(I include ‘original manuscripts’ for the following reason: Some Bible translators take liberties and may translate something incorrectly. They make it appear that t…he Bible, in fact, does have errors. Yet, in the original writings written in Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek, there is not one single statement that is contrary to fact/truth. That being said, I am so glad that there are extremely good and accurate translations of Scripture in our English language.)
Now, let’s dig just a little deeper because a student of the Bible needs to approach God’s Word with their minds fully engaged. We believe that everything that is written is truthful … but what does that mean?
For instance, in my Bible reading this morning I read Genesis 16:1-3 where it says:
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.’ And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)” (New Living Translation)
How are we to understand this passage? Abraham had sexual relations with someone other than his wife. Is the Bible affirming this behavior? Absolutely not! The belief in the inerrancy of Scripture means that when the Bible recounts this event, it happened exactly as it said it did. Yet, the inerrancy of Scripture does not mean that God affirms this behavior. All we need do is high tail it to the 10 Commandments and read “You shall not commit adultery” to realize that Abraham and Sarah were in sin when this plan was forged and implemented.
However, certain other types of literature (genres) in Scripture are presented at truth and should be taken that way without question. For instance, the letters of Paul in the New Testament are presented as truth. We believe it, no questions asked. We should certainly search other passages of Scripture in the study of Paul’s letters but we don’t do so to see whether or not Paul’s statements are right or wrong. We do so to shed greater light on the truth that God is presenting through Paul’s pen.
So, when reading through your Bible, begin with an understanding of what type of literature you are reading. Are you reading history/narrative, poetry, prophecy, epistles, etc.? The type of literature you are reading will determine how you understand and apply what you are reading.