Even the Bible Needed Upgrading, but Don’t Let That Scare You

Wait a minute. The Bible needed an upgrade?

Those sound like fighting words to anyone with a high view of Scripture. An upgrade implies that something needed updating, but the Bible is timeless!

That’s true, but in this case I would have to excuse myself from the ring. I wouldn’t want to tangle with those responsible for the improvements: the biblical writers and, well, the Spirit of God.

Believe it or not, there is evidence that the Bible was updated. That may sound strange, but if you read closely, it’s undeniable. Take Genesis 14:14 as an illustration:

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men . . . and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Did you notice the problem? This is the time of Abram, a time before Moses and Joshua—before there was a promised land divided among the tribes of Israel. There wasn’t even an Israel yet. So what’s up with the reference to the land that belonged to the tribe of Dan?

If we plotted out the battle between Abram described in this verse on a map, with place names appropriate for Abram’s day, we’d see that the writer really meant that the enemy was pursued all the way to a place called Laish, not Dan.

Many Bible critics would call this an error, but it isn’t. Much later, in the days of Israel’s judges, Laish was renamed as Dan: “And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first” (Judg 18:29). Evidently, an unnamed editor updated the text of Genesis 14:14 after the name change took place. The editor likely did this to make sure readers of his own day would understand the geography.

In other instances, an editor repurposed something already written in the Bible to make it preach to their community. Psalm 51 is well known as a record of David’s repentance after his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. The psalm, though, ends by asking God to “do good to Zion” and with the command, “build up the walls of Jerusalem” (Psa 51:18–19). The walls of Jerusalem were not in need of repair until after God’s people were exiled, centuries after David lived. The editorial addition is a masterful literary stroke. Just as King David repented centuries before, an editor sought to move the exiles to national repentance. It was just the kind of example they needed.

Though it seems strange, the updating of Psalm 51:18–19 and Genesis 14:14 gives us an insight into the process of inspiration—a process that included providential editorial work.

why is the bible hard to understandDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.Free Bible Software. Priceless Insights. clickable image

Written by
Michael S. Heiser

Michael S. Heiser (1963–2023) was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Ancient History) and the University of Wisconsin- Madison (M.A., Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies). He had a dozen years of classroom teaching experience on the college level and another ten in distance education. He was a former scholar-in-residence at Logos Bible Software.

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Written by Michael S. Heiser
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