Why I Believe in the Inerrancy of the Scriptures
[ref003]The Skeptical Review: 1992: Number Four: Why I
Believe in the Inerrancy of the Scriptures
"Inspiration" refers to the origin of the Bible, i.e., that
it is "God-breathed" ([ref004]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
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
preserved from the errors that appear in all other books.
The original Hebrew and Greek autograph copies of the Bible were
inerrant. 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. However, 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 salvation. If mistakes exist in one part, mistakes may just as easily
exist in another 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
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."
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 trustworthy, 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
throughout the Bible for itself. Numerous passages explicitly affirm
inerrancy in all apostolic utterances, including both what to say and how
to say it ([ref005]Matt. 10:17-20;
[ref008]21:12-15; [ref009]Jn. 14:16-17,26;
[ref010]16:12-13; [ref011]Acts 1:5,8). Jesus
gave his stamp of approval to the entirety of the Old Testament, even down
to the "jot and tittle" ([ref012]Matt. 5:18).
Passages like [ref013]II Timothy 3:16,
1:1-2, [ref015]I Peter 1:10-11,
and [ref016]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" ([ref017]Jn. 10:35), he was
affirming Scripture's indefectible nature in even its most casual phrases.
The Bible makes no distinction 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 ([ref018]I Cor.
11:8-9; [ref019]I Tim.
2:13-14). Jesus treated Jonah in the great fish, the Flood, Adam and
Eve, and Abel as historical fact ([ref020]Matt. 12:40; [ref021]24:38-39; [ref022]19:4-5;
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
No other literary production in the history of the world has been
subjected 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 unavailable, sufficient alternative explanations
have been presented to dispel the credibility of the charge.
Examining specific examples of the Bible's unparalleled accuracy
demonstrates its inerrancy.[[ref025]4] Such an undertaking is
expansive, but the investigation is made easier by classifying alleged
discrepancies according to three types.[[ref026]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.[[ref027]6] The great majority of these have been eventually 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.[[ref028]7] McGarvey aptly summarizes
the massive amount of confirmatory evidence corroborating biblical
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.[[ref029]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 (particularly 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
(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 previous
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.[ref031]
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
J. I. Packer, _Fundamentalism_and_the_Word_of
God_, (Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958),
Gleason L. Archer, Jr., _A_Survey_of_Old_Testament
Introduction_, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1974), p. 22.
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 Publishing 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_Revelation_ 3 (Feb. 1983), 7-10.
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).
See Hodge and Warfield (Inspiration) for the
following categories, pp. 45-71.
Hodge and Warfield, pp. 45-71.
Jack P. Lewis, _Historical_Backgrounds_of_Bible
History_ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971), p. 178.
McGarvey, p. 28.
Hodge and Warfield, p. 55.
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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