Did NT Authors Think NT Writings Were Inerrant?

There are things which, when you are an inerrantist, never cross your mind, and yet when you cease to be one, you wonder how you could possibly have failed to think those thoughts, notice those things, and ask those questions.

A case in point: the New Testament authors did not write as though they believed their writings to be inerrant.

The case of the Gospel authors who rework and transform the Gospels which went before them is a fairly obvious example. But Paul’s letters likewise confirm this point. He doesn’t simply make statements of fact, or issue commands. He seeks to persuade. He corrects himself at times. He writes like we would expect a human being writing letters to write, not as we would expect God causing his words to flow through a human vessel to write.

And indeed, that last view (as Pete Enns, citing Lesslie Newbiggen, recently pointed out) more akin to the Islamic view of Muhammad and the Qur’an, than to a viable Christian view of Scripture.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is that, since these authors never affirm their own inerrancy, it took the later church to come up with the view that those writings are inerrant. And since Biblical inerrancy is typically a Protestant view, you have to ask: was the church that defined the contents of the canon, the church that determined that those works are inerrant, itself inerrant?

If so, then that isn’t Protestantism. And if not, then you have no inerrant basis for knowing that the texts chosen for inclusion in your canon of Scripture are inerrant.


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  • Pofarmer

    Well, I don’t know what you think of Bart Ehrman, but he does point out, correctly, that the four Canonical gospels don’t really even agree with each other on style or substance. They are substantially different. They can’t ALL be inerrant. It’s much more interesting to read them separately, and see what their author was getting at, than to try to mach them up and make them comprehensible as a whole. Takes away the beauty of the literature.

  • TomS

    I know better (most of the time, anyway :) than to enter into an argument about the true meaning of a particular Biblical text, but it does seem to me that there are several indications in 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul is saying that what is written there is not inerrant. Also, there are various scattered texts where the authors seem to be appealing to extra-Biblical support for what is written, which seems to be inconsistent with the author (and his audience) believing that what is written stands on its own – what more is needed than knowledge of inerrancy?

  • Susan Burns

    What about the concept of trinity? I have read that this doctrine is a later interpretation or explanation. The Ethiopian Tewahedo (being made one) Church seems to have this concept from the beginning. Could biblical scholars be in error about the late invention of the trinity?

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

      There are certainly those who have tried to make the case for that viewpoint. Indeed, some have argued that early Christian Trinitarianism is based on a Jewish trinitarianism that existed before Christianity did. I’m not persuaded by those arguments, but they do exist.

      • Susan Burns

        Thank you for your reply and could you elaborate a bit? How could this concept become so basic to a church almost completely cut off from western dogma? Are you basically referring to the “elohim” plural form of El or is there some other reason for the Jewish trinity concept?

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

          You can see a good example of this kind of argument in J. C. O’Neill’s book, Who Did Jesus Think He Was? The gist of what is proposed is that concepts like the Word, Wisdom, and Spirit were full-fledged hypostases like the members of the Trinity in later Christian thought, and thus there was essential continuity.

        • Walter Ray

          The Ethiopian church came into being toward the beginning of the fourth century when King Ezana was converted by Syrian monks. Ezana sent one of the monks to Alexandria, Egypt, where he was consecrated bishop by Pope Athanasius the Great. The Ethiopian church remained under the Coptic Patriarch of Egypt up to the 1950s. So it’s not true that the Ethiopian church was isolated from what was going on in the rest of the Christian world. As for the doctrine of the Trinity, its primary inspiration is not biblical texts, but the experience of the divinity of Christ and the Spirit in worship. The evidence for the Spirit’s divinity in the Nicene Creed is that the Holy Spirit is “co-worshiped and co-glorified with the Father and the Son.” Those who argue that the Trinity is a continuation of something in Judaism do so because they want to account for the fact that the first Jewish Christians worshiped Jesus as God from the beginning of Christianity. Since it is inconceivable that Jews would worship anyone other than the one God, there must have been something in the Judaism of the period that would have prepared them to worship Jesus.

    • FA Miniter

      Of course, one question would be – when was the beginning? The First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians appears to refer to the Holy Spirit, and this was probably the first book in order of composition in the canon of the New Testament. That does not mean it was the first writing in the Jesus or Christ traditions. It is now believed that a number of books were lost, e.g., the Book of Q, which tracked the words of Jesus and formed the basis for part of the Synoptic Gospels (but which the now recovered Gospel of Thomas appears to parallel). Another tradition, one prevalent North of the Jewish lands, emphasized the miracle aspects and provided the other basis for the Synoptic Gospels. This latter tradition seems to be the source of the Trinitarian view, and Paul would have been exposed more to this view of Christ, rather than the Jewish Christian view of Jesus. So, probably by 50 CE, the Holy Spirit was beginning to take shape in the tradition.

  • Steven Kurtz

    in the “Yes, and…” department: what if “slaves obey your masters” is totally without “error” and yet, morally defunct; slavery is dehumanizing and immoral. Now we see it; then, they didn’t. You don’t have to commit an “error” to need to be corrected.

    • TomS

      But this is irrelevant to the question raised in the title to this thread, whether the NT authors thought that NT writings were inerrant.

      BTW, shouldn’t the question be, not about what the NT writers thought, but what they wrote? The NT writers were fallible humans, I think we can all agree, and undoubtedly they knew that they were fallible. But the question is about what they wrote, under the guidance or direction of the Spirit, and what we have to back up our beliefs about the reliability of what they wrote. For example, whether a belief in inerrancy is Scripturally based, or is a later development of doctrine.

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

        That might, however, lead us to the conundrum of inerrant people having to figure out which writings were supposedly inerrant, because those who were inerrant didn’t state which writings are inerrant! :-)

  • ryan

    Don’t forget references and hints to non-canonical writings found in the NT. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-canonical_books_referenced_in_the_Bible)

    • FA Miniter

      Thank you. That is a very interesting compilation of references. And I would like to add that a very useful reference book is “The Other Bible” containing many pseudepigrapha, most, if not all, of the Nag Hammadi Library, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  • bdlaacmm

    I’ve always hated the expression “biblical inerrancy” – in my experience, when somebody uses it, it usually translates to “my interpretation of scripture is inerrant”.
    And are you that small-minded that you care at all whether the accounts of the calling of the first apostles, as recorded in the four Gospels, agree in every clause and verb tense? Who cares? Do they not all agree that the apostles were called? And if the four Resurrection accounts do not fall in line and salute as one, does that matter in the slightest? Do they not all agree that Christ rose?
    Keep some perspective here!!!

    • FA Miniter

      There is some controversy as to whether the author of the Gospel of Mark wrote the final section of the text dealing with the resurrection, or whether that was a later add-on.

  • Greg Allison

    Hello again James. Where does Paul correct himself? And why do you say “the Gospel authors who rework and transform the Gospels which went before them” (where do the Gospels show or imply such?)?

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

      For Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:16 is probably a good example. Given that Stephanus was there when Paul was writing, we can envisage him making the statement immediately prior, and then Stephanus gently reminding him.

      In the Gospels, Luke’s revision of Mark 13 is a particularly clear example. Instead of Jesus speaking of the imminent end, proclaiming “the end is near” becomes a sign that one is a false prophet.

      • Greg Allison

        Mark. I don’t see where Luke corrected Mark;
        Jesus states in both Luke and Mark to not be deceived by people who come in His
        name. Mark writes @ Mark 13:4-7 – 4 “Tell us, when will these things be?
        And what will be the
        sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”
        5 And
        Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My
        name, saying, ‘I am He,’
        and will deceive many.” And Luke writes
        @ Luke 21:7-9 – 7 So
        they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are
        about to take place?” 8 And He said: “Take heed that you
        not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’
        Therefore[a] do not go after them.” Likewise Luke
        and Mark both write about the imminent end: Luke 21:31 – “31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the
        kingdom of God is near.” And Mark writes @ Mark 13:26-28 “26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great
        power and glory.27 And
        then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four
        winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.” Jesus Chris told Pontius Pilate that He had
        come into the world “to testify to the Truth”; this is all like a court of Law. Having four gospels is like having 4
        witnesses; you need not desire each gospel to state exactly the same thing. They do not contradict each other and Luke
        did not “rework” Mark. As to Paul in 1
        Corinthians, the letter was from Paul and Sosthenes to the Church @ Corinth; I
        don’t see where you can infer that Stephanus was right there with Paul to
        correct him (a letter is written from a location far away isn’t it and then mailed
        to Corinth where Stephanus lives?). But
        what if Sosthenes mentioned to Paul that he had also Baptised others in Corinth
        (such as the household of Stephanus) after Paul had written the first part of
        the letter-or what if Paul remembered a few moments later this fact and then
        added that sentence (that he had Baptised others)? Did he correct himself or just add a sentence?
        This is just conversational and can’t be called a correction. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 “14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus
        and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should
        say that I had baptized in my own name. 16 Yes, I also
        baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized
        any other. 17 For Christ did not
        send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest
        the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

      • Greg Allison

        James…I am terribly sorry!! I called you Mark. You must come across as very Apostolic!! 😉

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

          No problem. James is pretty apostolic anyway… :-)

          Read the letter to the end. And letters in those times were not “mailed”!!!

          In Luke, the focus becomes the destruction of Jerusalem (instead of “when you see the desolating sacrilige…” Luke changes it to “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that its desolation is near”) and adds that the false prophets say not only “I am he” but also “the time is near”).

          • Greg Allison

            James…true true!! :-) Letters were walked I reckon-same difference; so no direct reference to Stephanus correcting Paul? I will re-examine Luke again and talk later.

          • Greg Allison

            Hey James. I pasted both sets of verses in Excel side by side in order to compare. Mark 13:14-15 is not changed by Luke at Luke 21:20-21. Luke’s “the desolation thereof is nigh” goes with Mark’s “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet”; both refer to Jerusalem (see Daniel 11:31 & 12:11). Mark doesn’t specify Jerusalem because he was writing to Jews who well knew Daniel’s prophecies. Also in these verses you can see Mark says let them “flee to the mountains” just as Luke also says for them to “flee to the mountains”. Luke does not speak of false Christs; that is Mark at Mark 13:22. Luke gives us verse 24 (all other verses are similar when comparing Mark & Luke) whereas Mark gives us verses 18 – 23; these two sets of verses don’t express the same thing-but they don’t contradict each other either. Appears to just be a difference due to different audiences. So I see no “correction by Luke of Mark.

          • Ian

            Mk 13: 14 – But when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it should not.

            ‘where it should not’ is correctly interpreted by Matt, it is the holy place in the temple. And the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel was the statue of Antiochus Epiphanes in the temple. So, to Luke, this appears to be Jesus predicting that the temple will be desolated by an idol, as it was at the outset of the Maccabean revolt.

            Luke changes this ‘desolation’ to be the destruction of Jerusalem after a siege. Luke knew that’s how the Jewish uprising ended, Mark did not. So Luke changes Mark’s emphasis to fit the history he knew.

            Of course, if you want to play ‘can I harmonize the two?’, then yes, you can. There is no difference that cannot be harmonized. But to do so is to ignore the historical content that is there. Things aren’t either ‘contradictions’ or ‘the same’. I think the language of ‘contradictions’ is unhelpful and unnecessarily puts people into ‘harmonization’ mode, rather than encouraging people to see the differences and investigate why they might exist.

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian. There certainly are differences that cannot be harmonized-don’t know what you mean by that. Mark 13 and Luke 21 are too similar throughout not to consider both witness’ accounts together. There is no evidence to say, as you do, that “Luke changes this desolation”. If Jesus was comparing Antiochus’ desolation of the temple to a future desolation of the temple (Mark’s parenthetical expression after the “desolation” statement “let him that readeth understand” is very interesting in this regard), I can certainly imagine that desolation of the temple happening when all of Jerusalem is destroyed too; Luke and Mark don’t contradict each other here (or anywhere)-they fit together as two witness’ statements would. By the way, Josephus reported that Antiochus “besieged the city” (Luke speaks of Jerusalem “compassed about”). And how do you know Mark did not know how the Jewish uprising ended? Jesus, in both Mark 13 and Luke 21, was answering the disciples’ question about the end times. Mark, a Jewish man, retains what Jesus said about Daniel as Jewish Christians would be able to relate to this. Luke, however, was writing to the Greeks and so does not focus on the temple but on Jerusalem relative to the end times.

          • Ian

            You’re still obsessing about contradictions. James said nothing about contradictions. Until you can let go of that, there’s no point talking about details, because all you’re doing is fitting them into some meta-narrative, rather than actually seeing them. You seem to be arguing against some kind of perceived apologetic opponent here.

            There is no evidence…

            The evidence I gave. Don’t mistake not accepting evidence for not agreeing with the conclusion based on it.

            There is a difference between ‘Jerusalem’s desolation’, and *the* abominating desolation *of Daniel* *standing* where it should not. A bit of understanding of the historical context is all you need.


            Exactly, the harmonization is simple. We can start with ‘if’ and go anywhere. I’ve never found a contradiction that can’t be resolved with a good ‘if’. Particularly with a bit of ‘i can imagine…’ in there too. You say there are ‘certainly’ some that can’t, but you’ll have to give an example, because I’ve never seen one!

            But if you’re trying to thing of ‘ifs’ you’re working on a meta-text, not the one’s before you.

            And how do you know Mark did not know how the Jewish uprising ended?

            There is a standard heuristic in historical scholarship. When you read a text that foretells the future, it often is rather exact for a while, then suddenly all hell breaks lose, or vast signs and wonders begin, or something that has happened happens again. At some point the tone changes. The standard historical heuristic is to date the text at that point. This is the case for texts outside the bible too. Often texts claim to have been written (or spoken) much earlier, so that all the specific stuff is also foretelling, but the historical heuristic is not to believe that. We date Daniel in that way, for example. And that is why the Olivet discourse is generally thought to be not authentic to Jesus, and the different versions are dated at different points in the late 1st century. Of course, you can claim special privilege for Jesus, that his foreknowledge was genuine, that the characteristic change of tone is just a coincidence, or isn’t really there at all. I’m just talking about a reasonable historical approach to the NT as a historical text.

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian. “contradictions”
            – James’ article is about not believing in the inerrancy of the Bible; more
            particularly him suggesting the Biblical writers not believing so. Contradiction falls in line with that; to me
            it is all together. “some meta-narrative”
            – I am taking what is in the Bible and interpreting it as we are supposed to do
            in order to grow in Christ. I am trying
            to bring as little from outside the Bible to that as possible (and when I do
            the Bible, of course, trumps anything outside of it) but of course everyone
            approaches the Bible with their own personal bias; my bias is that there is no
            error or contradiction in the Bible so I have a tendency to hyper focus on the Biblical
            Words, Word studies, Greek word meanings, context of the passage etc. rather
            than immediately assuming one Biblical writer correcting another or a
            contradiction. The
            Historical-Grammatical approach is what I believe to be the best approach. “understanding of the historical context”
            – Jesus is answering the disciples’ question on end times; Jesus, according to
            Mark (and Peter?), chose to use Daniel’s prophecy as a part of that end times
            discussion; it is up to us to discern why; we believe the prophecy was
            fulfilled in 175 BC with Antiochus—Jesus is stretching us here (remember Mark parenthetically
            writes @ his desolation remark: “let him that readeth understand”. The verb, by the way, is in the Aorist Past
            tense-I am no Greek grammarian-but wonder if that means continuing from the past
            into the future? Fascinating to try and understand
            Jesus’ meaning here! Is He speaking as
            in a parable by using Daniel’s prophecy?
            I love Jesus! “with a bit of ‘i
            can imagine…’” – As long as we imagine from
            a basis of what is in the Bible then we are fine; we all must
            imagine-build-understand-comprehend-extrapolate-develop our understanding of
            what a person is saying or writing since we are not inside their minds. I think you misunderstand my use of imagine
            here; I can take the three Bible facts: a) temple desolation related by Mark;
            b) desolation of Jerusalem related by Luke; c) both speaking of the same end
            times teaching of Jesus and then develop the understanding that the temple
            (man? Or new re-built temple in the future?) will be desolated along with
            Jerusalem in the end times. “standard historical heuristic” sounds like
            too much outside influence; the Bible is what primarily should be used to
            interpret the Bible (Word studies etc). We have actually got Christian
            Professors running around saying “BCE” (Before the Common Era) rather than BC;
            but perhaps they are trying to be polite/kind to the world! Ian, you are a great fellow!!

          • Ian

            Okay, but on a) you’re imagining that Mark is writing about the temple being desolated. Which is not what the text says. He is talking about “the abomination of desolation” from Daniel. Which is an idol, a specific one. It is Luke that then changes this specific meaning, into the abstract noun.

            Of course, you can imagine he’s just doing that for no particular reason, or because his audience wouldn’t be familiar with the Maccabean history. Or because he’s remembered that Jesus was actually only using the statue as a metaphor for any kind of ‘desolation’.

            But nontheless the change is there: a specific *thing* becomes a general outcome.

            That’s not the same thing as taking the words on their own, that is deliberately reading Luke’s idea of a general desolation as a synonym for destruction into Mark and Daniel. That’s the key point.

            You can imagine that Jesus actually said a third thing, not reported in either gospel, that then gets remembered in different ways and reported differently. That may be ‘harmonization’, but it is just creating another text, which is why it is a feature of theological reflection on the bible, and is not a good way of doing history.

            Also, be careful of “Word Studies”. They’re beloved by a certain branch of Evangelicalism, approaching the bible with an interlinear and a copy of Strongs, but that’s not how scholars determine the meaning of the text. It is notorious for allowing you to read anything you like into the text. Which is the theological point, of course.

            is in the Aorist Pasttense

            Which verb? Read and understand (νοείτω, ἀναγινώσκων) are present tense. The present in greek does tend to have the sense of something ongoing, or at least something happening now that doesn’t necessarily stop right now.

            Or do you mean see (ἴδητε) which is aorist, and indicates that this *isn’t* a continuing event, but something discrete?

            then develop the understanding that the temple will be desolated

            Neither develop ‘desolation’. In fact ‘desolation’ appears only three times in the NT, in the three versions of this story.

            Since this question pivots on whether Mark is being specific in the use of the word desolation, it is worth noting that the word is not one that is used in the GNT in any other context, only Luke has it in the abstract sense.

            (The story is a bit more complex if we look at the LXX too)

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian-thanks for your work. “imagining that Mark” – There is nothing in Mark to discount “the abomination of desolation” being an event that includes the destruction of the Temple & Jerusalem too; as well as being an event where bad persons desecrate the temple-all three events go together when you listen to both witnesses-Mark is not recounting the temple desecration here-Jesus is teaching about the end times and using an event we believe
            has passed to illustrate a future end time event. So when you compare Luke 21 to Mark 13 (I am using Luke to help interpret Mark-comparing the Bible to the Bible), Luke
            speaking of Jerusalem is why I believe this (not my imagining). There is no “change” by Luke here; there is
            simply a difference here. There are two different witnesses in Mark and Luke of the same teaching by Jesus. Mark never relates Jesus saying that the temple will not be destroyed & Jerusalem will not be destroyed. Mark & Luke are both relating Jesus’ teaching about the end times and Mark’s focus is on Jesus using a fulfilled
            prophetic event (we believe Daniel prophesied Antiochus’ desecration of the temple) to illustrate at least one aspect of the end times; the desecration of the temple (a future new temple or the temple of the human body??). Luke likewise never says the temple will not be desecrated in the end times in addition to the destruction of Jerusalem. “imagine that Jesus actually said a third thing, not reported in either gospel” – I don’t believe I have used anything that is not in the text or is not discounted directly by the text; it is perfectly acceptable to receive what is implied by the text (come now let us reason together says the Lord). “that’s not how scholars determine the meaning of the text” – I disagree; how to understand words except to study their usage throughout the Bible (Philology wasteful?)? And see Trench’s synonyms of the New Testament; Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; Scrivner’s Textus Receptus (He actually believed the Byzantine
            Text was closest to the Original Autograph) and Leau & Nida’s Book of Semantic Domains. These folks were some
            of our greatest forbears and they obviously disagree with you as well. The verb – It is Mark 13:14 (“spoken of by Daniel”) – spoken – rethen – rho-eta-theta-epsilon-nu
            – The interlinear translates it “being-declared” (can this mean still being declared into all history until the end times??) and says it is a vp Aor Pas Acc Sg n.

          • Ian

            “There is nothing in Mark to discount” – no indeed. That’s how harmonization works. There is nothing in mark to discount your harmonization, because you came up with your harmonization on the basis of figuring out how Mark and Luke could be in agreement, that’s not surprising!

            There is nothing in Mark to suggest that Mark is referring to a statue-in-the-temple only metaphorically, and we should understand him to mean the raising of the whole city to the ground.

            Call it a ‘change’ a ‘difference’ a ‘contradiction’ a ‘variation’, or whatever. The point remains, Mark is earlier and talks about a repeat of the Maccabean incident, Luke does not copy that reference, but instead talks in more general and abstract ways.

            We seem to agree at least on that: Luke doesn’t want to copy Mark here, so he chooses to emphasise the story in a different way.

            Mainstream scholarship’s conclusion is that Luke knew more about the fall of Jerusalem than Mark, and so corrects him.

            and they obviously disagree with you as well

            It’s irrelevant who disagrees with me! I’ve not said anything so far that I’d claim ownership of! Its been 20 years since I set foot in an academic theology dept.

            The disagreement is between those who use resources produced for use in a devotional context, and those who actually study this academically and professionally. Find me some professors of the NT who think Strongs and Trench’s are good resources for understanding NT greek.. My guess is, if there are any, there will be a tiny proportion of the thousands working in this field, and they will be teaching at conservative evangelical institutions.

            Some of these works (not Strong’s or Trench’s particularly, but Scrivener, certainly) were okay in their time, but we’ve found a *lot* of manuscripts since then, linguistics, paleography and archaeology have moved on a huge amount in the last 100 years. To still be looking at Scrivener as having a reasonably dependable opinion on greek textural history is very dubious.

            Of course to understand a word one must look at its usage, but the methods of doing that which are associated with ‘Word Studies’ in most evangelical churches are a long way from anything recognizable as good scholarship to the vast majority of scholars.

            Mark 13:14 — rethen

            Okay, gotya. Yes, this is aorist, but not continuous no, it is a one time thing.

            Also that phrase isn’t in Mark 13:14, it is in Matthew 24, it is a scribal error to put it in Mark. Matthew is ‘differing from’ Mark in a different way, he is explaining the reference. Mark just has ‘abomination of desolation’. You’d be hard pushed to find that in any bible other than the KJV and its mutations. It isn’t even mentioned as an alternate reading in SBLGNT or NA27. There is simply no early manuscript evidence for it.

            Maybe dump Scrivener and look at work based on recent, quality linguistic scholarship!

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian. I drew a conclusion based upon what is in the Bible; Mark &
            Luke–both are relating Jesus’ teaching on end times so both should be used to
            examine the teaching. I don’t know if
            Mark was before Luke or not and it actually was not Mark talking; Mark was writing
            about how Jesus used the “the Maccabean incident” to illustrate his end
            times teaching-Jesus was answering the disciples’ question about end times in
            both Luke 21 and Mark 13. I don’t know
            if Luke even considered Mark’s account (maybe he did; there are several of the
            exact same words throughout)-my personal opinion is that he gathered most information
            from Paul and Mary and was inspired by the Holy Spirit. You said: “Luke knew more about the fall of
            Jerusalem than Mark, and so corrects him.” – I disagree; again both
            accounts are Jesus teaching the disciples about the end times and not the fall
            of Jerusalem (do you mean 70 AD??). Devotional study or academic/professional
            study; we should want the Truth in either case.
            The Bible teaches that it is the Spirit Who leads us into all Truth; I
            try to not hold Academics up too high but God love them their hard work can be
            very helpful-but we must always come back to the Bible for ourselves. Academics (good ones) can help us get there
            quicker and with less effort-but they can also do great damage (Revelation
            11:18-19 comes to mind; add or take away from the words…). Strong’s is tough to
            get definitions from; I like Vines & White’s dictionary better but Strong
            at least tells where the word is throughout the Bible. I love my Thompson Chain Reference
            Bible. Trench’s NT Synonyms is one of
            the best resources I have ever seen. “In their time” – The Bible is timeless;
            if they were strong in their time they are helpful for all time (if you speak
            English of course!). I only refer to Scrivener’s Textus Receptus; I have not
            read anything else he wrote but like I said-timeless. Just because more and
            older have been found means nothing-could be junk (one scholar referred to the
            Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sianaticus as having been revived from a “well
            deserved obscurity” since they contradict each other a lot and the Codex Vaticanus
            has excessive omission in it-I think they are the oldest Codex’s-age not
            necessarily more accurate of course). “Word studies-not good scholarship” – I recall
            scholars not only study a word’s usage throughout but even look how it was used
            in secular ancient writings too-you don’t ignore sentences, or context when you
            word study if that is what you think I mean.
            Word studies are great; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
            with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Satan said to Eve “Did God really
            say?” God’s Word is a big deal to Him. “Rethen”
            – yes-it is in Scrivner’s Textus Receptus which is far closer to the Byzantine
            text than the Alexandrian Text type; though they are all in 85% agreement (I
            think TR is 98% agreement with the Majority or Byzantine text). I must examine
            Matthew on this (u cool!) I like the KJV
            (trust) but I love my NKJV since it points out where it differs from the Majority
            Text and Alexandrian text types. I have
            looked a little at the NET Bible; it seems pretty good so far. Early manuscript evidence is not as important
            as correct manuscript evidence.

          • Ian

            Well that’s a little scattergun, but I’m not sure you read what I was actually saying. Since you repeat things I said, as if I didn’t say it. Still I’m not sure it matters, since you know that you know what the passage is about.

            both accounts are Jesus teaching the disciples about the end times and not the fall
            of Jerusalem

            Ah, I didn’t realise you were coming from that angle. In which case you are so far out from any scholarship on the subject, I’m not sure we’ve got any way of connecting.

            It is very easy to dismiss all contemporary scholarship because you know that is right (presumably because the Spirit shows you, and the Spirit is lacking from the vast majority of contemporary professional scholars). And because the resources that you’ve stumbled across reinforce your presuppositions. But perhaps at some point you’ll actually read some of their work and figure out on what basis they come to their conclusions.

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian. You can focus on the scholars (the Sadducees and other “experts” of the time did too I am sure!); I am going to focus on my Bible. I will listen to them but the Bible teaches “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12.

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

            If you are going to focus on the Bible with no need for scholars, then I assume you will really do that and not just pretend. Here’s something I wrote previously on that topic: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2010/12/challenge-to-anti-intellectual-christians.html

          • Greg Allison

            Well hey stranger! Now I didn’t say I didn’t read them-I just don’t hold them in as high an esteem as Jesus Christ (The Word-remember that boys??). 😉 You don’t dis-love me do you James??

          • Ian

            I believe in the unbounded ability for human beings to invent nonsense. I believe the tendency to listen for God’s voice and hear our own, and be convinced we are inspired is also unrivalled.

            I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me they know they are right because God has told them they are right, but curiously they never agree with each other. Each is convinced God is speaking truth to them, but the others are deluded. None can seemingly see the irony.

            So in general I distrust ‘feeling confident that the Spirit has taught me’ as a good indicator of what is actually true. Simply from experience of seeing the kinds of things that people are confident about.

            So when just about every professional scholar from all strands of Christianity, as well as from other religions and none, all who have done detailed historical work on an area, who knows the original languages, who have spent decades in many cases thinking about an issue, all come to consensus on a topic;

            I think it is more likely that I have deluded myself, than it is that God lead me to the truth and abandoned them all to lies.

            At the very least, I think it is imperative to try to discover why it is that they think what they think. That is always the first step to understanding.

          • Greg Allison

            Nonsense? I believe I am correct because of the Biblical items I listed above. I never said others are deluded (that is your word, son). I feel confident that I reasonably examined the Word of God-I ain’t heard the Spirit yet today (I’ll let you know!!). Just about every “professional” scholar? You’re kidding yourself. Abandoned them all? Remember, the Pharisees and Sadduceeshad spent decades too; I respect scholars but I will not take leave of my good sense in the process. It is important to examine when they disagree-we are taught that “Iron sharpens Iron”.

          • Ian

            Sorry, did you read my post?

            I referred to myself as deluded, nobody else. I didn’t accuse you of nonsense.

            Please re-read my post.

            I was describing the way I approach such issues myself: I am convinced of my ability to delude myself, so if what I think is the case is contradicted by just about every professional in an area, my confidence in my view is rightly diminished.

            I understand that you don’t feel the same way. That you have confidence in your ability to read the bible and come to the true interpretation, regardless of how many others think the same and come to different interpretations. Fair enough. Your choice.

            I’m not trying to be rude, just pointing out why the approach of discounting the last 100 years of biblical scholarship and linguistics in favour of the resources you have decided support your view is one that feels dangerous to me.

          • Greg Allison

            Hey Ian. Ohhh…I see. Thought it was directed at me. I think most Biblical doctrines have large agreement; where there is divergence then none of us needs to be dogmatic. But even with my favorite study Bible, I strongly disagree with the expositor on Genesis 6 and the sons of God. And in fact I have a favorite website that once expressed another view of Genesis 6 (demi gods born of fallen angels and the daughters of men?? No way!). I was shocked because the folks on that site have advanced degrees in Theology etc and to hear their justification of why etc-that doesn’t have to happen very often for me to at least be mindful to take some salt with what anyone (Scholar or otherwise) has to say. Paul complimented the Bereans for scrupulously studying the Old Testament to verify what they were being taught by him-I urge you to do the same with the Bible as your basis. Acts 17:11 – “These [Bereans] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” I read scholars’ writing/opinions more than this conversation suggests-their work is obviously so helpful/saves a lot of time-I forgot to mention Rick Renner’s Sparkling Gems from the Greek; he is a treasure of our time. And Craig Keener’s work on ancient Culture and the Bible. I just have been around too long to place everything on them-if they can’t make something in the Bible make sense then neither they nor I have the right to be dogmatic about it-but it must always come back to the Bible. U r a kind soul.

  • FA Miniter

    The Catholic Church learned from the Galileo affair not to go with anything like inerrancy. On April 12, 1615, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine wrote a letter to Father Paolo Foscarini, in which he stated:

    “Third, I say that, if there were a real proof that the Sun is in the
    centre of the universe, that the Earth is in the third sphere, and that
    the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we
    should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages
    of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather
    have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to
    be false which is proved to be true.”

    Since then, at least, the Catholic Church has taken a position that the text of the Bible exists for inculcating spirituality in its readers, not to teach them an infallible (and obviously very incomplete) history of the world.

  • Tom Estes
    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Wow, using the term “prove” seems unjustified. You note that Paul treated that which he proclaimed to churches verbally as something weighty, and treat that as though it proved something about scriptural inerrancy. Do you think it is just possible that, being errant, you may have misjudged how logical and persuasive your blog post is?

      • Tom Estes

        You evidently chose to look at only one small part of the post, which is disappointing. In my post I showed very clearly how the writers knew what they were writing was inerrant. If you don’t want to talk about it, that is your choice, but don’t cherry-pick a small portion of the post and pretend that’s all I said.

        Also, you claim to be a religion professor, and if that’s true, you are all too familiar with the portions of Scripture I presented in my post. So my question is, why even writ a post like the one you wrote? Literally every point you made is wrong, and it’s easily demonstrated.

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

          Then please demonstrate it. I have been wrong before, and could well be on this occasion. But your post seemed to me to be assuming what it needs to prove, rather than actually making a case for the point of view you hold.

          • Tom Estes

            Don’t you think you should at least adequately respond to my post before asking me to do more? I responded to every point in your post, you should at least be willing to do the same.

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

            You don’t seem to realize that you are arguing in circles or assuming what you need to prove. If the late pseudepigraphic work classified Paul’s letters together with “the other writings” what does that prove? We already know that some people came to view his letters as Scripture, don’t we? But since Paul was willing to depart from what Genesis said about circumcision for those who would be part of Abraham’s household, why would he view his own writings as inerrant? I don’t think you realize the extent to which your post simply assumes things about these writings that I and others may not assume.

          • Tom Estes

            Look, I’d be more than happy to discuss this with you, but I will only do so if we’re going to discuss actual Scripture. I gave you many references in my post, and if I have mis-interpreted them, please demonstrate how. If all we’re going to is fling conjectures back-and-forth it will be a waste of time for both of us.

          • Ian

            “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)” 1 Cor 7:12

            “I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment” 1 Cor 7:25

            Is the bible in error? Is it really God who is giving those commands and Paul was mistaken, and his mistake made it into the bible? Or is the bible inerrant, but (at least this part) merely the judgement of a man?

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

            I am happy to discuss texts which are now Scripture, but a first step is to recognize that, when Paul wrote his letters, when Gospel authors wrote their works, none of them (as far as we can tell) offered what they wrote as Scripture. Paul wrote letters. Gospel authors wrote texts which referred to what “scriptures” meant in Jesus’ time and theirs: the Jewish scriptures.

  • Gamato

    The apostles instructed the people to contend for the faith, and Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures for themselves, to see if what he was saying to them aligned with the Scriptures. To think that God didn’t preserve His words, is to acknowledge your lack knowledge of the Scriptures. Jesus remarked to the religious elite who thought they knew something, that they err because they didn’t know the Scriptures, nor the power of God. God says His words would not pass away, and He didn’t send out His words in vain. People trust in God to preserve their lives and even the world around them, why not His words? Is anything to difficult for God? No solid foundation, opens the doors for cults, but the Bible is our tool for testing all doctrines and spirits.

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

      I don’t see how this is anything other than a collection of circular arguments. Because Luke describes the Bereans as searching the Scriptures, even though we are not told whether they read them in Hebrew or in some Greek translation, and in neither case were all manuscripts identical, therefore God preserved his words? What does that even mean? You can’t just start with your desired conclusion – being able to say that those you disagree with are absolutely clearly wrong, while you allegedly are not – and then decide that God must have acted in such a way as to pander to your immaturity and simplistic approach to knowledge.