In a thick, dense, informational and excellent read (needless to say, a beast of a book), Gleason L. Archer Jr. addresses some of the Bible’s alleged difficulties in Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Archer writes this “to show that there is nothing in the Bible inconsistent with the claim that it is the inerrant Word of God” (p. 7). This is important to understand when going through this book because Archer does not address every issue known to man. Instead, he only addresses the difficulties that attack the Bible’s inerrancy.
After writing his preface and acknowledgements, Archer gives “recommended procedures in dealing with bible difficulties” (pp. 11-17). He then writes an introduction showing the “importance of biblical inerrancy” (pp. 19-44). After that, he begins to address various alleged issues in the books of the Bible.
Archer addresses every Old Testament book with the exception of Lamentations, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai (pp. 45-306). He devotes extensive space (defined here as ten or more pages) to Genesis (54 pages), Exodus (17 pages), Numbers (17 pages), Deuteronomy (10 pages), 1 Samuel (14 pages), 1 Kings (13 pages), 2 Kings (12 pages) and Daniel (12 pages). As mentioned, he does not address every issue known to man. This explains why he doesn’t address some of the most commonly misapplied Old Testament verses (such as Jeremiah 29:11, Malachi 3:10-11, Proverbs 29:18, etc.). Remember, he is addressing the issue of biblical inerrancy and alleged contradictions (p.7). Those differ from the issue of twisted Bible verses.
Every issue Archer addresses in this “Old Testament” section is important. As mentioned, Archer devotes more space to some books than he does to others. In Genesis, Archer mainly addresses alleged issues pertaining to the book’s first eight chapters (pp. 55-84). These alleged issues include but are not limited to those pertaining to theistic evolution, fossil strata, creation order and the flood (pp. 55-84). In Exodus, Archer mainly addresses alleged issues pertaining to the Ten Commandments (pp. 116-124). At this point, it is worthy to note that Archer lists the books of the Bible in order. Specifically, he lists the alleged issues of each book in order of chapter and verse. This is a really good method to use for the sake of simplicity.
After a section addressing questions about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, Archer addresses every New Testament book except 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, James, 2 John and 3 John (pp. 307-434). He devotes the most pages to Matthew (46 pages) while devoting no more than 11 pages to any other book. Archer devotes many pages to questions that pertain to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (John 1:29; Acts 4:12). However, his most important section in that chapter (perhaps even the whole book) addresses whether or not the Bible really teaches that God is a trinity (pp. 357-361).
Like the “Old Testament” section, every issue Archer addresses in this “New Testament” section is important. These issues include but are not limited to capital punishment (pp. 371-373), the eternal destiny of the “unevangelized heathen” (pp. 385-388), baptism for the dead (pp. 401-402), the consequences of teaching that all people will be saved (pp. 406-409), the role of women in the church (pp. 411-415) and whether or not a born-again believer can be lost (pp. 419-421). The section on the role of women in the church is especially interesting given the fact “female pastors are on the rise.” Several sites (such as GotQuestions.org, Pulpit & Pen and CARM, among others) have explained how God’s word forbids female pastors. Despite the good information those sites provide, Archer’s in-depth explanation of the role of women in the church represents arguably the best in-depth work any scholar has done on this issue to this day.
Despite its greatness, the book has minor limitations. As mentioned, this book does not address every book in the Bible. As a result, this book is not quite a final “be all, end all” book that addresses every alleged issue known to man. If it was, it would have addressed issues such as the interpretation of Philippians 1:18 (which I briefly covered in an older post here) and the way prosperity “teachers” twist 3 John 2 to support their perverted theology. Given this book was copyrighted in 1982, it would be cool to see an updated version (or perhaps there is one and I just do not know about it) that mainly keeps this book the same while both cleaning up the spelling errors this book has (and this book has quite a few) and adding to the book unaddressed questions from Bible books that were not covered.
Without a doubt, this book is a must-have. Its depth, information and accuracy make this an all-time great. Furthermore, the book’s well-organized structure makes it a very excellent and quick reference guide to use. Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties should be in every Christian’s library.