The Bible: Infallible, literal, without contradiction?

One of these days I might learn to keep my mouth shut during conversations about politics and religion, but I don’t expect that day to come anytime soon.

This morning, during a debate about the infallibility of scripture, I presented some verses that I considered evidence of discrepancy in the Bible. This didn’t go over too well, as I was loudly informed by a coworker that I should accept on faith that the Bible is the infallible word of God. My explanation that believing the holy text is inspired but can’t always be taken literally, fell on deaf ears.

Anyway, I used the following verses from Genesis to prove my point. After spending a little more time studying different translations of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that the King James Version might have been the real culprit.

Genesis 1:25-26 (King James Version)

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 2:18-19 (King James Version)

18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Now, clearly, the first chapter states that God made animals first, man second. The second chapter tells it in reverse. That seems to be a glaring discrepancy, but watch what happens with the same verses in a different translation.

Genesis 2:18-19 (New International Version)

18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

By changing a couple of words, this verse seems to define the creation of animals as something that had already happened, a contradiction to the KJV, but in-line with the story told in the first chapter. I’m not sure which translation is more accurate, but I’ve looked into how the NIV was compiled, and it seems like it should be very close to the original texts.

I do have one problem with the NIV – they use the word “homosexual”, even though no such word existed in Biblical times. At least according to the research that I have done.

We all interpret the Bible when we read it, and a translation is just someone’s interpretation of the original texts. Therefore I don’t see how it is possible for someone to so vehemently believe that the translation they are reading is infallible. After all, even the Bibles that are commonly used in churches across the world aren’t always in agreement.

My point is this… it doesn’t matter whether we believe the Bible is literal or not, infallible or not, whether it contains contradictions; most of us agree that it is a holy work that is inspired by God and contains an infinite amount of wisdom. That’s more than enough reason to take it seriously.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

7 thoughts on “The Bible: Infallible, literal, without contradiction?”

  1. An author named Leslie Newbigin (whom I think everyone should read) put it this way, roughly:

    There’s an idea out there that it is possible to get at the real truth of the text – a truth that cannot be subject to interpretation. It’s completely objective. But that would only be the case for the Christian Gospel if Jesus had actually written things out himself. In that case, we would have basically the equivalent of the Qur’an, and the Gospel would be forever glued to the culture and language of first-century Palestine.

    The Bible has contradictions, it’s just a fact. But it still reveals God to us; it still tells us of the Good News; it’s still the living Word of God.

    Just my own thoughts in a nutshell…

  2. I don’t consider the NIV a very credible source for precisely this reason. It definitely seems to impose a certain bias in its translations to support its theological agenda. Those two chapters of Genesis actually come from two different creation myths, from two different traditions, that were merged into Genesis. The first chapter comes from the Priestly source, P, while the second chapter comes from the Yahwist source, H.

    To me, the Bible is a record of how human faith communities historically tried to understand God. It is a human document about God, not the literal word of God. Jack Good, a UCC pastor, refers to the Bible as a family album of the community of faith, and I like that analogy.

  3. thanks for this link, brian. i have a new reader over at that loves to leave comments with just bible verses, the homosexuality verses in particular. i commented back with this link.

  4. Well, it might seems contradictory, but when you lay your eyes on the related versus, you will know that there is an explanation.

    Isaiah 34:16 Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.

    You read those verses and found inconsistencies. I think it is the right time to reason with God:

    Isaiah 1:18-20 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

    I welcome you to the world of reality. To the world of consistency:

    [link removed]

    Isaiah 29:

    10 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep:
    He has sealed your eyes (the prophets
    he has covered your heads (the seers).

    11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I don’t know how to read.”

    13 The Lord says:
    “These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    Their worship of me
    is made up only of rules taught by men.

    14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
    the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

    15 Woe to those who go to great depths
    to hide their plans from the LORD,
    who do their work in darkness and think,
    “Who sees us? Who will know?”

    16 You turn things upside down,
    as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
    Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
    “He did not make me”?
    Can the pot say of the potter,
    “He knows nothing”?

    17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
    and the fertile field seem like a forest?

    18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see.

    19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
    the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

    20 The ruthless will vanish,
    the mockers will disappear,
    and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-

    21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty,
    who ensnare the defender in court
    and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

    22 Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
    “No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
    no longer will their faces grow pale.

    23 When they see among them their children,
    the work of my hands,
    they will keep my name holy;
    they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

    24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
    those who complain will accept instruction.”

  5. Here’s what we know for certain. The bible was not written in English. Even so, is there an English translation before King James? What about the missing scriptures? What about the gospel according to Judas? What about 2000 years later Mary Magdaline not being a prostitute after all? It’s not the translation that is the issue. It’s the interpretation and what powers those interpretations serve.

    Condemning people who do not believe the bible is the literal word of God is redundant if one truly believes such a thing for non believers are already condemned by God. Are they to speak for God? Are they to pass judgment in God’s name. I think Revelations has some things to say about false prophets and those that would masquerade as God’s authority. Even Revelations in the the King James version.

  6. My opinion on any version of any “holy book” re-written again and again by eletist organisations over centuries to enslave the masses and retain the wealth & power.

    Toilet paper.

    There is no cospiracy though….virgin birth? walking on water? healing the sick? rising from the dead?!!!
    Not asking you to blindly believe much, are they?
    Oh, and thanks for the money. Most of which does not go to helping the poor and sick of the world ala “what jesus would do”. No, most organised religions have extensive portfolios with GEC Marconi etc.
    In other words they make fortunes from war. Check and see.

    My Core Beliefs:

    There is no god outwith ourselves. WE ARE god. That’s why god is omnipotent. Anywhere you go *woof!* there god is!
    Think for yourselves. Trust yer gut. And your heart.
    We’re ‘in religion’ right now.
    Living it.
    I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to be.
    Nearly there.

  7. Davey,

    You have a very interesting way of expressing your “religious” beliefs! ;)

    I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I respect them. I actually think the reasoning about omnipotence was pretty brilliant.

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