The Bible and the Doctrine of Inerrancy

You need to understand this key truth about what you'll find in God's Word.

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There is much about the Bible that is both simple and complex. The doctrine of inerrancy is an excellent example.

On the one hand, the doctrine of inerrancy is relatively easy to understand -- it states that the Bible is without error. In fact, to say that the Bible is in-errant is to say that the Bible is in-capable of error. Inerrancy means that the Scriptures are free from error in every word.

On the other hand, there are several key issues connected with the doctrine of inerrancy that make it feel very complicated indeed.

We'll tackle a few of those issues as we take a deeper look into this important doctrine.

Who Says?

The first thing we should understand about this issue is that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy did not come from people. Bible scholars did not get together and say, "We better decide that the Bible is free from error, or else nobody will believe it."

Instead, the doctrine of inerrancy comes from the Bible itself. Jesus Himself affirmed that God's Word "is truth" (see John 17:17), and there are several other passages that point to this conclusion. For example: 

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.
Psalm 19:7-9

However, there is no Scripture passage that directly addresses this issue. There is no Bible verse that says, "All of the Bible is without error." The reason the Scriptures don't directly address inerrancy is because the Bible does address the doctrine of inspiration.

Stated simply, the doctrine of inspiration says that the Scriptures were produced by God -- that He is the Source for every part of the Bible.

Yes, each book of the Bible has a human author. However, those authors were all inspired by the Holy Spirit as they wrote their individual portions of the Scriptures. Therefore, God is the ultimate Author of His Word.

The apostle Paul said it this way:

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

Why is this important? Because the doctrine of inspiration automatically leads to the doctrine of inerrancy. If God -- who is perfect and free from any kind of error -- is the Source of the Bible, then we can say for certain that the Bible is without error. In other words, we believe the Bible is inerrant because we believe it comes directly from God.

The Scriptures themselves make this argument in a number of places, including here:

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:20-21

In the end, the connection between inspiration and inerrancy can be boiled down to this statement: the Bible is God's primary method of revealing Himself to us; therefore, we can rely on that revelation to be as reliable as God Himself.

One Important Caveat

As we consider the doctrine of inerrancy, we need to remember that both inspiration and inerrancy apply only to the original manuscripts of God's Word. In other words, when Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus -- what we know as the Book of Ephesians -- he was inspired by the Holy Spirit in that moment (inspiration), and he produced an epistle that was free from any kind of error (inerrancy).

However, those truths only apply to that specific manuscript written in that specific moment -- what we call the original manuscripts. 

Therefore, the Bibles we read and use today are not considered "inspired" in and of themselves.

They are extremely accurate copies and translations of the original manuscripts that have been passed down to us through the many centuries of the church -- and there is a lot of evidence for the historical reliability of the Scriptures.

So, while modern Bibles are not technically "inspired," they are extremely accurate copies and translations of the inspired Word of God. Which means we can feel confident in the power of God's Word to shape and transform our lives.