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Biblical inerrancy

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Biblical Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrines or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences." 1 The conservative evangelical stance on inerrancy was most recently and thoroughly articulated in 1978 in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

The original autographs

According to the Chicago Statement and in general agreement within the evangelical community at large, strict inerrancy applies only to the original autographs (i.e. the very first manuscripts written). This leads to the conclusion that, "no present manuscript or copy of Scripture, no matter how accurate, can be called inerrant." 2 Nonetheless, one should not worry, for when we understand the Reliability of the New Testament and the Reliability of the Old Testament, we may have confidence that our current Bibles are 98% accurate, and no major doctrine is affected by the manuscript variants. Likewise, the Bible has proved itself reliable through prophecy, historical events, archaeology, and in many other areas.

There are some from the past who believed that God perfectly preserved the autographs in the apographs (copies). Francis Turretin wrote in his Systematic Theology, "By "original texts" we do not mean the very autographs from the hands of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, which are known to be nonexistent. We mean copies (apographa), which have come in their name, because they record for us that word of God in the same words into which the sacred writers committed it under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit." (A Puritan's Mind)

Proper interpretation

Although we may have confidence in the Bible texts we have today (based on the inerracy of the original), there remains the possibility of different interpretations. This should not be taken as a negative against the doctrine of inerrancy. An interpretation that contradicts what seems to be the clear sense of other Scripture does not necessarily imply that the text is in error. More than likely the interpretation is at fault, and not the text. A famous quote from Augustine says, "it is not allowable to say, 'The author of this book is mistaken'; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood".

See main page on Interpretation of the Bible.

Inerrancy and infallibility

Some scholars see infallibility as less restrictive term than "inerrancy" in discussing the reliability of the Bible. For example, Davis suggests "The Bible is inerrant if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any topic whatsoever. The Bible is infallible if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any matter of faith and practice." 3 Davis therefore argues that infallibility does not necessitate a doctrine of inerrancy. In this sense, infallibility is seen as a nuanced and less-restrictive view of the Bible's reliability.

However, others see it the other way around, i.e. infallibility is the stronger term and specifically implies inerrancy. In article XI, the Chicago Statement says, "We deny that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated." This then is contrary to Davis view above.

Further, in article XII, the Chicago statement says, "We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science."

Adding to the potential confusion is the layman's tendency to use the terms interchangeably.

Covers all disciplines of knowledge

"This last point emphasizes the extent of inerrancy extends to all areas in which it speaks. The Bible makes no distinction between religious matters and non-religious matters. All matters are dealt with in an error-free way. This includes areas of history, science, and geography as well as theology." [1]

Footnotes

  1. Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 156.
  2. ibid. p. 157.
  3. Stephen T Davis, The Debate about the Bible: Inerrancy versus Infallibility (Westminster Press, 1977). ISBN 0664241190, p. 23.

See also

Resources

  • Bruce, F. F., J. I. Packer, Philip Comfort, and Carl Henry. The Origin of the Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1992. ISBN 0842347356
  • Geisler, Normal. Inerrancy. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980. ISBN 0310392810
  • Marshall, I. Howard. Biblical Inspiration. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983. ISBN 157383310X (this book treats the relation of Inspiration to Inerrancy, as well as Infallibility)
  • Preus, Robert. The Inspiration of Scripture: A Study of the Theology of the 17th-Century Lutheran Dogmaticians. 2nd Ed. St. Louis: Concordia, 1957. ISBN 0758603606

External links

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Theopedia-logo This page uses content from Theopedia, which favors a Calvinistic/Reform POV. The original article was at Inerrancy of the Bible. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion-wiki, the text of Theopedia is under [Creative Commons 3.0 license]

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