The Bible is a brutally honest book. One of the things that it is most honest and forthright about is the character flaws of its authors and main characters. The Bible focuses on reality and how God works through the weaknesses of those he created to accomplish his plan. It does not concentrate on fantasy.
If the Bible were strictly a human endeavor, one would have expected its authors to exclude their own flaws from the story and the flaws of their patriarchs. Far from excluding such information the Bible is replete with the sins of its writers. It reveals both the good and the evil, the best and the worst, the hope and despair and the joy and pain of its authors.
The exhaustive look at the examples of this honest treatment of its characters would be way to long for this article, but let’s look a number of examples.
Old Testament Examples
- When Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the forbidden tree and are confronted by God, they go immediately into blames-shifting mode with Eve blaming the whole thing on the serpent, Adam blaming it on Eve, and eventually even blaming the whole thing on God. (Genesis 3)
- After being one of only eight people on earth saved by God from the flood, Noah gets so drunk that he passes out and is unaware of what is going on around him. (Genesis 9)
- Rather than relying on God, Abraham succumbs to cowardice and instructs his wife to tell foreign rulers that she is his sister.
When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” [Genesis 12:11-13 ESV]
- Abraham ignores the promise of God and has a son by his wife’s servant Hagar. (Genesis 16)
- Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their kids leading to all kinds of family strife. (Genesis 25:28)
- Jacob tricked his father with the help of his mother. (Genesis 27)
- Simeon and Levi killed an entire people in a jealous rage. (Genesis 34)
- Joseph’s brothers sold in him to slavery and told their Dad he was dead. (Genesis 37)
- Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. (Genesis 38)
- The Israelites worshiped a golden calf while Moses was getting the ten commandments.
- Moses was disobedient to God and was not allowed to enter the promised land.
- The sins of the people of Israel were constantly revealed and denounced:
You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you. [Deuteronomy 9:24 ESV]
- David impregnates a married woman and had her husband killed in battle to try to cover it up (2 Samuel 11-12)
- David did not effectively run his family which resulted in one son raping his daughter, another son killing his brother for revenge and another son trying to wrestle the kingdom from his father.
- Solomon, the wisest man alive, married multitudes of women who led him to worship other Gods
New Testament Examples
The trend considered with the New Testament. Consider:
- Matthew was a tax collector named Levi before being called by Jesus
- Jesus dined with prostitutes
- Saul persecuted and killed Christian before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.
- Jesus rebuked Peter and called him “Satan.”
- Peter denied the Lord three times on the night of his crucifixion.
- John overzealously and impulsively asked Jesus to allow him to call down thunder on a group of people.
- The disciples argued over who was the greatest.
- Jesus was constantly rebuking his disciples for their actions and lack of understanding.
- The Bible reveals the early church was divided, arrogant and materialistic.
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. [1 Corinthians 1:11 ESV]
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? [1 Corinthians 15:12 ESV]
For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. [2 Corinthians 2:4 ESV]
It’s clear that far from trying to hide their flaws and failures, the Bible actual highlights those. In the words of Lewis S. Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary),
“The Bible is not such a man would write if he could, or could write if he would.”