Skeptic Tank Text Archive File

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Pages 2-4: autumn 1992 WHY I BELIEVE IN THE INERRANCY OF THE SCRIPTURES Dave Miller "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 1 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 types.5 (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 2 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 as follows: ... 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." ENDNOTES 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. 22. 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. 178. 8 McGarvey, p. 28. 9 Hodge and Warfield, p. 55. 10 Hodge and Warfield, p. 64. ********** 3 (Dave Miller teaches at the Brown Trail School of Preaching, P. O. Box 210667, Bedford, TX 76095.) ******************************** FREE SUBSCRIPTION: A free one-year subscription to The Skeptical Review can be obtained by writing to P. O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. 4


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank