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How Should We Handle Unresolved Questions About the Bible?

Introduction: The Nature of Biblical Questions and Challenges

The Bible, as the inspired Word of God, holds a place of supreme importance in the lives of believers. Yet, despite its divine origin, there are times when readers encounter unresolved questions and apparent difficulties within its pages. These questions may pertain to historical details, doctrinal issues, or textual variations. Handling these questions requires a balanced approach that respects the authority of Scripture while also engaging with it thoughtfully and critically.

Understanding the Nature of Biblical Inspiration

Divine Inspiration and Human Authorship

The doctrine of divine inspiration asserts that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that while human authors wrote the biblical texts, they did so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

This dual authorship ensures that the Bible is both divinely authoritative and contextually relevant to its original audience.

Inerrancy and Infallibility

Inerrancy refers to the belief that the Bible is without error in all its teachings. Infallibility, on the other hand, emphasizes that the Bible is incapable of leading believers astray in matters of faith and practice.

Psalm 12:6: "The words of Jehovah are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times."

Recognizing these attributes helps believers trust in the Bible's reliability even when facing difficult questions.

Approaching Historical and Archaeological Questions

The Role of Archaeology in Biblical Studies

Archaeology plays a crucial role in affirming the historical reliability of the Bible. Many discoveries have corroborated biblical narratives, such as the existence of ancient cities, the names of kings, and significant events.

Jeremiah 39:3: "Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the Middle Gate: Nergal-sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-sarsekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sharezer the Rab-mag, with all the rest of the officials of the king of Babylon."

The discovery of the Nebo-Sarsekim tablet, which mentions an official named in this verse, exemplifies how archaeology can affirm biblical records.

Addressing Apparent Discrepancies

Apparent discrepancies in historical accounts can often be resolved through further study and understanding of the cultural and literary contexts. For instance, differences in the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke can be explained by recognizing different purposes and audiences for each Gospel.

Matthew 1:1: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Luke 3:23: "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli."

Understanding these contexts helps harmonize seemingly conflicting details.

Navigating Doctrinal and Theological Questions

The Role of Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics, the science of interpretation, is essential for understanding doctrinal and theological questions. The Historical-Grammatical Method focuses on the literal meaning of the text, considering its historical and cultural background.

2 Peter 1:20-21: "Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

This method ensures that interpretations remain faithful to the original intent of the biblical authors.

The Unity of Scripture

The Bible, though composed of 66 books written over centuries, maintains a coherent and unified message. This unity helps resolve doctrinal questions by allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Acts 15:15-17: "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’"

Understanding the harmony and consistency of biblical teachings aids in addressing theological challenges.

Engaging with Textual Variations

The Reliability of Manuscripts

The New Testament boasts an unparalleled number of manuscript copies, which enhances its textual reliability. The Old Testament also benefits from ancient manuscript discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Isaiah 40:8: "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."

These manuscripts demonstrate the meticulous care with which the Scriptures have been preserved over the centuries.

Addressing Variants and Scribal Errors

Textual criticism is the discipline that examines manuscript variants to determine the most likely original text. Most variants are minor and do not affect the essential doctrines of the faith.

1 John 5:7-8: "For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree."

Understanding the nature of textual variants helps believers maintain confidence in the integrity of the biblical text.

Responding to Difficult Passages

Contextual and Cultural Understanding

Some biblical passages may seem challenging or controversial due to cultural and historical differences. Understanding the context in which these passages were written is crucial for accurate interpretation.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29: "If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days."

Interpreting this law requires understanding the ancient Near Eastern context and the legal customs of that time.

The Principle of Progressive Revelation

The concept of progressive revelation recognizes that God revealed His will and purposes gradually over time, culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1:1-2: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."

This principle helps explain why certain practices or laws in the Old Testament differ from the teachings of the New Testament.

The Role of Faith in Handling Unresolved Questions

Faith and Reason

Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive but work together in the pursuit of truth. The Christian faith encourages believers to use their intellect and seek understanding while trusting in God’s revelation.

Isaiah 1:18: "Come now, let us reason together, says Jehovah: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."

Engaging both faith and reason helps believers navigate unresolved questions with confidence.

Trusting in God’s Character

Ultimately, faith in the Bible is rooted in trust in God’s character. His faithfulness, wisdom, and sovereignty provide the foundation for trusting His Word, even when some questions remain unresolved.

Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

This trust enables believers to hold firm to their faith amidst uncertainties.

Practical Steps for Engaging with Unresolved Questions

Prayer and Seeking God’s Guidance

Prayer is a vital aspect of engaging with difficult questions. Seeking God’s guidance and wisdom helps believers approach the Scriptures with humility and openness.

James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

Relying on God’s wisdom ensures that believers remain grounded in their faith.

Studying in Community

Studying the Bible in the context of a faith community provides support, accountability, and diverse perspectives that enrich understanding.

Acts 17:11: "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

Engaging in communal study fosters a deeper and more nuanced grasp of Scripture.

Consulting Scholarly Resources

Utilizing scholarly resources, such as commentaries, biblical dictionaries, and theological works, aids in addressing complex questions. These resources provide historical, linguistic, and cultural insights that enhance understanding.

2 Timothy 2:15: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

Leveraging scholarly tools helps believers handle the Word of God accurately.

Conclusion: The Ongoing Journey of Faith and Understanding

Handling unresolved questions about the Bible is an ongoing journey that requires faith, diligence, and a willingness to seek truth. By approaching these questions with a balanced and thoughtful perspective, believers can deepen their understanding and strengthen their faith. The Bible, as the inspired and authoritative Word of God, remains a reliable guide for faith and practice, providing wisdom and insight for all who seek to know God more fully.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).



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