D. A proper definition of inerrancy must take the following
facts into account.
1. The Nature of Language
a. Genre of Scripture
1) Poetry is by nature
given certain liberties with technical precision in order to communicate a
message with its style.
2) Narrative - Descriptive
history is intended to tell us what happened, not necessarily what must
3) Didactic - Prescriptive
doctrine is generally intended to be more directly applied to the lives of
b. Figures of speech
Job.38:7 “When the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Matt.5:38-42 “38 You
have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I say to you, do not resist him who
is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other
also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you, and take
your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 And
whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not
turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” If applied literally, this
text presents a challenge to the mandate to love one’s neighbor as well as
Jesus’ own example (Matt.21:12-13).
c. Culture & communication
1) Hebrew language was designed
to communicate biographical, pictorial, concrete, and personal information.
2) Greek language was more suited
to logic, hard facts, and abstract ideas.
d. Dynamic formation of terms
1) The meaning and use of terms
is in constant flux in any language.
2) It must always be asked —
What did this term or phrase mean to those who used it at the time of the
writing of the text?
2. The Biblical Phenomena
a. THE USE OF THE OT IN THE NT
1) The N.T. writers seem to
misquote the O.T.
N.T. writers (especially Hebrews) often quote from the Septuagint (LXX), a
Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, rather than the original Hebrew. The LXX
often seems to take liberties with the Hebrew text that are not easy to
explain; resulting in, at best, a paraphrase of the OT in the NT quotation. Is
the LXX or the MT (which is the Hebrew text of the OT) the inspired text?
Evangelicals agree that the MT is the inspired text. But then how can we view
the quotations from the LXX as authoritative? Apparently the NT writers did not
have a problem in using this Greek paraphrase as though it were authoritative.
What does this suggest about their view of inerrancy?
Old Testament Masoretic Text
Matthew 1.23/ Isaiah 7.14
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called
Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).
a young woman shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 12.21/ Isaiah 42.4
"and in his name will the Gentiles hope."
the coastlands wait for his law.
Matthew 13.14-15/ Isaiah 6.9-10
"For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they
the heart of this people fat,
and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes
Matthew 15.8-9/ Isaiah 29.13
"in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."
and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote
Matthew 21.16/ Psalm 8.2
"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast brought
the mouths of babes and infants thou hast founded a bulwark
Luke 3.4-6/ Isaiah 40.3-5
"and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
all flesh shall see it together
Luke 4.18-19/ Isaiah 61.1-2
"to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the
proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound
Acts 7.42-43/ Amos 5.25-27
"And you took up the tent of Moloch, and the star of the god Rephan, the figures which you made to
shall take up Sakkuth
your king, and Kaiwan your star-god, your
images, which you made for yourselves
Acts 8.32-33/ Isaiah 53.7-8
"In his humiliation justice was denied him, Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken
up from the earth."
oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who
considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living
Acts 13.41/ Habakkuk 1.5
"Behold, you scoffers, and wonder, and perish"
Look among the nations,
and see; wonder and be astounded
Acts 15.16-17/ Amos 9.11-12
"that the rest of men may seek
the Lord, and
all the Gentiles who are called by my name"
they may possess the remnant of Edom and
all the nations who are called by my name
Romans 2.24/ Isaiah 52.5
"The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of
Their rulers wail, says the LORD, and continually all the day my name is despised
Romans 9.27-28/ Isaiah 10.22-23
Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the
sea, only a remnant of them shall be saved"
though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return
Romans 10.20/ Isaiah 65.1
"I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me"
was ready to be
sought by those who did not ask for
Romans 11.9-10/ Psalm 69.22
"Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened
so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever."
their own table before them become a snare; let their sacrificial feasts [Heb. - for security]
be a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see;
and make their
loins tremble continually
Romans 11.26-27/ Isaiah 59.20-21
"The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness
he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression
Romans 11.34/ Isaiah 40.13
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
has directed the
Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor instructed him?
Romans 15.12/ Isaiah 11.10
"The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles
root of Jesse shall stand
as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek
Heb 1.6/ Deut. 32.43
"Let all God's angels worship him."
MT omits this quotation
Heb 2.6-8/ Psalm 8.4-6
"Thou didst make him a little lower than the angels"
hast made him a little less than God
Heb 2.13/ Isaiah 8.17
"I will put my trust
will hope in him
Heb 3.15/ Psalm 95.7-8
"Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts
as in the rebellion."
that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah
Heb 8.8-12/ Jer. 31.31-34
"for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord"
covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD
Heb 10.5-7/ Psalm 40.6-8
"Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired; but a body hast thou prepared
and offering thou dost not desire; but thou hast given me an open ear
Heb 10.37-38/ Hab 2.3-4
"and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him."
Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail [Heb. - is puffed up]
Heb 11.21/ Genesis 47.31
"By faith Jacob ... bowing in worship over the head of his staff."
Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed
Heb 12.5-6/ Prov 3.11-12
"For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom
the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights
James 4.6/ Prov 3.34
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Toward the scorners he is scornful, but
to the humble he shows
1 Pet 2.22/ Isaiah 53.9
He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips
he had done no violence, and there was no
deceit in his mouth
1 Pet 4.18/ Prov 11.31
"If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?"
righteous is requited
on earth, how much more the
wicked and the sinner!
2) The N.T. writers seem to
change the text while quoting from the OT
a) Matt.2:6 (Micah 5:2)
“And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the
leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who will shepherd My
5:2 in the OT - “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be
among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in
b) Heb.10:30 (Deut.
32:36) “The Lord will judge His people”
the Lord will vindicate His people.”
c) Rom.11:26 “The
Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
This quote changes the LXX version of Isa.59:20 “come for the sake of Zion” as
well as the Hebrew version “come to Zion.”
3) The N.T. writers often
paraphrase from the OT and yet claim “it is written.”
a) I Cor.1:31 “that,
just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.””
(Jer.9:23-24) “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his
wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast
of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and
knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and
righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”
4) Ascribing a text to a
a) Matt.27:9 (Zech.11:12-13)
“Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was
fulfilled, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the
one whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; and they gave them for the
Potter’s Field, as the Lord directed me.’”
b) Mk.1:2-3 (Mal.3:1 and
Isa.40:3) “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold,
I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice
of one crying in the wilderness, ‘make ready the way of the Lord, make His
paths straight.’ ’ ” (Note that Matthew corrects this “mistake” by leaving out
the Mal.3:1 text — Matt. 3:3.)
NOTE: It was not uncommon in
the first century for authors to quote from a minor prophet and ascribe the
teaching to a major prophet who carried the same emphasis.
b. INTERNAL CONSISTENCY
1) I Sam.17:50 “Thus David
prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck
the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.”
II Sam.21:19 “And
there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the
son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite,
the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”
2) Deut.15:4 “There
shall be no poor among you”
Deut.15:11 “For the
poor will never cease to be in the land”
3) There are some numerical
discrepancies in the Old Testament. For example, in one report David killed 700
in battle, while in another report he killed 7000 in the same battle (II
Sam.10:18; I Chron.19:18). One source says David paid fifty shekels
of silver for a threshing floor; another says that it cost him 600
shekels of gold (II Sam. 24:24; I Chron.21:25). The book of
Chronicles often seems to contain inflated figures. We might also note I
Chron.11:11 versus II Sam.23:8; I Kings 4:26 versus II Chron.9:25; II
Chron.36:9 versus II Kings 24:8.
NOTE: Ancient systems of
numerical notation were susceptible to mistakes (e.g., leaving off or adding
zeros). It was probably difficult to make out numerals when copying from
earlier worn-out manuscripts. These discrepancies were probably copyists’
4) The Last Supper is
pictured as a Passover meal by the Synoptics (Matt.26:17; Mk.14:12;
Lk.22:7-8) which would have taken place on Nisan 14 with His crucifixion on
Nisan 15. John, on the other hand, states that Jesus was crucified on the
Passover (Jn.18:28; 19:14; I Cor.5:7) — Nisan 14.
NOTE: There is evidence that
there were two views used to reckon Passover at the time of Jesus. One
(Galilean method) used by the Synoptics had Nisan 14 start at sunrise,
Thursday. The other (Judean method) used by John had Nisan 14 start at sunset,
Thursday. Jesus used the Galilean method in celebrating the Passover supper on
Thursday evening (Nisan 14) with His disciples. John used the Judean method in
speaking of Christ’s crucifixion on the afternoon of Friday (Nisan14).
5) The genealogies of Christ
in Matt.1 and Luke 3 do not match.
It was understood by Church fathers in the fifth century that Matthew gave the
lineage of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, whereas Luke gave the lineage of
Mary, his mother.
6) The location of Joseph’s
grave according to Acts 7:16 “the tomb that Abraham had bought from the
sons of Hamor at Shechem” does not agree with Josh. 24:32.
NOTE: Look at the parallel case of Isaac and Abimelech.
Isaac confirms his rights to the land where the well of Beersheba was dug
(Gen.26:26-33). The land had been bought earlier by Abraham (21:22-31). Because
of the nomadic habits of Abraham, Isaac found it necessary to reestablish his
rights to the well. Jacob’s buying the burial field near Shechem (33:18-20) was
probably a similar situation. Although there is no mention in Genesis of
Abraham’s buying the land, Stephen probably knew of it by oral tradition; and
it is significant that Shechem was the region where Abraham built his first
altar after migrating to the Holy Land.
7) Mark 2:26 mistakenly
identifies Abiathar as the priest when David ate the consecrated bread (ct. I
Sam.21:1-6; II Sam.8:17).
8) Ex.12:40 tells us
that the Israelite sojourn in Egypt was 430 years while Gal.3:17 puts it
at 400 years.
10-11 In this passage Peter describes his experience of a vision in two
ways that do not match in a wooden literal sense. (1) 10:14 “I have never eaten
anything impure or unclean.” – 11:8 “Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered
my mouth.” (2) 10:44 “While Peter was still speaking these words,” 11:15 “Just
as I was starting to speak”
various accounts of the resurrection do not seem to agree.
See the notes on the resurrection.
1) Matt.13:32 The
mustard seed is not (technically) the smallest seed.
2) Matt.4:8 There is
not a mountain high enough from which one can see all the kingdoms of the
“the earth which is founded forever”
Pet.3:10 “the earth and its works will be burned up”
“I will not be angry forever.”
“For you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.”
“So the Lord did this thing on the morrow, and all the
livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one
did the Egyptians get animals to pull their chariots if all were dead?
could Moses have written Deuteronomy when chapter 34 records his death? There
is no indication that another author was at work. If this chapter was added
later by another, how much else was added with it?
Inerrancy can be viewed as irrelevant for the following reasons.
is a negative concept. Our view of Scripture should be positive.
is an unbiblical concept. The Bible does not claim to be inerrant by modern
in the Scriptures is a spiritual or moral matter, not an intellectual one.
Inerrancy focuses our attention on minutiae, rather than on the primary
concerns of Scripture.
Inerrancy hinders honest evaluation of the Scriptures.
Inerrancy creates unnecessary disunity in the church,
the following additional points.
basic critical honesty demands qualifications to any definition of inerrancy.
respect for the nature of Biblical texts refuses to yield to the mental
gymnastics required of unqualified inerrancy.
strategy for the defense of the Bible, which leads out with an inerrancy plank
is obviously a strategy which leads with its weakest foot and is often a
distraction from the real issue of hermeneutics.
of Unqualified Inerrancy
theology has always been the product of:
insights of ongoing exegesis.
historic witness of the church with respect to doctrinal decisions.
contemporary society’s insights into reality.
When any one of these three streams is absolutized, the authority of the Word
of God is in danger of being compromised.
— the preoccupation with and defensive reference to the scientific precision of
the Biblical text.
tendency to confuse the inerrancy of the text with the inerrancy of the
Chicago statement of Biblical inerrancy (see theology file #216)
While the Bible has absolute authority in all spiritual and
moral matters that it affirms, it is not to be tested by modern standards of
I am to understand that:
The Bible can be trusted
but it must be interpreted with care and not expected to satisfy a criteria
for accuracy that is unique to our modern scientifically precise age.
I am to believe that:
God can make His will clear
to me through the Bible.
I am to behave by:
Becoming a serious
open-minded student of the Bible without fear of asking hard questions or
needing to have all the answers.
the point of the inerrancy debate?
1. The real issue is not only the nature of
the Bible but also the limitations of the reader of the Bible. The fact that
people who have the same view of inerrancy can have very different
understandings of the message is the concern. The real debate is over
2. Some shade of “full” or “limited”
inerrancy seems to be in order.
3. Our credibility is compromised when we try
to defend a position that requires lapses in logic that we would never tolerate
in our critics.
Questions that you should
be able to answer.
facts you should know.
are two problems with absolute inerrancy?
is a responsible definition of inerrancy?
that you should be able to discuss.
a. Why is
Biblical inerrancy an issue?
are the best arguments from the Bible for inerrancy?
would you explain some of the apparent inconsistencies in the Bible?
you should wrestle with.
a. Does the issue of inerrancy avoid more serious
controversies? Which issues?
fundamental is the issue of inerrancy to our faith?