Pages 2-4: autumn 1992
WHY I BELIEVE IN THE INERRANCY OF THE SCRIPTURES
"Inspiration" refers to the origin of the Bible, i.e., that it is "God-
breathed" (II Tim. 3:16). Several terms are used to describe the nature of
this inspiration. "Plenary" means "full" or "complete" and refers to the fact
that inspiration was completely adequate to accomplish the task of giving
God's will to man in written form in all its parts. "Verbal" means that divine
superintendence extended to the verbal expression of the thoughts of the
writers. "Infallible" means that the Scriptures never deceive nor mislead.
"Authoritative" means that the Bible is binding on all people and that all
people will give an account for how they lived in light of its teaching.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BIBLE INERRANCY
The purpose of this article is to discuss the concept of inerrancy.
"Inerrant" means "wholly true" or "without mistake" and refers to the fact
that the biblical writers were absolutely errorless, truthful, and trustworthy
in all of their affirmations. The doctrine of inerrancy does not confine itself
to moral and religious truth alone. Inerrancy extends to statements of fact,
whether scientific, historical, or geographical. The biblical writers were pre-
served from the errors that appear in all other books.
The original Hebrew and Greek autograph copies of the Bible were iner-
rant. Certainly the copies of copies which have come down to us contain
errors common to the craft of the copyist as do all English versions. Howev-
er, with diligent study, we can ascertain the original words of the inspired
writers. Consequently, the doctrine of inerrancy applies to the biblical text
in our day as well--insofar as the Bible has been accurately translated.
Inerrancy is fundamental to the doctrine of biblical authority. Packer
wrote, "Only truth can be authoritative; only an inerrant Bible can be
used... in the way that God means Scripture to be used."1 If the Bible
contains mistakes, then it is unreliable as a true guide to matters of salva-
tion. If mistakes exist in one part, mistakes may just as easily exist in anoth-
er part. If the Bible is a mixture of truth and error, then it is like any
other book and simply not deserving of any special attention.
If the doctrine of inerrancy is not true, then the Bible lacks the very
criteria and credentials necessary for authenticating its divine origin. Human
beings would be incapable of distinguishing between it and all other religious
books which seek acceptance by men (e.g. the Koran, Book of Mormon, the
Vedas). If the biblical writers demonstrate incompetency and fallibility in
matters of ordinary knowledge where uninspired humans can check their
credibility, then their infallibility in all other areas is discredited. As Archer
noted, "If that revelation is to come in a usable and reliable form... it must
come in an inerrant form."2
Since many books claim divine origin, we human beings must be able to
recognize whether a book is in fact the word of God. Our reasoning faculties
must be sufficiently competent to consider the evidence of inspiration and
inerrancy, applying the law of contradiction and other self-evident rules of
logic in order to ascertain whether the Bible is consistent with a supernatural
origin. If the Holy Spirit is responsible for what the biblical writers wrote,
and if the Bible contains errors in historical details, then the Holy Spirit is
the author of error. If the Scriptures are not inerrant and completely trust-
worthy, then God himself is equally untrustworthy.
THE BIBLICAL CLAIM FOR INERRANCY
In order to hold the conviction that the Bible is the word of God, one
must also hold that the Bible is inerrant--for such is the claim made through-
out the Bible for itself. Numerous passages explicitly affirm inerrancy in all
apostolic utterances, including both what to say and how to say it (Matt.
10:17-20; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:12; 21:12-15; Jn. 14:16-17,26; 16:12-13; Acts
1:5,8). Jesus gave his stamp of approval to the entirety of the Old Testa-
ment, even down to the "jot and tittle" (Matt. 5:18).
Passages like II Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:1-2, I Peter 1:10-11, and II
Peter 1:21 attribute the utterances and writings found in both Old and New
Testaments to God-- though conveyed by human authors. When Jesus said
"scripture cannot be broken" (Jn. 10:35), he was affirming Scripture's inde-
fectible nature in even its most casual phrases. The Bible makes no distinc-
tion between "moral" or "religious" truth on the one hand and "historical" or
"scientific" truth on the other. Paul alluded to Adam and Eve as literal,
historical persons (I Cor. 11:8-9; I Tim. 2:13-14). Jesus treated Jonah in the
great fish, the Flood, Adam and Eve, and Abel as historical fact (Matt.
12:40; 24:38-39; 19:4-5; Luke 11:51). Indeed, the fundamental facts of the
gospel itself are rooted in and inextricably bound up with history!
THE EVIDENCE OF INERRANCY
Since the Bible claims to be inerrant, what proof exists to justify such a
claim? No book but the Bible has weathered the perpetual assaults of infidels
and skeptics in their unceasing efforts to document errors and contradictions
within its pages. Despite these relentless attacks, the Bible has consistently
been vindicated and demonstrated to possess the unequaled characteristic of
internal harmony, accuracy, and consistency.3
No other literary production in the history of the world has been subject-
ed to such meticulous scrutiny with the expressed purpose of identifying
discrepancies. Yet all the critics of all the centuries have not succeeded in
verifying even one legitimate criticism. Many charges have been advanced,
but in every case the alleged contradiction or error has been successfully
explained or, in those areas where adequate information is currently unavail-
able, sufficient alternative explanations have been presented to dispel the
credibility of the charge.
Examining specific examples of the Bible's unparalleled accuracy demon-
strates its inerrancy.4 Such an undertaking is expansive, but the investi-
gation is made easier by classifying alleged discrepancies according to three
(1) The first category, the Bible's historical and geographical credibility,
has been consistently validated in every case where sufficient knowledge is
available to modern investigation. For example, Hodge and Warfield noted
that the New Testament alludes to the names of some 30 different people,
between 40 and 50 countries, about the same number of foreign cities, and 36
Syrian and Palestinian towns.6 The great majority of these have been eventu-
ally identified, vindicating the Bible's strict attention to accurate detail.
Lewis identifies 44 Old Testament and 17 New Testament persons for whom
inscriptional and coinage archaeological confirmation exists with an additional
11 cited in literary sources for a total of 63 biblical figures historically
authenticated.7 McGarvey aptly summarizes the massive amount of confirmatory
evidence corroborating biblical inerrancy:
Whether its writers speak of their own or of foreign lands, they
always speak with faultless accuracy, so that their angus-eyed
critics for two thousand years have not been able to detect them
in an error. This accuracy extends not only [to] the relative
location of places, and to the points of the compass, but to the
most minute details, even to the relative elevations of places
mentioned in the narratives.8
(2) A second category is the Bible's internal harmony. Skeptics have long
charged that the writers contradict one another. Yet, once again, in every
case the writers have been exonerated by a more careful examination of the
biblical text. The alleged contradictions between the inspired writers (particu-
larly the synoptic writers) turn out to be supplemental information concerning
the same event which, when put together, forms a cohesive, harmonious
whole; or two different events are being described. Hodge and Warfield
conclude, "It is not rash to declare that no disharmony has ever been proved
between any two statements of the New Testament."9
(3) A third category of inerrancy is the New Testament's use of the Old
Testament. Objections to biblical inerrancy in this regard may be summarized
... quotation appeals to the sense, not the wording, of a previ-
ous document and appeals to it for a definite and specific end;
any dealing with the original is therefore legitimate which does
not falsify the sense in the particular aspect needed for the
purpose in hand.10
Lack of space prevents a treatment of sample alleged discrepancies.
Suffice it to say that any honest-hearted person who cares to put in the time
and effort to examine the evidence will come to the same conclusion articulated
by Jesus: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
1 J. I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God, (Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Co., 1958), p. 20.
2 Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1974), p.
3 For discussion of inerrancy and inspiration, the reader is urged to study the following: Benjamin B.
Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publish
ing Co., p. 1974); J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World (1936, rpt. Grand Rapids, MI:
William B. Eerdsman Publishing Co., 1970); R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969); Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids,
MI: Baker Book House, 1970), pp. 201-214; Wayne Jackson, "Evidence for Bible Inspiration," Reason and Revela
tion 3 (Feb. 1983), 7-10.
4 For excellent treatments of specific alleged errors, see John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the
Bible (1874, rpt. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House, 1977); J. W. McGarvey, Evidences of Christianity (Nashville,
TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1974); Archibald A Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, Inspiration (1881, rpt. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979).
5 See Hodge and Warfield (Inspiration) for the following categories, pp. 45-71.
6 Hodge and Warfield, pp. 45-71.
7 Jack P. Lewis, Historical Backgrounds of Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971), p.
8 McGarvey, p. 28.
9 Hodge and Warfield, p. 55.
10 Hodge and Warfield, p. 64.
(Dave Miller teaches at the Brown Trail School of Preaching, P. O. Box
210667, Bedford, TX 76095.)
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