A person posed a question, citing the following references, to point out an inaccuracy in the words of God. This is a classic example of Bible criticism. The question was from 1 Cor 15:5, “How could Jesus have appeared unto the twelve”? The “error” is that Jesus could not have appeared to “the twelve,” since Judas Iscariot hung himself before Jesus’ resurrection and Matthias wasn’t chosen to replace him until after Jesus’ ascension.  There weren’t twelve apostles to whom he could have appeared, according to this skeptic.  Here are the references:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:5 – the Lord appeared to “the twelve” apostles.
  • Matthew 27:3-5 – Judas hung himself
  • Matt 28:16-17 – the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, where they saw Jesus.
  • Lk 24:33-36 – the Lord appeared to “the eleven gathered together.”
  • Acts 1:21-26 – Matthias replaced Judas after the ascension.

The obvious discrepancy that this person sees is that Jesus could not have appeared to “the twelve” in 1 Cor 15:5 if Judas was already dead and Matthias had not yet filled his spot.  He is implying that God made a mistake when he said that Jesus appeared to the twelve.  He thinks God should have said that Jesus appeared to “the eleven” like he said about “the eleven” going into Galilee.

Well, Jesus did appear to the twelve.  That’s why Paul wrote it that way.  In Lk 24:33-36, Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem, not in Galilee (Matt 28:16-17 was a different instance).  He had already appeared to Simon Peter (Lk 24:34), just like Paul said in 1 Cor 15:5.  When he appeared, “the eleven” were “gathered together, and them that were with them,” (Lk 24:33).  So, the eleven were not alone.  You can be sure that Matthias was one of those that were gathered with them.  Matthias had to be one of the witnesses to his resurrection in order to even qualify to be an apostle (Acts 1:22).  By the time that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, Matthias was one of the twelve.

When this person brought an accusation about the accuracy of God’s words, he failed to recognize that, when Jesus appeared to the disciples, the eleven weren’t alone.  Others had gathered with them that Paul didn’t mention.  Matthias was among them and Paul added him to the eleven. Though God had not chosen Matthias when he first saw Jesus, he was the twelfth by the time Paul wrote about this appearance.

This is what we typically call destructive Bible criticism.  Destructive Bible criticism destroys your faith in the words of God.  The men who perpetrate this kind of criticism work for the devil (Gen 3:1).

This underlying cause of their criticism is usually pride, laziness, maliciousness, foolishness, a lack of faith or a lack of the fear of God or some combination of these.  The causes are:

Pride – 1 Tim 6:3-5. They think they know more than God and that they can pass judgment on God’s words.  Skeptics think they are smart or scholarly when they can find an “error” in the Bible.  Their motive is to impress the sheep. Follow Paul’s instructions and withdraw yourself from proud men who dote about questions and strifes of words.

Laziness – 2 Tim 2:15. They are lazy because they won’t study to find the answer to their supposed contradiction.  Instead, they are content to report another man’s skeptical view of the “error” in the Bible. Thus, they won’t do the work to find out how the skeptic may be wrong. When you find something that looks like an error or a contradiction, prayerfully study to find the reconciliation.

Maliciousness – Prov 19:27. Their goal is to cause people to err from the words of knowledge. They are malicious because they intentionally destroy the faith of the simple.  Critics are more interested in promoting their scholarship than they are in protecting God’s lambs (Jn 21:15). Do what Solomon said and cease to hear their instruction.

Foolishness – Gal 3:1. The Galatians were foolish because they didn’t obey the truth. Skeptics are foolish because they could have discerned the truth revealed by God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16; Job 32:8).  Yet, they stop short of learning and obeying the truth.  They take their lie for the truth and the truth of God’s words for a lie.  That’s foolishness. Don’t let them bewitch you with their foolishness.

A lack of faith – 1 Thes 2:13. The Thessalonians believed that the words Paul wrote were the words of God not the words of men. Skeptics, on the other hand, don’t believe the word of God.  They don’t believe the words you have in your King James Bible are the words of God.  Rather, they believe that they are the words of men. Since they don’t believe them, then they don’t have any problem believing that there are errors in your Bible. Don’t let them weaken your faith. Believe God’s words, not the words of the critics.

A lack of the fear of God – Prov 1:7. If you’re going to know anything worth knowing, you must fear God. People who believe the Bible fear God.  We tremble at his words (Is 66:5).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Prov 9:10).  A person who is not afraid to mess with God’s words is a person who lacks wisdom.  A person who lacks wisdom will never know what God said because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fear God and leave the skeptics alone.

Conclusion: The real cause of Bible criticism is not that there are errors in your Bible.  Don’t let a skeptic sucker you into his trap of criticism when he suggests that there is something wrong with God’s book.  There is nothing wrong with the book; just with the skeptics, critics and unbelievers.