Good advice on how to deal with Bible difficulties

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason L. Archer, 1982, p15-17 via http://www.bible.ca/b-alleged-bible-contradictions-refuted.htm.

In dealing with Bible problems of any kind, whether in factual or in doctrinal matters, it is well to follow appropriate guidelines in determining the solution. This is most easily done by those who have carefully and prayerfully studied the Bible over a number of years and have consistently and faithfully memorized Scripture. Some guidelines are as follows:

  1. Be fully persuaded in your own mind that an adequate explanation exists, even though you have not yet found it. The aerodynamic engineer may not under-stand how a bumble bee can fly; yet he trusts that there must be an adequate explanation for its fine performance since, as a matter of fact, it does fly! Even so we may have complete confidence that the divine Author preserved the human author of each book of the Bible from error or mistake as he wrote down the original manuscript of the sacred text.
  2. Avoid the fallacy of shifting from one a priori to its opposite every time an apparent problem arises. The Bible is either the inerrant Word of God or else it is an imperfect record by fallible men. Once we have come into agreement with Jesus that the Scripture is completely trustworthy and authoritative, then it is out of the question for us to shift over to the opposite assumption, that the Bible is only the errant record of fallible men as they wrote about God. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, as Jesus said, then it must be treated with respect, trust, and complete obedience. Unlike all other books known to man, the Scriptures come to us from God; and in them we confront the ever-living, ever-present God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When we are unable to understand God’s ways or are unable to comprehend His words, we must bow before Him in humility and patiently wait for Him to clear up the difficulty or to deliver us from our trials as He sees fit. There is very little that God will long withhold from the surrendered heart and mind of a true believer.
  3. Carefully study the context and framework of the verse in which the problem arises until you gain some idea of what the verse is intended to mean within its own setting. It may be necessary to study the entire book in which the verse occurs, carefully noting how each key term is used in other passages. Compare Scripture with Scripture, especially all those passages in other parts of the Bible that deal with the same subject or doctrine.
  4. Remember, no interpretation of Scripture is valid that is not based on careful exegesis, that is, on wholehearted commitment to determining what the ancient author meant by the words he used. This is accomplished by a painstaking study of the key words, as defined in the dictionaries (Hebrew and Greek) and as used in parallel passages. Research also the specific meaning of these words in idiomatic phrases as observed in other parts of the Bible. Consider how confused a foreigner must be when lie reacts in a daily American newspaper: „The prospectors made a strike yesterday up in the mountains.” „The union went on strike this morning.” „The batter made his third strike and was called out by the umpire.” „Strike up with the Star Spangled Banner.” „The fisherman got a good strike in the middle of the lake.” Presumably each of these completely different uses of the same word go back to the same parent and have the same etymology. But complete confusion may result from misunderstanding how the speaker meant the word to be used. Bear in mind that inerrancy involves acceptance of and belief in whatever the biblical author meant by the words he used. If he meant what he said in a literal way, it is wrong to take it figuratively; but if he meant what he said in a figurative way, it is wrong to take it literally. So we must engage in careful exegesis in order to find out what he meant in the light of contemporary conditions and usage. That takes hard work. Intuition or snap judgment may catch one up in a web of fallacy and subjective bias. This often results in heresy that hinders the cause of the Lord one professes to serve.
  5. In the case of parallel passages, the only method that can be justified is harmonization. That is to say, all the testimonies of the various witnesses are to be taken as trustworthy reports of what was said and done in their presence, even though they may have viewed the transaction from a slightly different perspective. When we sort them out, line them up, and put them together, we gain a fuller understanding of the event than we would obtain from any one testimony taken individually. But as with any properly conducted inquiry in a court of law, the judge and jury are expected to receive each witness’s testimony as true when viewed from his own perspective-unless, of course, he is exposed as an untrustworthy liar. Only injustice would be served by any other assumption-as, for example, that each witness is assumed to be untruthful unless his testimony is corroborated from outside sources. (This, of course, is the assumption made by opponents of the inerrancy of Scripture, and it leads them to totally false results.)
  6. Consult the best commentaries available, especially those written by Evangelical scholars who believe in the integrity of Scripture. A good 90 percent of the problems will be dealt with in good commentaries (see Bibliography). Good Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias may clear up many perplexities. An analytical concordance will help establish word usage (e.g., Strong’s, Young’s).
  7. Many Bible difficulties result from a minor error on the part of a copyist in the transmission of the text. In the Old Testament such transmissional errors may have resulted from a poor reading of the vowels; Hebrew was originally written in consonants only, and the vowel signs were not added until a thousand years after the completion of the Old Testament canon. But there are also some consonants that are easily confused because they look so much alike (e.g., [d, daleth] and 1 [r, resh] or ” [y, yod] and 1 [w, waw]). Besides that, some words are preserved in a very old spelling susceptible of misunderstanding by later Hebrew copyists. In other words, only a resort to textual criticism and its analysis of the most frequent types of confusion and mistake can clear up the difficulty (for bibliography on this, cf. Introduction). This takes in confusion of numerals also, where statistical errors are found in our present text of Scripture (e.g., 2 Kings 18:13).
  8. Whenever historical accounts of the Bible are called in question on the basis of alleged disagreement with the findings of archaeology or the testimony of ancient non-Hebrew documents, always remember that the Bible is itself an archaeological document of the highest caliber. It is simply crass bias for critics to hold that whenever a pagan record disagrees with the biblical account, it must be the Hebrew author that was in error. Pagan kings practiced self-laudatory propaganda, just as their modern counterparts do; and it is incredibly naive to suppose that simply because a statement was written in Assyrian cuneiform or Egyptian hieroglyphics it was more trustworthy and factual than the Word of God composed in Hebrew. No other ancient document in the B.C. period affords so many clear proofs of accuracy and integrity as does the Old Testament; so it is a violation of the rules of evidence to assume that the Bible statement is wrong every time it disagrees with a secular inscription or manuscript of some sort. Of all the documents known to man, only the Hebrew-Greek Scriptures have certified their accuracy and divine authority by a pattern of prediction and fulfillment completely beyond the capabilities of man and possible only for God.

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason L. Archer, 1982, p15-17

Read the entire article here –

http://www.bible.ca/b-alleged-bible-contradictions-refuted.htm. The site also offers a chart which resolves the alleged contradictions of:

  1. Why Mary didn’t know what had happened to Jesus’ body when she left the tomb.
  2. It is impossible to assume that Mary had left the group early.
  3. The Gospel of John contradicts the other three.

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