The Inerrancy of the Bible

Why Is It Important to Believe the Bible Is Without Error?

Inerrancy of the Bible
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The inerrancy of the Bible is a key doctrine in Christianity, a crucially important belief because it reflects on the very character of God himself.

Theologian James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) gave a good definition of inerrancy:

"Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they teach, whether that teaching has to do with doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or other disciplines or knowledge."

Christianity says the Bible was written by men, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, being co-equal with God the Father, cannot lie or make a mistake.

Inspiration is often described by scholars as the "superintending" of the Holy Spirit over the Bible writers. The process is not dictation or illumination. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Scripture is called "God-breathed," meaning God does not breathe into Scripture but breathes it out.

Criticism of the Inerrancy of the Bible

Throughout its history, the Bible has come under attack for so-called inconsistencies and errors. Most definitions of inerrancy confine it to "original autographs," or ancient manuscripts. Although the original manuscripts do not exist today, the oldest copies of both the Old and New Testaments show very few variations, most of them minor.

More recently, some Bible scholars asserted that certain passages are not to be taken literally, such as Matthew 27:52-53, about dead saints being resurrected after Jesus Christ's death.

Those views go beyond the question of interpretation to denying the truthfulness of a section. Supporters of inerrancy say such a claim disputes the trustworthiness of God.

Inerrancy does not mean biblical accounts must all be exactly the same. In the Gospels, for example, the synoptics are similar because they probably used a common source, while the Gospel of John contains events not recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Each writer also has a unique personal style and each book emphasizes a different audience.

Neither does inerrancy require that the Bible be free from unclear passages. Some verses take special knowledge of the original Hebrew or Greek to decipher. Others are explained by new archaeological discoveries, while a few are simply beyond human understanding.

What Does the Bible Say About its Own Inerrancy?

What does Scripture itself say about its perfection?

According to Moses, the author of Exodus, God himself wrote the Ten Commandments:

The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. (Exodus 32:16, NIV)

King David, author of many of the Psalms, spoke of the timelessness of God's word:

Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89, NIV)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, frequently quoted from the Old Testament and said:

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4, ESV)

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Matthew 24:35, ESV)

"...--and the Scripture cannot be broken." (John 10:35b, NIV)

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17, NIV)

The apostle Paul concluded that the Bible comes from God:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

Why Inerrancy of Scripture Matters

Christianity is based upon the Bible. Its doctrines, from the Trinity to the way of salvation, come from its pages. If any part of the Bible is flawed, the reliability of the entire book comes into question. But since God, the author of the Bible, does not contradict himself, neither does the Bible itself.

As stated before, God is perfect in every regard. (2 Samuel 22:31) His word is true. (Psalm 33:4) He is incapable of lying (Titus 1:2). Jesus was sinless and without deceit. (1 Peter 2:22) Christ's words are trustworthy.

(Revelation 21:5)

After the deaths of Paul, the four Gospel writers, and the apostles, the Christian church relied solely on Scripture as its guide. Over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church introduced tradition and the teachings of the popes into Christian theology. The Reformation returned to the Bible alone as sole authority and Protestants are united in that principle today.

The danger of rejecting the inerrancy of the Bible is that people begin to ignore parts of Scripture they disagree with, such as the doctrine of hell or even the Ten Commandments, claiming they could not come from a loving God. According to www.gotquestions.org, such picking and choosing results in a reader who judges the Bible, instead of recognizing that the Bible judges the reader.

(Sources: Does Inerrancy Matter? by James Montgomery Boice; The Moody Handbook of Theology, Paul Enns; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor; The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger; openbible.info; defendinginerrancy.com.)