Difficulties in the Bible
Are there scriptures in the Bible that cause you difficulties? Confusing passages that make you question whether every teaching in the Bible is, after all, the Word of God? Do you ever wish you could just go through the Bible and take out those parts that you don’t agree with?
So what should we do if we have problems understanding some of these “difficult” passages in the Bible? Should we throw up our hands and give up our belief that the Bible is Gods’ Holy Word when we run into a road block? Some people have done that when they read passages in the Bible that they don’t like!
Where do these Biblical misunderstandings come from? First of all, God wouldn’t be God if we could fully understand Him or His Word! God is infinite and we are finite and when the finite tries to understand the infinite, there are bound to be difficulties. A difficulty understanding a Bible passage does not prove that that passage is untrue. Many of our difficulties with problem scriptures arise from our not being able to know all of the facts.
We do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible. These original manuscripts were copied many times with great care but naturally some human errors crept into the copies. And when the original manuscripts were translated into English possibly some of the meanings could have been lost or altered.
The first letter in the Hebrew alphabet denotes the number “1”: and with two little points-not larger than a flyspeck- above it, that same character denotes the number “1,000”. As you can see, a very slight error by the copyist would make a big change in the value of some of the numbers in the Bible.
Many difficulties arise not from what the Bible actually says, but from what we may interpret it to mean. A very large share of difficulties arises from readers not noticing who is speaking. Often the Bible simply records what others say; what good men say, what bad men say, and what angels and demons say. If these passages are mistakenly quoted as something that is true or something that God said then we can get into trouble.
Also the Bible is a book for all ages and for all kinds of people. It was written in the language that is understood by all: the language of the common people, and not in the terminology of science. If the Bible had been written in the terminology of the science of today, it would be out of date in a few years. And our ancestors wouldn’t have understood the scientific language at all. Also, large portions of the Bible are written in the language of poetry-the language of feeling, passion and imagination. If a person tries to read those passages literally she/he may have problems.
Another class of difficulties arises from our defective knowledge of the history, geography and customs of Bible times. We interpret our world and make our judgments from our twenty-first century perspectives. Because we are greatly influenced by the modern generation we are a part of, we may not even begin to understand the mindset of the people in our Bible stories who lived out their lives in ancient cultures that were totally different from ours.
Also we often see things from our one sided view whereas the truth is many-sided and the Bible is all-sided. So to our narrow view, one part of the Bible seems to contradict another. For example, we often profess to be either Calvinistic or Arminian-the Calvinists believing that God predestined everything; even our salvation, with us having a minor role- and the Arminians believing that we have free-will and choose to accept Christ or reject Him on our own with God having a minor role.
But our narrow minds often cannot take in God’s larger truth. We want it one way or the other, and sometimes there is truth on both sides of Gods’ mysteries. The Bible has many passages that reflect Calvinistic truth and many that reflect Arminian truth. The truth is many-sided and Gods’ ways are past finding out!
But there are many more difficulties for those who believe that the Bible is just another book written by humans. To a person who has this low view of Scripture you might ask: “How do you account for all of the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible if the Bible was written by people?” “How do you account for the unity of the sixty-six books of the Bible, written under such different circumstances and at periods of time so remote from one another?” “How do you account for the unsearchable depths of the Bible?” “And how do you account for the power the Bible has to change peoples’ lives, save them from their sins, and lift them up to God? And the magic Gods’ Word has to bring joy and peace and hope to people who believe its’ words?”
So how do we approach our problems with difficult passages in the Bible? First I think we can search for answers to our questions while keeping a humble spirit. We might recognize the limitations of our own mind and have faith that there is a solution to our difficulty. We can look for other scriptures in the Bible to throw light upon the scripture that is giving us problems. Nothing explains scripture like scripture. And of course we can study and trust and pray and ask God for wisdom to understand some of the scriptures that confuse us. God has given us a promise in the Bible that if any of us lack wisdom we can ask God for it and He will give it to us. (James 1:5) An amazing promise wouldn’t you say?
Psalm 119:18 reads: “Open my eyes that I may see, wondrous things from Your law.” Not only will God open our eyes in answer to our prayers to see wonderful things out of His law, but He will also open our eyes to look straight through a difficulty that seems impenetrable before we pray.
Next week we will continue discussing this same topic-difficulties in the Bible. And we will take up eight or ten difficulties that have bothered or confused Christians and Bible students over the years and try to at least partially answer them. We will discuss the first chapter of Genesis and whether it is historical and scientific. We will discuss the antiquity of human kind according to the Bible and according to science. And of course, where did Cain get his wife? Why does the Bible say that God sent King Saul an “evil” spirit? Could a God of Truth and Love send evil spirits? Were Jesus and Paul mistaken as to the time of our Lords’ return? And more!
If you have any difficulties or problems with certain Bible passages, please send in your questions and we will add them to the list and give them a try! Tune in next week for the