top of page

What is the Bible? The Inerrancy of Scripture




Has it ever been said to you, “Do you think you’re smarter than ____?” This question is difficult to answer because you don’t want to come across as arrogant, but you also don’t want to admit that you’re wrong. The problem with this question isn’t with the person answering it but rather with the person asking it because the only purpose of the question is to silence the other person. Well, this is essentially what happened during the 20th century. A group, collectively known as the “German Liberals,” started asserting that the Bible had errors, and when someone pushed back on this, the response was “Do you think you’re smarter than the scholars?” In discussing the question “What is the Bible?” we’ll now look at the inerrancy of Scripture. What makes Scripture different is that in everything it speaks of it contains no errors.

 

Defining Inerrancy

As discussed in last week’s article on infallibility, the word infallibility was changed by the German Liberals to mean something that historically it doesn’t mean. While the term, in its original and proper meaning, is good, theological conservatives deemed it necessary to begin using a new word to describe Scripture to be more precise. This word was “inerrant.” Inerrant is a compound word from Latin meaning “no errors.” The liberals of the time would say that Scripture is not a science or a history book, and therefore it can err on those issues while still being true in its purpose. The conservatives countered by saying that while it is true that Scripture is not primarily a science or history book when it speaks of science, history, or any other field, it does not err. This means that when secular science and history contradict Scripture, Scripture is correct. Inerrancy also says that the words God chose to use do not err in what they communicate. In every detail, both major and minor, Scripture is true.

 

No Errors

It would first be helpful to understand the claims of errors in the Bible. The most common claims against the Bible fall into three categories: history, science, and word use. Then, these claims will be properly addressed and shown as false.

 

A common claim about the Bible is that it is historically inaccurate. This claim has a spectrum with some who argue entire major stories are false, whereas others will dilute the claim to say the major stories are true, but the minor details err. The former is most common in the claims that Genesis 1-11 is allegorical. The claim is that the events did not take place at all. There was no Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, a flood, or anything else mentioned in these passages. They are mythological. William Lane Craig recently made this claim about Genesis 1-11, calling it “mytho-historical” and that the events did not actually occur but rather are Ancient Near East myths.[1] The latter claim would take Genesis 1-11 and claim that some of the details are true, but not completely accurate. For example, they would claim that the Genesis flood did happen, but it was a local flood instead of a global flood. Ray Ortlund recently made this very claim.[2] The claims don’t stop with Genesis but are made about almost every historical event recorded in Scripture.

 

Another common claim is that the Bible is scientifically inaccurate. These claims typically begin by pointing to what scientists say and then compare it to the Bible. Some are closely related to history, such as the claims that “the science is clear” that humans evolved from apes, so the Genesis account can’t be true. Out of this same concept, objectors will say that Joshua’s long day, found in Joshua 10:11-13 couldn’t have actually happened. Many will also claim that the miracles of Jesus are scientifically impossible, as Thomas Jefferson did.[3] The virgin birth is likely the most attacked as “scientifically impossible.”

 

The last common claim is that the Bible uses words to mean things contrary to what those words actually mean. This is much more common in supposed evangelical circles and is much more subtle than the claims of errors of history and science. One such claim is that when Genesis 1 uses the word “day” it does not actually mean day, as in a 24-hour period. Another claim is that the word “baptizo” can mean sprinkle or pour when the word very clearly means “to immerse.” Another claim in this vein is that the asserted authorship of a book is not the actual writer. This is said of the first five books of the Bible, that Moses did not actually write them even though Jesus ascribed authorship to him. This is also said about some of the letters of Paul.

 

All of these are claims that Scripture has erred. Some may seem harmless and unimportant, but all are saying that the Scripture has some kind of error. These are claims that are brought by both liberals and those who claim to believe in the Bible and will even say they’re inerrantists.

 

So, how do we handle these claims? Now is the point where we write out all the secular sources that show how true the Bible is, right? The study of history, science, and linguistics has continually proven Scripture correct anyways, such as finding fish fossils on the top of mountains, observations in the human genome that trace all people to a little Adam and Eve, and linguistics that show that “yom,” the Hebrew word for “day,” always means a 24-hour period, but that’s not the purpose of this article. The purpose of observing these claims in light of the doctrine of inerrancy isn’t to put human claims against other human claims but rather to show that fallen humans are claiming that God erred in inspiring Scripture. The claims aren’t from two equal sources, but rather God speaking versus humans speaking.[4] Scripture has a source that cannot inspire error, so when Scripture speaks of history, it gets it right, even when historians haven’t found it in secular history yet. When Scripture speaks of science, it gets it right, even when modern science comes to the opposite conclusion. Even down to the words Scripture uses, the words communicate exactly what those words meant in their original language and context, even if they don’t fit the desired theology of a theologian. This isn’t to bash those who do evidential apologetics; their work is incredibly helpful, but rather is to show that the answer to every claim that Scripture errs isn’t secular evidence; it’s understanding that the divine author cannot err.

 

Application

Believing in inerrancy will cause someone to ask the question, “Do you think you’re smarter than ____?” The historians all say this person doesn’t exist; do you think you’re smarter than them? The scientists have proven ad nauseam that evolution is true, do you really think you’re smarter than the scientists? This brilliant theologian said you can be an inerrantist without believing God's word choice is correct, do you think you’re smarter than them? instead, the answer to this question is very simple: if you truly believe in inerrancy, yes. Yes, if you believe God’s word as it is, you are smarter than every single person who either actively or implicitly denies the inerrancy of Scripture. The smartest thing you can do is believe God. Historians, philosophers, and scientists spend their lifetime climbing the mountain of truth, only to find when they arrive at the top, the bible-believing inerrantist. The doctrine of inerrancy should give every text-driven person great confidence that they are not the dunce of the classroom but rather are set atop the mountain of truth.




Article written by Klayton Carson



 


[1]“Mytho-History in Genesis | William Lane Craig,” First Things, October 5, 2021, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/10/mytho-history-in-genesis.

 

[2]Was Noah’s Flood Local?, accessed January 22, 2024, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq5tUg4SWzs.

 

[3]John Ragosta, “Jefferson, Thomas and Religion,” Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed January 22, 2024, https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/jefferson-thomas-and-religion/.


[4]For further discussion on this, refer back to the article on Inspiration https://www.textdriven.org/post/what-is-the-bible-the-inspiration-of-scripture 





The "What is the Bible" series will also be on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at www.textdriven.org/podcasts.



留言


bottom of page