Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Bible: Inspired and Inerrant?

[Third in a series after "SHEEP! WE ARE ALL SHEEP!" and "Robbers and Thieves and Wolves - Oh My!"]
[Crossposted at Street Prophets - where the comments are]

This has turned into a series on my views of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. What does it mean: Inspired and Inerrant? Inspired is really captured by this famous passage:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

The word "inspired" is translated from the Greek word qeopneustoß which comes from the roots qeoß
a deity, especially (with 3588) the supreme Divinity
and pneo:
to breathe, to blow
The traditional definition of inspiration is "God breathed". One description of that is:
What it says of Scripture is not that it is "breathed into by God" or is the product of divine "inbreatheing" into the human authors, but that it "breathed out by God" or "God-breathed." In a word, what is being declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them.
This comes from a pretty academic look at the Greek: "Inspiration & Inerrancy". This is a thorough conservative look at the inspiration of scripture and inerrancy, which is:
"a theological deduction from inspiration"; and
"not demonstrable empirically because of:"
  • Human finitude
  • Human sinfulness
  • lack of complete data
Inerrancy applies to the autographa, not to copies or translations of Scripture. This qualification is made because we realize that errors have crept into the text during the transmission process. It is not an appeal to a "Bible which no one has ever seen or can see." Such a charge fails to take into account the nature of textual criticism and the very high degree of certainty we possess concerning the original text of Scripture.
Read the article.

Now, at one time (Brain Cramps and Street Prophets) I gave a list of 6 books offered by my pastor, Carl Palmer. Norman Geisler, in When Skeptics Ask, talks about a Bible student's attitude to the Bible:

There are real problems in the Bible, but there are also real answers to those difficult passages [see When Critics Ask, by Geisler]. The burden of proof rests with the critics . . . As long as we can show there is a possible solution - that their objection "ain't necessarily so" - then the conflict has been resolved. Like any American citizen, the Bible should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Like a reliable friend, it should be given the benefit of the doubt. A scientist always assumes that there is an explanation when faced with some unexpected and unexplained anomaly. In the same way, a Bible student assumes there is a harmony in the Bible in light of what appears to be contradictions. The pressure of these types of problems motivates the student to dig deeper and find information that otherwise he may never have come across
One of the books gives these principles for approaching apparent difficulties and discrepancies in the Bible:
  1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable
  2. Fallible interpretations do not necessarily mean fallible revelation
  3. Understand the context of the passage
  4. Interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones
  5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages
  6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics
  7. Just because a report is incomplete doesn't mean that a report is false
  8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact
  9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records
  10. The Bible uses everyday, non-technical language
  11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers
  12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices
  13. An error in a copy doesn't equate to an error in the original
  14. General statements do not necessarily mean universal promises
  15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation


  1. Thought provoking indeed. Thanks!

  2. Great points. Thanks for compiling these. Also, off topic, I finally got around to discussing the issue of "gay marriage" and remembered your comment at Bloggin' Outloud a long time ago regarding the slippery slope argument I posed. Linked to your post at http://blogginoutloud.blogspot.com/2006/07/current-argument-gay-marriage-part-1a.html
    So, feel free to jump back into the discussion if you have a mind to. :-)
    Lyn from Bloggin' Outloud

  3. A nice reminder. In the course of my own research, I'e found myself often questioning and doubting even core tenets at the accusation of skeptics. I find all too often that doubt in faith is created more by what we use to validate it than what it's actually based on...

    In the end, the testimony of the Biblical authors and historical validation of the texts stands as very nearly overwhelming. I say "very nearly" if only because the power of human will can choose to believe what it pleases - logical arguments will do nothing to convince it otherwise.

    I don't know who said it, but there's a great quote to that end:

    "To give truth to him who loves it not is to give him many multiplied reasons for disbelief..."

    Good stuff.

    - Graffy


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly