Look Who’s Talking
As we study and defend the Bible, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with an inspired record that contains numerous uninspired statements. Even though “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), not everything that the inspired writers recorded was a true statement. For example, after God created Adam, He told him not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil lest he die (Genesis 2:17). Yet, when the serpent approached Eve, he “informed” her that she would not die if she ate of this forbidden fruit (3:4). Obviously, Satan was not inspired by God to say “You will not surely die.” In fact, as we learn earlier, he actually lied (John 8:44). However, when Moses recorded the events that took place in Eden hundreds of years later, he wrote by inspiration of God (cf. Luke 24:44; John 5:46). When Jesus healed a demoniac, some of the Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons, not by the power of God but by the power of “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24). Like Moses, Matthew did not write a lie, but merely reported a lie. The inspired writers of the Bible are in no way responsible for the inaccurate statements that are recorded therein. Whether the statements were true or false, they reported them accurately.
When giving a defense for a particular truth the Bible teaches (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), or when refuting the error that someone else may be teaching (cf. Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:2), we must keep in mind who is doing the talking. The above examples are rather elementary: Satan’s statement and the Pharisees allegations clearly were false. But what about when statements are made by individuals who do not seem “as bad” as these?
Oftentimes when attempting to defend a certain doctrine, a person will quote a verse from the book of Job and say, “See, that’s what it says…the book of Job says…therefore my doctrine is proven true.” Not long ago I read an article by a gentleman who was defending a doctrine by citing various verses in the book of Job. This man never indicated who made the statements; he simply cited all of them as being true statements. Those who “defend the truth” in such a way totally disregard one of the fundamental rules of interpretation, i.e., knowing who is speaking. One who studies Job must realize that it is an inspired book that contains many uninspired statements. For instance, we know that Job’s wife was incorrect when she told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). We also know that many statements made by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were incorrect. Nine of the 42 chapters in the book were speeches by these “miserable comforters” (16:2) whom God said had “not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (42:7). Clearly then, one never should quote these men and claim it as an inspired truth.
Finally, we must understand that even though Job was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (1:1), there is no indication that his speeches were inspired. Neither He nor anyone else in the book ever claimed his statements were “given by inspiration of God.” In fact, when Jehovah finally answered Job out of the whirlwind, He asked: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2, emp. added). Obviously, God never would have asked such a rhetorical question had Job been inspired. Prior to the Lord’s speeches, Elihu twice accused Job of the very same thing (34:35; 35:16). Later, Job even said himself: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:3, emp. added; cf. 30:16-23). Clearly, then, these passages indicate that Job’s speeches were not inspired.
Through the years, various authors have sought to establish scientific foreknowledge in the passage found in Job 26:7 where Job, in speaking of God, observed that “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.” Two items from this passage are alleged to be prescientific in nature. First, appeals have been made to the fact that one supposedly can observe an “empty space” in the northern skies—a space where there are no stars, thus corroborating Job’s statement about an “empty space” in the north. Second, some have suggested that since Job’s phrase, “He hangs the earth on nothing,” is literally true (because as everyone now knows, the Earth is freely suspended in space), this is an example of scientific foreknowledge. But if we attempt to convince people that this verse is to be taken literally, how do we then consistently deal with statements in the same chapter that obviously are figurative (such as verse 11: “The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his rebuke”)? Further, there is no empty space in the north. Instead, “billions of stars and galaxies extend outward in all directions” (DeYoung, 1989, p. 95). [Job was not speaking of a literal “empty space” in the north. During his day, pagan gods of idolaters were said to live “in the north.” Job pointed out, correctly, that this could not be true because in the north there was nothing but “an empty space.”]
The honest Christian desires to defend the Word of God with every legitimate weapon in the apologetic arsenal. However, we only hurt the cause of Christ when we employ arguments that are backed by uninspired statements. When studying your Bible or when teaching and defending one of its many truths, always remember to look who’s talking.
DeYoung, Donald B. (1989), Astronomy and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).