis that God's choice and means of preserving His word are not the means you like. There is no unfairness to those born centuries after the original writing as long as (according to 2 Timothy 3.16 & 17) the writing is still sufficient to provide adequate teaching such that a person can be equipped to do and be right by God. Truth is, God does not have to make sense to you or me as far as His ultimate plan. In fact, considering that God is all-knowing, then you and I are not going to completely comprehend Him.

In your third paragraph you disparage the example I gave of the list of kings and their accuracy in the Old Testament (my source was Robert D. Wilson’s ‘A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament’). You wildly err in stating that archeologists date such writing as between 70 AD and 400 AD. This is ludicrous, and I cannot find a single archeologist that agrees with such a statement. I will assume you made a mental error. You also disparage my quote of W.F. Albright , so be it, but in reading from the material on your web page, I do note that you are unafraid of quoting people (Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, for example) who seem to agree with your point of view. (By the way, I would challenge you to name one prominent archeologist specializing in the Ancient Near East who seriously discredits the Bible, or to find any ten [the Bible has many more human authors] authors of antiquity that agree on any one controversial issue [the Bible authors agree on dozens of controversial issues]) Not being a scholar myself, I have to rely on the scholarly works of others, and as I do, I will acknowledge my sources.

The statement, "For instance when the Bible says that the earth is motionless (I'm not sure of the exact passage), that's something that can be taken literally. It shows the exact perception of the universe of the time. " Actually, the statement I believe you refer to is in reference to the ‘the day the sun stood still’ (Joshua 10.13), which may imply a motionless earth for one day, but not necessarily. One obviously can neither prove nor disprove the data presented in such a passage. Only an anti-supernatural presupposition and/or bias would rule out the possibility. However, one can determine quite readily from the context whether a particular passage is poetry or narrative. There are very few disagreements on this. I am merely asking that you come to the Bible with only the normal views and considerations of literature.

You write, "These aren't poets writing the Bible, these are fairly uneducated men." I really am at a loss on how to respond to this sort of grandiose prejudice. I think even our educational system for all its flaws recognizes the excellent literary value of the Bible. There is no more sophisticated and educated writer in the Ancient Near East than Moses (in the first five books of the Bible), including some poetic portions. It is clear that if the narrative concerning his birth is not true, then something very much like it is true. His writing alone, its depth, precision, word choice and use of language support the historical claim that he was raised and taught by some of the most educated people. Further, you actually claim that the poetic works of the Psalms were not written by an educated poet? I beg to differ.

As to your paragraphs concerning modern man’s inability to determine what exactly happened in history, even yesterday’s newspaper has exactly the same problem as you attribute to the Bible. Your statements therefore seem to be irrelevant (and unnecessarily prejudicial). I do agree with your statement of the probability of error in any written work. Those who debate in favor of inerrancy must be satisfied with the probability of their correctness. Those who argue for errors in the Bible need to merely show one. I understand that I cannot prove the Bible inerrant, but I can show with relative ease that the Bible is an ancient, abnormally accurate work of literature. If this is demonstrated, and no clear errors can be found, then I accept as reasonable the biblical claim of inerrancy. The assertion does not prove the premise, but the assertion does provide all critics with an interesting challenge. As I stated in my introduction, though, the burden of proof falls on the accuser.

I would ask that you base your assertion of numerous errors in the Bible not on the anonymous publications and assertions of critics, but on physical, historical, objective and empirical evidence. Also, it is hardly profitable for you to claim ‘tons of these types of contradictions in the Bible’. If you will, don’t give me the ‘tons’ of ‘ore’, give me ‘one ounce of pure gold’, and I will concede. The emotional opinions of critics are not worthy of our consideration. As for the Gospel of Thomas (of which the evidence points to another author beside the Apostle Thomas) and various other works that have been historically rejected from the canon of Scripture, I do not intend to defend their accuracy. Your argument here, is simply setting up a straw man and destroying him, but it has no relevance to our debate. Let us deal solely with the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. It is well known that no empirical evidence points to any author of any Gospel except for the named author. Arguments from internal evidence are very subjective, and mostly ‘cut both ways’.

The quote of the Apostle Peter in Acts 10.36 is perfectly consistent with the purpose of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Peter understood that Jesus did primarily come to this earth to bring mankind peace with God. Every New Testament author confirms this. There is nothing contradictory about Jesus warning His would be followers what loyalty to Him (or participating in His peace) would mean. It would mean divisions and strife in even families. Jesus’ death was in God’s plan to provide a means of reconciling sinful men to God. James 4.4 states, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” This peace and reconciliation with God do not rule out an enmity (and even open hostility) with those in this world who continue to reject God.

The statement of Jesus, forgiving the dying thief and promising to be with him in Paradise on that very day is perfectly consistent with the prophecy of Jonah presented by Jesus. Jesus would be dead and buried for three days and nights. The reference to the heart of the earth is simply an idiom for being dead. One of the areas of reality that is most dealt with by literature with idioms and euphemisms is death. This is still true. And, indeed, the body of Jesus was in the grave for that period of time. There is a reference in I Peter 3.18,19 to Jesus preaching to the dead of Noah's time during those three days, but that certainly does not state that Jesus remained with them for the entire time, nor does it imply that he could not have seen the executed thief in Paradise. There is no contradiction, nor even the implication of one to the person who would carefully and honestly consider what is written.

I find it quite humorous that you attack as a non-existent prophecy and a lie the words of Jesus and Paul confirming the suffering and death of Jesus from the Old Testament, when in a prior paragraph you cite the exact prophecy of Jonah (as I mentioned in a previous paragraph). The sequence is important. As a penalty for sin, Jonah is swallowed by a large sea creature and held within for three days and nights (written about 700 BC). Prior to His death (about AD 30) Jesus states that Jonah being in the depth of the sea creature for three days and nights, is actually a prophetic sign of what will transpire in just a few weeks to Him. Then after the resurrection, an angel and Jesus Himself remind His followers of the fulfillment of that sign.

The Gospel of Matthew presents very credibly the fact that there are prophecies (it is plural) concerning Jesus being ‘called a Nazarene’. Isaiah 11.1 states that the Messiah will be called ‘the branch’ (the Hebrew consonantal text uses the same three consonants as are in Nazareth [reference: Thayer’s Lexicon. page 422] to denote an insignificant or contemptible beginning). Such word plays are common throughout the Old Testament in particular. in fact, the name of each of the 12 sons of Jacob is a word play. (One will not find Nazareth or Nazarene in a word search unless one uses a Hebrew concordance. Remember, I only claim the inerrancy of the original). Also, Isaiah 53.3 and Psalm 22.6 note that the Messiah will be held in contempt by many. Indeed, the term Nazarene was used (see Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich; Greek-English Lexicon. page 534 ) as a term separate from the city of Nazareth. It was used as a term of derision in the first century in partial fulfillment of those prophecies. It was long ago predicted that Jesus would be held in contempt.

The inerrancy of Scripture is an awesome proposition. But, those who critically approach the Bible with logic and honesty (and a little study) can find reasonable alternatives to what may at first appear to be contradiction or error. I greatly encourage you to maintain your critical approach in all your studies. Refuse to accept the prejudices, politically correct views and myths of our American culture and educational system. Rather, as Proverbs 23.23 states, “ Buy truth, and do not sell it. Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”