Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

This was a (very shortened and edited) short essay/position paper I wrote a year ago for a basic theology class. Elementary but, hopefully, informative. It displays basic definitions and arguments of the Bible, its authority, inspiration and inerrancy. More will come in the future on the Bible’s infallibility, how the canon was established, and the need for a standard for Christian orthodoxy in the early church.

(Prefix: Christians must affirm Christ’s redemptive work is found within and throughout all of the Bible and salvation that comes from the grace of God and not the works of man.) Christians should believe the Bible to truthfully example how we, as believers, are supposed to live our lives in the regard to our faith, others, and ourselves. We know for it to be true, for biblically historical events to have happened and for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.

The belief that the Bible has authority is one that all Christians should agree upon. What does it mean for the Bible to “have authority?” If it does have authority then where does the authority come from? Authority “is the right and power to command.” Christians believe the Bible is an informative, commanding source of authority with the expectation of obedience of the believer. All authority starts with God Almighty. The scriptures are the revelations of God who alone has all authority over everything. The writers of the Old Testament and New Testament found their source being that of Almighty God. The Bible’s authority stems from God’s authority through the use of man.

When it comes to the Bible, inspiration can be characterized as divinely influenced or a personal direction of every single verse. By the Bible being inspired, it means it has God’s Spirit. “God breathed out.” Jesus Christ, being one with God, said “…I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished….” Jesus’ obvious reference to Scripture shows that the Law came from God and cannot be changed by man for in it is its divine influence. Simply put: it says exactly what God wants it to say and it will remain the same.

Inerrancy is the view that, when in its original manuscript and interpreted correctly, the Bible is completely true in all subjects it speaks on and about. Actually, the Bible speaks on its own infallibility due to its inspired nature (from God). 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is God-breathed..” By believing that God and His nature are divine (perfect), we subject ourselves to believe this verse in 2 Timothy. Numbers 23:19 says “ God is no a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” The Bible is His Book of Promise and by God, being perfect, divinely inspiring it makes it absolute truth. The first argument for inerrancy is the Bible teaches its own inspiration and that requires inerrancy. This is may be circular, or it seems so for non-believers because they do not appreciate the full divinity of God so in turn they do not appreciate the authority of the Bible. The second argument is the argument for what methods were used for the writing of God’s messages and the distinguishing of messages between prophets and false prophets. A historical evidence-based argument like this one is the strongest for the defense of inerrancy, to non-believers, because the writers of the New Testament were eyewitnesses and eyewitnesses of eyewitnesses therefore allowing the historical events of the first century to be accurately recorded. The fact these men existed and we have proof of their writings on many scrolls and manuscripts greatly supports the legitimacy of the claim of the truth of Scripture and the events found therein. Regarding authority, the Bible teaches of its own authority. Jesus spoke of its authority (Matt. 5:17-20 and John 10-34-35) and says the Bible is unbreakable. “Something that contains errors cannot be absolutely authoritative.”

The relationship between inerrancy and inspiration is that inspiration supports inerrancy. We believe God is perfect. We believe the Bible is “God-breathed” or divinely directed to the satisfy God’s will. It only would make sense that the Bible (in the original autograph) is inerrant because God is perfect and the Bible is the result of His will. In this sense, they are bound.

In short, God is the author of the Bible and because He is the writer of it, I believe it is without error and it commands me to be obedient to Him in all areas of life. May we hold firm to the Bible as our sole source as the standard of all things.

Sources include the Holy Bible, Elwell’s evangelical theological dictionary, and Towns’ Theology for Today

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5 thoughts on “Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

  1. “Simply put: it says exactly what God wants it to say and it will remain the same.” Which text? The Byzantine, Codex Sinaiticus, the Vulgate, The Eastern Orthodox, The Catholic, or the Protestant version? The KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, etc.? Which one is the one that says exactly what God wants it to say. They are all different based on different codexes. None of them are the same. The latest codexes are copies of copies of copies. The original manuscripts do not exist.

    • Thank you for your response. Yes, I do realize we do not have the original manuscripts. IF you read my post carefully, I said that the original autographs are divinely inspired and are the Word of God. This is truly a difficult issue to grasp. Only the original autographs (original manuscripts written by the apostles, prophets, etc.) are under the divine promise of inspiration and inerrancy. The books of the Bible, as they were originally written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), were 100% inerrant, accurate, authoritative, and true. There is no Biblical promise that copies of the original manuscripts would equally be inerrant or free from copyist errors. As the Bible has been copied thousands of times over thousands of years, some copyist errors have likely occurred.

      How do we deal with this? First, it is important to remember that the biblical manuscripts we have today are in 99% agreement with one another. Yes, there are some minor differences, but the vast majority of the biblical text is identical from one manuscript to another. Most of the differences are in punctuation, word endings, minor grammatical issues, word order, etc. – issues easily explainable as scribal mistakes. No important theological or biblical issue is thrown into doubt by any supposed error or contradiction. Biblical manuscripts from the 15th century agree completely with manuscripts from the 3rd century. We can have absolute confidence that the Bible we have today is almost exactly identical to what the apostles and prophets wrote 2000+ years ago.

      Second, we should not be quick to say “Oh, that is just a scribal error.” The vast majority, if not all, of Bible “errors” can be explained in a logical and believable manner. Those that cannot by explained, or are very difficult to explain – could very well have an answer that we simply do not know at this point. Just because we cannot find a solution does not mean that a solution doesn’t exist. Believing there to be a scribal error must be the absolute last resort in any supposed Bible “error.”

      Ultimately, though, it is possible that errors have crept into our modern manuscripts and translations of the Bible. Copyists and translators are human beings and they make mistakes. The fact that the Bible is incredibly accurate is a testimony to its inspiration and preservation by God.

      Can we still trust the Bible? Absolutely! The Bible translations we have today are God’s Word. The Bible today is just as authoritative as it was in the 1st century A.D. We can completely trust the Bible as being God’s message to us today. Yes, the biblical promises of inspiration and inerrancy only apply directly to the original manuscripts. That does not impact, though, whether our modern Bibles are accurate and authoritative. God’s Word endures forever, despite the occasional failings and mistakes of copyists and translators.

    • Its not about the KJV, NKJV, or the ESV. The original manuscripts say EXACTLY what God intended for them to say. Each writer wrote with a different style, from a different perspective, to a different audience, for a different purpose. We should expect some minor differences. However, a difference is not a contradiction. It is only an error if there is absolutely no conceivable way the verses or passages can be reconciled.

    • I see you have made the distinction between inerrancy and infallibility. Many people, mostly lay people and sadly some ministers, would not and could not make that distinction. I have read your article and I do submit that your position is not incorrect. As long as people understand that the original manuscripts are BOTH inerrant and infallible, all is well. We should be careful in nuancing the two before lay people who may misunderstand or to the lost. While it is appropriate to educate the folks in our congregations, we should be careful of discussing such nuances over a medium such as a blog or any other social networking site due to the misunderstanding it may pose. Thank you for your response.

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