The "flawless" Bible

We probably all here are willing to accept the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God. Frequently, though, individuals, groups and institutions will go beyond this and claim that the Bible is the flawless, written Word of God. Which Bible, I would ask?

As a linguist and amateur biblical scholar, this claim seems to me a step too far. There are many, often conflicting versions of the Bible… different collections of books… different translations… different readings. These are facts. There is no one written, flawless Bible.

Take, for example, the many hapax legomenon (words which appear only once), and perhaps more importantly the dis legomenon, tris legomenon and tetrakis legomenon which occur frequently in the Bible. We find these words translated many different and conflicting ways in the various versions of the Bible. Clearly the translators struggled and dithered in their attempts to translate these words. How can we then think that they are collectively without flaw? This would require a much greater suspension of disbelief than, for example, believing that The Matrix is real, and that our world is a simulation.

Anyone willing to take the red pill?



How many are there? Can you give some examples?

How many of each of these? Can you give some examples?

Conservatives would say “the original autographs.” A better question is “what do you mean by flawless?”

Have you looked at the Chicago Statements much? That would seem to be a good place to start.

Welcome to Peaceful Science @steveswales.


Let’s look specifically at ἐπιούσιος, since it is one of the most translated words in human history, being part of the Lord’s Prayer, one of the first and most translated works in human history.

“Give us each day our daily bread.”

This reads more like a line from Monty Python than from the flawless word of God… "Each day, thou shalt eat thy daily vitamins. Thou shall eat not each day thy monthly vitamins, nor shall thou each day eat thy weekly vitamins. Only thy daily vitamins, thus, shall thou eat each day.”

But, an etymologist would likely tell you that this word likely means something like super-substantial, super-essential or even supernatural. There is nothing about “daily” in this word, nor is it etymologically anything like the word for “daily” in ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, or ancient Aramaic, the likely language spoken by Jesus.

But, the word exists ONLY in the Lord’s Prayer, and nowhere else, so we don’t really know.

Now. We can BELIEVE that the translators were divinely inspired to understand it as “daily”, but since this adds absolutely nothing to that part of the Lord’s Prayer, and bears no resemblance to the idea of “daily” in either Greek or Aramaic, one is inclined to be a bit skeptical.

Gopher Wood has a similar story. And there are hundreds of other examples, as if one in the Lord’s Prayer wasn’t enough.


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There are over 650 in the New Testament alone. Well known examples are the word ἐπιούσιος in the Lord’s Prayer, generally translated as ‘daily’, but almost certainly not meaning this, and the phrase עֲצֵי-גֹפֶר from the story of Noah, transliterated as “gopher wood”. There is no such wood, and biblical scholars generally think that this was meant to mean “tarred wood”. There are thousands of other examples.


Why exactly is this word evidence that the Bible is flawed? Strong's Greek: 1967. ἐπιούσιος (epiousios) -- for the coming day, for subsistence

It seems the original Greek has a depth of meaning. It doesn’t mean the Bible is flawed because it’s difficult to translate… Strong's Greek: 1967. ἐπιούσιος (epiousios) -- for the coming day, for subsistence

If someone is arguing that a certain translation is flawless, then yeah, I’m not sure you’re going to find anyone on this forum that disagrees with you that that’s dumb.


The Chicago Statements are an exceptional example of the American Evangelical Christian need to see everything in black & white. If they cannot declare the entire English Bible to be the infallible word of God, then they cannot then judge others as damned for failing to follow its words.

My reply to the Chicago Statements is, Matthew 7:3-5 & Luke 6:41-42.

If they had actually heard the Word of Jesus in their hearts, then they would not have felt compelled to create this kind of dogmatic statement in condemnation of others who hear the Word in their own way.

The knowledge, language and words of the children of God on Earth are imperfect. The evidence for this is insurmountable.

The written Bible was produced by humans, no matter how inspired they were. My favorite Bibles are torn, worn, and patched. To doubt that the words written inside are any less torn, worn and patched is to deny the nature of humankind.

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By your logic these passages are imperfect, so they can also not be used to condemn anyone: they can be “heard” in their own way. Your argument is self-defeating.

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Tell us about your beliefs. Are you a Christian? An atheist?

Strong’s is quoting Jerome’s interpretation in Luke (not in Matthew). Being a hapax legomenon, there is no context in which to interpret its meaning, except for the Lord’s Prayer. Etymologically, though, it is something like “super-substantial” (as Jerome interpreted in Matthew). When converting the Latin to English, someone decided to go with “daily”, instead of “super-substantial”, for their own reasons, but it is hard to see this as anything but laziness. Centuries of biblical scholars haven’t been able to come up with a viable argument to flip the coin the other way (Jerome was a sly one), so we are stuck with “daily”. Who knows… maybe in the future there will be other records unearthed which give more context to this word, but for now, it is what it is.

My problem is with those who USE the Bible to condemn others who, for example, have a different sexual identity or tattoos (both prohibited by Leviticus), and even more so those who HAVE tattoos (or other less superficially obvious sins), yet selectively USE the Bible to condemn others (hence my reference to Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-41).

The meaning in Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42 (and elsewhere) is quite evident, in spite of very different words being used.

I am a Christian, and I believe that the Word of God was spoken by the living Christ.

I do NOT believe that any non-divine human can perfectly and flawlessly represent the Word of God through the flawed mechanism of human language.

I do believe that all those who in their hearts hear the true Word of God, though they cannot perfectly articulate it, can be guided and find salvation through it.


Imagine how differently we might hear the Prayer if that petition read:

“Grant us each day our supernatural sustenance.”

There is a wholly different and deeper meaning.

What if this was what
“τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον”
means, instead of…
“Give us each day our daily bread.”

Which, then, is the infallible Word of God?

Both? Neither? Open to interpretation?

It is a pretty big question. This is the Lord’s Prayer, after all, not some random bit of scripture.

I’m not saying either is a better translation, because literally God only know what that word means, but I am saying that this alternative translation is not only more justifiable from an etymological standpoint, but less silly sounding, and much more profound.

Interestingly, Jerome, the arguable first (more realistically second) translator, rendered it two different ways into Latin, quite directly as supersubstantialem (super-essential) in Matthew and for some reason as cotidianum (daily) in Luke. Our English translations chose to use the second translation for both Matthew and Luke, but was that an inspired or a convenient (since supersubstantialem, like ἐπιούσιον has no English translation) choice.

We will probably never know.



You mistake your audience. I’d say around half of us are not willing.


I don’t. The Bible smacks of human intent and creativity.


I agree with this in part (though I’m a signer to the inerrancy statement). However, if you examine the whole document–and listen to adherents’ discussions about it–there’s a lot more nuance and disagreement than what’s implied here. More egregiously is your follow-up…

…which no adherent would claim. Also, infallibility and inerrancy are not the same thing.

So I suggest you do more research on the claims and implications. For example, your whole discussion of hapax legomenon is entirely irrelevant (as is the sexual ethics & tattoos issue in Leviticus). Dismiss the doctrine, fine. But at least represent it properly before doing so.


Welcome @steveswales :slight_smile:

A friend of mine describes what he calls the “doctrine of personal infallibility”. This describes people who follow this basic pattern:

  1. I (they) believe the Bible is inerrant.
  2. I (they) have an interpretation of the Bible.
  3. Therefore my (their) interpretation of the Bible must be inerrant.

(with apologies to @deuteroKJ because I’m slinging infallibility and inerrancy around like they mean the same thing.)

The point being people like that are kind of annoying. You clearly recognise that problem so you can’t be one of those people. I think we will get along. :slight_smile:


Not exactly. But you are welcomed to give it your best shot.

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Welcome, @steveswales - fascinating questions and perspectives

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My quotations from Matthew and Luke are consistent in meaning, in spite of difference in language. In contrast, translations into Latin by Jerome of the Lord’s Prayer in the same books are inconsistent and conflicting, showing that the Bible as transcribed is prone to human imperfection. Interpreting the words of the Bible as infallible is thus erroneous, even if the original inspiration was divine.

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Just curious here,

I read through the Chicago statements and find so many flaws and forced interpretations with a pre-determined end. What made it compelling?

I find articles 6, 7, 15, 16, 18, and 21-22 demonstrably false even when only using passages from the bible.


My subject is not the Chicago Statements. My discussion of hapax legomenon and highlighting the condemnations of people based on literal interpretations of the English Bible are completely relevant to my original subject. Furthermore, I believe there is a broad and dangerous coalition of people in America, supported or abetted by Evangelical Christian leaders, who are USING carefully selected and specific words of the English translation of the Latin translation of the original writings of the Bible to condemn and persecute those of whom they disapprove. Such misuse should be an offense to all true Christians, and I contend that the perception of the written Bible as the flawless and infallible Word of God is feeding this offense.

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