We live in a time that tends to shrug its shoulders when confronted with error. Instead of asking, like Pilate, “What is truth?” postmodern man says, “Nothing is truth” or perhaps “There is truth, but we cannot know it.” We’ve grown accustomed to being lied to, and many people seem comfortable with the false notion that the Bible, too, contains errors.
The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is an extremely important one because the truth does matter. This issue reflects on the character of God and is foundational to our understanding of everything the Bible teaches. Here are some reasons why we should absolutely believe in biblical inerrancy:
1. The Bible itself claims to be perfect. “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” Psalm 12:6. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple”Psalm 19:7. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” Proverbs 30:5. These claims of purity and perfection are absolute statements. Note that it doesn’t say God’s Word is “mostly” pure or scripture is “nearly” perfect. The Bible argues for complete perfection, leaving no room for “partial perfection” theories.
2. The Bible stands or falls as a whole. If a major newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to say, “All the errors are confined to page three.” For a paper to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. In the same way, if the Bible is inaccurate when it speaks of geology, why should its theology be trusted? It is either a trustworthy document, or it is not.
3. The Bible is a reflection of its Author. All books are. The Bible was written by God Himself as He worked through human authors in a process called “inspiration.” “All scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). See also 2 Peter 1:21 and Jeremiah 1:2.
We believe that the God who created the universe is capable of writing a book. And the God who is perfect is capable of writing a perfect book. The issue is not simply “Does the Bible have a mistake?” but “Can God make a mistake?” If the Bible contains factual errors, then God is not omniscient and is capable of making errors Himself. If the Bible contains misinformation, then God is not truthful but is instead a liar. If the Bible contains contradictions, then God is the author of confusion. In other words, if biblical inerrancy is not true, then God is not God.
4. The Bible judges us, not vice versa. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
The relationship between “the heart” and “the Word.” The Word or Bible examines the heart. To discount parts of the Word for any reason is to reverse this process. We become the examiners, and the Word then submits to our insight.
“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Romans 9:20
5. The Bible’s message must be taken as a whole. It is not a mixture of doctrine that we are free to select from. Many people like the verses that say God loves them, but they dislike the verses that say God will judge sinners. But we simply cannot pick and choose what we like about the Bible and throw the rest away. If the Bible is wrong about hell, for example, then who is to say it is right about heaven—or about anything else? If the Bible cannot get the details right about creation, then maybe the details about salvation cannot be trusted either. If the story of Jonah is a myth, then perhaps so is the story of Jesus. On the contrary, God has said what He has said, and the Bible presents us a full picture of who God is.
“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89
6. The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice. If it is not reliable, then on what do we base our beliefs? Jesus asks for our trust, and that includes trust in what He says in His Word. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:67-69
Jesus had just witnessed the departure of many who had claimed to follow Him. Then He turns to the twelve apostles and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” At this, Peter speaks for the rest when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” May we have the same trust in the Lord and in His words of life.
Biblical inerrancy does not mean that we are to stop using our minds or accept what the Bible says blindly. We are commanded to study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), and those who search it out are commended (Acts 17:11).
To be inerrant is to be free from error. Only the original autographs (the 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 percent inerrant, accurate, authoritative, and true. There is no biblical promise that copies of the original manuscripts would be equally inerrant or free from errors. As the Bible has been copied thousands of times over thousands of years, some copyist errors have likely occurred.
It is important to remember that the biblical manuscripts we have today are in 99 percent 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 or changes in spelling rules. No important theological issue is thrown into doubt by any supposed error or contradiction. Biblical manuscripts from the fifteenth century agree completely with manuscripts from the third century. We can have absolute confidence that the Bible we have today is almost exactly identical to what the apostles and prophets wrote 2,000-plus years ago.
We should not be quick to say, “Oh, that is just a scribal error.” The Bible’s “errors” can be explained in a logical and believable manner. Discrepancies that cannot be 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 clearing up any supposed Bible “error.”
It is possible that minor 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 we have today is incredibly accurate is a testimony to its inspiration and preservation by God.
Can we still trust the Bible? Absolutely! Modern Bible translations are God’s Word. The Bible today is just as authoritative as it was in the first century AD. We can completely trust the Bible as being God’s message to us. Yes, the biblical promises of inspiration and inerrancy only apply directly to the original manuscripts. But that does not impact our modern Bible’s accuracy and authority. God’s Word endures forever, despite the occasional failings and mistakes of copyists and translators.
An important yet subtle account of the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of men is the account of Elishas death.
“And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet”. 2 Kings 13:20-22
The subtle aspect is that bones have no skin on them, which is to say that Elisha had been dead for some time. The fact that a dead body could touch the bones of Elisha and come back to life is a tribute to the power of the Holy Spirit that was IN Elisha, which is distinct from the anointing of the Holy Spirit simply being ON Elisha which wold be a temporary state. (In is permanent ON is transactional).
This is to say that power of the Holy Spirit, once placed remains, as is the case of the inspiration of scripture by the Holy Spirit. It transcends time and the efforts of men over the millennia to distort or corrupt the scriptures. The power and truth endures for all time.