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Inerrancy

The Bible does not contain the revelation of God; the Bible contains a recording of the revelation of God.

E. Stanley Jones

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"You'd think I'd be smart enough to stay away from topics like this. For all my years of explaining the Bible to my science and engineering buddies, and teaching Adult Sunday School in the Research Triangle area, this one topic comes up the most. I have found that the doctrine of inerrancy does more to hold back the kingdom of God than another other topic.

"I feel rather sad for Christians who believe in Bible Inerrancy. They misunderstand a simple truth, and in doing so, have whittled down the power of God without even realizing it. And I feel sad for the people on whom many Christians unleash this false doctrine, for many of these people will turn away from the gospel before the Christian begins to tell them the gospel. The doctrine of inerrancy is like a millstone hanging around one's neck. It's burdensome, incorrect and only leads people away from God. "
# Question Answer
1 Does the Bible have errors? Yes.
2 Where is an error? Ex 1:11: "So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh."

If you have seen the movies The Ten Commandants or Prince of Egypt, then you are already familiar with the history behind this verse. Here is the error: The store city Rameses in Ex. 1:11 is named after the popular and strong Rameses II. Rameses II was pharaoh around 1250 BC. 1250 BC is about 150 years after the Hebrews left Egypt. The verse gives credit to the Hebrew slaves for building the city but the Hebrews had left 150 years prior. That is an anachronism. By the way, the two movies follow the error and get their history wrong--probably for the same reason. Rameses II is well known. Note that even though the store house city is named, the Exodus account never mentions the name of the ruling pharaoh.
3 Where is another error? Luke 2:1-2: In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

Archaeological evidence shows that Quirinius was a governor of Syria but not at the time when Caesar Augustus issued this decree. Evidence points that Quirinius was in the Roman army during this census. It wasn't until ten years later, several years after Jesus's birth, when Quirinius became governor. "Those days" in Luke 2:1-2 refers to the time when Jesus was born. Another anachronism

The issue of Quirinius is a nasty little subject. When you dig deep into this problem, you'll find that history books written by Christians are disappointing. They will attempt to bend the facts by guessing that Quirinus pulled a Grover Cleveland. Grover Cleveland was a US president that served two non-consecutive terms in office. Christian historians attempt to explain Quirinius's governorship like that. The historians acknowledge that Quirinius became governor of Syrian years after Jesus's birth, but then they infer that Quirinius was also governor during the time when Jesus was born. The historians will make this proclamation without evidence, and conveniently without mention of Quirinius's known military career during that same earlier time.
4 Are there any other anachronisms which point to a mistake on the part of the Bible author instead of a later editor? Yes. 1 Chr 29:7. And they gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand darics, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and of iron a hundred thousand talents.

The daric is a Persian coin named after Darius I (522-486 BC). Darics did not exist, nor had coins been invented, at the time Solomon built the house of God (950 BC). People of King Solomon's time only used weights (e.g., talents) to measure out precious metals. The chronicler wrote this account of the building of the Temple at a time contemporary to the reign of Darius--some 400 years later. His literary use of coinage would be like us today saying, "The Aztecs build the pyramid of Montezuma for 400,000 Eisenhower dollars."

Coins and weights were a very complicated issue in those days. It simply may be that the chronicler was confused. Some Bibles like the NIV Study Bible will try to explain away this anachronism saying that the chronicler used the daric because the readers of his time would be familiar with it. However, the readers were also familiar with talents. The chronicler could have stuck with talents and avoided the anachronism.
5 Are there errors other than anachronisms? Yes. There are logic errors. In Paul's letters to Timothy (1 Ti 2:11-15) and the Corinthians (1 Co 14:33-38), Paul makes those ever-so-controversial statements against women, attempts to justify them with logic, and then dumps his opinions on God. Churches have been suppressing women in the name of Paul for thousands of years. God never approves of Paul's statements regarding women. God, on the other hand, takes the opposite stand--which Paul, by reading Ge 3 out of context, completely missed. Paul's logic errors with regards to women are the only errors in the Bible that have consequence. I have written a web-page, Women, specifically on this.
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6 Was the Bible edited years after it was written? Yes. It is a known fact there are about a dozens edits in the Bible. Some time in the past, a person has come along and changed or added some verses in the Bible. Ex 1:11 is such a verse.
7 So is the Bible, as it was originally written, free of error? There is no means to justify that conclusion. The original manuscripts simply do not exist. Therefore, any statement declaring that the original writings were free from error is an unsupportable guess. We simply do not know. Sometimes the evidence goes against the original author as in the Luke 2:2 verse. We will never know if the original manuscripts were free from error. Any church that puts that decree in their doctrine, be it in a bulletin or a guideline, proposes a straw man argument. There's no substance behind it. Many people, especially logically minded people, see the argument for what it is. A false argument. Thus the statement only points to the ignorance of that church. That in turn casts doubt on the whole subject of Jesus. That in turn turns people away from Jesus.
8 Does the Bible say that the Bible is free of error? No. The Bible makes no such claim.
9 What about 2 Pe 1:20? 2 Pe 1:20 is one of two Bible verses which Inerrantists use as their rallying point. This verse written by the Apostle Peter is one of them: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

The Inerrantist blinds himself to the qualifier "prophecy of " in the phrase "prophecy of Scripture". The Inerrantists substitutes "all of Scripture". Peter, however, is only claiming that the prophecy of, not all of Scripture, was spoken from God through men. Prophecy is a subset of Scripture. By his qualifier, Peter specifically goes out of his way to differentiate between the two.
10 What about 2 Ti 3:16? This is the other rallying point of the Inerrantist. This verse was spoken by Paul: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

First of all, Scripture to Paul, means the Old Testament because most of the New Testament wasn't written yet. Paul's own personal letter to Timothy where our verse comes from, was not part of Scripture. The Bible as you and I see it today, was compiled 250 years after Paul. So, in Paul's time, Paul is not applying "God-breathedness" to his own statements in his letter to Timothy.

There is an additional problem with the word God-breathed. The word really means inspired. There is a big difference between inspiration and dictation. As far as the second part of the statement, " . . . is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training . . . ", that part is true. Scripture, like a math book, can have a few errors and still be useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training.
11 But God has the power to make sure the Bible is error free! Yes! He certainly does! Be he didn't use that power. Nor did he ever claim that he did. This is a typical God thing. God allows man to make mistakes. Always has. So we do see those little errors.
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12 But the Bible is the Word of God!
1 The Word of God is not printer's ink on page. The Word of God is Jesus, a Living Being.

That's a quote from E. Stanley Jones based on John 1. The Word is Jesus. He is the "Logos", the living operating principle behind the universe.
2 In most other contexts, the word of God is "rhema", words spoken by God. For example, Jeremiah 1:4: "The word of the Lord came to me and said. "Insert words from God."
3 In a general sense, the word of God is the will of God

Neither Biblical definition of "word" matches the statement to the left because:

1 The Bible is not Jesus.
2 The words outside the quotes are not from God, otherwise there wouldn't be any quotes at all.
3 The Bible contains the expressed will of God, as well as the expressed will of others.
13 What additional false conclusions are drawn from the belief that the "Bible is the Word of God?"
1 If the Bible is the Word of God, then if you find one mistake in the Bible, then God makes mistakes and we can't have that.
2 If the Bible is the Word of God, there is no human element involved because humans make mistakes.
3 If the Bible is not the Word of God, and there's mistakes in it, then I cannot trust what I am reading. Therefore, we are all lost.

This false conclusion is a favorite among pastor's who are scared to lose sheep. This conclusion is also part of the reason why the Medieval Holy Roman Catholic Church did not want the Bible in the hands of the common man: "They would be lost if they understood it." Hence, old Holy Roman Catholic priests recited their services in a dead language which no one understood and thus kept the knowledge to themselves. Some Catholic churches still recite the masses in Latin.
4 I cannot trust any book unless it was written by God.
5 If the Bible is the Word of God, then Luke is a liar because Luke said that the origin of his book is his own "careful investigation." Luke 1:3.
14 Why do some Christians get so bent out of shape when you claim that the Bible has errors?
1 They feel their theological foundation will be destroyed, hence leaving behind a giant emptiness which they could not deal with.
2 Conceding that the Bible has errors opens Pandora's box. All sorts of people are then free to deny all sorts of things, like the miracles.
3 They do not want to study the Bible themselves. They rather have it declared "all true". That way, it eliminates all the thinking work of discerning man's will from God's will.
4 Because their faith is misplaced. Their faith is in printer's ink instead of in Jesus.
15 Should a person trust the Bible even if it has errors? Yes. Because of a simple concept which we live by every day:

Man can tell the truth. Man does not require God to make him tell the truth.

The subject of the book can be truth, but the recording of the subject may have errors. The book itself is not what we believe in, but rather the truth recorded in the book. For example, people trust math even though math books have errors and were not written by God. People trust physics even though physics books have errors and were not written by God. People trust history even though encyclopedias have errors and were not written by God. Truth transcends a book. Christians would like to have an inerrant Bible, but it is unnecessary.

16 Isn't the Bible different from a math book? Only in its subject matter. But both books are similar because both are nonfiction. Both books reveal truth, and truth is independent of man's recording of it. Both books have checks and balances. An error in the back of the math book is revealed by principles previously established. An error in the Bible is revealed by the principles which God or other witnesses have previously established. Even though an author of a Bible passage may screw up a principle in a letter to his friend, you know it's a screw up because the principle has already been firmly rooted. I count such screw ups as human error, not an error in the underlying truth. In a math book, as in the Bible, there are seldom errors. Only a handful. There are not nearly enough errors to usurp the foundations of truth or to declare the authors incompetent.
17 In your opening remark, you said that Inerrantists have whittled down the power of God. How so? The miracle of the Bible is not in would-be wishful thinking of inerrancy, for a God-dicated Bible is a trivial thing and not a miracle at all. On the other hand, the real miracle is that there are only a few errors in the Bible. A mere handful, pointing to human authorship, yet at the same time its miniscule infrequency indicating the truth of the material itself. For such an odd assortment of men and women to tell such a story which spans the millennia, often without understanding their own subject, coherently and without significant or numerous error, theirein blooms the miracle. The power of God shines more gloriously on account of those few mistakes.
18 So how do you approach the Bible? I approach it like my math book except that the subject matter isn't as boring. I am just as confident in the accuracy of the Bible as I am in Newton's calculus . . . if not more so. When I read a Bible passage, I assume the passage is true because of prior experience. If I have difficulty with a verse, I assume that I am stupid first. That has been the case 99.9% of the time. But there is that 0.1% where I had difficulty and I found an error in a statement that didn't jive with archaelogy or with established principle. In that case, I just chalk it up to human error. God remains perfect and any faults I find are man's fault, whether my faults of those of others. And by the way, that 0.1% difficulty is over inconsequential verses. The resurrection of Jesus happened with or without Quirinius being governor of Syria.
19 How old is the false doctrine of inerrancy? This doctrine is apparently very young. It has only been a 5 to 6 years since the Southern Baptist Convention began adopting this doctrine as their official stand. In 1960, the Southern Baptist Convention had said that "The Bible contains the word of God." Which is true. But in 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted The Baptist Faith and Message, which states "The Bible is the word of God." with the meaning that God dictated it. That is false. AWANA, a Christian club for boys and girls, has been stating in their literature that "The Bible is the word of God and that the phrase ' the Bible contains the word is God' is the product of an apostate." I guess the whole Southern Baptist Convention was apostate before 1960. Also, it has been only the last couple months since I have seen my own non-denominational church decree this error on the back of the bulletin. I liked what we had before, "We believe that our worship should be Intelligent." Now there's a statement that God wholeheartedly approves.
20 How do you feel about Bible scholars who rewrite the personality of Jesus to make him more palatable? What do you think of scholars who would dare to rewrite the New York Times's published NYSE and NASDAQ quotes to make them more palatable?

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