Last modified on April 25, 2024, at 23:15

Biblical inerrancy

800px-Crop Book of Isaiah 2006-06-06.jpg

Old Testament
New Testament
The Gospels


The Virgin Birth

See also

Biblical inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible is without flaw or error. It is a central doctrine of fundamentalism, but it is rejected by Catholics and modernists. Following Augustine, Catholics hold that scripture is inerrant regarding how to obtain salvation, but not necessarily on matters of history or science.

Versions of inerrancy

All views of inerrancy are supported by the idea that the Bible is the message from God to mankind, and therefore cannot be in error.

Books on Divine Action—Divine Action and Modern Science (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the Vatican Observatory-sponsored Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action—also presuppose a conservative biblical authority over science, which is inherent in the doctrine of inerrancy.

As many as one third of Americans hold that the Bible is the actual Word of God, to be taken literally.[1]

Inerrant in original manuscripts

Evangelical Christians believe that the original biblical manuscripts, as opposed to translations or later versions, were inerrant.[2]

This view was supported by nearly 300 evangelical scholars who signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in 1978. These scholars included James Boice, Norman Geisler, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, Robert Preus, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul, and John Wenham.[3]

Inerrant in English translation

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time.[4]

Between 5 to 7 billion Bibles have been published.

A few Christians take that position one step further and believe that God has preserved His word, so that there is an inerrant Bible today, that version being the King James Version. Those who hold that position are within the camp of believers known as King James only (though not all in this camp hold to the same viewpoint as to the extent of preservation).

The latter view is based on the following: (i) God has promised to preserve His word in Psalms 12:6-7 (KJV), Isaiah 40:8 (KJV), and Matthew 24:35 (KJV); and (ii) inerrancy only in the original manuscripts, which are lost to us, would do modern Christians no good.[5][6] It is unlikely that God would have allowed His word to be twisted in any subsequent translations, given that He could have simply inspired those doing the work in the same way as He did with those who wrote the original texts. People who take this view are called Biblical preservationists.[7]

The Chicago Statement's answer to this is that the copies and translations are sufficiently faithful to the originals as to not affect any essential teaching.[8] As suggested earlier, many true Christians claim that statements in one language can be reduced to a logical propositional form and as such rendered in any other language with total fidelity.[9]

Nonetheless, Biblical preservationists view the Chicago Statement as a relatively recent, postmodernist theological innovation that leads to questioning of the text and ultimately to a lack of any final authority.[10] They also ask why we should trust the Chicago Statement concerning God's Word instead of trusting God's Word concerning God's Word.

Inerrant in matters of spiritual truth

Some Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant as a source of spiritual truth, but is more appropriately interpreted as metaphor or allegory in certain places (e.g., the six day creation).

This view is the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church.

See Revelation, Book of (historical exegesis).

The Importance of Inerrancy In the Field of Hermeneutics

On alleged "contradictions" in the Bible
“[People] do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.”
— E. Paul Hovey[11]

The issue of inerrancy is important in the field of hermeneutics[12] as outlined in the below table:

Presuppositional bases Consequence for our attitude towards an apparent discrepancy between two or more texts The different results in approach to theological analysis, we assume that:
Scripture does contain errors We may decide that one or both of them contain(s) errors The texts may represent a diversity of thought occasioned by errors
Scripture does not contain errors We are motivated to seek an exegetically justifiablę way of resolving any seeming discrepancy The teaching of the various texts, properly interpreted, represents a unity of thought

According to Harold Lindsell, the church history has repeatedly shown that groups who begin with questioning the validity of minor details of Scripture eventually question major doctrines as well. The pattern repeated is that acceptance of an errant Scripture in peripheral matters has soon been followed by the allegation that Scripture is errant in more central teachings as well.[13]

Liberal Christianity and Biblical Inerrancy

In general, liberal Christians tend to reject Biblical inerrancy in all forms, since certain passages[14] clash with their liberal ideology regarding things like homosexuality and the role of women. One problem which is seen with this view is that by rejecting the Bible or passages therein as inspired, due to their being contrary to a desired meaning or practice, then the authority of the Bible document itself loses its authority or relevance as a guide to morality and Christian behavior. It is reasoned that the Bible cannot be held as sacred if one arbitrarily decides that some of it isn't. Nor could someone who does not take the Bible seriously as God's preserved word call on others to do so.

Some argue that if the Bible cannot be proven inerrant, then the claim within it would be irrelevant.[15]

Those holding to liberal revisionist views of the Bible most typically hold to the Documentary Source Hypothesis, which is contended against by many conservatives.[16]

Some progressive Christians acknowledge that an omnipotent God could easily preserve His words and conclude that, for reasons that they never specify, He has chosen not to do so, instead leaving us to our subjective impressions of God's will.[17] Biblical preservationists counter that that view gives ammunition to skeptics, who can ask what sort of God would promise to preserve His words and then allow the only accurate record of those words to be lost forever.[6]

Seventies debate

Two books in 1976 sparked a firestorm of books and papers amongst religious studies scholars. These were Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible and James Barr's Fundamentalism. Lindsell's book is sympathetic towards conservative Christianity, while Barr's is hostile. Despite this key difference, both were in remarkable agreement that biblical inerrancy provides the "first line of defense" and demarks the "proverbial line in the sand" between liberal and conservative Christianity.[18]

This was also the center of the debate within the Southern Baptist Convention, beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s; ultimately leading to the Conservative Resurgence, whereupon the SBC adopted a conservative viewpoint on Scripture (even going so far as to revise its Baptist Faith and Message to clarify such) which ultimately led some churches to withdraw from the SBC and form their own liberal associations.

See also

Historical-grammatical method (Literal hermeneutic)

Recommended books

  • New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan's Understand the Bible Reference Series) by Gleason Archer, Jr., HarperCollins Publishing, 2011

External links


  2. Introduction to Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and authority
  3. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
  4. The Bible is the best selling book of all time, Guinness Book of Word Record
  5. Faithful Word Baptist Church Doctrinal Statement
  6. 6.0 6.1 'Nothing Could Be Closer to the Truth'
  7. Bob Jones III
  8. Article X of the Statement says:
    WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

    WE DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
  9. Creation Ministries International: The Bible and hermeneutics
  10. Modern Denial of Preservation
  11. E. Paul Hovey. Quotes from E. Paul Hovey. Goodreads. Retrieved on 17 March 2024.
  12. Henry A. Virkler and K.G. Ayayo (2007). Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Baker Publishing Group, 29-30. ISBN 9781441200457. 
  13. Harold Lindsell (1976). The Battle for the Bible. Zondervan Publishing House, 141-160. ISBN 9780310276814. 
  15. Geisler & Nix (1986). A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-8024-2916-5
  16. THE 'DOCUMENTARY SOURCE HYPOTHESIS' Does Anyone Still Believe the 'Documentary Hypothesis'?
  17. Christian Fundamentalism's Grand Illusion
  18. "Evangelicals, Biblical Scholarship, and the Politics of the Modern American Academy" in Evangelicals and science in Historical Perspective, David N. Livingstone, D. G. Hart, Mark A. Noll (Editors), Oxford University Press, 1999, p.306-326