Random thoughts on Biblical inerrancy

I’m sure someone supporting it will be happy to chime in with an answer, but I had a thought occur to me…

The Hebrew people were given a covenant by G-d, along with a book of laws and commandments. These laws and commandments were the Word of G-d. He gave them to Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets. They form the Torah of the current Jewish faith, along with not so inerrant interpretations of these texts by wise rabbis. This is pretty close to the current Jewish belief on the subject, yes? I’m sure I fumbled up somewhere, so apologies.

But theeeeeen God (with the O) sent Jesus down and essentially said “Fooled you! Actually, that text no longer applies even though it was the inerrant wisdom of God for y’all Hebrews”. He then gave new law in the Gospels which at least partially corrected the old, previously perfect, law.

So two things (which I may expand later, I’m pressed for time)…

  1. Why would God choose to re-write what was already viewed as perfect? Furthermore, how do you know Mohammad or one of the other major religious folks after Jesus hasn’t given us yet another revision of what God really meant? Precedent has been set, after all.

  2. Why are the Epistles, written by holy human beings, considered as inerrant as the Gospels? I ask this because I personally get condemned weekly on this board by Paul and his garbled message. Wasn’t he a human being, albeit a very wise one? Why would his word be assumed to be always correct?

Does the Bible itself actually say anywhere that it’s inerrant? O ris it something from somewhere else?

So does this mean my questions are stupid, I’m impatient, or no one actually knows the correct answer here?

In view of the fact that I don’t agree with the entire premise, you’ll forgive my not trying to defend it! :slight_smile:

That you’re impatient, evidence seems to support… (Grin!)

The answer will depend on one’s religious viewpoint.

Many Biblical scholars will say, “So? The various books were written at different times, by different people, from different traditions. Naturally there are inconsistencies.”

Literalists will say, “The Old Testament was the foundation upon which the New Testament is built; you can’t have a temple without a foundation. Both are seamless and whole and perfect.”

Between the two viewpoints lies a vast and wonderful spectrum of interpretation.


Which I would actually have very few quibbles with. But then again, thats not inerrancy.

Yeah but thats not actually an answer. Its a metaphor trying to pass itself off as an answer.

I realize you’re not really arguing any side from a personal belief here, so I don’t expect you to have all the answers for everybody.

The favourite verse is 2 Timothy 3:16 -

, but there are a lot of more subtle arguments (“Jesus believed in a literal old Testament”) and a few dumb ones (“If we accept that a single part is not literally factual, we have to dismiss the lot”).

In any case, it matters very little - even if the Bible did explicitly claim to be inerrant, it would only have to be wrong in that particular place to leave us back where we started.

Jesus claimed that He came to fulfill the law, not to overturn it.

Also the Gospels are not law books.

I disagree with the premise.

Why is that so dumb?
It depends somewhat from which premise you are working.

If you thought that the bible is The Word Of GOD, then the smallest error would indeed show this claim to be false. It wasn’t written by God, hence it must be written by men. How can you put complete faith in that?

If you thought that the bible was inspired by God. An error might just be that the writer got some little detail wrong. ‘Here it says 18 and there it says 16.’ ‘Pfft, minor detail.’
Then again, it could not be so much an error as a different viewpoint or piece of advice or a law.
Still you are left with the question ‘Which one is correct or closer to the truth?’ ‘Can they be reconciled?’ ‘Who or what part in this book can I trust?’ You may study the bible over and over again for ages but you will never know.
This is, of course, the state Judeo-Muslimo-Christianity is in; there are almost as many churches as it is possible to have different viewpoints.
If you thought that the bible is written by loads of different men from different times, it’s their religious view, heavily influenced by the ideas of their times. Then the whole premise is already that you don’t completely trust the writers and already expect loads of inconsistencies. So what, if anything, can it tell you about the true nature of God?

In any case, the dawning of the information age has made common knowledge of some of the errors and a lot of the different possible interpretations of the book. This has made it lose its power as a valuable tool to tell you that this is the way. As the ultimate guide to life, the universe and everything it has become useless.
Sure, it’s still nice to have it around on the shelf or to quible over parts of it. You can even still pick some nuggets from it, to refine your philosophic view of the world.

(Responding to the notion that “If we accept that a single part is not literally factual, we have to dismiss the lot” is dumb…)

See? You just answered your own question. Even if one part is wrong, other parts might still have value. Even if one part is scurrilous, rotten, and wicked, the rest might still have the spark of divinity. The absolutist viewpoint, “It must all be exactly right, or else it is all worthless crap” is – well, dumb!

(C.S. Lewis rightly earned the scorn of many with his use of false dichotomies in attempting to defend this kind of interpretation. The “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” fallacy is well-known – and very widely disdained – as an attempt to shoehorn the Bible into positions of extremity. As most educated people know, the rejection of moderation is rarely a path to wisdom.)


If you find that parts are scurrilous, rotten, and wicked, but you continue to dig for sparks of divinity isn’t that—well,dumb?

What I mean is… yes these are writings about what people felt very deep about. Somewhere in there you can find nuggets of philosophy. Things that appeal to you.
But to call those the ‘divine spark’ or say ‘See, God is still in there’ and at the same time acknowledge that loads of it is bunk, is clutching at straws.
On the whole the book is not what it was made out to be. You can put it on the shelf, next to ‘Egyptian Gods’, ‘Norse mythology’,


For instance, in another thread, I was ragging on Aristotle’s “Ethics.” I found it extremely hard to read, and, frankly, a bit stupid.

Now, leaving aside the hubris involved in my passing judgement on one of the Titans of Human Thought, the point I’m trying to make here is that, even if I thought the “Ethics” was garbage, it doesn’t mean that everything Aristotle produced was garbage. He invented symbolic logic, and that makes him one of my personal heroes!

What’s wrong with taking the Bible as an anthology – like any other collection of stories and essays and poems – and simply admitting that some parts are better than others?


Uhm, well that’s basically what I’m saying, no?
It may still have fun bits in it but that’s a far cry from it actually being a holy book. That part has been tossed out the window.

Again, why? Why does a Holy Book have to be inerrant? Why can’t it just be a darned good book? This “inerrancy” concept is a philosophical trap. There are lots of very good things – even Holy things – that have flaws.

Think of the Hindu Holy Men who claim to go for years without sustenance, or who lift 70-ton steel girders. How? Because the spirits have overcome the limitations of the flesh.

But…why? Isn’t it enough to accept that even the holiest of men still stinks when he goes to the bathroom? Why would you even go close to the trap of believing that a holy man must be corporally incorrupt? To repeat one of the catch-phrases of this thread, “That’s dumb!”

Ditto for holy books. Let’s look at, say, The Sermon on the Mount as something that is beautiful, holy, inspired, divine, wonderful, admirable, and Godlike. That is not in the least undermined by some of the ugly stuff in Chronicles or the vaguely silly stuff in Genesis.


Because the claim was (and for some still is) that it isn’t just a ‘darn good book’. Not some of it, not some pearls of wisdom hidden in the murk, not something fun to read on a winter night but The Truth,all of it.
With the dispelling of it being The Truth, it has lost its holyness, all of it.
Now it is indeed nothing more than just a book, good read or not.
Nothing special.

Well, sure, some people believe that.

Some people also believe that the Hindu holy man can lift a 70 ton steel girder…

I’m only pointing out that you can take a third viewpoint, somewhere between the two extremes that you are endorsing. A book can be Holy…in part.

That’s the whole point of my first response to this thread: there are a lot of different ways to believe. I certainly won’t try to persuade you that my way is right, only that it is one valid way among many.


Sure you can. I, for my part, was merely pointing out that the all or nothing part isn’t necessarily a dumb view.

Now that is dumb!

Oh,oh, here we go again…

Scholars who seriously study and understand the concept of inerrancy actually say that the original written scriptures were inerrent. The “errors” (quite minor, typos, missed letters and such) came from endless copying and translating by scribes and scholars. That’s why they study and compare the different scrolls and learn the original languages. So that the most accurate translations can be made and the truth shared by all.

If you think it’s all hooey, well, that’s your choice. You’ll miss alot.

The scholarly study of the scriptures isn’t all hooey,no.

However ‘The study and understanding of the concept of inerrancy’ what on earth is that?

As far as I understand it, the concept of inerrency is that the bible is, erm… well inerrant. It is all correct, every dot and iota, every (multi)translated sentence.
The usual counter against this, from scholars who actualy study the older manuscripts, is that bits and parts are not correctly translated.
You now turn this around and say that inerrancy means that the ‘originals’ are inerrant. As for typo’s, Well, duh!
That still leaves you with many, many misunderstandings about what is meant by certain passages. Metaphores we don’t understand because of symbolisms forgotten.
Besides, do we even have any ‘originals’???
Wasn’t the oldest stuff in our posession,some tiny fragments from the guy who wrote Marc, from 45/50 AD? Highly likely even those are copies.