Christians adopt a high view of the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible for a number of reasons, not least on the testimony of Jesus Christ himself. But what kinds of responses are available to those who question the truthfulness of certain sections of the Bible?
Paul Copan makes a number a helpful suggestions:-
- Clarify a passage by examining its context or by using clear passages to examine the unclear. Context reveals that “justify” and “works” in James 2 mean something different than they do in Romans 3. Also, the teaching of the NT letters can help us distinguish between historical descriptions in Acts and what’s normative for church life.
- Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. Skeptics may mention biblical cities that haven’t been discovered (though lots have been!), concluding that Scripture is unreliable. But earlier absence-of-evidence accusations regarding Abraham’s camels, the Hittite people, or the Davidic dynasty have been overturned by later archaeological discoveries, confirming Scripture.
- Be charitable toward the author. Let’s take an example here. Proverbs 26:4–5 advises (1) not to answer a fool according to his folly and then (2) to answer him! The skeptic’s charge of “stupidity” or “contradiction” is unrealistic. Surely we should give the benefit of the doubt to the wise compiler of Proverbs: he recognized that sometimes answering a fool is appropriate and that at other times silence is the best choice.
- What the Bible describes is often different from what it prescribes. Another example: while Scripture mentions Jephthah’s rash vow (Jdg 11), such a vow is not endorsed by God.
- The author may be using a literary strategy, making a particular theological point, or just observing; journalistic precision isn’t always his concern. Matthew 8 and 9 intentionally cluster miracles together; it’s not chronological. Matthew highlights Peter’s importance, thus downplaying his blunders included in other Gospels. The two “great lights” of Genesis 1, namely the sun and moon, are relatively small luminaries compared to other bodies we now know about in the universe, but the Bible’s reference is observational, not scientific (cp. “sunset,” not “earthturn”).
- We’ll have to be content to live with unanswered questions. Although there are many fine evangelical commentaries and scholars dealing with questions we may have, much will be hazy. We see through a glass darkly.
The Apologetics Study Bible