A response to question below about how NT writers knew what Jesus said in the garden. What about Herod’s words or the Pharisees with Judas?

Since I regularly “surf” your site, I read your answer on page https://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/index.php?option=com_custom_content&task=view&id=5648 and it raised few thoughts in my head that I wanted to share with you and ask your opinion. When you say “#2 is possible, but I believe it is unusual for God to work in this way.” regarding the apostles being given Jesus’ words by inspiration, I don’t understand your claim. There are so many passages in Bible that man couldn’t write on his own, starting from Genesis 1. Putting aside OT, if you take Gospels, there are also many parts that writers couldn’t have known by witnessing, only by inspiration – for example thoughts of King Herod, scenes with pharisees, scenes with pharisees and Judas, scenes with pharisees and Romans etc. At the same time, you do reject #4 since you believe the Bible is inspired by God. Amen! That is the reason I don’t understand your previous statement. Furthermore, regarding this subject, I used to wonder often “What if not whole Bible is inspired, just some parts?” Brothers from my church used to answer “Do you think God would allow his word that he gave us to be imperfect?” This argument always seemed to puzzle me and I think it’s really weak, because take a look at Croatia – where I live: Vaste majority of households have Bibles at home. Vaste majority of those Bibles are Catholic (apocriphal) Bibles. We might ask then “Why did God allow so many imperfect versions of his word to be in people’s homes?”. Another reason why I think it’s a weak argument is: we often say this translation is bad, and that translation is bad, and there’s no really good translation. Another question arise: “Why did God allow every copy of his word to be imperfect due to the mistranslation?” Another reason why I think it’s a weak argument is: A Catholic friend might ask me (regarding to Catholic church they believe to be one and only church), paraphrasing the question above: “Do you think God would allow his church that he set up to be imperfect?” and add “Why God allows 33000 or more churches in the world and so many non-Christian religions?” Those are questions that constantly raise in my mind when we touch this delicate subject of inspiration of the Bible, especially the way it is written (by inspiration or by witnessing). I pray often that Holy Spirit give me understanding and accepting everything written in God’s word. I believe that you, Sir and dear brother, are one of the tools Lord uses to do that. And I can’t thank you enough for that. Greetings in Christ.


You partially misunderstood my comment. Of course I believe that the entire Bible—word for word—is inspired by God. The point I was making is that in the New Testament, all or nearly all of the information presented is the result of an eye-witness reporting what happened. We cannot prove that all of it is from eye-witness accounts and that was not my point. My point is that, from the examples we have, it is more likely that the words spoken by Jesus were reported by someone who was there—probably Jesus, but possibly another unrecorded witness. I am talking about probability, based on the examples we have, not about what God could do. I do not question for a moment that God could reveal what happened by inspiration directly to the gospel writers. It is just that I think this is a less likely possibility.

I believe that the words and thoughts of Herod were reported by the magi to Mary and Joseph. As for scenes with the Pharisees, we know that many Pharisees were converted, including Nicodemus Paul and possibly Joseph of Arimathea. I assume that more than one of the priests who were there when Judas threw the money in the temple were later converted to Christianity. Even if they had not, word could easily have gotten out about what happened there. I am not aware of a single event recorded in the New Testament for which we cannot reasonable infer that the information came from an eye-witness. Again, this does not prove that there are no examples of God simply revealing what happened to a gospel writer, but I believe that this is probably not what happened in most and perhaps in all cases.

By the way, I do agree that there are Old Testament examples of direct revealing by inspiration to men. For example, I do agree that the creation account would be by direct inspiration. Also, many of the prophets spoke by direct inspiration. So, I agree that this happened fairly often in the Old Testament, but believe it was rare in the New Testament.

About your feeling that the doctrine of inspiration is weak, I personally disagree strongly. God inspired the original manuscripts. This doctrine is established by the myriad of evidences for inspiration of the Bible. Plus, the inspired writers claim it is all inspired by God. In his wisdom, God entrusted his inspired word to people. He trusted spiritual men to assemble the Old and New Testament canon, but I believe he influenced the process. The original is inspired, but translations and copies are not inspired. Nevertheless, for careful scholars, we have an unlimited number of resources so that we can determine the meaning of the original and a nearly perfect text of the original in the original languages. As for the fact that some groups include uninspired writings in their canon, I already said that God entrusted his perfect word to imperfect people. He also gave us the ability, using our wisdom, common sense and many resources, so that the sincere can know for sure what is inspired and what is almost certainly not inspired. I believe a person can be saved and go to heaven even if they falsely believe that the OT Apocrypha is inspired. This is not a salvation issue. However, you should be thankful that you have access to sufficient information to know which books are inspired and which are not. You also have wonderful access to resources concerning the original text of the Greek and Hebrew Bibles, so that problems in translation are not a problem for you. Besides, the problems with translations are often exaggerated. There are many good translations. I have several excellent translations in my possession. Having several translations only helps us even more to understand the original.

God allows there to be many different groups because he has given us free will. Personally, I am glad that God gives us a choice. I also grieve that many abuse that choice and teach false doctrine, but I do not blame God for that. I am happy that God loved us enough to give us a choice whether or not we will do his will. To answer your question, Yes, I definitely believe that God would allow human beings to sin and to create imperfect ideas about Christianity.

I appreciate your open-minded inquiry into the reliability of the Biblical writings and translations. This is a good thing. However, you should feel confident that God has left you with more than enough resources to know and understand his inspired words. That is how I see it.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.