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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scribal Errors

How do you know that what you are reading in a Christian book is true?  Thoughts at DTTB.
There are a lot of books printed each year.  Many of them are Christian books.  That is a big business.  I have attended the Christian Book Distributors conference.  It is a big, big deal.  A lot of those books are helpful.  If you walk into my office you will see 9 bookshelves, pretty much full of books, two of them are double stacked, that is I added half shelves in the back of each section so each shelf holds twice as many books.

There is a challenge with books though.  They are written by men and women who make errors.  For example, while I was in seminary there were two well-known Christian authors who were on either side of an issue.  They were essentially writing books in response to each other’s positions.  I took an inter-session class with professors from systematic theology and Bible in which we examined each of the author’s arguments as well as checking the sources they quoted.  We also looked at the Biblical basis of each of their positions.  We found that both authors misquoted their sources to support their argument.

I am preparing for an eight week class on a controversial topic.  I have a position for which I am trying to find opposing Biblical arguments.  I recently acquired a book that I thought would serve that purpose.  However, as I read through the first chapter that laid the foundation for the argument of the book, I found that the author misrepresented the historical facts surrounding the issue.  So he either did not carefully research his understanding of the facts or either purposefully misrepresented them.  I choose to believe the first.

Jeremiah 8:8 speaks to this at some level.  In the case of Jeremiah’s context, deception was intentional.  I am sure that not all errors in books today are intentional.  Some are in a hurry to publish and in that rush do not spend adequate time proof reading their work.  There are typos in my book and workbook.

There are false teachings published.  There are false teachers who sell books.  A lot of books.  2 Peter 2:1 promises this.  Printing is not equal to truth.  As with hearing a message, we are to emulate the Berean Christians, Acts 17:11.  We are to check what an author says against the Word of God.

Not to do so leaves us open to accepting something that is written very well but is nevertheless false.


  1. In my limited experience most controversial issues have writers on both sides who use partial arguments (no matter how big the book) for their side and usually accuse the other side of willful or deliberate heresy. That the arguments are "partial" is understandable - anything dealing with the Bible is ultimately about God, and He is fundamentally God, with a very capital "G." And God is (biblically) infinite. That presents a very considerable limitation to us very finite people. I appreciate the contributions that discussion and discourse on my understanding of issues. I just wish they were made in a more humble and courteous way than is often the case.

    I will have to say that as I grow older a lot of such arguments leave me weary. I find myself enjoying the Bible itself more and more. When I do pick up I book, I want to see clearly a biblical argument supporting a position that to me is consistent through the Book as God has presented it to us.

    Many thanks for raising the issue, Mike


    1. You are correct. The challenge becomes when a person forms their positions on issues from reading books, reading websites, or listening to messages rather than personal engagement in the Word of God.

      How we think about something is important. Romans 12:3 tells us we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, not our emotions, or spiritual experiences. Paul reinforces that throughout the New Testament with multiple references to how and on what we engage our minds.

      It is important how, as believers, we think. The best way - no the only way to do that I know is to soak our heads in the Word.

    2. Minor correction, Romans 12:2 talks about being transformed by the renewing our minds. However, it is so easy to believe that the way we were taught, or the way we read something is the entirety of it's meaning in scripture, that I have often found myself reading a different perspective from another author that I would never seen or acknowledged without their argument. For instance, I humbly ask the two of you in this conversation, does "being transformed by the renewing of your mind" or "renewed in the spirit of your mind" as Ephesians 4:23 puts it or "washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" as found in Titus 3:5 say anything, or imply anything about reading scripture as the basis of that renewal? This seems to be your point above, but unsupported by the scriptures quoted. While we are called to be "as the Bereans", that is not to say that the only way we renew our minds is by reading scripture, and in fact, could be contrary to the goal if we constantly read it in the same way we always have.

    3. Thanks for catching the typo on Romans 12:2. I was doing two things at once and was thinking about thinking correctly when I wrote this.

      Great question... I am under a time constraint at the moment and do not have time to reply to this at the level it deserves. I will try to get back to you this evening but more realistically it will be tomorrow afternoon before I can adequately - well as adequately as I can - respond.

    4. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this. Not sure where the days went…

      Thanks for catching the typo on Romans 12:2. I was doing two things at once and was thinking about thinking correctly when I wrote that reply.

      You ask a great question... it brings to the surface a multitude of issues with which I am sure I will not adequately deal.

      Your first point about our preconceptions is dead on. All of us come to the Word wearing a pair of glasses through which we read and expect to see certain things. Those glasses are constructed by the messages we have heard, our experiences as believers or unbelievers, the books we have read, the studies we have done, essentially it is our world view, our expectation and presuppositions of what we expect the Bible to say.

      The first step in renewing our minds, is to acknowledge that we are, in fact, coming to Scripture, wearing those glasses. We have to identify our preconceptions. If we do not, we cannot clearly see the data. The objective in any study of the Bible is to see what the text says, not what we want it to say.

      The good news is that Christ promised we would not have to do this alone. John 16:13 promises that the author of the book, the Holy Spirit, cf 2 Peter 1:19 – 21, is there when we are studying with the goal of leading us into the truth.

      If I approach the Word acknowledging my presuppositions and asking the Lord to lead me into truth, He promises that He will do that. If it is the case that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword… Hebrews 4:12 – 13. And if it is the case that it is the instruction, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness of the Scripture that makes us adequate, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17. And if it is the case that we are commanded to handle accurately the Word, 2 Timothy 2:15 and to proclaim the Word continually, 2 Timothy 4:2, Deuteronomy 6:6 – 7, 20 – 21. Then it seems that my primary responsibility is to have my thinking shaped by soaking it in His Word.

      However, your second point is really important. I do not have all of the gifts. My experience in the Christian life is limited. There are those who have studied longer and more deeply than I will ever be able to. There are those who have picked up a Bible for the very first time who see things that I may have missed in my familiarity with the text. I need the perspective of others in the Body. That is one of the points of 1 Corinthians 12:14 – 26, Romans 12:3 – 8, and Ephesians 4:11 – 16.

      So I need both.

      The emphasis here is intended to be the priority of source. As believers we are to be people of the Book. The Scripture is the prime data. It is in the vocabulary and grammar of the Old and New Testament that God has revealed Himself for us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So that is where I need to spend my time first. Then, after I have engaged in coming before Him in His book, then I engage in dialog with those who have done the same.

      If I reverse that process reading them or listening to them first, I am just putting their glasses over mine.

      Pretty sure you will have further questions on this…