mistakes in the bible?

This experience happened at a campmeeting held in Germany August 6-13 2006.  Because it involves leader-type figures in Seventh-day Adventism, real names have been used so readers of this can be responsibly informed.

David Kang of Light to Live Ministries, and John Davis of Orion Publishing both believe that there are mistakes in the Bible.

While having supper with Brother Kang one evening, i introduced the 1858 Great Controversy book, and showed him a few things after he had asked why i was promoting it.  I told him i believed all the words in it are from God, and showed him one place in chapter 30 where it says what the apostles wrote in the Bible was: “dictated by the Holy Ghost”.  He smiled and said something like: “of course we don’t believe the Bible was dictated do we?”, and when i answered that some, including myself, DO believe that way, he got very serious and said that i was going against the Spirit of Prophecy, and that he would bring me a quote showing that belief was false. 

He said: “Do you believe Paul was inspired when he asked someone to bring his coat?”  I replied in the affirmative.  He continued: “We know that there are some minor mistakes in the Bible.  For example, one writer says Mary Magdalene ran first to the tomb, while others don’t.  Some of the numbers given don’t match up.  And one writer even attributes a quote to Jeremiah when we know it was actually in Isaiah!  Do you believe the Holy Spirit dictated a mistake?”  I replied that “the Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict himself, and that we, being 2,000 years removed, may not know exactly the details of why that was given that way.  Just as with Paul’s coat, that exact phrase that the Holy Spirit had Paul write may have been just the thing to convince some doubter living at that time of the authenticity of that letter that it was indeed from Paul.”

That nite, just before bed time, he came by my room and handed me a quote from 1Selected Messages page 20 with these words underlined: “It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired.”  He asked if i rejected this, and i said that the Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict himself, and that i needed rest and would study it in the morning.  That nite i was praying and thinking.

The next morning i found the quote in Testimonies for the Church volume 26 that says: “The scribes of God wrote as they were dictated by the Holy Spirit, having no control of the work themselves.” and one other in Testimonies v.9: “One who has influence hints, or throws a doubt into minds suggesting that which Satan has suggested to them, that one scripture contradicts another…”

Also in the morning, i went to where Brother Davis was selling books, showing him this 1858GC book.  He showed interest, and asked why i was so interested in it, so i gave a short testimony about how it has really helped in my life, and that i wish to get the prophet’s words out to others so they can be blessed and prepare for what is coming too.  Somehow, i wasn’t expecting it, but the subject of the words being important came up, so i showed him also the quote in chapter 30 about what the apostles wrote was dictated by the Holy Ghost.  His reaction was very calm, but the words were about the same as Br. Kang’s: “We know the Holy Spirit didn’t dictate the Bible word for word.  There are some small mistakes in the Bible too you know.”  Ut-oh. Same song, second verse.  I said that God doesn’t make mistakes, and what looks like mistakes to us aren’t really.  Of course i do agree that translators were not inspired, and that the scribes did change a few things, but that the originals are the WORD OF GOD, and that our understanding is what may be the mistake, not God’s words.  All this was said very calmly, and then we parted.

The opportunity to present these quotes to Br. Kang came in the evening.  He saw me standing in the hallway, and in a friendly-like manner asked if i had read the quote.  I said i had, and showed him the quotes i had written down.  He did not know that there was a Testimonies volume 26, and had never seen that quote about dictation.  He suggested we go down to see John Davis and talk this over, and i thot that was an excellent idea too.  Normally i’m a very poor speaker, especially when in a stressful-challenged situation when talking to someone.  I heard too many arguments when little, and my natural impulse is to run away from any potential argumentative situations.  Of course i had been praying a lot during the previous nite and this day, asking God to give me words to speak, and that we can all stand together on the platform of truth.

And God worked a little miracle.  Here i am standing in front of John Davis and David Kang, having to defend the writing that the Bible is dictated by the Holy Spirit, and God seemingly stops time.  I give a clear testimony with not one stammer or repetition, and seem to be almost talking outside of myself.  Br. David shows the T.26 quote to Br. John showing his surprise at there being 26 volumes.  John does know about it, and they read it together.  Then they both say that the Bible is not dictated, that the Holy Spirit only inspired the ideas, and the words the various writers wrote of themselves.  David repeats the same thing about Mary Magdalene running first to the tomb in one Gospel writer’s account but not in the others, and about Jeremiah being quoted when it is actually Isaiah that he means to quote, and asks if i still believe that is dictated by the Holy Spirit.  “Yes”.  Then they read the quote about “contradicting” from T.9, and they both refute the idea that they implied the Bible was contradicting itself, but i reminded them that they were saying there were small mistakes in the Bible, like some numbers not matching up etc.

David Kang then said that he really feared for me, because he knows that i will run up against a wall believing this way one day.  I replied: “When you are in the courts giving a reason for your faith after the Sunday Law, and they find out you believe there are mistakes in the Bible, they will laugh you out of court”.

He said that most all the theologians have studied this and determined long ago that the Bible was not dictated like i’m saying.  I replied that most all theologians don’t believe the truth either.  He and John smiled, shook their heads, and we politely agreed to disagree.  This was all done in a room with others, and no one even noticed us, as no voices were raised or anything like that.

It makes me sorry to see that strong, standard-bearing, leaders in the work for Jesus spreading the 3 Angels’ Messages have a house built on sand.  But even sadder to think that their listeners may be influenced along these same lines too.  May we build our house upon the rock, so that when wind and rain and high tides come, we will stand secure knowing that we are living by “every word that comes out of the mouth of God”.

update; September 30, 2006
A professor of Spirit of Prophecy history at Newbold college came to the Athens Greece central SDA church this Sabbath and gave three lectures.  His name is Radisa Antic, and while being very solid on the sanctuary doctrine, he came out strongly in favor of little mistakes in the Bible.

He had just finished giving a rather uninspiring talk on why Ellen White is revelant today, quoting some worldly authors etc., and saying how we wouldn’t have all this SDA “stuff” like schools and hospitals etc. if she had not given the push, when he opened the floor to questions.  Around 60 were in attendance, probably 40% native English, 40% native Romanian or Bulgarian, and 20% native Greek.  One man asked about inspiration, and Professor Antic replied with standard SDA teaching: The words are not from God, only the main ideas behind the words are from God.

To prove from his point of view the mistakes in the Bible, he mentioned that one place says 70 people went with Jacob into Egypt, and another place says 75.  “But it doesn’t make any difference, it is not important.  What is important is that Jacob and his family DID go down into Egypt”.  He is clearly stating the same thing that David Kang was – that there are parts of the Bible that aren’t important.  So when we see these mistakes, we are just led to recognize that the writers were human like us, and could make mistakes.

“I appreciate your talk, Pastor, but the Bible has no mistakes in it”.  “Sure it does.  Don’t you believe the prophets could ever make mistakes?”  “Yes, but they didn’t write it down under inspiration, as inspiration has no mistakes”.  “What about Samuel when he went to anoint David?  He saw Jesse’s firstborn, and said: ‘Surely this is the anointed of the Lord'”.  “Yes, pastor, he was mistaken, Samson did bad things, but that doesn’t mean that what was written down in the Bible about them was mistaken”.  This exchange took place after the lecture, when i went to where he was sitting in the front row to talk with him personally. 

I had just very briefly shown him the 1858 Great Controversy the nite before, telling him i would like to show it to him on Sabbath afternoon, so i took this opportunity to do that also.  He picked up the book and looked thru it and within 3 seconds started telling me that Ellen White set up trustees for her works in her will before she died, and they have authority to do this work, and that i should not be doing this, and if Ellen White was here, she would tell me not to do this work.

I just smiled and said something about the need to spread God’s words, and proffered my hand which he shook warmly, then went back to my seat and listened to his last lecture, about Hebrews 6 and the sanctuary (which was very good).  He did make me smile a couple of times as he painstakingly showed how some word in the text was so important, and compared it to other places in the Bible, even making a big point out of “Day” having a capital “D” in one place – ha!  I shook his hand again after the meeting and said “God bless”.

Below are probably the Bible texts he is referring to as being “mistaken”.  I think it is very strange with all these people who think the Bible has “little mistakes” in it, they never come straight out and tell which one of the places they think is mistaken, and which one is correct!!

Gen 46:26  All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six;
27  And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.

Act 7:14  Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

NOTE: Post written October 1, 2006

13 thoughts on “mistakes in the bible?”

  1. This is serious – How will you stand before a court of Law to defend the Word of God when you very well believe this word (the bible) has mistakes! What book will you quote?

    George (Switzerland)

  2. The quote below from Early Writings pages 220 and 221 indicates that there were some changes to the Bible when it was being copied back when copies were few. This does not indicate that it was uninspired as written originally in any way. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16. “All Scripture…”
    I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible; yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed. {EW 220.2}

  3. Just some more searching today reveals two interesting sites related to the issue of inspiration. One is by professor Damsteegt at Andrews University. He is quite strong in his belief that the Bible is “the word of God”, and “the words of God”.

    The second one appears to be an anti-SDA, anti-Ellen White site. But it brings up two or three very interesting things not known to most of us SDAs:
    1. The writings of Ellen White have been changed.
    2. The church does not believe her writings or the Bible itself are directly from God.
    3. The book “Sketches from the Life of Paul” (1883) is basically just a copy of some else’s book, so to avoid problems, the SDA publishing houses stopped printing it.

    There is a very interesting quote in the above article:
    In the November 19, 1992 issue of the Adventist Review, the faithful were given notice of the legitimacy of rewriting Ellen White. On page 8, Paul A. Gordon, secretary of the White Estate asked: “Is it legitimate to change, abridge, or simplify Ellen White’s writing? The answer is yes. We can change, abridge, or simplify the words, but we do not have license to change the intended message. Here’s why: Seventh-day Adventists do not hold to verbal inspiration. That means we do not believe that God dictated the words for Ellen White to use.”

  4. Got a email today from Brother Eugene Prewitt. He is the Literature Evangelist Director and Educator of Ouachita Hills College.

    I heard an inspiring sermon by him on parallels between Elijah and God’s end-time church, and i sent him a email asking him to consider that the 3 1/2 year time frame is also directly linked to the 144,000. His reply was very much against that, but he said something against the belief that the Bible is “dictated”.
    So i sent him a quote from the 1858 Great Controversy showing that it IS dictated, and below is his convoluted reply:
    “Regarding dictation: It is a circular business. If the words are dictated, then the word ‘dictated’ means what you understand it to mean. If the words are not dictated, but are rather chosen by the prophet, than “dictated” could be just a not-best choice for expressing the origin of the words, as in “Satan is the authority behind mediums and makes them contradict things they wrote by means of the authority of the Holy Spirit.”
    The less clear passage, by rational hermeneutic, should be made clear by more on-topic statements. In other words, an article on the topic of inspiration and its nature is worth ten times as much as an inference from the choice of words in an article on another topic.”

  5. I understand that you believe God dictated the words of the Bible and Ellen White’s writings. I understand that you believe they are inerrant.

    How do you view the translation of Ellen White’s writings? For example in Pidgin (PNG) there are simply not enough words in the vocabulary to convey the message as it was originally.

  6. I’ve translated this 1858 Great Controversy into Japanese, and know that everything CAN be translated accurately (altho i did make some mistakes). If something needs to be added, then it can be italicized like in the English Bible.
    For Pidgin, perhaps you have to make up new words to get it all across, i don’t know.

  7. daniel, don’t pay much attention to those who engage in higher criticism of the Bible and the spirit of Prophesy. they are looking for reasons to doubt God’s word and when the time comes, they will give up the 3rd Angel’s message and join the world.

    As for mistakes in the Bible, that is absurd, the scriptures themselves say that every word of God [even though given through a human agent] is inspired. If God is God and so powerful, surely He can preserve His word for us through the ages.

    I don’t think God dictated the entire scripture, but He inspired the men to relate the truths given to them through their own words so as to be able to express it in a way we can understand.

    Read the introduction to The Great Controversy, v-vi. This says it all!

    One other thing, EG White warned us that leaders and men in high places who are either full of ego, or think they are great intellectuals, will try to lead the flock into error. I had to fight against this when a theology major at Southern [at that time SMC]years ago, and I confront this sort of thing here in America all of the time. Its scary!

    Tom, film and TV producer

  8. Denton, This book i am trying to spread is often called “Spiritual Gifts Volume 1” today. I’m just trying to print it in a more attractive manner, and cheaper, and by this, spreading it more widely.
    Review and Herald has recently split this book off from Spiritual Gifts Volume 2, and put it in paperback form. The url is here:
    In the original book, there are 219 pages, and the page size is small.

  9. Didn’t ellen white say to worship not on a saturday is the mark of the beast 666? Any way the bible is perfect not ellen white.

  10. What Ellen White wrote in her published books is just as perfect as in the Bible, because it is from the same spirit.
    In the future, when there are laws enforcing Sunday observance. then those who keep Sunday will receive the Mark of the Beast. I believe it is at that time that those who refuse the Mark of the Beast, will receive the Seal of God. But the Seal of God may come first, i’m not sure.

  11. What then is the conclusion, lets say about the numbers 70 and 75? What do you believe is the correct number?

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