Can Biblical Inerrancy be a Biblical Doctrine?

I recently heard someone emphatically assert that Biblical inerrancy is a Biblical doctrine.

Many approach this topic by discussing the specific passages that talk about the “Word of God” or “writings/scriptures.” None of these says that the texts in question are inerrant, and some of them do not in fact seem to be talking about texts at all, but about divine speech.

But there seems to me to be a more basic and simpler logical point.

When the texts that now make up the Bible were being written, there was by definition no collection of writings that included them, such as modern Bibles are.

None of these texts predicts that they will become part of such a collection, much less provides a list of contents for such a future collection.

And so how can any of these texts be talking about the inerrancy of the Bible when there was as yet no Bible with the contents that Bibles have today?

On the problems with Biblical inerrancy from a “Biblical” perspective, see “The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself” on the blog The American Jesus. And see also these images I made previously which illustrate other problems with Biblical inerrancy:

 

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  • SoWhat78

    James, I’m sorry if I sound less than charitable with what I’m about to say. I have no problem with the Bible or Christianity per se, but I think the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is extremely absurd and I lose respect for anyone who tries to defend such a ridiculous doctrine. I can’t believe there are “scholars” out there with real scholarly credentials who believe in Biblical inerrancy. Such “scholars” may have true scholarly credentials, but they are functioning as apologists/snake oil salesmen.

    • $14834813

      I agree. Maybe there are some who are sincere but I think that a lot of these “scholars” have an agenda. It could be money or fame. But I also think that when someone uses the inerrancy argument, it is usually because they want to justify an untenable position on something. It is their way of trying to attain power and a following by invoking “God’s Will” Thus the issue is not about seeking truth, but rather selfishly exploiting the Bible to say what they want it to say. They can do that because the Bible does not contain consistent moral and ethical values, so they can point to one passage and then ignore passages that say the opposite.I know they make the same argument against progressives, however the difference is progressives realize that the bible is full of inaccuracies and does not have a consistent moral point of view. In fact it is just the opposite. The Bible uses “situational ethics” not carved in stone. God condoned breaking the ten commandments in the OT all the time.That is to be expected of a book that chronicles the moral develpment of an ANE culture. Since Jesus did change the laws about capital punishment then he in essence went against the so-called “God’s Word” of the day. This is more consistent with a gradual evolution of theology rather than the inerrancy argument that the Bible is perfect from start to finish. There are numerous examples of the theology developing slowly, for instance hell was not a Jewish concept.

      Plus when you add in all the scientific and historical problems then it is very obvious that you can’t call the Bible inerrant. That doesn’t mean that it is completely useless but it actually seems to me to be an insult to God to attribute his follower’s flaws to Him.

  • James M

    By normal Fundamentalist logic, the inerrant Apostle Jude is inerrantly quoting as an inerrant prophet the patriarch “Enoch, the seventh from Adam”. Enoch is the only book Jude quotes in the letter – and he quotes the text from 1 Enoch 1 as being fulfilled. Fundamentalists are rather keen on arguing for the Bible on the ground that it contains prophecies that have been or will be fulfilled. Jude – who is, let’s not forget, writing inerrantly, to produce a totally error-free letter – provides them with one. He says Enoch was “the seventh from Adam” – so Enoch obviously was exactly that. Since this Prophet lived before the Flood, his prophetic prediction is older than any other in the Bible. And Jude inerrantly treats the prediction as fulfilled in his own days. If that does not prove the inspiration, & the Divine Authorship, of the Bible – what will ?

    And yet – Fundamentalists interpret Jude’s word about Enoch like the “liberals” they attack. They do not accept that Enoch – who “walked with God” for 300 years; whom God “took”, & who is the only man other than Elijah not to have died – is a prophet; despite what Jude says in his inerrant & inspired letter. Enoch is one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 – the Bible speaks of him very highly. For Fundamentalists, what the Bible says, God says. So God is speaking through Jude – so why don’t Fundamentalists bow to the authority of the Bible, and accept what Jude says about Enoch, and quotes as a prophecy by Enoch, as God’s truth ? Yet they do not. They can argue all they like that 1 Enoch is a late pre-Christian pseudepigraph, and that it is perhaps from the 2nd BC – the (God-breathed, totally inerrant) Letter of Jude says otherwise. Are they to believe uninspired men like liberals, who are obviously not Bible-obeying True Christians – or the inspired & inerrant words of Jude ? It is liberalism and denial of the supernatural to deny that 1 Enoch is Holy Scripture; by not having Book of Enoch studies, not preaching on this utterance of the Spirit of God, not writing commentaries on it, not drawing attention to the many, many predictions about Christ in it, they are wronging the Church. True Christians would hear the Word of God with gladness – so why are they not hearing God’s Word through Enoch ? There is no Biblical reason to ignore the inerrant words of Jude about Enoch.

    I accept the Bible as highly important, & well worth reading – but I do not like Fundamentalism at all. I think it distorts the realities of the Bible, & is – as here – inconsistent. As for the epistemological & semantic problems – ’nuff said.

  • Alan Christensen

    I can’t think of a single Bible passage that equates “word of God” with “Bible” (or “scripture”). Doing a very rough word study I looked up passages that used phrases like “the word of the Lord came to me” or “the word of God is…” and substituting “Bible” simply made the verses nonsensical.

  • myklc

    Hi James. The American Jesus blog link fails, drops you at the top page with Clash of Clans advice and no history or previous pages.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for spotting that. I guess the owner let the domain lapse and it was snatched up by someone else. The post I meant to link to can still be found on the Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20131208134028/http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=9781

      I’ll update the blog post accordingly.

      • myklc

        De nada. Thanks for the updated link!

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    Luke 24:44 Now [Jesus] said to them*(*the disciples*)*, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that ALL THINGS which are WRITTENABOUT Me IN the
    Law of Moses and *((*first 5 book of the Bible*)*
    the Prophets and *(*this is morst of the Hebrew Scriptures we know today*)*
    the Psalms *(*150 of them*)*
    must be fulfilled.” 45 Then [Jesus] opened their [a]minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the [b]Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance [c]for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed [d]in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high -[NASB
    ***

    Scripture is not in error in any way when it comes to speaking the truth from God to us on things.

    And much of the OT Scripture definitely did exist in the nation of Israel and only grew as time went on as Jehovah Gode saw fit to put ut more of His Word to the nation and the world back then adn down to this day for us to have a ‘written record’ from God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m not sure how you think that quoting Luke’s description of something that cannot be verified by historians as a historical event, and that offers Luke’s perspective on Jesus’ role in reinterpreting the Jewish scriptures in relation to himself, helps you to make your point. Did anyone suggest that the works that make up the Jewish scriptures today were not the ones that were widely read in Jesus’ time? The question of whether things like Psalm 151 were widely known, what different manuscripts were used, and other such things are obviously open to debate. But the broad outlines of the canon that was later formalized were already in place. Who suggested otherwise?

      • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

        Hello to you today James.

        Maybe you should read the article again? You will see the questioning of the Bible in some way. That certainly has the ability to put doubt in unwitting ppl’s minds about tALL the books that were available to the ppl. That allow them to think things were added as far as books go. Is that truly the case?

        You and your friends cannot ‘verify’ more things in Scripture belonging to the truth?? And you keep insisting you are a ‘Christian’?? I still haven’t be able to ‘verify’ that claim from you James.

        I think this passage is ment for you adn those cut from your cloth. With all due respect to you of course. You simply aren’t a follower of Jesus.
        ***
        However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even disown the owner who bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. 2 Furthermore, many will follow their brazen conduct, and because of them the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. 3 Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping. 4 Certainly God did not refrain from punishing the angels who sinned, but threw them into Tarʹta·rus, putting them in chains of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment. 5 And he did not refrain from punishing an ancient world
        ***

        I already know you’re going to reject that passage but it certainly does ring true just like one would expect God’s word to do doesn’t it?

        Why not repent and follow Jesus in truth before it is too late for you James?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          This can be a very common tactic for people who misuse the Bible as you do: when dealing with the actual evidence the Bible presents about itself gets to be too much, just try labeling the person who is trying to confront you about your sinful direction and pretend that they are the ones who need to repent and follow Jesus. But unfortunately for you, we’ve seen that plenty of times before around here, and if you want to be persuasive, then just declaring yourself a defender of the truth (when in fact you are a promoter of falsehood) and others not true followers of Jesus is going to reflect poorly on you. If you want to make a point here, you’ll just have to make a reasoned case for it – other tactics simply won’t fly.