Similar to my last post about the “inspiration” of the Bible, many people hear that the Bible is “inerrant” but do not know why. Today’s post will explain what “inerrancy” is as well as the three distinctions you must make about it.
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First of all, let me define inerrancy with the help of Dr. Glenn Kreider, Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Inerrancy is the nonessential doctrine that the Scriptures are without error beginning with their original manuscripts (the autographs) and continuing with the current biblical text. 1
To quote Paul Feinberg in the book, Inerrancy, “Inerrancy means that . . . the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm” (p. 294). Dr Kreider further explains that “Inerrancy . . . means that the original manuscripts of the Holy Bible were without error.”
Now that we know what inerrancy means and why the Bible is inerrant, here are three vital distinctions you need to make:
1. Manuscript errors and variations in current text do not contradict the doctrine of inerrancy because no evidence exists to show that the copying of the manuscripts was inerrant.
Further explanation is that “Scripture nowhere gives us ground to maintain that its transmission and translation would be kept without error” (see Inerrancy, p. 176).
2. Only the autographs were inerrant, not the scribes who copied those autographs.
The original words written were inerrant, the people who copied the manuscripts–the scribes–were not inerrant.
3. It is safe to believe that our biblical text is inerrant because: 2
- The biblical text we currently possess is based on those inerrant autographs; and
- Jesus regarded the non-autograph texts of his time as inerrant.
The book, Inerrancy, explains that, “Copies of the Bible serve the purposes of revelation and function with authority only because they are assumed to be tethered to the autographic text and its criteriological authority. The evangelical doctrine pertains to the autographic text . . . and maintains that present copies and translation are inerrant to the extent that they accurately reflect the biblical originals; thus the inspiration and inerrancy of present Bibles is not an all-or-nothing matter” (p. 192).
Question: Why do you believe the Bible is inerrant?
- Glenn Kreider, “Answering Objections to Inerrancy,” unpublished class notes for ST101 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2004), 4. “Nonessential doctrine” means that one is able to not adhere to the doctrine of inerrancy and still be a Christian. ↩
- Again, inerrancy means that “the accounts stated as historical did actually occur in history—they are not myths. That which is stated is fully reliable, authentic, trustworthy, and authoritative in regard to the intent of the passage.” Kreider, “Inerrancy: Corollary of Inspiration,” 7 ↩