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  Wikipedia: Biblical inerrancy

Wikipedia: Biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Biblical inerrancy is the view that the Bible is the Word of God and is in every detail infallible and without error. This view was ably expressed in 1978 in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, an interdenominational statement of evangelical scholars and leaders to defend Biblical inerrancy against the trend toward liberal and neo-orthodox conceptions of Scripture.

It proclaims: "The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church." Article XII states: "We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit."

Biblical inerrancy is one of the tenets of Fundamentalist Christianity.

Compare Papal Infallibility.

Basis of Belief

The Biblical basis usually cited for this belief is 2 Timothy 3:16, which begins:

All Scripture is inspired by God ..... (New American Standard Version)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God ..... (King James Version)
All Scripture is God-breathed ..... (New International Version)

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, fully furnished for all good works." - 2 Timothy 3:16

Those who hold opposing views usually point out several problems with using 2 Timothy 3:16 as a "proof text":

  • This passage is contained in one of the Epistles of Paul. At the time Paul wrote this, the word "Scripture" would have referred to the Torah, and possibly other writings found in the Temple in Jerusalem. It would not have referred to the letters that Paul was then writing to the churches.

  • Paul never explicitly claimed that everything he wrote was inspired of God. At one point, in 1 Corinthians 7:12, he specifically disclaims that what he is writing is from the Lord, and clearly labels it as his own opinion.

  • Using 2 Timothy 3:16 as a proof of Biblical inerrancy is self-referential. In other words, this statement is merely a description of the definition of "scripture" (as that which is "inspired"), and thus contains no information in the logical sense. Any authors of books could claim that their writings are without error, but the claim is not the proof.

  • Those who have examined the scriptures have reported numerous discrepancies between various scriptures. Fundamentalists dismiss these as inconsequential or unimportant, but that begs the question of whether a truly inerrant writing should contain any errors, even insignificant ones. Either all scripture is without error, or it isn't. And because there are passages that are mutually exclusive (that is to say, if one passage is true, the other cannot be), that means that at least some of what is claimed to be part of "inerrant" scripture must not be.

  • Those who believe in Biblical inerrancy often fail to admit even the possibility of transcription errors or translation errors. Their view is that not only were the scriptures originally inspired by God, but that God has actively intervened through the centuries to make sure that only "pure" copies of His word have survived. This is easily refuted by the differences found in early manuscripts, let alone the many differences found in modern translations.

  • This belief relies upon a relatively narrow view of the words variously translated as "inspired by God" or "God-breathed." There is nothing in these words to suggest that God dictated the Bible, word-for-word. Even in the Book of Revelation, the author (John) is shown visions and then instructed to write what he has seen. There is no suggestion that God gave John the actual words to write, but rather that He inspired John (in this case, using visions). Those who view the Bible as totally inerrant often see the authors of the various books of the Bible as mere stenographers.

  • This belief also relies on the view that those who decided which books would be in our modern Bibles chose correctly, keeping only the "inspired" books and discarding only those that were not similarly "inspired." Since the process of deciding what would become Biblical canon occurred hundreds of years after the time those books were written, the belief ignores the political and social considerations that may have influenced these decisions.

It should be noted that it is possible to apply a more broad interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16. A person may be "inspired" to write a poem by the sight of a beautiful sunset; that does not mean that the sunset wrote the poem. It's possible for historical events to inspire a book or a movie, but that does not mean that the book or movie is a 100% accurate record of those events. Similarly, the belief that the authors of the books of the Bible were inspired by God does not necessarily mandate a corresponding belief that the Bible is a 100% accurate record of historical events, nor a belief that the opinions and beliefs of the various authors never found their way into the sacred texts.

Many Christians would acknowledge 2 Timothy 3:16 (and other related passages) as evidence that the Bible claims to be inspired, rather than proof that it is. These believers usually present evidence from archaeology, fulfilled prophecies, etc., as proof substantiating the Bible's claim. Other Christians readily admit that they accept the "inerrancy" or entire trustworthiness of the Bible on faith and the Christian experience, rather than "empirical" evidence.

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