Biblical Inerrancy: The Historical Evidence

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This is the series of papers from the third and final ICBI summit. Harvie Conn, ed. This is a good collection of papers from the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary. Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. Henry, eds. These are papers from a conference not primarily on inerrancy, but it is interesting to see how the topic continues to be worked out in the papers of David Wells and others. It should be mentioned during all this time that individual authors were also putting out volumes on the topic of the Bible and its inerrant nature.

Packer in brought out a series of his articles on the topic, under the title Beyond the Battle for the Bible Crossway. Ronald Nash did a fine little piece of popularized systematic theology on the issue, The Word of God and the Mind of Man Zondervan, Most notable of all was Carl F. Crossway, Philosophical issues of epistemology and meaning have dominated the discussions during the intervening years, discussions which Henry was already engaging at a high level. The implications of inerrancy and truthfulness are carefully considered and well-illustrated.

Though some of the authors just mentioned are Southern Baptists e. Lindsell targeted the Southern Baptist Convention especially with one chapter in his Battle for the Bible , but all he did was help to ignite a controversy that had been going publicly, though intermittently, since the early s. In , Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, at the time both professors at Southwestern Seminary, did some historical excavations among Baptist theologians of the past and produced their own, denomination-specific rebuttal of Rogers and McKim.

No suggestion that inerrancy was alien to the Baptist tradition could well survive this plus-page survey— Baptists and the Bible Moody, No editor is listed. The papers are of varying quality, of course, but of great interest historically. An odd combination of an historical and theological collection of essays is Beyond the Impasse? James and David S. Dockery Broadman, A number of the leading figures on both sides of the controversy contributed essays to this volume. On a purely historical note, the pointed question of inerrancy raised the even larger question of Baptist identity.

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It was all part of the struggle going on to define the denomination and its agencies. This is the work that demonstrated to those still doubting it that the struggle in the SBC was not just about power—but it was, as the conservatives had maintained—about theology. Many other books could be mentioned. Let me simply give you one more related category. Questions of inerrancy often arise from particular difficulties that seem to arise from reading—something that seems hard to understand, or even a discrepancy.

There is a genre of books which deal with just such passages in the Bible. A few of them are John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible ; rpt. Kaiser, Jr. There have also been fresh efforts to examine and consider the sufficiency of Scripture. Don Kistler has edited Sola Scriptura! Keith A. One book which is not written by an evangelical Christian, but which has proved to be good medicine when first encountering various literary criticisms is Frederick C.

Crews, The Pooh Perplex E. Dutton, One particularly important area of controversy about inerrancy has been the renewed controversies surrounding the life of Jesus. Legions of books have been published about this. Perhaps the best one volume to get to introduce the whole topic is a volume composed, in part, of a debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. It is engaging, sharp, makes reference to other contemporary literature, and is presented with additional sections which help the reader with particular concerns.

Only because of the Living Word may we finally know to trust the Written Word. To get up to speed on this issue, and to help you with your ministry, consider the following recommendations. You can find him on Twitter at MarkDever. Our work is possible by the generosity of our readers. Give Today. Resources Donate. Is Intinction a Biblical Practice? Inerrancy of the Bible: An Annotated Bibliography. Article Most evangelicals today follow E. Young's deductive approach toward bibliology, forgetting the great articulator of inerrancy.

But Warfield starts with the evidence that the Bible is a historical document, rather than with the presupposition that it is inspired. In the Nicene Creed Christians confess their belief that the Holy Spirit "has spoken through the prophets". This creed has been normative for Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and all mainline Protestant denominations except for those descended from the non-credal Stone-Campbell movement.

As noted by Alister E. McGrath , "An important element in any discussion of the manner in which scripture is inspired, and the significance which is attached to this, is 2 Timothy —17, which speaks of scripture as 'God-breathed' theopneustos ". According to McGrath, "the reformers did not see the issue of inspiration as linked with the absolute historical reliability or factual inerrancy of the biblical texts". He says, "The development of ideas of 'biblical infallibility' or 'inerrancy' within Protestantism can be traced to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century".

People who believe in inerrancy think that the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but every word of it is, because of verbal inspiration, the direct, immediate word of God. A correct translation of their writings is God's Word because it has the same meaning as the original Hebrew and Greek. However, the 19th century Anglican biblical scholar S. Driver held a contrary view, saying that, "as inspiration does not suppress the individuality of the biblical writers, so it does not altogether neutralise their human infirmities or confer upon them immunity from error".

Mozley , an early 20th-century Anglican theologian has argued:. That the Bible is inspired is, indeed, a primary Christian conviction; it is from this that certain consequences have been drawn, such as infallibility and inerrancy, which retain their place in Christian thought because they are held to be bound up with the affirmation of inspiration. But the deductions can be rejected without any ambiguity as to the fact of inspiration. Neither 'fundamentalists' nor sceptics are to be followed at this point For a believer in biblical inerrancy, Holy Scripture is the Word of God, and carries the full authority of God.

Every single statement of the Bible calls for instant and unqualified acceptance. According to some believers, the Bible contains everything that they need to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life, [59] and there are no deficiencies in scripture that need to be filled with tradition , pronouncements of the Pope, new revelations , or present-day development of doctrine. Harold Lindsell points out that it is a "gross distortion" to state that people who believe in inerrancy suppose every statement made in the Bible is true as opposed to accurate. Whether what he said was true or false is another matter.

Christ stated that the devil is a liar". Many who believe in the inspiration of scripture teach that it is infallible but not inerrant. Those who subscribe to infallibility believe that what the scriptures say regarding matters of faith and Christian practice are wholly useful and true. Some denominations that teach infallibility hold that the historical or scientific details, which may be irrelevant to matters of faith and Christian practice, may contain errors. Those who believe in inerrancy hold that the scientific, geographic, and historic details of the scriptural texts in their original manuscripts are completely true and without error, though the scientific claims of scripture must be interpreted in the light of its phenomenological nature, not just with strict, clinical literality, which was foreign to historical narratives.

Proponents of biblical inerrancy generally do not teach that the Bible was dictated directly by God, but that God used the "distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers" of scripture and that God's inspiration guided them to flawlessly project his message through their own language and personality.

Infallibility and inerrancy refer to the original texts of the Bible.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Scholars who are proponents of biblical inerrancy acknowledge the potential for human error in transmission and translation, and therefore only affirm as the Word of God translations that "faithfully represent the original". Even if the bible is inerrant, it may need to be interpreted to distinguish between what statements are metaphorical and which are literally true. Jeffrey Russell writes that "Metaphor is a valid way to interpret reality. The 'literal' meaning of words — which I call the overt reading — is insufficient for understanding reality because it never exhausts reality.

Originating in Evangelicalism, the Fundamentalists affirmed that the Bible is to be read "literally" or overtly, leading some to reject not only physicalist evolution but even evolution science and to deny that life developed over billions of years. Evangelicals tended to believe in the "inerrancy" of the Bible though they defined that term variously , a view that sometimes could unhelpfully turn the Bible into an authority on science and history.

Also, figures such as Scot McKnight have argued that the Bible clearly transcends multiple genres and Hebrew prose poems cannot be evaluated by a reader the same as a science textbook. Proponents of biblical inerrancy often cite 2 Timothy as evidence that scripture is inerrant. For this argument, they prefer translations which render the verse as "all scripture is given by inspiration of God", and they interpret this to mean that the whole Bible must therefore be inerrant.

However, critics of this doctrine think that the Bible makes no direct claim to be inerrant or infallible. Dodd argues the same sentence can also be translated "Every inspired scripture is also useful", nor does the verse define the Biblical canon to which "scripture" refers. Griffith , the Mormon apologist, writes:. Nowhere within its pages does the Bible teach or logically imply the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. It says nothing about scripture being "perfect", or "inerrant", or "infallible", or "all-sufficient".

If anything, Paul's words constitute a refutation of the idea of scriptural inerrancy What it does say is that scripture is useful, profitable, for the needs of the pastoral ministry. The only "holy scriptures" Timothy could have known from childhood were the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament. And yet, would any Christian assert that in Paul's view the Old Testament was the final and complete word of God to man?

Of course not. In any event, verse 15 makes it clear that in speaking of "all scripture" Paul was referring to the Jewish scriptures and perhaps to some of his own epistles. The New Testament as we know it simply did not exist yet.

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Furthermore, it is fairly certain that Paul's canon included some Jewish scriptures which are no longer found in the Old Testament, such as the book of Enoch. The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible also has a note that this passage refers only to the Old Testament writings understood to be scripture at the time it was written. Moreover, the four purposes to teach, correct, etc. After all, Paul is addressing one of his new bishops the 'man of God'.

Not a word addresses the use of scripture by the laity. The view that biblical inerrancy can be justified by an appeal to prooftexts that refer to its divine inspiration has been criticized as circular reasoning , because these statements are only considered to be true if the Bible is already thought to be inerrant. The doctrine of biblical inerrancy seems inherently improbable, for two reasons.

Firstly, the Scriptures contain what seem to be evident errors and contradictions although great ingenuity has been applied to explain these away. Secondly, the books of the Old and New Testaments did not gain their place within the "canon", or list of approved books, as soon as they were written.

The Old Testament canon was not closed until late in the Apostolic age, and the New Testament canon was not finally closed until the fourth century. If all the Bible's contents were inerrant, one would have thought that this would have become apparent within a much shorter period. Much debate over the kind of authority that should be accorded biblical texts centers on what is meant by the "Word of God". The term can refer to Christ himself as well as to the proclamation of his ministry as kerygma. However, biblical inerrancy differs from this orthodoxy in viewing the Word of God to mean the entire text of the Bible when interpreted didactically as God's teaching.

Here the Bible is seen as a unique witness to the people and deeds that do make up the Word of God. However, it is a wholly human witness. Thus, whether the Bible is—in whole or in part [75] —the Word of God is not clear. However, some argue that the Bible can still be construed as the "Word of God" in the sense that these authors' statements may have been representative of, and perhaps even directly influenced by, God's own knowledge. There is only one instance in the Bible where the phrase "the Word of God" refers to something "written".

The reference is to the Decalogue. However, most of the other references are to reported speech that is preserved in the Bible. The New Testament also contains a number of statements which refer to passages from the Old Testament as God's words, for instance Romans which says that the Jews have been "entrusted with the very words of God" , or the book of Hebrews , which often prefaces Old Testament quotations with words such as "God says". The Bible also contains words spoken by human beings about God, such as Eliphaz Job and the prayers and songs of the Psalter.

That these are God's words addressed to us was at the root of a lively medieval controversy. While the phrase "the Word of God" is never applied to the modern Bible within the Bible itself, supporters of inerrancy argue that this is because the biblical canon was not closed. In 1 Thessalonians , the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica "when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God".

Translation has given rise to a number of issues, as the original languages are often quite different in grammar as well as word meaning. Some believers trust their own translation to be the accurate one. One such group of believers is known as the King James Only movement. For readability, clarity, or other reasons, translators may choose different wording or sentence structure, and some translations may choose to paraphrase passages. Because some of the words in the original language have ambiguous or difficult to translate meanings, debates over the correct interpretation occur.

Criticisms are also sometimes raised because of inconsistencies arising between different translations of the Hebrew or Greek text, as in the case of the virgin birth. One translation problem concerns the New Testament assertion that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. If the Bible were inerrant, then this would be true. However, critics have suggested that the use of the word virgin may have been merely a translation error.

Matthew —23 reads: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'—which means, 'God with us'. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin [ almah ] shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. On this point, Browning's A Dictionary of the Bible states that in the Septuagint dated as early as the late 2nd century BCE , "the Greek parthenos was used to translate the Hebrew almah , which means a 'young woman ' ".

Furthermore, the Encyclopedia Judaica calls this "a two-millennium misunderstanding of Isaiah ", which "indicates nothing concerning the chastity of the woman in question".


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Another writer, David Strauss in The Life of Jesus , writes that the question "ought to be decided by the fact that the word does not signify an immaculate, but a marriageable young woman". He suggests that Isaiah was referring to events of his own time, and that the young woman in question may have been "perhaps the prophet's own wife". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the Christian doctrinal position.

For Jewish doctrinal positions, see Rabbinic literature. All the books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, are the written word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself – Red Letter Christians

They are to be interpreted according to their context and purpose in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through them in living power. As a result of this book, evangelicals drafted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in to form clarity on this issue. Moreland, J. Packer, et al. We will appeal to this document throughout this article. Since humans are sinful and prone to error, critics of inerrancy argue that Scripture cannot be without error. Mere human beings sin, but Jesus was not a mere human being. He was more than a mere human being; he was also divine.

In the same way, the Bible is a human book, but it is not merely a human book. It is also a divine book. No one is claiming that humans—apart from inspiration—could write an errorless book. That would be impossible. However, they were inspired by God 2 Tim. If God dictated the Bible to the human authors, then why do the authors of Scripture have different styles? For instance, the author of Hebrews has excellent Greek, but the gospel of John uses a very simplistic vocabulary.

How is this possible if God is the author of each and every book? While there are a few cases of divine dictation in the Bible Ex. God normally works directly through the personality and burden of the individual author, rather than just turning them into an automaton or dictation machine. This is clear from even a cursory reading of Scripture:. All of this points toward confluence : the doctrine that God and man both speak together in Scripture. Theologian B. Warfield explains this mysterious doctrine in this way:.

However, Jesus and the NT writers never accommodate in any other area. Why would they accommodate in this one? For instance, Jesus chased the religious swindlers out of the Temple Jn. He corrected the leading teachers for their understanding of Scripture—but never the inspiration of Scripture Jn. Moreover, this perspective gives us a theological problem. If God accommodates to false beliefs, then does this authorize us as current Christians to accommodate the truth as well?

If we are supposed to be imitators of God Eph. Clearly, not everything in the Bible is true. How then can we still consider the Bible an inerrant book? Inerrancy does not include all that the Bible contains— only all that it teaches. That is, not everything the Bible describes is necessarily being prescribed. Are these portions of Scripture inspired or not? Since Jesus never addressed the topic of virgins, Paul had to address this topic separately. In Ephesians , Paul gives a fragmentary sentence—not including a verb. He is also guilty of run on sentences Eph. Critics of inerrancy often offer these grammatical errors as evidence that the Bible cannot be an inerrant book.

I done saw him on the other side of town… He was by mine whiskey still, dag nabbit! This position is called partial or limited inerrancy.

Bible Evidence - If the Gospels Are Inerrant, Why Do They Contain Discrepancies?

Advocates of this view argue that Scripture is inspired only for the purpose of salvation and morals. For instance, Daniel Fuller writes,. Scripture as a whole is revelatory, either directly revelatory or facilitating the revelation. The directly revelatory part concerns the main purpose of the Scripture to make man wise unto salvation and is inerrant.


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The facilitating parts are not inerrant and are important only as a framing for the revelatory parts—therefore, they should not be made to harmonize with science and history. That is, there are historical and scientific errors in the Bible, but I have found none on matters of faith and practice. However, we disagree with this perspective. The moral and spiritual portions of Scripture are often conjoined with historical and scientific claims.

For instance, the Cross was a historical event, but it also had spiritual implications. Biologically , Jesus died to pay for our sins, but spiritually , he also died to pay for our sins. Consider a few biblical examples cf. In each of these cases, the biblical authors blend the historical and spiritual claims together. Partial inerrantists often argue that the doctrine of inerrancy arose from Christian fundamentalists in the 20 th century. Christians throughout the centuries did not hold to our modern concept of inerrancy. However, a number of counterarguments can be made to this claim:.

Christians throughout the centuries have held to many false doctrines e. Second, this is historically false. However, the debate was never over whether Scripture was inerrantly inspired , but rather, if it is sufficient. Third, inerrancy became a debate, because Western culture changed. After the Enlightenment, scholars began to question the supernatural nature of Scripture.



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