Note: This file is a condensed version of a chapter found in two of the authorís books, Refuting the Critics and A Ready Reply: Answering Challenging Questions About the Gospel. The most up-to-date, complete version of this article can be found in A Ready Reply.
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Why This Question Must Be Asked
Evangelical anti-Mormons point to the editorial changes made in the
post-1830 editions of the Book of Mormon as evidence that the record is not
inspired. They also view the
Most of the lay fundamentalists with whom I occasionally dialogue express the view that the doctrine of inerrancy applies to our present-day Bible, that is, that the Bible as we now have it is inerrant. Most fundamentalist scholars, on the other hand, take a somewhat different position. They maintain that the doctrine of inerrancy applies only to the "original autographs" of the Bible. However, notwithstanding this declaration, they are very hesitant to admit the presence of even the most obvious biblical errors. Gleason Archer's book, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, which is very popular among fundamentalists, is a prime example of this hesitancy. In attempting to explain undeniable errors, Archer provides answers that are strained and unconvincing. A number of his explanations constitute tacit admissions of error.
In discussing Bible difficulties, it is not my intent to denigrate or demean the Bible in any way. The Bible is scripture. It is sacred and inspired. However, it has not come down to us in perfect or complete form. Fortunately, being LDS, I am not bound by fundamentalism's either-or view of the Bible. Latter-day Saints do not accept the fundamentalist claim that the Bible must be perfect in every way or else it can't be from God. Thanks in large part to modern revelation, Mormons can look past the Bible's problems and appreciate its beauty, importance, and inspiration. Judged by any reasonable standard, the Bible is a literary and revelatory masterpiece, and it is an important source of information about returning to our Heavenly Father.
Personally, I am of the opinion that the doctrine of inerrancy is actually harmful to the Bible, (1) because it is unscriptural and demonstrably incorrect, and (2) because it sets up an indefensible "straw man" view of the book that can easily be demolished by atheists and other hostile critics.
The Bible vs. the Doctrine of Scriptural Inerrancy
In reality, it is not possible to discuss what the Bible says about itself since it was written by many different authors over a very long period of time. It must also be remembered that our present standard Protestant Bible of sixty-six canonical books was not settled upon until a few centuries ago. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians accept into their canons several so-called "apocryphal" books which are excluded in the Protestant Bible. And, there is no doubt that the early Christian canon went beyond the Protestant canon.
The Bible neither teaches nor logically implies the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. In fact, as many scholars have noted, just the opposite is the case. Indeed, the biblical authors certainly did not view scripture as perfect and unchangeable.
Does 2 Timothy 3:16 Support Biblical Inerrancy?
In 2 Timothy 3:16, the apostle Paul wrote:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Strangely enough, fundamentalists cite this verse to support the idea of
biblical inerrancy. However, this passage merely says that "all
scripture" is "profitable" for doctrine, reproof, etc. It says
nothing about scripture being "perfect," or "inerrant," or
"infallible," or "all-sufficient." If anything, Paul's
words constitute a refutation of the idea of scriptural inerrancy, as
The striking thing about 2 Tim. 3:16 is not its declaration of scriptural inspiration but its unstressed and low-key application of it. It is not remarkable that it says nothing about inerrancy or historical accuracy, which were not an issue at the time or until many centuries later; but, more important, it says nothing about scripture being the foundation of the Christian faith, or the ultimate criterion of its genuineness, or the decisive factor above all others in the understanding of it. What it does say is that scripture is useful, profitable for the needs of the pastoral ministry (1983:20, original emphasis)
In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul tells Timothy that "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (vs. 15). The only "holy scriptures" Timothy could have known from childhood were the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament. Yet, would any Christian assert that in Paul's view the Old Testament was the final and complete word of God to man? Of course not.
Verse 15 makes it clear that in speaking of "all scripture" Paul was referring to the Jewish scriptures and perhaps to some of his own epistles. The New Testament as we know it did not exist yet. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Paul's canon included some Jewish scriptures that are no longer found in the Old Testament, such as the book of Enoch (Barr 1983:25; 1984:4).
No Original Manuscripts
We do not possess the original manuscript for a single book in the Bible. What we have are copies of copies of copies many times over--and in several different languages.
The oldest manuscript support for the Old Testament is the
Next to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest extant text of the Old Testament is the Septuagint (also known as the LXX), preserved in codices from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. (Achtemeier 1985:1040-1041). The oldest of the remaining Old Testament manuscripts date to no earlier than the ninth century A.D.
As for the New Testament, there is one second-century fragment of John's gospel known as the Rylands fragment, but it is very small and contains only a few verses. The earliest substantial manuscript support for the New Testament comes from the Chester Beatty papyri, which date to the third century. These papyri contain most, but not all, of the books of the New Testament. The first complete New Testament manuscript is the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the fourth century. Therefore, the oldest papyri containing most of the books of the New Testament were written at least 120 years after the originals were composed, and the oldest complete New Testament manuscript postdates the original autographs by at least 220 years.
There are literally thousands of variant readings in the Bible manuscripts. No credible Bible scholar denies this. However, some scholars, most of them fundamentalists, assert that no central Bible doctrine is affected by the variant readings. This claim is demonstrably incorrect.
For example, in Hebrews 10:5-10, the epistle's author is quoting from the
book of Psalms to prove an important theological point: the preparation of a
Another case of variant readings affecting important doctrine can be found in Acts 2:26-28, where Peter is represented as quoting Psalm 16:9-11 as a prophecy of Jesus' resurrection. The problem is that Peter depends on the Septuagint version of Psalm 16, which is different from the Hebrew. Achtemeier explains:
Whereas the Hebrew speaks of God keeping the faithful servant [David] from the "pit " [i.e., the realm of the dead], the Septuagint translation speaks of keeping the "Holy One" from "corruption," a change that lies at the heart of the point Peter is making in this sermon. The prophecy of Jesus' resurrection depends on the Septuagint translation, which is again different from the Hebrew original (Achtemeier 1980:64)
And then there is the case of Ephesians 4:8. In this verse Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 to support his statement on the grace of Christ in Ephesians 4:7. The quoted words from the Psalms, and Paul's comments on them, "prepare the way for vs. 12, i.e. toward an appreciation of the cosmic relevance of the gifts given to the church" (Barth 1974b:430). However, Paul's version of Psalm 68:18 does not come from the Hebrew text, nor from the Septuagint, but from the Aramaic Targum, an ancient Jewish commentary on the Old Testament (Furnish 1971b:841; Mays 1217; Archer 404)! Also, Paul attributes the words from Psalm 68:18 to Christ, but the Aramaic Targum ascribes them to Moses (Furnish 1971b:841; Mays 1217).
We have considered some of the many cases where the New Testament authors find it necessary to follow the LXX over the Hebrew Old Testament. Says Richard F. Smith, "at times the LXX is cited [in the New Testament] in support of Christian doctrines precisely because the Hebrew text does not support the doctrines in question" (in Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy 2:511).
Further proof that variant readings affect important passages comes from Deuteronomy 32:8-9. In the Masoretic Text (MT), as it is translated in the KJV, the passage reads as follows:
When the most
High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of
Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children
However, it has long been known from the Septuagint, and more recently from
the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the phrase "according to the number of the
When the Most High [El Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LORD's [Yahweh's] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.
The significance of this variation is that in ancient times the term "sons of God" frequently referred to members of a divine assembly of gods. The ancient Hebrews believed in a divine council of deities headed by the supreme father-god El (also called Elohim or El Elyon), and they often referred to the members of this council as "the sons of God." There is considerable disagreement among scholars over the council's composition, but there is no serious question that a belief in a divine assembly of heavenly deities was an important doctrine in ancient Hebrew theology (Eissfeldt; Mullen; Hayman; Morgenstern; Hanson 39; Clifford; Ackerman; Ackroyd; Seaich 1983:9-23).
By changing "the sons of God" to "the children of
The LXX and Dead Sea Scroll versions of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 portray Yahweh as
separate from El and as a member of the divine assembly subordinate to Him. As
Niels Lemche says, "the Greek version apparently ranges Yahweh among the
sons of the Most High, that is, treats him as a member of the pantheon of gods
who are subordinate to the supreme
God, El Elyon" (226, emphasis added). According to
This verse no doubt preserves early
As the RSV puts it,
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint prove that in the original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Yahweh was portrayed as a member of the divine council under El. Therefore, those who subsequently tampered with the Hebrew text were probably Yahweh-only editors who wanted to erase the original distinction between El and Yahweh and to depict Yahweh as the one and only God.
Another serious problem is that there are considerable scriptural passages that are present in some manuscripts but that are completely missing in others. For example, the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is not found in any manuscript dating prior to the sixth century.
Furthermore, there are two endings of the Gospel of Mark, that is, there are two different versions of chapter 16. The shorter ending consists of verses 1-8, while the longer ending consists of verses 9-20. The verses comprising the longer ending are missing in many ancient texts, including the two oldest Greek manuscripts, the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (Metzger 1971:122-126). Yet, these verses record statements attributed to the Savior that are not found in the ending of any other Gospel. In addition, the two endings contain conflicting information about who went to Christ's tomb, who saw what, and who reported what to whom (more will be said about this below).
How are we to account for Mark's two different endings? An ancient Christian
scholar named Papias may have given us the answer. Papias lived in the early
part of the second century. He was the bishop of
All indications are that the New Testament manuscripts were tampered with at a very early stage. Citing Frederick Scrivener's book, A Plain Introduction To The Criticism Of The New Testament, J. Reuben Clark observed the following:
The changing of sacred writings had
very early become so common that Dionysius, bishop of
. . . [T]he Gospel of John was
revised from time to time and whole chapters--chapter 1 and 21 and probably
chapters 15-17--were added. . . . Chapter 14 ends with Jesus' exhortation to
his disciples "Rise, let us go from here." Chapters 15 through 17
consist of long speeches by Jesus appealing for unity. Chapter 18 rather
clearly picks up where Chapter 14 left off: Chapter 18 begins, "When Jesus
had spoken these words, he went forth with his
disciples across the
This editing could only have occurred before our earliest copies of John were produced, since those copies all contain twenty-one chapters.
In the case of the Old Testament, it is not possible to identify when the first acts of tampering or revisional editing were performed, since it was written over such a long period of time. However, scholars have long known that, to varying degrees, all of the sacred books of the Hebrews underwent editing, to include interpolation and deletion.
Problems in the LXX
As is well known, the ancient Christians viewed both the LXX and the Hebrew Old Testament as inspired. Yet, in most cases they preferred the LXX to the Hebrew version (see, for example, Skehan, MacRae, and Brown in Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy 2:569- 574). Traditional Christendom also accepts the inspiration of both the LXX and the Masoretic Text. Yet, as we have already seen, at times the Septuagint differs significantly from the Hebrew. Beyond this, there are problems with the LXX itself. Three prominent Catholic scholars, Patrick Skehan, George MacRae, and Raymond Brown, have observed that the Septuagint "contains translations that vary enormously in accuracy and style from one book to the next, and sometimes within a single book" (569). Richard F. Smith refers to "the mistranslations that frequently mar the version" (in Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy 2:511).
The geographical and other difficulties to be addressed below are problems that appear in our English Bible because they cannot be smoothed over or lessened by choosing one variant reading over another.
According to most modern versions of the Bible, Mark 5:1 refers to the
In the KJV, Mark 5:1 reads, "the country of the Gadarenes," but
this is based on inferior readings from the Greek texts. As mentioned above,
the best and oldest manuscripts read "the country of the Gerasenes."
In any event,
According to the KJV rendering of Matthew 8:28, the region
in question is named "the country of the Gergesenes." This
reading is based on inferior manuscript evidence and represents a scribal
addition by later copyists (Metzger 1971:23-24). The best textual evidence for
Matthew 8:28 reads "the country of the
Gadarenes," which is how it appears in the better modern translations of
Matthew. Again, though,
To add to the confusion, Luke 8:26 follows the geography attributed to Mark. Although the KJV reads "the country of the Gadarenes," this is another case of this version's reliance on inferior textual evidence. The better modern translations read "Gerasenes." Lindsey Pherigo sums up the situation with regard to Mark 5:1:
The general location [of the events
spoken of in Mark 5] is reported [in vs. 1] to be the E shore of the
Misidentified and/or Misquoted Scripture
In our present-day Bible, some New Testament authors misquote or misidentify passages from the Old Testament. Two well-known examples of misidentification are Matthew 27:9-10 and Mark 1:2. Achtemeier points out the following concerning these two scriptures:
That there are errors in the
"plain and obvious" sense of Scripture has long been seen by those
not committed to their denial. For example, Matt. 27:9-10 identifies a
quotation as coming from Jeremiah which appears nowhere in that book, but has
its closest parallel in Zech. 11 :12-13. All
conservative attempts to link Jeremiah with Zechariah in
In Matthew 2:6, a statement identified as a prophecy of the birthplace of
Jesus is quoted from Micah 5:2, but Micah says
More significantly, the final portion of Matthew 2:6 consists of a
conflation of the last part of Micah 5:2 with 2 Samuel 5:2. Matthew 2:6b reads,
"for out of thee shall come a governor, that
shall rule my people
In many cases the New Testament authors assign meanings to Old Testament passages that are neither stated nor implied in the passages themselves.
In Matthew 2:14-15 we are told that the child Jesus was brought out of
Morton Smith believes Matthew invented the story of the child Jesus being
The accusation that he [Christ] had
been in Egypt and learned magic there . . . was probably the reason for
Matthew's story of the flight into Egypt (2:13-2l)--a story known only to
Matthew and implicitly contradicted by Luke (who keeps the Holy Family near
Jerusalem for forty days to have Jesus presented in the temple, and then sends
them back to Galilee). But if Matthew's story is false, why was it invented?
Matthew says, "In order to fulfill that which was spoken by the Lord
through the prophet, saying, 'From Egypt I have called my son."' This is
another of Matthew's discoveries of a prophecy to justify what he wanted to
say. The reference of the prophetic text [i.e., Hosea 11:1] to the people of
Israel is so clear from its context that it would never have been pressed into
this unlikely service had Matthew not needed it to justify the story. The story
therefore needs another explanation and the likeliest one is to be found in its
apologetic utility--"Yes," it says in effect, "Jesus did spend
some time in
Personally, I think it is possible that Matthew was not referring to Hosea
11:1 as a literal prophecy, but as a symbolic type, an inspired prefiguring. In
other words, Matthew was in effect saying, "Just as
Other examples of where New Testament authors assign meanings to Old Testament passages that are neither stated nor implied in the passages themselves could be provided (e.g., Matthew 26:15 vs. Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 27:9-10 vs. Zechariah 11:12-13; Mark 15:24 vs. Psalm 22:18; Levine 13-67).
One of the pivotal chronological problems in the Bible is the length of Christ's mortal ministry. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all portray Jesus' public ministry as lasting no longer than a year, John indicates that it spanned at least three years (Eiselen, Lewis, and Downey 874-875; Achtemeier 1980:65; Wilson 58; Marshall 524; Foster 603-604). Over the centuries Bible scholars have ranged the length of Christ's ministry from one to four years, with each scholar justifying his view by citing some New Testament passages and being forced to discount others.
Matthew 27:15, Mark 15:6, Luke 23:17, and John 18:39 all speak of a Roman custom of releasing one prisoner at every Passover. According to the Gospels, the Roman governor Pilate mentioned and followed this custom when he released Barabbas. But history knows of no such custom. None of the many surviving Jewish and Roman historical sources mentions any such practice.
To further complicate matters, Roman governors did not have the authority to grant pardons. Jewish scholar Haim Cohn explains:
It was not the provincial governor, but solely the emperor in person, who had the power to grant pardons. For a governor to usurp that imperial prerogative would be an offense under the "Lex Julia," tantamount to treasonable excess of powers. No governor in his senses would risk being called to account for exceeding his powers and being prosecuted for a treasonable felony, just to curry favor with the native population. Nor is there any evidence to sustain the theory that the emperor had especially authorized Pilate to grant annual pardons. (167-168)
In my opinion, it is possible that the emperor granted Pilate special
authority to pardon, in light of the volatile political situation in
Although no record of it can be found, there must have been the custom of releasing one prisoner every Passover as a means of placating the Jewish population. (176)
The problem of the Passover pardon illustrates the fact that at times scripture and secular history may be sharply at odds with each other.
A serious historical problem presents itself in Luke 2:1-2, where it is said
that shortly before the Savior's birth "a decree went out from Caesar
Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This
was the first enrollment [or census] when Quirinius was governor of
Some have attempted to explain this problem by claiming that Luke is
referring to an earlier census and to some earlier position Quirinius held in
Why not simply grant the possibility that Luke 2:1-2 represents a well-intentioned but historically incorrect attempt by a later scribe to inject chronological precision into Luke's account of the Savior's birth? Isn't it somewhat odd that Quirinius is not mentioned in any of the other Gospels?
If we were to judge the New Testament reports of Christ's resurrection in the same way anti-Mormons judge LDS historical accounts of events in Mormon history (such as the First Vision), we could easily repudiate their historicity, for they contain many discrepancies.
For example, John says there were two angels at Christ's tomb (20:12), but Matthew states there was only one (28:2). It is true that if there were the two angels spoken of by John there was certainly the one mentioned by Matthew. However, this observation does not resolve the discrepancy. It does not explain why John mentions two angels but Matthew speaks of only one.
Other problems abound. John's Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb and saw two angels sitting in it, and then she saw Jesus (John 20), whereas Matthew's two Marys arrived at the tomb and saw one angel, and then Jesus (Matthew 28). On the other hand, Mark's three women saw one angel, and Mary Magdalene alone saw the Savior (Mark 16). However, Luke's group of women saw two angels who suddenly appeared at their side (not sitting), but they did not see Jesus (Luke 24).
Matthew's and Luke's women go off to tell the disciples what they have seen, but in the short ending of Mark (16:1-8), the women were too frightened to say anything to anyone: "frightened out of their wits . . . said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid" (vs. 8). Yet, in the long ending of Mark (16:9-20), the risen Lord's first appearance is to Mary Magdalene alone, and she promptly tells the disciples what she has seen (vss. 9-10).
In any of the fundamentalist "harmonizations" of the resurrection accounts, one repeatedly sees their authors forced to pick one Gospel's version of a particular detail over another's. Those statements in the Gospels which don't agree with the proposed "harmonization" must be discarded or "deemphasized."
Mark and Luke say that Jesus stayed in Peter's house and then healed the leper (Mark 1:29-45; Luke 4:38; Luke 5:12-13), but Matthew says Christ healed the leper first (8:1-4, 14-16).
According to Matthew, the
There is a discrepancy between Matthew's and Luke's orderings of the
temptations of Jesus. Matthew 4:5-10 puts the proposal to jump from the top of
Some fundamentalists deal with this problem by asserting that Luke reversed Matthew's ordering "in the interests of dramatic effect" (Archer 321). This is entirely possible. However, if such is the case, what does this say about Luke's attitude toward scripture? What fundamentalist would feel free to relate an episode from a biblical text in such a loose manner and still claim to be drawing on perfect, unchangeable holy writ?
I can just imagine what anti-Mormons would be saying if a similar problem
existed in the Book of Mormon! Let's suppose, for example, that Alma had retold
Lehi's vision of the tree of life but that in doing so he reversed Lehi's
ordering for two of the events in the vision. Anti-Mormons would strongly
object if LDS scholars attempted to justify such a revision with the
Missing Scripture: History and the Bible Speak
The claim that the Bible is complete is refuted by the history of the Bible and by numerous statements in the Bible itself. Scholars know of several extant books that were once part of the Bible but which are now excluded from the traditional Protestant canon. Barr explains:
When people say "the Bible". . . they usually mean the Bible as accepted in traditional Protestantism: that is, as contrasted with the Roman Catholic Bible, which includes some additional books. These books . . . [which] formed part of the [Roman Catholic] Old Testament, were generally not considered as authoritative scripture by Protestants, and are commonly called "the Apocrypha it in Protestant usage. The most familiar such books include Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (also known by the Jewish name, Ben Sira) and Maccabees. These were works of Judaism in prechristian times, which however in the end did not come to be included in the canon of scripture of mainline Judaism. In early Greek and Latin Christianity, and in medieval Christianity, these books were widely accepted as full parts of holy scripture. Protestantism, however, in its judgment of the Old Testament followed the canon of the synagogue rather than the practice of the earlier church (1984:41, emphasis added)
There are several places in the Bible where scriptural books and passages are mentioned or quoted which are either lost or are no longer part of the canon.
For instance, Jude 14-15 quotes the book of Enoch as scripture. In fact, the quotation of Enoch is the fullest, most apparent use of an older scriptural text in Jude. Indeed, Enoch is quoted to prove that the sort of evil Jude is discussing "had been foreseen in the distant past" (C. Thompson 943). Thus, Enoch is regarded as having prophesied and his prophecy is utilized by Jude to prove an important point.
In Jude 9, "a vivid illustration is given from a Jewish writing, the Assumption of Moses. . . . " (C. Thompson 943). Verse 9 refers to a controversy between the archangel Michael and Satan regarding the body of Moses. This account is found in the Assumption of Moses, an ancient Jewish text, but it is not present in our modern Old Testament.
In Colossians 4:16, Paul bids his Colossian readers to "likewise read
the epistle from
Another missing epistle of Paul's is referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9, where
the apostle says, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with
fornicators." James Price observes that Paul "is clearly referring
here to a previous letter" (800). Elisabeth Fiorenza of
According to 1 Cor. 5:9 Paul is not
Thus, we should have three epistles from Paul to the Christians at
Below is a listing of some of the scriptural books which are mentioned in the Old Testament but which are now lost:
Old Testament Reference
Book of Jasher
Book of the Acts of Solomon
1 Kings 11:41
Book of Nathan
1 Chronicles 29:29
Book of Gad
1 Chronicles 29:29
The Prophecy of Ahijah
2 Chronicles 9:29
The Book of Iddo
2 Chronicles 12:15
Sayings of the Seers
2 Chronicles 33:19
Those who argue that the Bible is the complete word of God to man frequently appeal to the words of John found in Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert Millet supply us with an excellent answer to those who cite John's words as proof of the Bible's alleged completeness:
Those who make this argument hope that Bible readers will suppose that with the addition of the book of Revelation, the Bible now became both complete and perfect. In fact, the passage is the classic illustration of just the opposite. The Bible did not exist when John recorded his revelation. Hundreds of years would yet pass before the books we know as the Bible would be bound together in one volume. . . .
There is no honest dispute over the matter that when John spoke about adding to or taking from "the words of the book" he had reference to his book only. What is significant here is that he would seal his book in this manner. It evidences his concern that someone might tamper with what he had written. Now we ask, What would cause him that concern if it were not the fact that it commonly happened? (43)
Furthermore, if one assumes John was referring to the entire Bible, just
which "Bible" did he have in mind? Was he thinking of the Protestant
Bible? Or of the Roman Catholic Bible? Other questions
come to mind: If John had reference to his and all previous scripture, to which
version of the Old Testament was he referring? The Masoretic
Text? The Septuagint? The
The Witness of the Early Church Fathers
There are many places in the writings of the early church fathers where scriptural sources are cited which can no longer be identified and/or which are no longer included in the Bible. This is especially true of the early Christian letters and homilies written prior to the fifth century.
For example, Clement of Rome (ca. A.D. 40-100), the revered bishop of that
city, in his first letter to
2 Clement, a highly regarded homily among the ancient Christians, composed
sometime between A.D. 100 and 140, quotes a scripture attributed to the Lord
Himself regarding the importance of good works. The homily's author introduces
the quotation with the words "the Lord said" (4:5;
The Epistle of Barnabas quotes as scripture a passage which closely
resembles two verses from 2 Esdras in the Apocrypha (12:1;
The Epistle of Barnabas itself was quoted as scripture by Clement of
Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150-215), an early Christian theologian and president of
the Christian academy in that city (
The devout Christian apologist Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 100-165) treated the books of Esdras as scripture and accused the Jews of having removed from one of them a passage which connected the Passover to the Savior (Roberts and Donaldson 1:234). Justin even quoted the passage. However, the verse he quoted does not appear in any existing manuscripts of 1 and 2 Esdras.
Justin also claimed that the Jews had removed two passages from many contemporary copies of Jeremiah (Donaldson and Roberts 1:234-235). Justin supplied the verses in question. One of the passages he quoted corresponds to Jeremiah 11:19. However, the other one is not found in any existing version of Jeremiah (Donaldson an Roberts 1:235). Interestingly, this verse speaks of Yahweh visiting Israelites in the spirit world "to preach unto them His own salvation" (Roberts and Donaldson 1:235).
In addition to all of the above, according to a number of church fathers, in the early church there were vitally important "higher teachings" that were deliberately withheld from the written scriptures and which were given only to those church members who were deemed ready and worthy to receive them (Roberts and Donaldson 4:399; MaGill 47; Robinson 96-103; Evenson 71-101). This fact alone refutes the claim that the Bible is the complete word of God to man.
What of it All?
LDS scholars have long known of the serious problems in the Bible. Latter-day Saints in general, though not knowing the particulars, have always realized that the Bible is neither inerrant nor complete. Yet, members of the Lord's restored church know that the Bible is sacred scripture. As mentioned, we are not bound by the fundamentalist view that the Bible is either perfect in every possible way or it is false. President George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency under three different prophets, expressed the Church's feelings about the Bible:
This book [the Bible] is of priceless worth; its value cannot be estimated by anything that is known among men upon which value is fixed. . . . To the Latter-day Saints it should always be a precious treasure. Beyond any people now upon the face of the earth, they should value it, for the reason that from its pages, from the doctrines set forth by its writers, the epitome of the plan of salvation which is there given to us, we derive the highest consolation, we obtain the greatest strength. It is, as it were, a constant fountain sending forth streams of living life to satisfy the souls of all who peruse its pages. (2:248)
President Cannon also spoke eloquently about what our attitude ought to be with regard to mistakes in the Bible:
We are not called to teach the errors of translators but the truth of God's word. It is our mission to develop faith in the revelations from God in the hearts of the children, and "How can that best be done?" is the question that confronts us. Certainly not by emphasizing doubts, creating difficulties or teaching negations. . . .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:† Michael
T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance
University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American
Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior
College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community
College of the Air Force.† He also holds
an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War
Abraham, William J. THE DIVINE INSPIRATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.
Achtemeier, Paul, editor. HARPER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY.
-----. THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE.
Adams, Roger J. THE ICONOGRAPHY OF EARLY CHRISTIAN INITIATION.
Anderson, Richard Lloyd. UNDERSTANDING PAUL.
Archer, Gleason. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES.
Aune, David. THE NEW TESTAMENT IN ITS LITERARY
Barber, Ian. WHAT MORMONISM ISN'T: A RESPONSE TO THE RESEARCH OF JERALD AND
Barr, James. BEYOND FUNDAMENTALISM: BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR EVANGELICAL
-----. HOLY SCRIPTURE: CANON, AUTHORITY, CRITICISM.
Barth, Markus. EPHESIANS 1-3. The Anchor Bible.
-----. EPHESIANS 4-6. The Anchor Bible. Garden City,
Brown, Raymond, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy,
editors. THE JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY. Two Volumes.
-----. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN 1-XII. The Anchor Bible. Garden City,
Bruce, F.F. THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS. Third Edition. Westwood, New Jersay: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963.
Buchanan, George Wesley. TO THE HEBREWS. The Anchor Bible. Garden City,
Cannon, George Q. GOSPEL TRUTH. Volume 2. Compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist.
Chadwick, Henry. THE EARLY CHURCH. Penguin Books Edition.
Cohn, Haim. THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS.
Davis, Stephen T. THE DEBATE ABOUT THE BIBLE.
Eissfeldt, Otto. "El and Yahweh." In JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES, volume 1, 1956. 25-37.
Evenson, Darrick. THE
Falwell, Jerry, executive editor.
Fiorenza, Elisabeth S. "1 Corinthians." In James L. Mays, editor, HARPER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY.
Furnish, Victor Paul. "The Letter of Paul to the
Colossians." In Charles Laymon,
editor, THE INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
-----. "The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians."
In Charles Laymon, editor, THE
INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
-----. II CORINTHIANS. The Anchor
Bible. Garden City,
Grant, Robert M. HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Greenlee, J. Harold. INTRODUCTION TO NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL
Greenslade, S. L., editor. THE
Griffith, Michael T. REFUTING THE CRITICS: EVIDENCES OF THE BOOK OF MORMON'S
Griggs, C. Wilfred. "The Origin and Formation of the
Corpus of Apocryphal Literature." In C. Wilfred
Griggs, editor, APOCRYPHAL WRITINGS AND THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS.
Hamblin, William. "Aspects of an Early Christian
Initiation Ritual." In John Lundquist and Stephen
Ricks, editors, BY STUDY AND ALSO BY FAITH. Volume 1.
Hayman, Peter. "Monotheism--A Misused Word in Jewish Studies?" In the JOURNAL OF JEWISH STUDIES, Spring 1991. 1-15.
Hoskisson, Paul. "Another
Significance of the Golden Calf Motif." In John
Welch, editor, TINKLING CYMBALS.
Hanson, Paul. "War, Peace, and Justice in Early
Jamieson, Robert, and Andrew Faucet and David Brown.
Jerome. THE HOMILIES OF
Kelly, J.N.D. EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES. Revised Edition.
Laymon, Charles, editor. THE
INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
Lemche, Niels Peter. ANCIENT
Lenski, R.C.H. INTERPRETATION OF THE EPISTLE TO
THE HEBREWS AND THE EPISTLE OF JAMES.
Levine, Samuel. YOU TAKE JESUS, I'LL TAKE GOD: HOW TO REFUTE CHRISTIAN
MacGregor, Geddes. THE BIBLE IN
MaGill, Frank N. MASTERPIECES OF CHRISTIAN LITERATURE.
Mays, James L., general editor. HARPER'S BIBLE
McConkie, Joseph Fielding, and Robert F. Millet.
SUSTAINING AND DEFENDING THE FAITH.
McDowell, Josh. MORE EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT. Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., 1975.
Metzger, Bruce. A TEXTUAL COMMENTARY ON THE GREEK NEW
Milne, Mary K. "
Morgenstern, Julian. "The Mythological Background of Psalm 82." In HEBREW UNION COLLEGE ANNUAL, volume 14, 1939. 29-126.
Mullen, E. Theodore. THE ASSEMBLY OF THE GODS. Harvard Semitic Monograph Series.
Nibley, Hugh. SINCE CUMORAH.
-----. "The Early
-----. "What Is A
Nyman, Monte S. "The Most Correct Book." In the ENSIGN, September, 1976. 87.
Ostler, Blake. "Clothed Upon: A Unique Aspect of Christian Antiquity." In BYU STUDIES, Winter 1982. 31-45.
Peterson, Daniel C., and Stephen D. Ricks.
OFFENDERS FOR A WORD: HOW ANTI-MORMONS PLAY WORD GAMES TO ATTACK THE LATTER-DAY
Pfeiffer, Robert H. INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT.
Price, James L. "The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians." In Charles Laymon, editor, THE
INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
Pritchard, James. ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN TEXTS RELATING TO
THE OLD TESTAMENT.
Quasten, Johannes. PATROLOGY.
Reicke, Bo. THE EPISTLES OF
JAMES, JUDE, AND PETER. Second Edition. The Anchor Bible. Garden City,
G.A. and W.S. Smith. A HISTORY OF THE
Richards, LeGrand. A MARVELOUS
WORK AND A WONDER. Revised and Enlarged Edition.
Richardson, Cyril C., editor. EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS.
Riley, Hugh M. CHRISTIAN INITIATION.
Roberts, Alexander and James Donaldson et al, editors and
translators. THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS. Ten Volumes.
Robinson, H. Wheeler. "The Council of Yahweh." In the JOURNAL OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, volume 45, 1944. 151-157.
Robinson, Stephen E. ARE MORMONS CHRISTIANS?
Russel, Jeffrey Burton. SATAN: THE EARLY CHRISTIAN
Scharffs, Gilbert. THE TRUTH
ABOUT "THE GODMAKERS."
Seaich, Eugene. ANCIENT TEXTS AND MORMONISM.
-----. "Did the Freemasons Copy Their Ritual from the Mormons?"
-----. MORMONISM, THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, AND THE NAG
Smith, Morton. CLEMENT OF
-----. JESUS THE MAGICIAN.
Snyder, Graydon. ANTE-PACEM: ARCHAEOLOGICAL
EVIDENCE OF CHURCH LIFE BEFORE
Sparks, Jack N., editor. THE
Sundberg, Albert C. "The Making of the New
Testament Canon." In Charles Laymon,
editor, THE INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
Thompson, Claude Holmes. "The Book of Jude."
In Charles Laymon, editor, THE
INTERPRETER'S ONE-VOLUME COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
Tzaferis, Vassilios. "Crucifixion: The Archaeological Evidence," BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW, January/February 1985. 49-53.
Van Seters, John. IN SEARCH OF HISTORY:
HISTORIOGRAPHY IN THE ANCIENT WORLD AND THE ORIGINS OF BIBLICAL HISTORY.
Wellnitz, Marcus Von. "The
Catholic Liturgy and the
Westcott, Brooke Foss. THE BIBLE IN THE CHURCH.
Wilken, Robert. THE CHRISTIANS AS THE ROMANS SAW
Wilson, Ian. JESUS: THE EVIDENCE.