Is the Bible the Inerrant Word of God

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 4



"Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." — John 6:6o, 66.

Our subject this morning is: "Difficulties in the Bible: What shall we do with them?" You will find the text in John 6:60, 66:"Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it? . . . From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him."

There are many today who stumble at things they find in the Bible. They say that these things cannot be God's Word, and so they give up the Bible and, ultimately, they give up Jesus Christ; for anyone who gives up the Bible is bound to give up Jesus Christ sooner or later. They may use His name still, and speak in a very complimentary way about Him, and they may call themselves "Christians" and even pose as preachers, but they have really given up Him; they have given up the only Real Christ there is — the Christ of the Bible. Any other Christ than the Christ of the Bible is a fictitious Christ, a pure figment of the imagination, a false Christ, an Anti-Christ. They give up, first, His Virgin Birth, then they give up His literal Resurrection from the Dead, then they give up His Atoning Death, then they have no Christ left, only a shadow, an empty dream. The Real Christ has gone. They have no Real Christ, Christ Jesus, and they are "without Christ . . . having no hope, and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12.) They are doomed and ultimately damned.

Now, this is no new thing. It is not at all peculiar to our day, as many seem to fancy. It is not peculiar to the twentieth century, nor to the nineteenth century. In our text we see the same thing in the first century. We see that when the Lord Jesus Himself was here on earth, those who had been "His disciples," those who had followed Him, those who had come to Him and professed to be "learners" in His school, stumbled, even at what He Himself said, and shook their heads and said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" and then we read, "From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." If men who professed to be disciples of Christ and saw Him with their own eyes and "beheld His miracles," and who on the immediately preceding day had been of the five thousand who saw the five small loaves and two small fishes multiplying in His hands, stumbled at something He said, just because, with their dull, puny brains they could not take it in and, therefore, stupidly and wickedly threw it overboard, because, as Jesus Himself said to them, they had not faith (vs. 64) and, therefore, had not sense enough to just trust the Son of God, when they could not see, is it any wonder if men today are so foolish as to throw the words of Jesus Christ overboard because they cannot fully take them in, and throw the Bible overboard because there are in it what appear to them, "hard sayings"?

There are, as we saw last Sunday, Difficulties in the Bible, real Difficulties. What shall we do with them? How shall we deal with them? Last Sunday I gave you seven general statements about these Difficulties that will go a long way toward solving them for you, and many of you told me afterward that you were greatly helped. One young woman came up and said, "That sermon was just for me." She was in school and was being bothered by things she heard there, as so many young men and young women today are being bothered by what shallow and ignorant and self-sufficient teachers and professors in High Schools, Colleges and Universities are saying.

I. How to Deal with the Difficulties in the Bible

But what shall we do with these Difficulties? How shall we deal with them when we meet them?

1. First of all, let me say, Let us deal with any Difficulty and every Difficulty we meet in the Bible with perfect honesty. Whenever you find a Difficulty in the Bible, frankly acknowledge it, do not try to obscure it, do not try to dodge it, do not evade it. Evasion never pays. Be honest through and through; perfect honesty and frankness always win out in the long run. Look the Difficulty frankly and fearlessly square in the face, admit it frankly to whoever mentions it. If you cannot give a good, square, honest explanation, do not attempt any explanation at all. Untold harm has been done by those who, in their zeal for the infallibility of the Bible, have attempted explanations of Difficulties which do not commend themselves to the honest, fair-minded man. People have naturally thought that if these are the best explanations that can be given, then there are really no explanations at all, and the Bible, instead of being helped, has been injured by the unintelligent zeal of foolish friends. Foolish friends of the Bible have done far more to discredit it with men and women who think for themselves than the bitterest enemies have ever done. If you are really convinced that the Bible is the Word of God, you can far better afford to wait for an honest solution of a Difficulty than you can afford to attempt a solution that is evasive and unsatisfactory. Let us hate all manner of evasion and lying. A "pious lie" is the most impious and the most destructive of all lies.

2. In the second place, Let us deal with any Difficulty we meet in the Bible with that humility that becomes all persons of such limited understanding as we all are. Recognize the limitations of your own mind and knowledge, and do not for a moment imagine that there is no solution just because you have found none. There is, in all probability, a very simple solution, even when you can find no solution at all.

3. In the third place, Let us deal with every Difficulty we meet in the Bible with indomitable determination. Make up your mind that you will find the solution, if you possibly can, no matter what amount of time and study and hard thinking it may require. The Difficulties in the Bible are our Heavenly Father's challenge to us to set our brains to work, and to keep them at work until we have solved the puzzle. Do not give up searching for a solution because you cannot find one in five minutes or ten minutes or ten days. Ponder over it and work over it for days, if necessary. The work will do you more good than the solution does. There is a solution somewhere and you will find it, if you will only search for it long enough and hard enough. I thank God for the hardest puzzles I have found in the Bible, that have made me think and think and think, and dig and dig and dig, and ransack the Bible. That is why I am here today, in my present position of rare and joyous opportunity.

4. In the fourth place, Deal with every Difficulty you find in the Bible with perfect fearlessness. Oh! there are so many students of the Bible who have horrid skeletons and frightful ghosts in the closets of their Bible thinking. There are passages here and there at which they are afraid to look. They are afraid someone in their Sunday-School class will spring some question upon them about them. I do not like ghosts. I love to run them down. I hurt a ghost badly one night, when I was a boy, by kicking him in the stomach; and the ghost proved to be only a neighbor boy with a pumpkin lantern on his pumpkin head, and a sheet over both the lantern and himself. That is about all that there is, usually, to these ghosts in our Bible study, the seeming Difficulties that nearly frighten the wits out of many of us.

Some years ago there was a ghost that haunted a graveyard in Georgia. Many had seen this ghost in the weird hours of the night running along the top of the graveyard wall. One night, a doctor driving by saw the ghost. He could scarcely believe his eyes. There it was, all white and active. He was a brave man. He fastened his horse and ran after the ghost. The ghost ran along the wall and jumped down on the other side, and the doctor sprang over after him. The ghost dodged in and out among the tombs, with the doctor in hot pursuit. There was a flat grave-stone underneath which the water had washed away some of the earth. The ghost plunged into this hole. It certainly was a ghost, going back into its grave. But the doctor was brave. He was no quitter. He plunged his hand into the grave, and caught the ghost by the heel and pulled it out. The ghost was an insane woman in a nightgown. She had been running loose through the Cemetery frightening the wits out of silly folk. Do not be afraid of ghosts anywhere; and especially do not be afraid of ghosts in your Bible study. Do not be frightened when you find a Difficulty, no matter how unanswerable or how inexplicable or how insurmountable it may appear at first sight. Thousands of men have found just such Difficulties before you were born. Not only that, but they have seen this same Difficulty that now frightens you. These Difficulties were all seen hundreds of years ago, and still the Old Book stands. The Bible that has already stood eighteen centuries of rigid examination, and also of incessant and awful assault, is not likely to go down before your discoveries, or even before the discharge of any "modern," "scholarly," "critical" guns (in which they certainly use neither smokeless nor noiseless powder) nor before the poison gases of "Modern Criticism" either, which is usually found to be only "hot air" after all. To one who is at all familiar with the history of "critical" attacks on the Bible, the childlike confidence of these self-sufficient "modern" (destructive) "critics," who think they are going to annihilate the Bible at last, is both amazing and amusing.

While we were going round the world, almost everywhere that we held meetings, in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, India, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and all over America, I had a question box once a week, or oftener, in which people could place any difficulty they found in the Bible, and I promised to answer it, if I could. After awhile I found that the same questions and problems came up everywhere. People would put in questions that they imagined were new, but they were all gray-headed. Until, at last, I was quite persuaded that Solomon was right when he said, "There is no new thing under the sun" (Eccles. 1 19), at least in Bible Difficulties. And some of our vastly learned Theological Professors of the "Modern Critical School" are trotting out these old, dilapidated, wind-broken hacks of horses, poor ringboned, spavined,, old plugs, on the theological race course with a joyous assurance that they have found at last a pure-blooded young Arabian of matchless speed.

When we were holding meetings in Massey Hall, Toronto, a young theological student, who was deeply concerned about my need of intellectual illumination, wrote me a pathetic note urging me to attend the lectures of a much admired young Professor who was then teaching in Knox College, that I might learn what real "modern thinking" and "scholarship" had to say about the Bible. Bless his dear young heart, I had heard before, in Germany, the source of all this sort of stuff (and elsewhere) all the Professor was retailing in Toronto, as a feeble echo of what was being echoed in Scotland from Germany, whence the original voice came, I say I had heard it all before, while the brilliant Professor was still in pantalets in bonnie Scotland. I met the Professor himself at dinner a few nights later, and told him of his fresh and callow student, and we had a good laugh over it.

There is nothing to be afraid of in any of these Difficulties. It has been proved, beyond the possibility of reasonable doubt, that the whole Bible is the Inerrant Word of God, so we may look every apparently portentous Difficulty square in the face, with absolute and well founded confidence that some day, if not today, a complete solution will be found.

5. In the fifth place, Let us deal with the Difficulties we find in the Bible with undiscouraged and untiring patience. Do not be discouraged in the least, if some Difficulty that you discover, or that someone else fires at you, does not disappear at the first hour's consideration of it, or in a day. Have you never had problems in other lines of study that you could not solve even in a year? If not, you have never done any deep studying along any line. If some Difficulty persistently defies your very hardest efforts to solve it, lay it aside for awhile and ponder other things. Very likely, when you come back to it, it will have disappeared, and you will wonder how you were ever perplexed by it.

A friend wrote me a few years ago about an entirely different sort of Difficulty that had arisen in my own work and, apparently, a very serious Difficulty. "If I were you," he wrote, "I would not do anything about it. Time is a great healer." I took his advice and dismissed the matter for a time, in fact I never did anything about it, and time did prove to be a great healer. The Difficulty entirely evaporated beneath the genial rays of the march of time. So it will be with many of your most disconcerting Bible Difficulties. Be patient and they will vanish of themselves; and the bugbear you once trembled at, you will now laugh at.

6. In the sixth place, and this is of tremendous importance, Deal with all Bible Difficulties Scripturally. If you find an apparently staggering Difficulty in one part of the Bible, look for some other passage of Scripture to throw light upon it and solve it. The best solvent of Bible Difficulties is found in the Bible itself. Nothing explains Scripture like Scripture. That is one of the countless practical proofs of the Divine origin of the Bible, that "all Scripture is God breathed." Time and time again, people have come to me with some Difficulty in the Bible that had greatly staggered them, and almost floored them, and implored me for a solution, and I simply pointed them to some other passage in the Book whose clearer light has scattered all the mists and apparent miasma that seemed to gather thick about the passage that troubled. The darkness vanished, and the glorious day dawned. The entrance of God's words had given light; it had given understanding unto the simple (Ps. 119:130).

7. In the seventh and last place, Deal with every Difficulty prayerfully. It is simply wonderful how Difficulties dissolve when one looks at them on his knees. It is an easy way to "dissolve doubts" and explain "dark sentences." Daniel found it so many centuries and chiliads ago (Dan. 5:12, cf. Dan. 6:10). There is a glorious alchemy about prayer that transforms the darkest and most bewildering Difficulties into clear shining and illuminating truth, that transforms "stones of stumbling" into the many jeweled walls of the New Jerusalem, with its endless day and "no night there." It is well, as you read your Bible, not only to pray, "Open thou my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" but, also, "Open thou my eyes that I may see through and through the rough oyster shell of seeming difficulty to the glorious pearl of lustrous truth within." Not only does God, in answer to prayer, open our eyes "to behold wondrous things" out of His law, but he also opens our eyes to look through a Difficulty that before we prayed seemed impenetrable. One great reason why so many "Modern Bible Scholars" have learned to be destructive critics is because they have forgotten how to pray.

II. Classes of Difficulties

I have a little time left to speak of the various Classes of Difficulties. All the Difficulties found in the Bible can be included under ten general heads.

1. The first Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the text from which our English Bible was translated. No one, as far as I know, holds that the Authorized Version, or any English translation of the Bible, is absolutely infallible and inerrant. The doctrine held by me and by many others who have given years to careful and thorough study of the Bible is, that the Scriptures as originally given were absolutely infallible and Inerrant, and that our English translation is a substantially accurate rendering of the Scriptures as originally given. We do not possess the original manuscripts of the Bible. These original manuscripts were copied many, many times with great care and exactness, but, naturally, some errors crept into the copies that were made. We now possess so many good copies that by comparing one with another, we can tell with great precision just what the original text was. Indeed, for all practical purposes the original text is now settled. There is not one important doctrine that hangs upon any doubtful or uncertain reading of the text. But when our Authorized Version was made, some of the best manuscripts that we now have were not within the reach of the translators, and the science of textual criticism was not so perfected then as it is today, and so the translation was made from an imperfect text. Not a few of the apparent Difficulties in the Bible arise from this source.

For example, we are told in Jno. 5 14 that "an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first -after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had." This statement, for many reasons, seems improbable and difficult to believe, but, upon investigation, we find that it is all a mistake of the copyist. Some early copyist, reading John's account, added in the margin his explanation of the healing properties of this intermittent medicinal spring. A later copyist embodied this marginal note in the body of the text, and so it came to be handed down and got into the Authorized Version. Very properly, it has been omitted from the Revised Version.

The discrepancies in figures in different accounts of the same events, as, for example, the differences in the ages of some of the kings as given in the texts of Kings and Chronicles, may arise from the same cause, errors of copyists. Such an error in the matter of figures could very easily be made, as in the Hebrew numbers are denoted by letters, and letters that appear very much alike have a very different value as figures. For example, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet denotes "one," and with two little points above it, not larger than flyspecks, it denotes a "thousand." The twenty-third or last letter of the Hebrew alphabet denotes "four hundred," but the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, that looks very much like it and could easily be mistaken for it, denotes "eight." A very slight error of the copyist would therefore make an utter change in the figures. The remarkable thing, when one contemplates the facts in the case, is that so few errors of this kind have been made, and we are constantly getting proof that the figures we fancied were wrong are really correct.

2. The second Class of Difficulties are those that arise from inaccurate translations. For example, in Matt. 12:40 Jonah is spoken of as being "in the whale's belly." Many a skeptic has made merry over the thought of a whale with the peculiar construction of its mouth and throat swallowing a man, but if the skeptic had only taken the trouble to look the matter up, he would have found that the word translated "whale" really means "sea monster," without any definition as to the character of the sea monster. So, the whole difficulty arose from the translator's mistakes and the skeptic's ignorance. There are many skeptics today who are so densely ignorant of matters clearly understood by many Sunday-School children that they are still harping, in the name of "scholarship," on this supposed error in the Bible. One of the best known professors in Union Theological Seminary, in New York, one of the most popular of "modernist" preachers trotted this out in an address last Oct. 23, 1921. In regard to this particular Difficulty, it may be still further said that there are whales of another species than those known some years ago (when the critics first urged this objection to the historical credibility of the Bible) that could swallow a man whole, and have swallowed a man whole, and a man has been rescued alive from "the belly of a whale."

3. The third Class of Difficulties are those that arise from false interpretations of the Bible, What the Bible teaches is one thing, and what men interpret it to mean is oftentimes something widely different. Many Difficulties that we have with the Bible arise not from what the Bible actually says, but from what men interpret it to mean. A striking illustration of this is found in the first chapter of Genesis. If we were to take the interpretation put upon this chapter by many interpreters, it might be somewhat difficult to reconcile it with much that modern science regards as established. But the difficulty is not with what the first chapter of Genesis says, but with the interpretation that is put upon it. There is no contradiction whatever between -what is really proven by science and what is really said in the first chapter of Genesis.

4. The fourth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from a wrong conception of the Bible. Many think that when you say the Bible is the Word of God, that it is of Divine origin and authority, that you mean that God is the speaker in every utterance that it contains, but this is not at all what is meant. Oftentimes, the Bible simply records what others say — what good men say, what bad men say, what inspired men say, what uninspired men say, what angels and demons say, and even what The Devil himself says. The record of what they said is from God, God's Word, and is absolutely true, but what those other persons are recorded as saying may be true or may not be true. It is true that they said it, but what they said may not be true.

For example, The devil is recorded, in Gen. 3:4, as saying: "Ye shall not surely die." It is true that The Devil said it, but what The Devil said is not true, but an infamous lie that shipwrecked our race. That The Devil said it is God's Word, but what The Devil said is not God's word, but The Devil's word. It is not God's truth, but The Devil's lie. It is God's word that this lie was The Devil's word.

Very many careless readers of the Bible do not notice who is talking — God, good men, bad men, inspired men, uninspired men, angels or Devil. They will tear a verse right out of its context, regardless of the speaker, and say: "There, God said that," but God said nothing of the kind. God says The Devil said it, or a bad man said it, or a good man said it, or an inspired man said it, or an uninspired man said it, or an angel said it. What God says is true, viz., that The Devil said it, or that someone else said it, but what they said may not be true.

It is very common to hear men quote what Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar said to Job as if it were necessarily God's own word because it is recorded in the Bible, in spite of the fact that God definitely disavowed their teaching and said to them: "Ye have not spoken of Me the thing which is right" (Jno. 42:7). It is true that these men said the thing that God records them as saying, but, oftentimes, they gave the truth a twist, and said what is not right. A very large share of our Difficulties thus arise from not noticing who is speaking. The Bible always makes it plain who is speaking, and we should always note carefully who is speaking.

5. The fifth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the language in which the Bible was written. The Bible is a book for all ages and for all kinds of people, and, therefore, it was written in the language that continues the same and is understood by all, the language of the common people and of appearances (phenomena). It was not written in the terminology of science. It is one of the perfections of the Bible that it was not written in the terminology of modern science. If the Bible had been written in the terminology of modern science, it would never have been understood until the present day, and, even now, it would be understood only by a few. Furthermore, as science and its terminology are constantly changing, the Bible, if written in the terminology of the science of today, would be out of date in a few years from now, but being written in just the language chosen, it has proved the Book for all ages, all lands and all conditions of men.

Other Difficulties, from the language in which the Bible was written, arise from the fact that large portions of the Bible are poetical, and are written in the language of poetry, the language of feeling, passion, imagination and figure. Now, if a man is hopelessly prosaic, he will inevitably find Difficulties with these poetical portions of the inspired Word.

6. The sixth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from our defective knowledge of the history, geography and usages of Bible times. We have an illustration of this in Acts 13 7. Here, Luke speaks of "the deputy," or, more accurately, "the proconsul" (see Revised Version) of Cyprus. Roman provinces were of two classes, imperial and senatorial. The ruler of an imperial province was called a "propraetor," of a senatorial province a "proconsul." Up to a comparatively recent date, according to the best information we had, Cyprus was an imperial province and, therefore, its ruler would be a "propraetor," but Luke calls him a "proconsul." This certainly seemed like a clear case of error on Luke's part, and even conservative commentators in former days felt forced to admit that Luke was in slight error, and the destructive critics were delighted to find this "mistake." But further and more thorough investigation has brought to light the fact that just at the time of which Luke wrote, the Senate had made an exchange with the Emperor, whereby Cyprus had become a senatorial province, and, therefore, its ruler a "proconsul"; and Luke was exactly and minutely correct, after all, and the very "scholarly" literary critics were themselves in error in their criticism. The mistake was theirs and not Luke's.

Time and time again, further researches and discoveries, geographical, historical and archaeological, have vindicated the Bible and confounded the critics. All the discoveries of modern archaeological research have justified the Bible statements and exposed the folly of "The Higher Critics." That has happened time and time again, until nothing is left of the composite theory of the Pentateuch, and the theory of its late origin as originally taught and defined.

The book of Daniel has, naturally, been one of the books that infidels and destructive critics have most hated. One of their strongest arguments against its authenticity and veracity was that such a person as Belshazzar was unknown to history, and that all historians agreed that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, and that he was absent from the City when it was captured, and so Belshazzar must be a purely mythical character and the whole story legendary and not historical. Their argument seemed very strong; in fact, it seemed unanswerable. But Sir H. Rawlinson discovered at Mugheir, and other Chaldean sites, clay cylinders on which Belshazzar (Belsaruzur) is named by Nabonidus himself as his eldest son. Doubtless, he reigned as regent in the City during his father's absence, an indication of which we have in the Bible account in his proposal to make Daniel "third ruler in the kingdom" (Dan. 5:16) — he himself being second ruler in the kingdom, Daniel then would be next to himself. So the Bible was vindicated, and the critics put to shame.

It is not so long since the destructive critics asserted most positively that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch, because writing was unknown in his day, but recent discoveries have proved, beyond a question, that writing far antedates the time of Moses. So, the destructive critics have been compelled to give up their argument, though they have had the bad grace to hold on stubbornly to their conclusion, even though the foundation upon which the conclusion was built was gone.

7. The seventh Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the ignorance of conditions under which books were written and commands given. For example, to one ignorant of the conditions, God's commands to Israel as to the extermination of the Canaanites seem cruel and horrible, but when one understands the moral condition to which those nations had sunken, and the utter hopelessness of reclaiming them and the weakness of the Israelites themselves, the total extermination of the Canaanites seems to have been an act of mercy to all succeeding generations, and even to themselves.

8. The eighth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the many-sidedness of the Bible. The broadest minded man is one-sided, but the truth is many-sided, and the Bible is all-sided. So, to our narrow thoughts one part of the Bible often seems to contradict another part. For example, men as a rule are either Calvinistic or Arminian in their mental make-up, and some portions of the Bible are decidedly Calvinistic and present great Difficulties to the Arminian type of mind, while other portions are decidedly Arminian and present great Difficulties to the Calvinistic type of mind, but both sides are true. Many men in our day are broad-minded enough to grasp at the same time the Calvinistic side of the truth and the Arminian side of the truth, but some are not, and so the Bible perplexes, puzzles and bewilders them, but the trouble is not with the Bible, but with their own lack of capacity for comprehensive thought.

9. The ninth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the fact that the Bible has to do with the infinite, and our minds are finite. It is necessarily difficult to put the facts of infinite being in such a way that they can be grasped by the limited capacity of our finite intelligence, just as it would be difficult to put the ocean into a pint cup. To this Class of Difficulties belong those connected with the Bible doctrine of the Trinity and with the Bible doctrine of the twofold nature of Jesus Christ, who was at the same time "very God of very God" and real man. To those who forget that God is infinite, the doctrine of the Trinity seems like the mathematical monstrosity of making one equal three. But when one bears in mind that the doctrine of the Trinity is an attempt to put into forms of finite thought the facts of infinite being, and into material forms of expression the facts of the spirit, the Difficulties vanish. The simplicity of the Unitarian conception of God arises from its shallowness.

10. The tenth Class of Difficulties are those that arise from the dullness of our spiritual perceptions. The man who is farthest advanced spiritually is still so immature that he cannot expect to see everything yet as an absolutely holy God sees it, unless he takes it upon simple faith in Him. To this Class of Difficulties belong those connected with the Bible doctrine of eternal punishment. It oftentimes seems to us as if this doctrine cannot be true, must not be true, but the whole Difficulty arises from the fact that we are still so blind spiritually that we have no adequate conception of the awfulness of sin, and, especially, of the awfulness of the sin of rejecting the infinitely glorious Son of God. But when we become so holy, so like God, that we see the enormity of sin as He sees it, we shall have no difficulty whatever with the doctrine of eternal punishment.

As we look back over the ten Classes of Difficulties, we see that they all arise from our own imperfection, and not one of them from the imperfection of the Bible. The Bible is perfect, but we are imperfect and, therefore, have difficulty with it. As we grow more and more into the perfection of God, into His intellectual perfection and, especially, into His moral perfection, our Difficulties grow ever less and less, and so we are forced to conclude that when we become as perfect as God is, we shall have no Difficulties whatever with the Bible.