Sooner or Later, You Have to Choose between the Bible and Inerrancy

Sooner or Later, You Have to Choose between the Bible and Inerrancy August 17, 2012

A discussion I’ve been part of on Facebook illustrates something that I have said before on numerous occasions: ultimately, for those approaching the Bible as a sacred text, one has to choose between showing respect for the Bible above all, or giving ultimate authority to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

This was illustrated in a discussion of the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. The two do not agree between David and Joseph. The most common approach to harmonizing them is to claim that one of them is Mary’s genealogy.

But that is not what the text says. Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke explicitly say that they are giving Joseph’s genealogy.

And so this provides a nice test case for my point about the incompatibility of inerrancy and giving one’s ultimate respect to the Bible. If one is committed above all else to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, then you will be forced not just in this particular instance, but time and time again, to sacrifice what the Bible actually says in order to harmonize texts. Those two Gospels can say explicitly and unambiguously that they are giving Joseph’s genealogy. But you will deny that they mean what they say, in order to insist that both are right – even though, ironically, you are in fact saying that one of them, taken at face value, is wrong. And so with the very sword you picked up to try to defend your doctrine of the Bible, you do damage to the Bible, cutting off anything that is a threat to your doctrine.

Inerrancy is not and can never be a doctrine that respects the Bible. It is a framework imposed on the Bible and which is antithetical to giving the Bible respect, to say nothing of authority.

As I shared in a quote by Theodore Vial earlier this month, there are Christians who claim to be committed to inerrancy and the literal truth of the Bible, but the two inevitably conflict, and when they do, it is the latter that is sacrificed at the altar of the former.

"There were very few 'synagogues' in Paul's day and they don't seem to have had ..."

Jesus, James, and Peter Mythicism
"That is interesting. “Similarly one speaks of going up to to the bimah to read ..."

Jesus, James, and Peter Mythicism
"Right, I think the standard usage is of course based on the fact that Jerusalem ..."

Jesus, James, and Peter Mythicism
"Actually, after thinking about it, I realized you gave me a compliment. Paul was/is being ..."

Jesus, James, and Peter Mythicism

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • djbrock

    Eusebius explains quite well and accurately how Luke is following Joseph’s genealogy and there is harmony between it and Matthew.

    • You are presumably referring to the attempt to account for the discrepancy by positing two generations of levirite marriages? What, in your opinion, makes Eusebius’ explanation “accurate” as opposed to merely a plausible stab at harmonization?

    • James Pate

      There have been a variety of Christian attempts throughout history to show that both genealogies are true.

      The question to ask is: Are these attempts the best way to account for the genealogies, or are they a stretch?

  • I just had this conversation today at work with another medical provider. Highly educated, diligent, thoughtful person but Baptist to the bone. I was discussing my recent post about how she understands Yahweh in the OT. She said the stories have to be literal because we can’t pick an choose in God’s word. But she admits that God changed because now we are in a new dispensation — God is no longer mean.
    Amazing how critical her mind could be in other areas of her life but that in order to maintain tradition, family and her anchors of meaning she partitions off huge parts of her mind and guards it from honest reasoning.

  • Zeno

    The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivete, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message…We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form—something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table. One can respect, and at moments envy, both the Fundamentalist’s view of the Bible and the Roman Catholic’s view of the Church. But there is one argument which we should beware of using for either position: God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done—especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it. ~C.S. Lewis

  • I agree with your point, but query your use of the conflicting genealogies to illustrate it. I long ago rejected the theory that one of the genealogies was Mary’s, but thought levirate marriage was a likely explanation. Eusebius somewhere asserts that this was indeed the case, and actually fleshes out the links between the two lineages with names gleaned from people who claimed to be descended from a lineage close to that of Jesus. Eusebius is not always sufficiently critical of his sources, but if he avers as fact something that a
    20th-century Christian can postulate independently, then he may be right on the explanation, even if he is wrong on the details.

    • It could be, but Eusebius’ explanation seems to me to be an attempt at harmonization, to resolve the difficulty presented by Matthew and Luke, rather than something based on independent information.

  • Craig Wisefool

    quite a boring mythology, filled with perversions for straight men (incest, polygamy, fratricide, alcoholism, collecting of foreskins??) creepy dick and death cult

  • Abram K-J

    Thanks for this post… how about the doctrine of infallibility?

  • Dr. David Tee

    “Inerrancy is not and can never be a doctrine that respects the Bible.” People who say things like this quoted statement only think so because they want the Bible to be filled with errors. In that way, they can insert their faulty theologies, false teachings and wrong theories and still claim to be christian and say they are teaching christian truths.
    On both counts they are wrong. If the Bible is in error then there is no salvation, no crucifixion, no God. People who say things like the above quoted statement do ot think things through in their haste to promote their false doctrines.

    • rmwilliamsjr

      If the Bible is in error then there is no salvation, no crucifixion, no God.

      why do you have to have an inerrant Scripture to communicate truth about God?

      the Bible is wrong about slavery, about a young flat earth with a solid dome, about a very small universe centered about the earth with God’s heaven just outside the “orbit” of the stars. it is wrong about demons causing disease and the effectiveness of branches to make speckled goats. it is wrong about a million Hebrew slaves leaving Egypt and conquering Israel. it is wrong about someone of Jesus’ generation living to see the 2nd coming, it is wrong about a lot of things that the writers thought absolutely true. Does this mean it is wrong about the Resurrection or about a Creator God who loves mankind?

      why is there a necessary connection that the envelope, the packaging must be as true as the contents, the letter itself? If Jesus is the message of the Bible, why must the human vehicle be as true as He is? You conflate so many things that have no necessary relationship, why must a 3500 year old plus notion of the physical world(the ANE world of Genesis) be required in every specification to an understanding of an event 1500 years later-Jesus. He may very well have understood that the earth was spherical, that knowledge was available in the 1stC. he certainly knew a very different view of greco-roman slavery than OT versions yet didn’t say one word that would have prevented the deaths of 720K in the American Civil War, primarily a theological war.

      the only difference between the way you read the Scriptures and the way many atheists do, is you believe every word is true and they the opposite. both of you tie every statement into a propositional literal modern historical scientific complex and make it say something very different than the authors intended and the first hearers heard.

      they wrote for, and were heard by their world, not ours.
      you do it a great injustice believing your culture interprets those words properly.

      • And “Dr.” Tee is ignoring the fact that most of us who have become convinced that the Bible is not inerrant fought against drawing that conclusion as hard as we could, until the evidence within the Bible itself wore us down and changed our minds.

        • Don M. Burrows

          Not to mention the tautological silliness of the argument that they think the Bible has errors “only … because they want the Bible to be filled with errors.” The belief in inerrancy, rather, is the position that one has to start with and then find increasingly elaborate rationalizations to defend. With what other text would we start with such an assumption, rather than the opposite one (that it might contain inconsistencies, errors, etc.)?

        • Dr. David Tee

          really and whom were you listening to? God or sinful man?

          • Ken Gilmore

            In order to even *read* the Bible in languages other than the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek in which it was originally written,you are indebted to the efforts of ‘sinful men’ working in fields such as textual criticism, linguistics, ANE studies and other areas directly impacting on the task of translating the Bible into modern languages. Unless you have had a direct revelation from God, it’s difficult to avoid depending on the work of ‘sinful men’ to even have a Bible to read in order to understand what its authors thought about God.

          • d clark

            You are hateful to others because your too small god is threatened. Mine isn’t, he is infinite and some things were just not recorded correctly but he will love us and save us anyway. Your little god is as hateful as you are.

      • Dr. David Tee

        If God erred at one point, who can say He didn’t err at another? If God erred at all, how can we trust His word? Do you trust any human you have caught lying to you? Why would you trust God if He lied at one part of the Bible?
        Or do yiou have confidence in people who have made crucial mistakes? or do you hesitate on all their claims?
        Oh, and the Bible doesn’t speak of a flat earth nor is it wrong about slavery,

        • rmwilliamsjr

          If God erred at all, how can we trust His word? Do you trust any human you have caught lying to you? Why would you trust God if He lied at one part of the Bible?

          how easily you move from “to err” to “to lie”…
          the Bible describes many things about the physical world that is not true, but it was state of the art and believed by all alive then. just as there are many things we believe about the world that will prove to be incomplete and wrong in the future.

          my parents told me santa claus brought the christmas gifts, i didn’t cease believing or trusting them when i found out. i understand what they were doing.

          likewise i understand God accommodated himself to the language and culture of those times just as Jesus took human form, this is not a lie, just like my parents had good reason to accommodate the understanding of a young child. nor is believing the shape of the ANE cosmos a requirement to believe God is real.

          we choose not to tell our kids about santa claus, but if my parents, like YECists, tell their kids dinosaurs were on the ark, insisted santa claus was real when i was an adult, there is a line when error does become lying.

          • Dr. David Tee

            You are comparing two beings who do not lie or err with those who do. Sorry but you are doing an apples and oranges comparison and it does not fit the discussion.
            Lies are wrong and sin, even those about santa claus the easter bunney, the tooth fairy etc. If you condone lying to children then there can be no discussion.
            Dinosaurs probably were on the ark. They would be included in the pair of kinds just like any other animal. Exactly how many, we do not know but they had representation.
            Oh and I didn’t slide from error to lie very quiickly, when one errs they made a mistake but if they perpetuate the error then they are lying
            God did not err in writing the Bible, He did not make any mistakes nor did His authorized translators for He promised to preserve His word till the end.

          • Why do you insist on disbelieving the Bible? Paul even wrote with his own hamd to authenticate his letters, apparently, and yet you imsist on claiming that God wrote them. Repent of your idolatry!

          • Dr. David Tee

            This is a general response to all those who replied to my post
            Why do you insist on making the Bible a human book instead of a divine one?
            Is it because you want your own ideas to be part of scripture making you important? is it because you want to follow after what you want and do not want to be ridiculed by the unbelieving world?
            Is it because you want to dismiss what God said and insert your own beliefs into the mix?
            Secularists do not determine what God said in the Bible nor does secular culture. if that were true then believers could not be the light unto the world.
            Think about it.

          • This is a response directly to you. Why do you insist on making the Bible a divine book instead of a human one? Is it because you want to be able to be absolutely certain that what you think is correct, so that you can be convinced that your arrogance is justified? Is it because you want to make yourself feel like a crusader for truth in fighting against all the men and women, including Christian believers, whose painstaking efforts have enabled us to not only understand our world better, but cure and prevent more diseases than Jesus is likely to have, just taking the New Testament at face value?

            You are called to be a light in the world, and yet instead of shining a light through compassion, love, and righteousness, you are spreading ignorance and lies and darkness, and calling that being light of the world. And you are making the Christian faith look like a faith that should be accepted only by liars and the gullible people who believe them without questioning.

            Think about it.

          • rmwilliamsjr

            wow. now the blanket of inerrancy is pulled over whoever creates whatever canon (or is it only your canon?) and whoever translates into whatever language(or is it only English translators?), whenever (or is it only your translation of English?). so since God preserves all of these links i guess all the translations agree? yep.

            so you have to pull a single verse 2tim3:16 referring to an unknown collection of Hebrew scrolls over not just an unknown selection of new testament writings but widen that to include the formation of the canon and then the preservationof the texts and then the translation into the vernacular.

            quite a feat!

            quite a blanket
            16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

          • rmwilliamsjr

            did His authorized translators

            i’m curious, how does one tell authorized from unauthorized translators?

            for He promised to preserve His word till the end.

            where exactly does it say this?

        • d clark

          “If God erred at one point, who can say he didn’t err at another?” Because we TRUST him and believe in his goodness. And we don’t think HE “erred” to begin with, but was working with clay pots that sometimes leak. This takes faith to believe in an infinite God without the need for an “inerrant” Bible as a crutch!

        • Mary

          I can’t believe that I missed this, are you actually saying that slavery is okay with God?

          • Slavery IS okay with God, if you take the old and new testament at face value.

            My problem with “Dr. Tee” is that slavery is okay with him!

    • Jeremy

      Whatever valid arguments there are for inerrancy, an appeal to consequences isn’t once of them.

  • There’s also the assorted (arguably minor) differences in the resurrection accounts between Matthew, Luke, John, and Mark — not to mention that the account in the earliest versions of Mark is rather more abbreviated.

    Personally, however, I find Isaiah 40:28 and 43:24 a bit more succinct basis for asking about contradictions.

  • Richard A. Rhodes

    Sorry to come late to this discussion.

    No one seems to have picked up on an important reason for the (relatively) recent development of the doctrine of inerrancy. It has to do with apologetics/evangelism. Truth is understood in 20th-21st century cultures derived from Enlightenment thinking in a particular way that serves modern science well. It is that if something is true, everyone is obligated to believe it. If something is false, everyone is obligated to ignore/reject it. So, applying that mode of thought to religion, if I can sell you on the idea that the Bible is absolutely true, then you have to believe it. But if it has errors, I’m obligated to reject it. So if your faith includes that the Bible must be believed, then it must be inerrant.

    The whole thing works out to be logically circular. A class of believers say they believe the Bible is true because it is inerrant. But the doctrine of inerrancy is ultimately based on the belief that the Bible is true. (It’s actually slightly more complex, but it works out to be the same.)

    However, the assumptions behind this kind of thinking are just wrong. The various documents that were assembled into the Bible were written to audiences that were very different from us in how they approached truth. (Christians could learn a lot from how observant Jews deal with Scripture and interpretation.) An alternative approach is to start by simply asserting that we believe that the Bible is authoritative, and give up on the idea that you can force someone to come to belief by painting them into a logical corner. If God really wanted to compel belief, He’d have done so long ago.

  • DrAbe

    So if the Bible is in error, what do you believe? We were discussing Romans 9, and verse 11: “Esau I hated,” and trying to come to terms with that. Does God hate unborn children? My favorite doxologian in the class said “Of course not. God didn’t hate Esau.” But it just said that! And she’s a strict follower of the doctrine of infallibility. You can’t confront her, because she’ll just put you in the apostate camp, or think the Devil is attacking her through you. I would like to read more from Progressive Christians on what conclusions they do come to, what laws and codes of conduct they agree on, or do they just have a Hendrixian philosophy of “Everybody do their own thing.”

    • I suppose that the short answer is that, if one is a progressive Christian, they will probably agree on at least some major things – the Golden Rule, for instance. But just as when people agree that the Bible is inerrant, and disagree on what it means and how to apply it, even if one agrees on a core ethical principle, you will still find people disagreeing about how to best apply it. But hopefully our conversations around our disagreements are more fruitful because we are hopefully not assuming that our attempt at application is simply “what the Bible says” with no interpretation or human fallibility involved.

  • Damn, still can’t turn off notifications !
    I’ve got to remember not to leave comments here.

    • 🙁 Is it really that bad?

      • Well, 33 e-mails that I don’t want once I see my contribution or interest fades. Next, my outdated work IE browser won’t work for Disqus so I can’t reply at work.
        Next, finding comments buried in hierarchy comment threads is a pain (as I have said before).
        I love your stuff, so I will tend to read more than comment. Too much work. I ran into several other Disqus sites with the same problem — some I can turn off follow, but most I can’t. If it is an unpopular site with few comments, I don’t care. But you are very popular (rightfully so) and so my email gets loaded.

        • I really disliked the option in Outlook to group e-mails by conversation threads, until I saw that it put dozens of Facebook or blog comment replies together. I often don’t want to unsubscribe but don’t have time to read all the comments in a Facebook discussion, and so that helps. I don’t know whether it could be of use to you.

          • Argghh, no, that doesn’t help. 98% of the blogs I visit I can turn off comments when I get bored of a thread. This thread’s comments keep coming in and I have to keep deleting — I lost interest.

            I just wish this blog had the same ability to censor as 98% of blogs. Heck, I can even turn off comments on a few other Disqus sites. Why not here.
            OK, I won’t complain any more, but I also won’t casually comment. I will wait and comment only when I want to read lots of e-mails for days.

          • I understand that this blog will soon have an updated, paid-for version of Disqus that will function better and have more options. If it does not then I may just ditch Disqus, since unless it has ,ore advantages than disadvantages, it isn’t worth it.

    • rmwilliamsjr

      advice. get a specific gmail account for posting to discussions. or use gmail’s filtering ability.

  • Watchful1

    It was Jewish Custom to assign son-ship to a man (in this case to Joseph) if the predecessor father had no sons (Heli who had only 2 daughters and no sons – Mary was one of Heli’s daughters). See for some scholarship on this.

    • I think that you pasted the wrong link. You said you were linking to scholarship, but the web site your link goes to is Answers in Genesis.

      Would you care to tell me how you know so much about Heli’s family? I suspect that all these things are asserted merely because they are necessary to avoid the plain sense of the text. Perhaps you can also explain why you think God gave a Bible that requires believers – assuming your stance is the correct one – to engage in such efforts and puzzlework in an attempt to avoid having the Bible mean what it actually seems to say? And how, after going to such lengths, can you then insist that the plain meaning of other passages must be accepted? With similar effort, their meaning can likewise be reversed!

      • Watchful1

        James: Bodie Hodge, @ AiG, was very specific in his explanations and sources. Why don’t you show me your “scholarship” and specifically refute at least a few of his most important statements?
        Matthew was writing to Jewish Christians and started his lineage with Abraham (Matthew never mentions Adam as Luke did) in order to address God’s promise to the Jews. Luke was writing to Gentile Christians and started with Jesus (and went past Abraham all the way back to Adam) in order to address God’s promise to mankind (for salvation). It is from Scripture itself that we discern two different lineages are described in Matthew and Luke (what is the use of four Gospels if they must be identical to each other?). That each account starts and ends the lineages differently should tell you that our (Omnipotent) God is speaking two different messages with the lineages themselves. Thus the Bible is how I know “so much” about Heli’s family. @ Luke 3:23 and following, Luke (God inspiring him) makes the point that Jesus is God’s son (see one verse before this – Luke 2:22 …God says: “Thou art my beloved son…”). Luke essentially says Jesus is not Joseph’s son (so does Matthew, by the way, @ Matthew 1:16 where he says Jesus was born of Mary); Luke 3:23 starts out (in the Greek): “On hOs enomizeto huios iOsEph” – which literally is “being as was-legalized son of Joseph” whereas the following verses simply say “tou hEli” and “tou matthat”…meaning “of the Heli” and “of the Matthat” without the Greek word for “son”. And so it was not saying Joseph was “of Heli”; Joseph is mentioned in a parenthetical expression only to clarify that he was “legally” Jesus’ father-making the obvious point he was not Jesus’ physical father. “tou” repeats all the way down to Adam (Luke 3:38) where Adam is called “son of God” – just as Jesus was “son of God” (This, by the way, also lines up nicely with Paul calling Jesus “the last Adam”).
        Now you want to know why God inspired Luke to follow Mary’s lineage back to David rather than Joseph’s? Joseph’s lineage, by God’s Word (Jeremiah 22:30 – Jeconiah ‘s sin), could not inherit the throne and yet God had promised David his descendant would sit on the throne. What a wonderful way God kept His promise! This is not a stretch of logic but actually an affirming fact in that we see Old & New testament come together in a way that no man could ever invent (and Luke was a Gentile too!). So what you claim is a Biblical inconsistency is actually a God affirming testimony! His thoughts truly are higher than our thoughts!
        As to why God seemingly makes some things such a puzzle, I would refer you to Jesus’ reasons for speaking in parables (the supposed wise). Most Bible reading is easy and I do not consider the above to be “efforts and puzzlework” but merely good basic Bible study; I approach the Bible as having no errors.
        Your final statement above: “With similar effort, their meaning can likewise be reversed!” – is a logical fallacy. Just because I can discern the Truth by studying the Truth does not mean you can take any Bible verse (the Truth) and make a Lie from it. Just as even God can’t make a square circle. God says: “Come now, let us reason together” Isaiah 1:18 Now I will ask you a question. Why is almighty God, in your view, unable to bring a Bible without contradiction or error to us down through the centuries?

        • But the phrase in Luke does not mean “as was legalized.” It means “so/as it was thought.” This is one of the reasons I said that one can ignore organizations like AiG which do not respect the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, and are happy to twist texts to mean what they think they should. Turn instead to scholarly sources – people who teach and research these things for a living at institutions of education, with relevant training and experience.

          The desire to avoid Jeconiah may well be the reason why Luke, or his source, came up with a different genealogy for Joseph than Matthew’s.

          • Watchful1

            James: I obtained that Greek from an online Greek Interlinear Bible and not AiG. It’s basis is Scrivner’s Textus Receptus which I consider very authoritative. In a study I did earlier this year, Scrivner’s Textus Receptus showed the 6 letter “aonper” in Hebrews rather than the 3 letter “aon” translated “if”. Strong’s Concordance used the 3 letter “aon” (big surprise!). This “little” issue changes a phrase in Hebrews from “if we hold fast to our faith firm till the end” to “those of us who hold fast to our faith firm till the end” so that the phrase can not be used to say a true believer can lose their faith. At any rate, I believe the translation is (Jesus) “though being legally the son of Joseph, was from Heli from Matthat…and so on down to Adam…the son of God (Luke says). It is all about tying the two sons of God together to make the point of 1st Adam and last Adam etc. I have been reading AiG’s material for over 10 years and consider them (as well as and to be superb scholars of our Bible. AiG and really all of these organizations have multiple PhD’s both in the sciences as well as linguists on staff and on retainer. Many of them spent entire careers teaching in Universities and so your remark about their scholarship is, I believe, completely without basis. I am glad you “may” agree about avoiding Jeconiah; I learned that from Bodie Hodge’s AiG article. I am also glad I noticed your article online-these writings cost me 4 hours of time but I have learned a great deal. Similar to a friend’s question earlier this year where he was concerned (again with our boys Luke & Matthew!) that Luke said the Centurion in Capernaum sent the jewish Elders to Jesus but Matthew never mentions those Elders. Of course Matthew never says there were no Elders either. Some people want to say this is a Bible contradiction too. I learned that Matthew was from Capernaum and that he was writing (again) to the Jews-also that he was one of the most educated of the disciples. It seemed strong evidence to me that Metthew didn’t mention those Elders because he both knew them and also wanted to protect them (persecutions). It also made me believe Matthew wrote his Gospel not 30 years after Jesus but rather a few years after-I would bet Peter asked him to do so as things developed and Jews from all around asked for an account of Jesus’ life.

          • One cannot comprehend another language by means of an interlinear. That can be a helpful tool as one learns the language, but languages do not have one-to-one correpondences between words. A question like this has to be settled through comparative use of the same lexeme in similar contexts and similar grammatical constructs.

            Be that as it may, I have interacted with AiG folks in the past. One came to campus and insisted that a Hebrew word means something it doesn’t and doesn’t mean something that it does. I turned out, the individual could not even tell the difference between Hebrew and Greek when he heard them. these folks are charlatans, not scholars.

          • Watchful1

            James: Reading the NKJV of a text and then the KJV are the best start in my view. And yes an Interlinear is then helpful too. Then studying how a couple of key words are used in other verses. Cultural studies then become valuable as well as commentary but only for opinions backed up by footnotes and reasons why so the person can evaluate the commentator’s reasons why (everyone has a bias or axiom that they approach an issue or question with and so opinions must be closely examined). But examining the use of a word in other places is probably the best-comparing the Bible to the Bible is powerful. You don’t directly address why God uses “enomizeto” with Joseph but only “tou” with Heli and the rest; there obviously is a reason He did that. I believe I have correctly discerned the reason-God makes the point that Jesus is His son and not Joseph’s. I have not looked to see if “enomizeto” is elsewhere in the new testament but plan to look when I get home from church. As I mentioned before, I find AiG and the others to be of the first order and after 10+ years I have a good deal more experience with them than you-I encourage you to take any opportunity to engage with them-in that you wrote about Biblical inerrancy and their principal mission is to affirm Biblical inerrancy. So if that issue is a big deal to you then they are the primary source you should (in a far more specific way than heretofore you have done) be engaging. I would like to see you debate them on some Biblical inerrancy verse issues in writing (similar to your and my exchange); doing it in writing and over an extended period of time affords you the time to reflect on each response-verbal debates are not as good as this because the pressure can throw a man off his game. If you are going to write in National/International news about not believing in Biblical literalism/inerrancy then you should step up and engage them directly.

          • rmwilliamsjr

            Reading the NKJV of a text and then the KJV are the best start in my view. And yes an Interlinear is then helpful too. Then studying how a couple of key words are used in other verses. Cultural studies then become valuable as well as commentary but only for opinions backed up by footnotes and reasons why so the person can evaluate the commentator’s reasons why (everyone has a bias or axiom that they approach an issue or question with and so opinions must be closely examined).

            this is not a description of scholarship or careful study.
            it’s a shame that in many American churches this passes for Bible study, i’m glad that not all churches believe such nonsense requiring their pastor-teachers to attend a seminary and pass examinations in english Bible, greek and hebrew. the time is long past that the expansion into the western frontier made educated preachers hard to find, modern churches can afford to send their prospect scholars to school to learn the tools needed to expound Scripture.

            this allows greek and hebrew along with the social context to be introduced into sermons so that the average layman is exposed to and understand scholarship and the relationship it bears to the Christian life.

            doing a word study is not scholarship, it’s amateur quiet time.

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: Word studies are some of the most fruitful times spent in the Bible. You frankly sound like the Roman catholics before Martin Luther saying only Latin Bibles and only the Clergy to expound the Bible. Does the Holy Spirit come alongside (Parakleet)? Or does the Holy Spirit need your true Bible scholar? If you are a Christian then the whole tenor of what you just said is a disgrace.

          • It sounds as though you are saying that it does not matter what the words of the Bible say, the Holy Spirit may give you a meaning that is completely independent of or even at odds with them. If that is your stance, you can scarcely appeal to the Reformers to defend that approach. And if that is not what you meant, then you are dependent on scholars. Why do you think the Reformers didn’t just translate the Scriptures but also wrote commentaries on them?

          • Watchful1

            James: I am not saying “it does not matter what the words of the Bible say” (gracious man, I am the Biblical Literalist here). The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth and so as we relate to God (primarily through prayer, Bible study and including Word studies), it is expected that the Holy Spirit will help us. We all (including you) are dependent upon scholars-they can bring a fact to our attention that saves us a lot of time-BUT we should always go back to the Bible to verify what they are saying (Sola Scriptura!)-see Acts 17:11 above. Remember, in the beginning, Adam and Eve didn’t just disobey God (and get zapped by some big bad God), the proximate cause (of sin) was that they didn’t believe His Word. God said that in the day they ate of the tree “you shall surely die” then Satan said “you will not surely die”. I believe we can see that God’s Word is a very big deal to Him; and failure to believe/trust it was integral to the whole problem of sin. The Gospel of John emphasizes His Word emphatically…”In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…”. Matthew 4:4, Jesus Christ said to Satan: “man [shall live] on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Isaiah 55:11 – His Word does not return to Him void (shall not His Bible {Word} come down to us whole and without contradiction?). {Hey Mr. Williams, “Word” would be a good word study for you – ;-)}. And so the issue of Biblical inerrancy, as you can see, is quite a big deal in the whole scheme of things. I have personally never seen a Biblical contradiction and I have examined / read about several over the years. I trust the Bible and I trust God to have brought a true Bible without Contradiction down to us from the original autograph and I approach it with this “axiom” (I say “axiom” because I must neccessarily assume this since I don’t have access to the original autograph). Biblical inerrancy – God’s Word is critical to Christianity: “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Amen

          • But I think you are missing the key point, which is that a layperson cannot go directly back to the Bible to check the scholars. The scholars have translated the Bible, have provided the linguistic resources to enable laypeople to have at least a limited access to the text, have made decisions about which reading to accept when manuscripts differ, and many other things which went into producing the English translation and any other materials you may use, and which as a non-scholar you simply have no way to check that does not ultimately rely on what at least some scholars have done. Does that make sense?

            I also would dispute that you are a biblical literalist. I expect that you do not believe that there was or is a literal dome over the Earth, into which the sun, moon and stars were fixed in place. But that is what Genesis 1 literally says.

          • Watchful1

            Hey James. I think you actually are missing my point. I agree a lay person is much more limited in their ability to check a scholar’s work. That’s why it is best to use several different materials to study the Bible (let’s not have any more of that amateur talk Mr. Williams-we should encourage all to dig deep in our Bible-how are we to go “from Glory to Glory” developing more like Jesus if not through as best a study program as we can develop for ourselves?). I don’t believe you are trying to discourage me from studying the Bible-correct? But I must say that fallible as man (and scholar) is, we owe it to ourselves and the Lord to try and do our best with the Bible (does God say “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? and Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (not the word of scholars)?). And being a scholar does not exempt from being completely wrong-let’s not forget the enormous (Epic) failure of most Sadduccees and Pharisees who were supposedly the “Scholars” of their day. Their’s was ultimately a failure of heart (God said “but their heart is not with Me”)-the Sadduccees and Pharisees probably knew everything there was to know and then some but obviously were way off understanding the Old Testament etc. In fact, some Fishermen and other plebeins were precisely whom the Lord found malleable (in their hearts) and worked with. To your last point, if that is how you define Biblical literalism then no. I believe there are no errors in the Bible-you believe there are errors which is where this all started; the article you wrote about Biblical (lack of in your opinion) inerrancy using Luke and Matthew’s Geneologies’ being different as an example. Now some scholars say the reason for the difference is that Matthew traced the Kingly descent from Abraham down to Jesus and Luke traced the Physical descent (in reverse order) from Jesus all the way (past Abraham) back to Adam (called also the son of God). These scholars’ (hope your happy Mr. Williams) evidence is: 1) Joseph (in Luke) is clearly, in the Greek associated with “as was supposed” or “legally” rather than “tou” or “of the” which is applied to each and every other father all the way back to Adam; 2) The fathers after David and down to Jesus are different but from David back to Abraham are the same; 3) Because of Jeconiah’s sin, God said none of his descendants could sit on the throne-despite God telling David his House would sit on the throne; 4) Matthew starting with Abraham and coming down to Jesus and Luke starting with Jesus and going (past Abraham) all the way back to Adam (who is the “Son of God” just like Jesus is the “son of God”) clearly is a hermeunetical marker for the scholar (and all the rest of us too!). If you believe there are no errors in the Bible then clearly Luke described Mary’s lineage rather than Joseph’s-because there is no other than the two to choose from. If you believe there are errors then you don’t find a reason within these geneologoies’ comparison (in and of itself) for that belief; you got that from a (false) belief about other supposed contradictions/errors; you approached these geneologies with (I believe) a false axiom and therefore got the answer wrong because of that. So you can’t use these geneologies to prove your right but must prove your axiom first to even get a hearing on these geneologies. I don’t believe you will ever prove your axiom with any supposed contradictions and I challenge you to much more specifically attempt to do so. Since this issue of Biblical inerrancy is so important I would again strongly encourage you to engage AiG or’s folks directly; there is a book about supposed contradictions-why don’t you write one specifically refuting it?

          • rmwilliamsjr

            (let’s not have any more of that amateur talk Mr. Williams-we should encourage all to dig deep in our Bible-how are we to go “from Glory to Glory” developing more like Jesus if not through as best a study program as we can develop for ourselves?)

            you misinterpret my use of the term amateur. you are making it a synonym for shoddy, less than committed, immature. i have not used it that way at all, i am using it as opposed to scholar or professional in the field of Biblical studies. your emotionally laden usage of the term masks what i am saying from your understanding, scholars lead interpretative communities in their development of that group’s specific understanding of Scripture. reread my usage of the term amateur, no where do i use it as a term of derision, only as a term designating those who are far less trained and knowledgeable in the use of those scholarly tools needed to build interpretive communities.

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: Thank you so much for the clarification. “amateur quiet time” did come across to me as very negative. Though not a professional, I have worked very hard for years. Very glad you clarified. There is no doubt that most scholars’ work and opinions deserve high consideration-we must give honor where honer is due. But as you can see from the above, I believe very strongly we must go to the Bible for ourselves just as the Bereans were commended for doing. I have not made any unreasonable requests. I challenged James’ article at the top because he made a claim but gave no real specifics to back it up. He claims “Both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke explicitly say that they are giving Joseph’s genealogy.” Even saying “umambiguously”. Luke does not explicitly or umambiguously say this. In fact, Luke’s mention of Joseph is parenthetical. In writing a Geneology to the Gentiles, Luke obviously must tell them where Joseph fits in as father (“as was supposed” seems to be what James prefers in translation) since in the immediate preceding verse God calls Jesus “My son in whom I am well pleased”. The Greek surrounding Joseph in Luke is completely different from the Greek associated with Heli and the others-all of which have the exact same Greek (tou Heli etc) all the way down to Adam-whom Luke also lets us know was “the son of God”. Luke is not “explicit” in tracing Joseph’s lineage but rather is “explicit” in showing us Jesus is God’s son and not Joseph’s son (why else would he say “as was supposed”?). Further, what better way to emphasize who Jesus’ Father was than to trace His ancestry back via Mary rather than Joseph? It appears James has relied almost totally on his axiom (that there are errors in the Bible) rather than specific evidences within the text such as I have mentioned above. James has his axiom and also the fact that the two geneologies are partially different (not in conflict) from David down to Jesus. Of course we would expect them to be different for just that portion if they were Joseph’s and Mary’s-but again James’ axiom disallows even to consider that. The stunning thing to me is that God almighty sews up another extraordinary fact within all this in that He makes this promise to David which Jeconiah fouls up but God providentially handles through Mary. Men can’t invent those types of Old Testament / New Testament tie togethers. I have learned a great deal in all this. I again urge James to write a book challenging AiG’s book on Biblical Inerrancy; I believe the above specifics made a very powerful case.

          • rmwilliamsjr

            But as you can see from the above, I believe very strongly we must go to the Bible for ourselves just as the Bereans were commended for doing.

            i don’t believe this is possible. for we come to read Scripture not with a blank mind waiting to be filled but rather we read through with numerous layers; english, our time and culture, but most importantly what we have learned from our interpretive community about those verses. and how they read the Bible.

            we’ve sat through hundreds of hours of preaching and teaching, we’ve read books, we’ve thought and talked to people in the past. all these things create this matrix, this interpretive horizon, this hermeneutical network we use to read the text. my desire is to be as conscious about building this matrix as i possibly can.deliberately availing myself of the best authors in my community that i can read. & to deliberately put myself into that tradition to have these people instruct me how to read the Bible. we have the choice to be deliberate or to deny this interpretive matrix is important and to let it do it’s work silently and without our knowledge. that is why scholarship is important, they build the matrix with which each of us necessarily read Scripture.

            just as there is no tabula rasa in education, there is no just me and my Bible.

          • Watchful1

            Hey Mr. Williams. I believe Sola Scriptura (not in a Magesterium or an Interpretive community-if by that you mean you accept it’s views without comparing them against the Bible-there must be a standard). It is far better to read and study the Bible rather than the opinions of men. People can study together (Iron sharpens iron). Scholars can help of course; principally in saving us time but their opinions should always be compared to the Bible. Tabula Rasa is new to me…I looked it up on Wikipedia. Knowledge comes from experience and perception alone. No “Blank Slate” in Education (because everything impacts our education?). Born without Mental content. Did you know that babies can think without knowing a language? I believe it is abstract thought too and not just animal instinct-Callie Joubert is a wise soul and writes about it some. I think God wants to influence you Himself (via a direct association by you with His Word); what if the interpretive community and scholars build the Matrix wrong? Of course everything influences us all as we study the Bible but that influence can be disciplined by holding the Bible above it all. Compare the world to the Bible but never the Bible to the world (the world is at enmity with God). So our axiom or beginning assumption about the Bible shows up again. Satan was saying at the beginning…”did God really say?”. God’s Word has always been questioned but again I say that it is the world that should be compared to the Bible and not the Bible to the world.

          • Mary

            The problem with the doctrine of inerrancy is that you have already decided that it is true before you actually read it. In order to maintain that position you have to ignore all the problems with the bible or rationalize them. I used to be a biblical literalist and I read the bible, but I literally didn’t see the problems with it. Now I am not a scholar but I don’t need to be to see the most obvious problems with it.
            1. It is not scientifically accurate (Yes I have creationist stuff, it makes no sense at all). And any child could tell you that it would be impossible to fit millions of species of animals on Noah’s ark, pus food for them all. It is also obvious that animals from the Americas could not have swum accross the ocean to get to the ark.
            2. There are problems with the morality of a God who commands his followers to murder, rape, and enslave others. Plus he even likes the human sacrifice of an unfortunate young virgin girl.
            3. There are strange laws that can only be interpreted in light of the culture at the time and obviously cannot be taken as binding forever. Having a woman marry her rapist was a cruel law that can only be explained if you think of it as being their version of a “shotgun wedding”. It was a punishment for the rapist (a “you break it, you buy it” philosophy). Women were property back then and non-virgin girl was not marriagable. By the way this law is still in effect in some Muslim countries. A Muslim girl recently killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist.
            4. Many Christians explain away the moral problems of the OT by the “New Dispensation” That doesn’t make any sense because it does not explain how a good God can do bad things and command his followers to do the same. Why would God give his people the ten commandment and then tell them to break them?
            Actually a better explaination would be that there are two Gods, one bad, (from the OT) and one good (from the NT). Or we could say that God has multiple personality disorder. I don’t believe either one of those of course but I am using this as an example of how the God of the OT can never be harmonized with the God of the NT.
            Because of all these problems plus translation and historical errors it is impossible for me to believe the bible is inerrant. I believe the bible is a record of the evolution of our understanding of God, but because the writers of the bible were flawed, they often got it wrong. They made God in their own image(selfish, cruel, angry, destructive, etc.). But even though “we see through a glass darkly” the bible’s value rests in it pointing us to the Divine Source and learning to become more in tune with the example of Jesus who taught love as the One Law..

          • Watchful1

            Hey Mary. I have examined many supposed errors over the years and just as above found them to be false. The devil would want us to believe such “did God really say?”. I did not decide anything-but accepted inerrancy as being true. Anyone who reads the above and doesn’t see that by far the evidence in this particular issue comes down as no error, has been blinded by their own axiom-there is literally no evidence for the other side other than a partial difference (not discrepancy). The Bible does not go against science; I recommend you read at AiG,, and Dr. Raymond Damadian invented the Medical MRI, Dr. Benjamin Carson is chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital etc-these are the caliber of folks associated with those sites-and of course there is a long list on the other side too but these guys are no slouch and there are these days thousands of them for our side. The point being evolution, etc are no drop kick. If you look at the various evidences you can see for yourself that science lines up quite nicely with the Bible. I am sure Noah brought the “dog kind” on the Ark and not all 550 types-wolf, fox, doberman etc. There are large floating mats of debris such as in Wisconsin (Minnnesota??) today. And you assume the water levels today have always been at this level. I strongly urge you to at least examine evidence from the other side for a few weeks-you are missing out on a lot of peace. God never commanded Israel to Murder or Rape or enslave. The times He told Israel to destroy everyone and everything do present (probably the only) passage that does not seem to line up with the Character of God. But then again He surely destroyed little children in Noah’s flood too. But the Bible teaches God knows the heart-perhaps He knew who they ultimately were. And this is a God who sent His son to die an unjust death; I don’t think He views death in quite the same light as you and I. I don’t believe God wanted to destroy but was constrained by His own nature-just as in Eden He had to Judge their sin but thankfully God was also love too and so reconciled His love with His justice by coming into this life as Jesus and dying an unjust death. I am not stretching the Bible Mary-you are not trusting God (in my humble opinion). I think you will get the greatest help with this by studying your Bible with a new set of glasses and when you find tough passages go to AiG or the others and at least see what the other side says about them. I have examined several of the items you mention above and none of them is even close to being correct. If you need assistance then do searches at AiG or the others and at least get their view-and especially their reasons why from the Bible itself and see if it does not line up. Love, Greg

          • rmwilliamsjr

            Did you know that babies can think without knowing a language?

            i’d love to have the reference for this so i can do some research.

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: I had not noticed your request. I think it is in this Article written by Callie Joubert

          • rmwilliamsjr

            thanks. it was a worthwhilre read. i’ll get it into my notes.

            the few sentences on the topic are:
            ” A person can therefore also think without language. This is especially evident with small children; if this were not so, a maturing infant would never be able to learn language itself, since the infant would never be able to think until a language somehow arose within the infant.”

            it doesn’t follow, since he assumes learning the language requires thinking from the first moment he starts learning to speak. but if learning the language is a developmental issue from before the child is even born, there isn’t a beginning point for the language acquisition, therefore language can precede thought, requiring a certain level of language development before true thought emerges as “a voice speaking in the head”. everything else would be proto-thought, until language gave voice to inarticulate proto-thoughts thus making them true thoughts.

          • Watchful1

            Hey Mr. Williams. Joubert can be a “mind bender” for me but I am like you “it was a worthwhilre read”. What came first, the Chicken or the Egg (thinking or language)?? I spoke to a mother last night about her little boy’s hair (it looked cool!! He was sooo cute!). He can’t speak but he immediately grabbed his hair (12 – 15 months old?). I had a similar situation with my youngest-he was 1.5 or 2 yrs old-he could not speak at the time. He slipped on the floor in the Kitchen and I smiled and he immediately got angry as it embarassed him-he went and hugged my wife’s leg for comfort and scowled at me. Amazing he couldn’t speak but obviously thought I was laughing at him to his expense. I don’t believe an infant has any idea what we mean by the things we say; I think Joubert is saying they learn the language as they associate their thoughts with the language that they hear-thus thinking first and language second. Pre-Birth language development (perhaps we can agree that thinking IS the proto-language)? There are hundreds of languages so language must be learned. It seems even an infant’s thoughts start very basic and develop as they interact with the world and, of course, as their physical bodies develop (their capacity physically develops)-and of course, if there is local language being spoken as they develop their thoughts then they learn to associate their thoughts with that language. To me, the fact that a child can start thinking so early is a sweet proof of God’s image upon mankind-the Spirit. Even identical twins are individual persons.

          • I might, but I think the underlying point is whether you and others who turn to such pseudoscientific and pseudoscholarly sites for information will fact check their claims against what actual scientists and Biblical scholars have to say. If not, then what will happen is that the charlatans at AiG will say “Here is the solution to this problem” and you will turn around and repeat their solution. It isn’t clear how we are likely to make progress if you only accept one-sided information and not mainstream scholarship.

            As for the question of “errors” it depends what you mean by that. In order to be certain that something is an error, we would need to know that the author was attempting to provide reliable information and failed to do so. In few cases can we demonstrate that. But we can show that some claims, if approached in terms of literalism, are not literally true. Among them is one right in Matthew’s genealogy. He says that there are three groups of fourteen in it. If he is simply using the number 14 because of its symbolic significance, as the value of the name David, then there is not necessarily an “error.” But treated as a literal statement about the number of generations in his genealogy, it would constitute an error, or at least an imprecision, would it not?

          • Watchful1

            Hey James. Well, I fact checked your article above and I have been very specific. Why don’t you comment on each of those things I itemized for a start? Why wouldn’t (God inspired) Luke use Mary’s lineage (the mother rather than the father) to go back to Adam (“son of God”) in order to underscore Jesus is God’s son (see 1 verse before “This is MY son in whom I am well pleased”) and not Joseph’s son? And of course this also highlights the “last Adam” Paul speaks of too in that Adam is tied to Jesus – son of God to son of God. It is easy to say “Pseudo” and “charlatans” (is that really necessary?). If Biblical inerrancy is a big deal to you, why worry about folks like me? Your supporters can fact check. Debate them in an open letter format over a few weeks and be specific-I can assure you they will and then we can all see who builds their case “pseudo” or upon sound logic and God’s Word (“come now and let us reason together”). I will have to respond to the other tonight.

          • Watchful1

            Hello again James. I don’t think so. Look at Matthew 1:17. It says “from Abraham to David” and then “from David until the captivity in Babylon”; David is counted twice. I don’t know why but I have no problem with Matthew (God inspired) doing that. Especially since it was David. I believe the Bible is God breathed so if God says Abraham to David and David to Captivity then I have got to believe He is trying to get something across to us all.I think that here again your believing errors exists has inhibited you. So no error and certainly no imprecision (God breathed). I need to study it more to try and discern what God means with that.

          • Are you counting Jeconiah twice too? Which names are you including in the last group to avoid ending up with only 13?

            This is just one minor example which I mentioned because we are discussing the genealogies and infancy stories. One could also discuss whether Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great, as Matthew says, or in the time of the census under Quirinius, as Luke says (although Luke also mentions Herod at one point, and so the issue is internal to Luke and not just between Luke and Matthew). Is Jesus’ family from Bethlehem, found in a house there some time after Jesus was born and trying to return to Judaea from Egypt after Herod dies? Or are they from Nazareth, only staying in Bethlehem until a month or so after Jesus is born, then going to Jerusalem to offer the required sacrifice at the required time, and then returning to Galilee where, according to Luke, they are from?

            The only way to miss that there are historical issues of this sort is to never read the Bible very carefully or bother to actually inform oneself about its historical, cultural and religious context. Again, I am not denying that people have and continue to try to work our harmonizations. My point is that in order to do so one has to say that what is true is not what either or both Gospels say, but what the harmonizers come up with in order to harmonize them. And that makes the harmonization process inerrant, not the Bible.

          • Watchful1

            Hey James-and let me say “thank-you for talking to me”. I did not include Jeconiah in the middle group because it says “until the carrying away” rather than specifying Jeconiah’s name. I think you are trying to force the number 42 into Matthew 1:17; this verse tells you to pay attention to three groups of fourteen-it never says there were 42 generations from Abraham down to Jesus. I perceive that the reason you “went there” deductively is your axiom that there are errors in the Bible. This makes twice in our discussion I have shown your axiom causes you trouble (of course I probably remind you of your more precocious students too!! Hope the Lord blesses your patience!). I tried to find the significance of 14 last night but nothing so far-can you help me with that? Nothing above has been a forced harmonization; I have shown twice (in these verses at least) that you are assuming things based upon an axiom about the entire Bible rather than inferring from the text you are examining. A brilliant Harvard Law Professor named Simon Greenleaf (late 1800’s) wrote a Harmony of the Resurrection Accounts using the rules of evidence/witnesses and it looks like an Excel spreadsheet. Reading them this way drew my attention to how alone Mary Magdalene was just after she found the tomb empty (John’s account); broke my heart. My point is that I don’t believe your method on these geneologies would stand up in court; you have not pointed out conflicts but mere differences.

          • I wonder whether you are missing the point or misunderstanding what I am trying to communicate. Even in the middle grouping, Matthew has to leave out generations in order to achieve his number of 14. And so if treated as a literal, factual claim about the number of generations between David and Jeconiah, the claim would be false. And using the approach that most self-proclaimed literalists use about numbers and other such details, this precisely the sort of text where one would expect that approach to insist on the literal truthfulness of the text. But it doesn’t work, and Matthew’s focus on 14 because it was the numeric value of David seems to provide a better explanation than that Matthew was conveying literally accurate, mathematically factual data.

          • Watchful1

            Hey James. I think you miss Matthew’s (God’s) point. Some were deliberately left out. You assume (again because your axiom is there are errors in the Bible) He is setting out to recite each and every generation from Abraham down to Jesus and yet Matthew uses David (by name) in two of His 3 sets of 14. That alone proves it’s purpose is not a Chronological listing; He was, after all, writing this for Jews who don’t need David’s name twice and certainly would know of missing Kings. And Matthew was a Tax Collector-very well Educated. I don’t know why God wanted those men left out and I don’t know what the significance of 14 is but it has stimulated a great deal of interest in me; but certainly not doubt (Satan asked Eve – “did God really say?”). When Matthew didn’t mention the Elders in Capernaum as Luke does (of course some try to call that an error too-Matthew never says there were no Elders but just does not mention them), I feel certain it was done to protect those Elders. There was no need to mention them-there were potential persecutions-Matthew was from Capernaum too so probably personally knew them. The problem with Matthew 1:17 lies not in the Bible-as it has no error. The problem lies with your axiom but also with the gap in your knowledge (& mine) as neither of us knows the significance of why the 3 sets of 14 and some left out. You should be mindful that the Bible is of God – He is Infinite and you and I are Finite – His thoughts far higher than ours. We must try to find what He is telling us in leaving them out and 3 sets of 14.

          • I think perhaps you are mistaken in self-identifying as an inerrantist – either that, or you use a definition of inerrancy that dies the death of a thousand qualifications. You seem to accept that some genealogies offer something other than precise family tree data, some numbers offer something other than mathematical precision. And so it isn’t clear that you in fact disagree with me on anything substantial.

          • Mary

            Sounds like you are right on target. Why do people like Greg waste time and energy arguing a point when it always comes down to “Well God said it, I believe it, and you should too.” After leaving post and post arguing a moot point! Now he says you’re are right in your numbers, but wrong in your interpretation.
            Since I assume that you Greg, will be reading this I will say right now that this is the kind of thing that DRIVES PEOPLE AWAY from Christianity. Using deception to argue your “truth” does not bring you any brownie points!
            Shame on you!

          • Mary

            If anybody wonders why I am so upset about this it is because I have encountered so many conservative “Christians” who seem to not have a very good moral compass when it comes to truth-telling. In fact the more zealous they are, the more likely they are to lie. When they lie to themselves, well I have some compassion for that. But when they knowingly lie to others, then I don’t think they deserve a free pass.
            If you have to lie for your faith, then it doesn’t seem like a good faith to me. Does a good God need you to lie for him?

          • Watchful1

            Gracious Mary! Paste what you think is a lie.

          • Watchful1

            Sorry you feel that way Mary. The theme of everything I have written has been that James is wrong about errors in the Bible-certainly about this Matthew/Luke comparison. Everyone knows a few of the Kings are not included-the question is whether it is a mistake of the writer or if it is due to a deeper message. Matthew making it about 3 sets of 14 and naming David twice and leaving some Kings out is strong evidence there is a message and not a mistake. I have tried to use kind language. James has written a National/International article claiming there are errors in the Bible and he needs to be challenged-certainly in a respectful and humble way which I hope I have done. Please paste some of my words that you think are disrespectful or unkind. I have not been deceptive??

          • Mary

            Perhaps I have been too harsh but the reason I got angry was because you did not state your opinion clearly, instead you argued back and forth about the actual lineages and how they supposedly matched. This seemed to me like misdirection. If you believe that there is a reason behind the differences then why did you not state that in the beginning?
            At the very least it shows that you are not very good at debating because you threw in a bunch of non-relevant information.
            At any rate, you have proved Dr. McGrath right in that the lineages don’t match. The difference between you and him have to do with the interpretation of that fact.
            See this is what it always comes down to with fundamentalists. You can’t prove your point by saying “God wanted it that way.” That is interpretation, not fact.
            Even if somehow you could actually prove your point, you would still be ignoring the vast amount of errors and discrepencies in the rest of the bible.

          • Watchful1

            Hey Mary…thanks for your ameliatory words…very kind. I never said the lineages matched. They don’t match from Jesus back to David (where the converge). I said the reason they don”t match is Luke’s is a lineage of Mary. Well…maybe not good at arguing but perhps I could get a better mark from you on debating if we distinguish between the two-please re-read the above as I have given the reasons for my position for all to go and check out for themself in order to see if I am reasonable. I didn’t ever say “God wanted it that way” but rather that an Almighty God should be able to bring a Bible without error or contradiction down to us through the millenia-then I showed information about this supposed error that supports what I believe is the correct answer to the question about it. Of course I do not believe and have never seen any of these supposed “vast” amount of errors though I have examined several over the years. I refer you to AiG’s book on supposed contradictions-why don’t you read it and see if you think tey are reasonable with the information?

          • rmwilliamsjr

            i’m interested in genealogical research, i find it not only a fascinating puzzle but a very personal glimpse into history. the holy grail there is the maternal line because of our western naming conventions following the paternal line. tracing women in the past is difficult because woman don’t leave the same sized footprint in the past that men do, the obvious example being the genealogy of Confucius, the longest in the world, that doesn’t include a single female name, women in China before the 20thC seldom even getting personal names.

            for this reason, the idea that the 2 genealogies are those of joseph and of mary have never make sense to me, why would anyone have kept records of a female lineage in ancient Israel? is there even 1 example of such a lineage preserved for us? genealogies are important in ancient societies, is anyone aware of a culture that preserved female lineages along with the common male based ones? it’s not a question that lends itself to google research i’ve found, unfortunately.

          • Watchful1

            I believe the Bible is from God so it is not just “anyone”. God using Mary’s line in Luke’s lineage is just the counterintuitive type of message we could expect. It is a lot about Jesus is God’s son and not Joseph’s son and about Adam as son of God too and first Adam second Adam. God arranged it so women were the first witnesses of the resurrection-they were not allowed to testify in court at that time and yet God used them to be the first witnesses. God didn’t use the so called experts of the day-He instead used fishermen, tax collectors etc. Underscores it is by His power.

          • And if God is able to do so, and the evidence is clear that what we have is not an inerrant Bible, then should that not persuade everyone that we are not meant to have an inerrant Bible?

            But unfortunately, charlatan-led groups like AiG will claim that the Bible provides accurate historical, genealogical, and scientific information, and no evidence from the Bible itself is allowed to contradict that dogma, no matter how much violence has to be done to the Bible in order to crowbar it into their doctrine of inerrancy.

          • Watchful1

            love to see your book refuting the “charlatans” James.

          • Scientists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins and Biblical scholars like Gordon Wenham amd John Walton have already done so. There is no need for me to add to the extensive literature already available.

          • Watchful1

            Well I still encourage you to connect with AiG and the others. I believe they are the more reasonable with the imperical information than folks that follow the uniformitarian/materialist model.

          • Watchful1

            Hey James. Well why would Matthew make a “precise” geneology that has David listed twice and leaves out a couple of names? Looks a lot like he had something else in mind-he also says there are 3 sets of 14 which also implies a deeper message than just a geneology A through J. You still assume 14 is all about David; why not Abraham’s or Jesus’ number?

          • Because the letters of their names in Hebrew or Greek do not add up to 14 whereas David’s does in Hebrew.

            That answer seems so obvious, I am wondering whether perhaps I have misunderstood your question?

          • Watchful1

            Is there some rule requiring 14 to be associated with a name?

          • No, it just is. Again, I am not clear what you mean.

          • Watchful1

            14 does not neccessarily refer to David in Luke. May have another meaning.

          • Watchful1

            Are you saying you don’t believe Matthew made an error? And yes, “some genealogies offer something other than precise family tree data” (I think I read to quick!!) 🙂

          • I don’t think Matthew’s number scheme is an “error,” since he is clearly emphasizing 14 for reasons other than numerical precision. It is not as though he left out generations from Chronicles by accident.

            Whether the discrepancy regarding the approximate year of Jesus’ birth (around 6 BC vs. around AD 6) between Matthew and Luke represents an “error” depends whether you think that the author was trying to convey historical information. But either way, it cannot be the case that both are historical. If one thinks that they were not trying to record accurate dates and other such details, but merely to offer a story that emphasized Jesus’ significance by depicting his birth in miraculous terms, then one would not have to view such discrepancies as “errors.” Indeed, they would be important clues about the kind of literature this is and how it should be interpreted.

          • Watchful1

            Hey James. You incorrectly assume there is a discrepancy. If there are reasonable alternatives (after all this is a translation) then it is fine to give the author (2,000 years later) the benefit of the doubt; is our Bible God breathed or not? I believe that it is and therefore no errors. Luke does not give Quirinius a title but says he “was governing Syria”; Cilicia was added to the Syrian province about this time and Quirinius won great victories up in what is now Turkey (Cilicia is up there). The Jews became very fussy during Census time every 12 or 14 years and the Governor of that time, Varus, was cruel and ineffective (Varus lost 3 legions and his life in AD 7); so it would be no surprise for Augustus Ceasar to direct Quirinius to handle that Census (time of Jesus’ birth)-then make him full Governor a few years later. Another alternative mentioned is that the Greek word “protos” can be translated “before” rather than “first”. Luke, the Historian, is associating Jesus’ birth with an apparently famous person named Quirinius (and not Varus-perhaps because not as well known as Quirinius 40 years later-Luke was writing to the Gentiles many years after the events)-I expect in order to pinpoint Jesus’ birth in time. Acts 5:37 shows Luke was well aware of Quirinius’ “great census” (when he had become full Governor) wherein “Judas the Galilean rose up (in rebellion) in the days of the Census” and so it seems perfectly logical Luke would contrast the census of Jesus’ birth time (not an infamous one and during the time of unknown Varus) with Quirinius who came just after and who had a very distinguished career-famous. The latter seems more likely.

          • I am not talking about translations, although I will use them to discuss the text with people who do not know the relevant languages. But my aim is always to discuss the text in the original languages. And despite the false claims made on some web sites and in other places, which have clearly influenced you, the Greek of Luke is clear, even if on one reading it is awkward, and the census under Quirinius cannot mean anything other than the famous one which marked the transfer to direct Roman rule and sparked the zealot movement. There is no conceivable way that it can refer to an event that occurred while Herod the Great was still alive.

            See the further discussion here:

          • Watchful1

            Quirinius was a Consul for 7 years in Rome (12BC). In 6 BC he defeated the Homonodenses in Cilicia for which he was greatly honored in Rome. Quinirius received the Proconsul of Cilicia which was subsequently, at that time, separated from the province of Cyprus and joined to Syria (including the Judea of Herod and Jesus Christ) which was governed by Saturninus. Saturninus was subsequently followed by equally inexperienced (compared to Quirinius) Quinctilius Varus all occurring around the end of Herod’s life and Jesus’ birth. There was a great deal of turmoil at the end of Herod’s life; calling for an experienced hand. Josephus wrote of Voluminous and Saturninus both as Governors when Voluminous was the Govornor so there is precedence for multiple leaders-Quirinius was the greatest of them all by far. Luke is using Quirinius as a marker in time and is also distinguishing between this first Tax he managed and the second one which was more famous (AD 6). That way he more precisely establishes the date of the birth of Jesus-Luke was writing many years after the events to Gentiles in Greece and Rome and not to Palestiniane Jews. Luke did not make a mistake and neither did Matthew. We can trust our Bible.

          • Making things up, as either you are or your sources are, does not make the Bible trustworthy. Nor does ignoring what the Bible says. Do you deny that the census Luke refers to as happening when Quirinius was governor of Syria happened when he occupied that specific role? Do you have evidence of a Roman census of Judaea while Herod the Great was still king?


          • Watchful1

            James…do you have evidence there was not a Census?? 2000 years later? Quinirius’ Consulship, famous, Defeat of the Homonadensians-Tacitus, Annals, Volume 3 Chapter 48, Loeb Series Book 3 Pages 597, 599. Volumnius and Saturninus both called Governor-Josephus, Jewish War, Chapter 27, Loeb Series Book 2 Page 255. Tertulian stated “There was a tax raised under Augustus in Judea, by Sentius Saturninus.”-Against Marcion, Volume 4 Chapter 19, Loeb Series Book 3 Page 378. In Egypt there is now direct & indirect evidence of Census’ in Augustus’ time-11/10 BC; 4/3 BC; AD 4/5 and AD 11/12 (See Bagnall and Frier). 1764 Marble Fragment honoring a Roman General “conquored a nation, was rewarded with supplicatioes and Triumphalia, Governed Asia as Proconsul, and twice goverened Syria as legatus of the divine Augustus” has to be of Quinirius; Quinirius was there for the census at the time of the birth of Chris-see Moulton and Milligan-also the Archeologist Ramsay.

          • OK, so you have listed numerous sources and a variety of governors, but that doesn’t help make your case. Nor does the fragmentary inscription which refers to someone being governor a second time, in Syria, since (1) it only means that that the person had been a governor before, and this second time it was in Syria, and (2) we know the career of Quirinius and there are no gaps that would allow him to have that role in Syria in the time before Herod’s death.

            The census under Quirinius after Archelaus was deposed and direct Roman rule institued sparked off uprisings. Is there any reason to think that there was an earlier census it caused no such ripples and merited not even a mention in our sources? Or are you not asking a historical question about what is likely, and instead happy to accept anything, however improbable, as long as it isn’t strictly speaking impossible, if it agrees with the Bible? If so, then you are not adopting a historical approach, and so the conclusions you draw bear no relevance to the historical enterprise.

          • Watchful1

            Well many don’t agree with you James; and I believe the Bible-and Luke. What I listed was a timeline of Quinirius’ life; he was in and around Judea before during and after Jesus’s birth. He was one of Augustus’ best leaders-far above the others there. There is no reason not to believe, based upon Luke having designating it so, that Quinirius was at least one of the ruling authorities-and that he handled the Census of Jesus’ birth time. Josephus reported the AD 6 Tax was especially heavy (600 Talents)-see Josephus’ Antiquities 17.320; Jewish War 2.97. Perhaps the one in Jesus’ birth time was nominal so not as big a back lash. Did Herod being dead affect the Jews’ propensity for revolt in AD 6? What is improbable is an error in the Bible. I am adopting the Biblical approach; I compare the world to the Bible and not the Bible to the world.

          • No, you subordinate to your view of what the Bible is all other data, whether from the Bible or from other sources. Until the Bible itself is allowed to shape your view of what the Bible is, then nothing, not in the Bible, will be able to change your mind.

          • Watchful1

            Yes I subordinate all to what the Bible says; and I certainly need to be attentive to especially the tough to understand passages so that I might rightly discern. I don’t see how the Bible could shape me positively if I never trusted it to be without error (some Almighty God that would be). I will leave you with Proverbs 30:5-6 (Except the last line – I do NOT apply liar to you as I think you are a nice person and desire that you do well) “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will rebuke you…”

          • I think your quip “Some Almighty God that would be” is telling. The heart of the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is human presumption about what an Almight God would do. And the biggest problem with it is to be found right there. One could argue “Six days rather than instantaneously? Some Almighty God that is!” “Diverse and divergent manuscripts? Some Almighty God that is!” Since the data does not support God having acted in e ways inerrantists would lead us to suppose, clearly human presumption about how God ought to act can be misplaced. And given the arrogant rejection of new information that one encounters merely from people who think that they have an inerrant Bible, it is clearly a good thing that God did not give us one in actual fact, or such stubborn refusal to learn new things might be far more pervasive among Christians.

          • Watchful1

            Also it seems to me that 14 has nothing to do with David here – since there is Abraham and Jesus too. Why would the 3 sets of 14 involving Jesus and Abraham be a number about David? I have been taught that the Hebrew letters of David’s name add up to 14 but again this is beyond David. Matthew 1:1 says “son of Abraham, son of David”.

          • rmwilliamsjr

            It’s basis is Scrivner’s Textus Receptus which I consider very authoritative.
            Word studies are some of the most fruitful times spent in the Bible.

            my point is that scholarship matters. that the church needs true competent scholars to guide it. that word studies are NOT scholarship. again: doing a word study is not scholarship, it’s amateur quiet time.

            do you have any idea how nonsensical your statement i quoted here really is, and why?

            “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is that there is none.”-m. noll.

            i sure hope you have pastors and elders that use the UBS Greek, but unfortunately if you believe that the TR is VERY authoritative you’re probably KJV-only, another sad situation for the church.

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: I agree with you that scholarship matters and that the Church needs competent scholars. But Word studies most certainly are scholarship and are very important – if the item is in another language and you only have translations then how in heaven’s name do you expect to discern the tougher sections’ true meanings?(!) By finding a “true scholar” to tell you what to think (tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine)? And if Word studies are “amateur” then why did Dr. Strong produce his gargantuan Concordance (word study)? Why did Dr. Frank Charles Thompson develop the “Thompson Chain Reference Bible” (it also is essentially a gargantuan word study “chaining” a Word all the way through the Bible)? Why did Louw & Nida develop their Volumes on Semantic Domains? Were those 4 men “amateurs”? I pray God the “sensicalness” of what I just wrote changes your heart; if you fail to use word studies and some of the tools I just mentioned above because you think it is for “amateurs” then you are missing out on so much. UBS Greek: I have been taught that Westcott-Hort based this primarily on two early Greek manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus texts. Also that these two texts frequently disagreed with each other as well as with the Textus Receptus and also contained many obvious and flagrant mistakes. I have not looked into those details but report to you so you can go see for yourself-you may be gravely mistaken in trusting them. I am not KJV only; it is best to read NKJV, KJV and perhaps others. Better to read more than one translation.

          • rmwilliamsjr

            Were those 4 men “amateurs”?

            you confuse the scholarly task of building those word study tools with someone who does word studies. analogously to an architect or builder to the person living in the house they built, just because you live in the house doesn’t make you an architect.

            if you fail to use word studies and some of the tools I just mentioned above because you think it is for “amateurs” then you are missing out on so much.

            i am amateur, i am not a scholar. i am not a teacher. i’ve only 2 years each of university greek and hebrew and could not sustain examinations in either, but i can use the tools, word studies are a very basic “freshman” type of tool, useful but as i said not a scholarly tool, much more than that is required in licensure examinations including a natural english translation of a greek text outloud at close to normal speed. that is a beginning scholarship level ie MAR/MDiv

            if the item is in another language and you only have translations then how in heaven’s name do you expect to discern the tougher sections’ true meanings?(!) By finding a “true scholar” to tell you what to think (tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine)?

            that is the purpose of denominational scholars and seminaries.
            a repository of faithful scholarship under church control.

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: Nothing is confused. I am thankful those scholars built those tools and I recognize the value of focused word study (and obviously so did they). “freshman”? It is your loss son. “licensure examinations” are not the point; understanding the Bible is. Scholars are fallible people; nothing replaces our personal study of the Word of God. Their scholarship should certainly be respected-but God’s Word is the final authority-not fallible man’s opinions-Acts 17:11!

          • Watchful1

            Mr. Williams: I forgot to mention Acts 17:11 where Paul commended the Bereans for searching the scriptures for themselves. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”.

  • Reynaldo De Leon

    I’ve encountered this passage multiple times and pondered on the subject. Still, I maintain Biblical inerrancy without explaining away the text. Yes, both Gospels speak of two different genealogies attributed to Joseph and one of them is Mary. How can this be? In a technical sense, the Bible does not explain its reasons for doing so; however, I’ve developed some speculations on this problem which (I think) stems from a cultural context. With that in mind, perhaps the social context can give us a clue.

    Since the husband is the head of the household, it should not surprise us that things are attributed or credited to the head of the household. While Joseph was not legally married (at the time), we know that both authors ascribe these genealogies to him because he married her after the fact. Since he is the head of the household, he counts as a son twice by biological and legal means. While Matthew does talk about the biological* aspect of his genealogy, Luke’s primary focus deals with the ancestry that is attributed to Joseph by legal entity; he is to Mary’s parents a son-in-law.

    I hope this speculation proves insightful.

    • But neither is attributed to Mary, and you have provided no evidence that anyone was in the habit of providing a woman’s genealogy attributed to her husband-to-be in this manner. All your speculation proves is that when people want to claim that a text is inerrant, they will speculate away difficulties. But this approach can be used to claim the inerrancy of any text whatsoever, and so shows nothing unique about the Bible – or about the Christians who engage in such forced harmonizations.