Bible Inerrancy

Q. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about the concept of inerrancy in the Bible and what the fallout from either conclusion could potentially mean. i.e. “if there’s one error there might as well be 1,000” or “if its truly inspired by a God who cannot tell a lie then it must be 100% true”

I’m just wondering about what to make of certain things like Ahaziah’s age when he began to rule (22 according to 2 Kings 8:26 and 42 according to 2 Chronicles 22:2) Also the mention in my Bible’s commentary about the populations given in the book of Numbers were likely wrong given the populations of the world at that time. I believe the Word of God to be truth, but I know people who don’t and I would like to be able to point out where their mistake is. Can you help?

A. God’s word is inerrant, but unfortunately man’s translations are not always so. Usually all it takes is a little digging to clear up the apparent contradictions. Your example of Ahaziah’s age is a good one. According to 2 Chron. 21:20, if Ahaziah was 42 when he began to rule, he would have been older than his father who was 40 when he died and Ahaziah succeeded him. 22 is the correct age and 42 is an obvious translation error.

Some commentators have disputed Israel’s population numbers simply because they don’t believe them, not because there’s legitimate reason to doubt. Though these numbers have been carefully cross checked and judged to be valid, they claim the total in Numbers 2:32 should be about 6000, not 600,000. They arrive at this conclusion by saying that in chapter 2 the word for thousands should be translated as if it were hundreds. Remember only God’s word is inspired, not the human comments that accompany it. Ask yourself these questions. How does anyone know what the population of the world was at the time? And would a Jewish fighting force as small as they like to make it have so threatened the most powerful nation on earth that they would have resorted to infanticide to control them? Remember, the Jews had 400 years to multiply, lived on average 3 times as long as the Egyptians, and were blessed by God with extraordinary fertility (Exodus 1:7).

Like most things Bible inerrancy is a matter of the heart. (Many people who dispute inerrancy are really looking for a reason not to believe God’s word.) If you begin by trusting God and do a little homework when you find an apparent contradiction, you’ll find your belief confirmed. But if you begin by doubting Him and look for ways to support your doubts you can find them too. And you won’t have to do any homework.

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