Words for “Inerrancy” and “Infallibility” in Languages Other than English

Words for “Inerrancy” and “Infallibility” in Languages Other than English December 15, 2013

In the book Biblical Inerrancy: Five Views, I tried to give a global perspective on the subject by pointing out that outside the USA that the main words used in various statements of faith about the Bible are “authoritative” and “infallible.” I obviously recognize that this is admittedly biased towards English. And although English is the lingua franca of everything from economics to academics, I thought it would useful to begin cataloging words for inerrancy/infallibility as used in churches in non-English speaking contexts. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

Australian: fairdinkum, Aussie slang pertaining to the state of authenticity and quality of truthfulness.

Czech: neomylný which means incapable of error or incapable of making a mistake, translated in English as “infallible.”

German: unfehlbarkeit which means “infallible” and irrtumslosigkeit which means “inerrant”. Both words connote the idea of flawlessness and perfection.

Greek: alathetos which means “no errors or mistakes.” Used mainly by evangelicals.

Indonesian:  tanpa salah and tanpa kekeliruan mean without error.

Mandarin: 正确的 (zhengque de) for  accurate; 真理无误的 (zhenli wuwu de) for no error in doctrine/truth;  无误的 (wuwu de) for inerrant; and 完全无误 (wanquan wuwu de) for completely without error.

Romanian: infailibilitate for infallibility used by Romanian Catholics and ineranta for inerrancy used by Romanian evangelicals.

Russian: bezoshibochnost is close to inerrancy, literally, “property of being without error.” Also nepogreshimost is close to infallible, literally, “property of being unable to sin.”. The words are used interchangeably in Russian.

I think someone with keen linguistic abilities should write about words for inerrancy/infallibility/truthfulness in the global church and how it might contribute to a North American discussion of the concept.

If people know any more (Arabic, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Japanese, Californian?), please put them in the comments section and I’ll be glad to update the blog post and insert them in!

HT: My thanks to various people including: Ondrej Hron; Johan Ferreira, Katya Covrett, Myrto Theochorus, and Stefanus Kristianto.

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  • Andrew

    Hi, i think you’re wrong in the Indonesian words. Keliru/salah means false/error, need to add “tanpa” (without) in front of them.

  • Stefanus Kristianto

    Yes, Dr. Bird. Inerrancy means tanpa salah or tanpa kekeliruan. Keliru or salah are Indonesian words for error, fallible, wrong, etc. I am sorry for misunderstanding of my information. I do apologize for that 🙂