Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 10, 2012 8 comments

Have you ever tried to copy a long written document by hand? It’s a pretty tedious task. Could you imagine copying the Bible by hand - in the original Hebrew or Greek? That’s exactly what many scribes did for many centuries so that the Word of God could be handed down to the next generation. According to some searching on the Internet, I found that the Old Testament has 602,585 words and the New Testament has 180,552 words... that’s a total of 783,137 words! Definitely an overwhelming task, at least from today’s perspective.

But given that there are SO many words to be copied, how likely is it that each and every scribe recorded each one, exactly perfectly every time? Probably not very likely. But what about the fact that this is God’s Word they’re copying? Does that make it more likely? Perhaps.

Where I’m going with all of this is what we call the inerrancy of Scripture. Inerrant literally means without error. The doctrine of inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is completely truthful and accurate in every respect about all it affirms. So the question is, do you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible?

There are two main views on this idea - limited inerrancy and absolute inerrancy. Limited inerrancy believes that through unintentional minor modifications of the text over the course of human history, it is no longer fully inerrant. The inerrancy of Scripture is restricted to the theological doctrines, but not necessarily its historical or scientific statements. This belief also takes into account the fact that scribes have made minor errors (called a “scribal gloss”), but nothing that changes the text in any significant way. In contrast, absolute inerrancy is the view that the Bible is written with full historical and scientific accuracy on all matters, and therefore it is completely truthful about everything.

Personally, I hold to the view of limited inerrancy. I have seen evidence of scribal glosses, but not on anything that’s significant. One in particular I remember is that some manuscripts say Jesus and His disciples crossed a lake in a boat, while other manuscripts say it was in a “little” boat. This has no theological significance, but it is a difference between reliable manuscript texts that we have today.

Unfortunately, we do not have the original texts of the Scriptures, but we do have some pretty old copies. And regardless of whether you believe in limited or absolute inerrancy, we know from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We know that the Bible was truly inspired by God, and that His principles and messages to us will remain true, regardless of how humans may unintentionally mess it up.


Bri said...

The Bible is either truth or deception. It is either inerrant or erroneous. The very definition of inerrant (incapable of making a mistake) stands to argue that the idea of partial error or “limited inerrancy” is not only ridiculous but impossible! The word itself and implications of the word {inerrancy} does not leave any gray area for you to define your own rules.

The example of a boat being called a little boat does not support your argument. A little boat is a boat and therefore there is no error created by the inclusion or exclusion of an adjective of physical quality. If I call you a woman and then later call you a brunette woman, in which occurrence am I wrong (in error)?

For me to believe in the Bible’s inerrancy means that even if that word “little” gets left out the scripture is still complete and unchanged because God’s provision would cover such a “human error”. Inerrancy means that human error cannot change God’s perfect word because God will protect His word to that end. In fact, if I do not believe inerrancy is true of the Bible then I do not believe God is Awesome enough to preserve His own divinely given words. If He cannot preserve His word with complete inerrancy then why should I trust that He can preserve Me? If the God of the Bible is not great enough to give complete and unchangeable truth then He is not God enough for me.

The Bible is inerrant, complete and truth; the minor grammatical differences you see do not change that. I question anyone who would teach or preach otherwise. Stop looking at what men do and look at what God has done!

redeemedrev said...


While I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm, I think you are correct in one regard and blinded in another. You are correct that God can preserve His Word in the same way He preserves you and I. But that doesn't make it errorless! Are you errorless? Am I errorless? Of course not, yet God preserves us. Our errors do not take away from what God has done and they do not change the fact that God created us perfect and immortal (see last week's posts). But we cannot say that we are without error just because God is Awesome as you pointed out and overcomes our errors for us. The same is true with Scripture. Now, please understand something. "God's Word" and "Scripture" are not the same thing. That's a mistake so many people make. Scripture is what men have written as inspired by God, whereas the Word is the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Son, the Christ, who came to the earth as Jesus of Nazareth. Just check out John 1. Jesus was God's perfect representation of His Word, in the flesh! One reason why Jesus was here was to be that Word in the flesh, to show human beings who knew Scripture well how they were misinterpreting it (i.e. Pharisees and other Jews). So, if you were to ask me if Scripture is inerrant, I would say "no". And I wouldn't even call it "limited". If you were to ask me if God's Word is inerrant, I'd say without a doubt!

Where man tampered with God's original design for many things, including our lives, Creation, and Scripture, Jesus came to make it all right, make it true, and make it new and fresh.

It seems to me your desire to defend your views on "Scripture" has blinded you to the reality that God gave man free will and that God allowed men to be a part of the creation of Scripture, knowing full well that human error played a role in it. But again, He did the same thing in giving life to mankind. We as Christians so often want to defend Scripture because we think we are defending God. But God does not need defended. The truth is that God's "awesomeness" is in the fact that He, knowing where and how we would mess up, had a plan through Christ (the Word) to make things right. And as we sit here as Christians in 2012, our foundation is built not on our fallible and errant interpretations and translations of Scripture, but on our relationship with the Word. Scripture is still useful and God-inspired as you'll see in my blog post coming out on Thursday, but we have the Holy Spirit in us, which is the Counselor sent by Jesus (the Word) to guide us into all truth. The obvious question is, why would we need the Holy Spirit if we had everything we need in Scripture? If Scripture was already perfect, then why did the Word need to come in the flesh? Trust me, I really appreciate your enthusiasm. But please consider these questions and the things I have brought up here.

In reality, I believe that you, myself, and Katie are all pretty much on the same page, yet we say it 3 different ways. You seem to be almost attacking in your comments to her, and my response might bother you even more. But the fact is that all 3 of us believe God's power and sovereignty has overcome human error. It could just be a very minor matter of semantics whether we say the error is now gone (meaning God has not only overcome it but also made it invisible to others), it's still obvious in a "limited" way, or human error is still completely obvious to all who look at it. Those 3 ways of saying it identify our 3 differing views on the minor stuff, while we agree on the major stuff! See more in Thursday's blog!

Bri said...

we are definitely not in agreement or just saying something three ways. Biblical inerrancy is fundamental to discipleship and Christ-like living. Do you understand that scripture (the bible) is the revelation of the word (Jesus). Yes Christ was the word in the Flesh but his revelation in written form is also the word of God given to us. The Word is alive! The Bible is alive, containing the breathe of life -of God. And yet you are content to write it off as an erroneous text. This is not a minor semantic, this is a major foundational issue we have.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit? To enlighten the hearts of men to receive the word! Both what is written and Jesus himself.

I am certainly not attacking any person, but speaking truth to lay charge against a very deceiving perspective. So in a sense I am involved in a spiritual battle but its not against a person. The issue is that you and I and all of us are involved in a ministry to spread the gospel, yet you are saying the Bible is erroneous. You cannot say the Bible is not perfect and it is full of errors and then point people to Christ who is revealed in it! That is a total contradiction that underlines your faith. So let me ask, if the Bible is not perfect and inerrant it is therefore not credible - so do you believe in God and his plan for salvation through Christ? Why? Where do you get that other than the Bible?

JD70 said...

In the original writings or "autographs" I think we agree that the text is inerrant. It his a true statement or not? Anyone can answer. Thanks!

JD70 said...

*is this

Katie said...


Thanks for your comments, and thanks for reading my post!

One important thing to keep in mind is that "inerrancy" and "truth" do not contradict each other. The multiple manuscripts of the Bible that we have today do have minor discrepancies (such as, but not limited to, the boat vs little boat example I pointed out). We do not have original autographs of Scripture today, but instead we have copies of copies of copies. Errors have happened in the hand-copying of the texts; that's a fact. However, those errors are not of eternal significance; in other words, all of the doctrines are completely sound and in agreement.

I believe in limited inerrancy because I see evidence of minor discrepancies in the Greek text that we have today, but I totally believe that the original autographs were totally without error and every stroke of the pen was as God wanted. As Logan (redeemedrev) pointed out, humans are not errorless. But, I also believe that the Bible is infallible. That means its purposes always remain true to what God intends. God does indeed speak through the Bible today, regardless of how humans have (inadvertently) messed it up!

God's plan for salvation through Christ will always be shown through the Bible. Period. That's the infallibility of the Bible. There may be other details that have been mis-copied throughout the centuries, but they aren't anything essential to salvation. The Holy Spirit is always present to enlighten us humans to the truth of God's Word, regardless of any particular person's belief as to the inerrancy (absolute or limited) of the Bible.

redeemedrev said...

Well Bri,

It seems to me you are only looking at the extremes. No one can argue that the Bible says "women should remain silent in churches" (1 Corinthians 14:34) and "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us - he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks" (Psalm 137:8-9), just to name a few verses where the direct words don't seem consistent with what the rest of the Bible tells us about God. Just because I am saying that our translation may mess things up a little doesn't mean I am calling the Book itself an erroneous account. And I totally get that those verses are taken out of context and that the Bible is supposed to be read and studied in context. But my point is that humans are involved in the writing of Scripture and where humans are involved, there is automatically error.

While I agree that Scripture, especially the Old Testament, was the revelation of the coming Messiah, I think you are missing the point that Jesus is the Word revealed to us. If you ever do a study on the Greek for "Word", you'll see that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of all that God has, is, and will reveal to the world. You see, the error is not with God and what He originally revealed to the writers of Scripture. What God inspired was indeed inerrant, and that is why it is inaccurate for you to say that I am "writing it off as an erroneous text". The error is not in the text, it's in the humans. It's in how we have interpreted what God is saying and how we have passed on information by word of mouth. And that happened just as much for the men and women who originally wrote the books as it does for us today. But make no mistake about it, I believe in God's plan for salvation because the Holy Spirit made that make sense in my heart. Yes, I read about it in the Bible at one point. But the Bible doesn't say "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me 'shows it to him in a book'". It says "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me 'draws him'". Do I believe the Bible is part of that process? Absolutely! That's why 2 Timothy 3:16 says that it is all "useful". But I firmly believe that many Christians have begun to worship the text and not the One who is the perfect embodiment of God's revelation to us. As humans, we love to think that we can just keep KNOWING and LEARNING more. But we must know that God draws us into relationship with Him and that the Word is part of that process. He didn't just have everything written out all neat and orderly for us so that all we have to do is read and understand and not spend anytime with Him anymore. What kind of relationship would that be?

So, I'm sorry that you think this is major and that you are speaking truth and I am not. You even said it "underlines my faith". I see a lot of agreement in what we're saying. But it is impossible to have human beings involved and not have errors. While God overcomes them, He does not change them. It would go against His loving nature which granted us free will. That's what I believe. If you can't accept what I believe, we'll have to agree to disagree. That's okay with me, because I know your faith and you know mine, and in the end, we agree that God is sovereign over all this. So I'd like to stop majoring in the minors, as I see it. I have to write my blog for Thursday, so unfortunately I cannot keep going back and forth on this tonight. I'd love to hear your thoughts in response to Thursday's blog, if you can accept a difference in opinion. Thanks for your comments here! God bless!

Gary said...

Almost all Christian doctrines are based on the New Testament of the Bible. But, how do Christians know that these 27 books are the inerrant, inspired words of God, as Christians tell us?

Answer: A bunch of fallible, scientifically illiterate Churchmen in the second, third, and fourth centuries said so! That's it!

When and where did God say that a bunch of old Churchmen have the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word? When and where did God say that Saul/Paul of Tarsus was speaking on his behalf? Or the writers of the Gospels? Or James? Or Peter? Or any other writer of the New Testament? Even if the apostles themselves had voted unanimously for the 27 books of the current New Testament to be designated as the "Word of God", that still would not prove that God had authorized them to do so. We have no evidence that the Eleven achieved a state of perfection and omniscience on Pentecost. They, like every other human being, were fallible. So where is the evidence that God left a list of what should and what should not be considered his Word in a new testament?

Answer: No where!

We have no evidence from the Bible or anywhere else that God gave Christians a list of what is and what is not his Word! Christians have created an "inerrant, inspired, you-are-damned-to-Hell-if-you-don't-believe-it" Holy Book based solely on the opinions of men living almost 2,000 years ago.

Bombshell: Christians have zero evidence that proves the New Testament of the Bible to be the Word of God; the inerrant message of the Creator of the Universe to mankind. Zero!