Are criticisms of the Bible valid?

I realize the different translations of the bible tells us different things. For example the King James version of the bible says that God shall give a sign to his people in the form of a “virgin” giving birth to a child. Other bible versions use “young woman” rather than “virgin”. Isn’t there a big difference between a young woman giving birth and a virgin giving birth?

It is true that different bible versions translate the same text differently just as different translators would not translate a text from one language to another in exactly the same way. In your example earlier the Hebrew word could mean either young woman or virgin. Bible versions that translated it as young woman is simply giving its literal meaning. However most versions would translate it as virgin instead based on its contextual meaning. Would a young woman giving birth be a sign at all? No, it would be very ordinary therefore the context of the verse tells us that the sign would be a virgin giving birth to a child rather than simply a young woman.

How about the fact that some versions exclude portions of the bible altogether? I understand that some verses are found in some translations but not in others. There is an important verse that teaches about the doctrine of trinity. This verse I was told is not found in some versions at all.

You must be referring to the verse that says “For there are three that bear witness in heaven – the father the word and the holy spirit – and these three are one.

Yes, that’s the verse.

This verse was included in the bible and some of the older translations but as archaeologists discover older manuscripts that do not contain this verse, the later translations have removed them. It is true that this verse had been used as one of the supporting verses for the doctrine of trinity but this doctrine rests on many other verses so the removal of one verse does not affect the doctrine at all.

Some people have claimed that the bible contains many contradictions. For example aren’t the genealogies of Jesus different in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Many of these so-called contradictions arise because people do not understand the bible. Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew and Luke were recorded differently because Luke traces Jesus genealogy through his mother Mary while Matthew traces it through Jesus’ legal father Joseph. We know that Luke is tracing the genealogy through Mary because it says Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph. It then says Joseph is the son of Heli. Actually Joseph is the son-in-law of Mary’s father Heli but the Greek language does not have two different words for son and son-in-law. Therefore there is no contradiction in the two genealogies. No, taken together they prove that whether you look at it through Mary’s or Joseph’s line, Jesus is a descendant of David and therefore eligible to be the Messiah.

What about other verses that are apparent contradictions? For example one verse of the bible says that Jehoiachim was eight years old when he became king and another verse says 18.

The bible text was originally written on perishable plant material when the plant material started to rot, someone would have to recopy it. Since portions may have already rotted the copyist might mistake one alphabet for another. These copying errors would explain errors like the ones you just mentioned but none of these errors have any impact on any doctrine of the bible.

So you are saying that copying errors do not prove that the bible is corrupted or that it is not the word of God?

That’s right. Supposing you bring me a copy of your scriptures. I tried my best to hand copy it but in the process I made some copying errors. Do my copying errors prove that what you have brought to me is not the word of God or that I am deliberately trying to corrupt your scriptures?

Of course not. Now I understand what you mean but people sometimes feel that if something is from God, there must be no sign whatsoever of imperfections.

If that is the case why don’t you look at planet earth? Even those people who believe that the world was created by God have no problems accepting the fact that the world is far from perfect. We have earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc. Do these imperfections prove that the world cannot be created by God?

I see. Some people are also surprised that the bible contains duplicate passages. Don’t you have chapters in the bible that are from different authors but similar in content. Why do the bible writers copy from each other?

The similar passages you referred to can be found in Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 19. Isaiah 37 was written by the prophet Isaiah in 2 Kings 19 by the prophet Jeremiah a few hundred years later.

Jeremiah included a passage from the prophet Isaiah’s writings because he believed that these were revelations from God.

Isn’t that plagiarism? Today we can’t copy even a line from another author without citing the source.

That would be imposing modern day laws into ancient situations. Things like plagiarism and copyright were unheard of in ancient times. Jeremiah could hardly be guilty of a law that was not even in existence during this time. I believe the Quran also contains quotations from the bible. I don’t think those can be regarded as infringements of copyright isn’t it?

That’s right but what about other controversial passages of the bible. Some people are alarmed that the bible contains accounts of sexual sins. For example the bible mentioned that Samson spent a night with a prostitute. 

The bible is not just a book about moral values – do this, don’t do this – and so on. It is also a history book and lays out in detail the history of mankind, particularly the Jews. Mankind is involved in many types of sins and the bible recorded these sins. It does not mean that if the bible recorded those sins it is condoning them any more than if the newspaper reports a murder it is condoning it. On the contrary the bible clearly prohibits sexual sins. The bible says “Flee from sexual immorality. Whoever sins sexually sins against their own body.”

Thank you. I have learned so many new things about the bible and many of my doubts have been cleared.

In order to understand better what others are saying about the bible, I would encourage you to read it for yourself.

That’s a good idea.