Doesn’t the Bible contain some false and even harmful teachings?

The Bible was given by God to be a blessing to mankind. It does not contain false or harmful teachings. That does not mean that everything it says will be a blessing to every person. A career criminal may think the punishments for crime demanded in the Bible are “unjust.” A stingy person may consider God’s command to give to the poor “unfair.” A bitter person may feel that God’s command to forgive is “unreasonable.” A person who believes “free sexual expression” is healthy will assert that God’s commands about sexual purity are “harmful.” Proverbs 8:9 says that the laws of God are right to those who are discerning. They will not seem “right” or “just” to someone who follows human reasoning and fleshly desires. However, as we obey God and learn about Him, the blessing in all He says becomes clear.

Although ungodly people may have a hard time seeing the blessing in God’s commands, there is another scenario that must be considered: there are well-meaning people who doubt the Bible because they heard someone say, “The Bible says…” when in fact the Bible does not say that at all. These widely believed falsehoods might well be called “Christian myths” or even “urban Christian legends.” To see how widespread the misinformation about the Bible is, consider the following simple question: “How many sheep got on Noah’s ark?” If you thought “two,” you have been listening to some of the common misinformation that floats around in Christian circles. Genesis records that God said to Noah, “Of every clean beast you shall receive and take with you seven pairs…” (Gen. 7:2a- AMP). [1] Sheep are considered “clean” according to Levitical Law, so 14 of them would have gotten on the Ark. Seven pairs of the bird genuses were also taken on the Ark (Gen. 7:3-AMP). It was the “unclean” animals that came on by twos (Gen. 7:2). [For further study about the Flood read Why the Flood and Who are the Nephilim from Genesis 6?]

If something as easy as the number of animals that got on Noah’s ark is distorted and misrepresented in Christian circles, does it not make sense that other doctrines and practices are misrepresented as well? Just because you heard the Bible says something that to you seems false or even harmful does not mean it is actually in the Bible. Some people, for example, reject the record of Noah’s ark because they think that Noah could not have built a boat big enough for all the animals. However, these people make false assumptions, such as that Noah would have to have brought animals from every species and subspecies onto the ark. Research done by the Institute for Creation Research shows that Noah would have had to take only individual genera into the Ark, not the individual species and subspecies of each animal, and the size of the Ark mentioned in the Bible is plenty big enough for the job Noah was asked to do. [2]

Another example of something that is widely believed, but not biblical, is that Jonah was alive inside the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. [3] The biblical truth is that Jonah was swallowed whole, but died inside the fish after saying a short prayer. That Jonah was dead for three days and three nights and then raised from the dead was the great “…sign of the prophet Jonah” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 12:38-41. How could Jonah have foreshadowed the Messiah if he did not die in the fish, but Jesus Christ did die on the Cross? How can a living man be a “sign” for a dead man? The great “sign” of Jonah was that he was dead for three days and nights in the fish and then was raised from the dead, just as Jesus was dead for three days and three nights in the tomb and then was raised from the dead. Although it is widely believed by Christians that Jonah was alive in the fish, the Bible never makes that claim. There are some well respected Christian commentators who show from Scripture that Jonah was dead. A very good example is J. Vernon McGee, author of the book, Jonah: Dead or Alive? [4]

Another doctrine that is commonly taught but not in the Bible is that when an unsaved person dies, he goes to “Hell” and burns forever. That teaching, based on the misunderstanding of a few verses and the false doctrine of “the immortal soul,” a phrase never used in the Bible, has caused many people to doubt the love and mercy of God. The true biblical teaching is clear even in the most often quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Although it is common to hear John 3:16 quoted, and it often appears on banners that are hung over the railings at professional football games, the truth it sets forth is not well known.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God offers every person a choice between two things: everlasting life and everlasting death. We can live forever or we can “perish.” Not burn forever—perish, that is, come to an end, be completely destroyed. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is everlasting life. The choice is death or life. This choice between life and death is set before people in verses throughout the entire Bible. There is not one verse that says the choice is everlasting life or everlasting torment. “Eternal torment” is not in the Bible, it does not fit with what we know about God, and it does not make sense. All through the Bible, God is the God of justice, and in the civil laws in Exodus through Deuteronomy, God commands that the punishment always fits the crime. There is no “overkill” in the justice of God: the punishment is always appropriate. But that would certainly not be the case if unbelievers burned forever. What crime could a human possibly commit in a lifetime that the just and fitting punishment would be burning forever? The lake of fire is specifically called “the second death” (Rev. 20:14) because the unsaved people who are thrown into it burn up and die. [5]

Our Choice

Everlasting Life

(John 3:16)

Everlasting Death

(Rev. 20:14)

Not only do Christians sometimes believe things that are not in the Bible, they also sometimes have traditions, practices, or customs that are not biblical. These can cause other people to turn away from the Bible, which is sad because it is not the Bible that is at fault, but rather people who say they are obeying it when in fact they are not. For example, a prominent denomination insists that full-time ministers not marry, and that has caused some people to think the Bible cannot be a good book to live by. When you actually read it, however, you find that it clearly says ministers can marry (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6).

Another example of some Christians living by rules that are not in the Bible involves the consumption of alcohol. There are Christians who teach that drinking any alcohol at all is a sin. That erroneous teaching has caused some people to doubt the truth and relevance of Scripture. The truth is that believers are allowed to drink alcohol. It would indeed be incredulous if God forbade the use of alcohol, but Jesus changed more than 120 gallons of water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11). The truth is Christians are told in Scripture not to get drunk (Eph. 5:18).

Still another example involves Christians who think dancing is a sin. There is little doubt that dancing can be ungodly or sinful, depending on the music and the movements of the dancers, but there is also godly dancing. Note verse four in the following verses, which are describing how to praise God:

Psalm 150:3-5
(3) Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
(4) praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
(5) praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

It is not right to say, “Dancing is a sin,” when Scripture says people can praise God in their dancing.

The list of such Christian myths is a long one, but the point is simple: there are things Christians say and believe that are not what the Bible says, so never doubt God’s Word just because a Christian says or does something you find “unreasonable.” Take time to check for yourself what the Bible actually says before you draw a conclusion.


[1] The Hebrew text indicates seven pairs, which is well represented in the Amplified Version. Most versions simply read “by sevens” or something similar, which does not make the fact that there were seven pairs as clear to the reader.
[2] John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, NJ, 1961), pp. 10-14, 63-88.
[3] The creature that swallowed Jonah might have been a large fish or a whale—the Hebrew and Greek languages do not make a distinction between a fish and a sea-going mammal.
[4] J. Vernon McGee, Jonah: Dead or Alive? (The Church Press, Farson and Sons, Glendale, CA).
[5] Entire books have been written showing the biblical truth that the doctrine of “eternal torment” is unbiblical. We have a little about it in our book Is There Death After Life? (Christian Educational Services, Indianapolis, IN, 2004), and a two hour teaching video The Dead are Dead, but the most definitive work we are aware of on the subject is, Edward Fudge, The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (Providential Press, Houston, TX, 1982).

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1 comment

  1. Thanks , I will have a Good read of everything written on this site .

    Jehovah Bless You

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