What Makes the Bible Unique?
Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon
Bible is clearly the most influential book the world has ever
known. Abraham Lincoln called it "the best gift God has given to
man." Patrick Henry said, "It is worth all other books which
were ever printed." Noted British statesman William Gladstone
wrote that "an immeasurable distance separates it from all
competitors" while the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant
declared, "The Bible is the greatest benefit which the human
race has ever experienced." A. M. Sullivan observed, "The cynic
who ignores, ridicules, or denies the Bible, spurning its
spiritual rewards and aesthetic excitement, contributes to his
own moral anemia."1
do we think the subject of the reliability of the Bible is such
a crucial subject? Because of its implications. Throughout human
history virtually all people have searched for God at some point
in their lives, because apart from God they intuitively sensed
that their lives lacked ultimate meaning. Yet the Bible claims
to be the revealed Word of God to man (John 1:12,13; 3:16; 17:3;
1 John 5:9-15). Further, it tells us how we may come to know God
personally. If the Bible is true, then in its pages we can find
ultimate meaning for our lives and the God we have searched for.
We can read of His mighty and gracious acts among people and
nations in the Old Testament, and we can especially see His love
and compassion in the New Testament. For it is undeniably true
that if we want to know who God really is, and what He is really
like, we only look at Jesus Christ (John 14:6-11; 12:44,45).
Unfortunately, many people today do not believe in the one true
God, and they deny that God has personally revealed Himself in
the Bible. They have spawned skeptical theories and written
endless volumes attacking the idea that the Bible is an accurate
account of God’s intervention in human history and that it
reveals His will for man. But even skeptics cannot deny that the
Bible’s influence in history is incalculable and that it has
literally changed our world—not just Western history but all of
topic is vital because if there is solid evidence that the Bible
is God’s Word to us, its critics are wrong. Worse, they are
leading astray all those who listen to them. If the Bible alone
is divine revelation, then by definition it is the most
important Book in the world. It alone will tell us what God
requires of us.
light of these undeniable facts, to be ignorant of the Bible’s
claims and contents constitutes an abdication of personal
responsibility concerning one’s own welfare.
know that the Bible is reliable is to know that all of what it
teaches is reliable. And what it teaches is that the one true
God sent His only Son to die for our sins so that we could
inherit eternal life as a free gift (John 3:16; Rom. 3:22-26).
Such a claim is phenomenal in its uniqueness and profundity. If
skeptics are given only one reason to objectively examine the
claims of the Bible, this alone should be sufficient, because if
these claims are true, then God freely offers us more than we
could ever imagine. If the Bible is truly God’s Word to us, and
if we reject its message of salvation, then no other personal
decision they make will be more consequential. Therefore no one
can fail to ignore the issue of the reliability of the Bible—not
merely its historical reliability but its spiritual reliability
have written this information so that Christians will be
encouraged in their faith and non-Christians will be challenged
to investigate the Bible further—to read it, ponder it, and
ultimately to accept it for what it is. Our desire for the
reader is expressed in the gratefulness of the apostle Paul to
the Thessalonians: "We also thank God continually because, when
you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you
accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the
word of God, which is at work in you who believe" (1 Thess. 2:13
Primary Issue: What is the proper understanding of the biblical
doctrine of inerrancy?
the Bible is inerrant—that is, without error—then it is
certainly entirely unique among all the ancient books of the
world, whether religious or secular. Given the tens of thousands
of details in the Bible that could be either confirmed or
disproved by history, archeology, science, etc., and given the
fact that Scripture was written by some 40 authors over a period
of 1,500 years in many different places and times, to find the
Bible without error and in agreement on essentials and
particulars is nothing short of striking. In fact, we think
something like this can only be explained through divine
inspiration. In the pages that follow we will discuss what
inerrancy means and what it does not mean. A good general
definition of biblical inerrancy is given by Dr. Paul Feinberg:
Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures
in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be
shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm,
whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the
social, physical, or life sciences.2
Critics, of course, will immediately point out that we do not
have "all the facts" nor do we have the autographs, or original
writings, and therefore inerrancy can’t be formally proven or
rationally defended. While technically it can’t be formally
proved, inerrancy can certainly be rationally defended. Formal
100% proof is available only in logic and mathematics. For
everything else in life, we must base our decisions on degrees
of probability. One hundred percent certainty is not available
for anything in life, including life itself, so it can hardly be
argued that a 99% degree of probability for inerrancy is
irrelevant. People buy houses, drive cars, and get married
taking much higher degrees of risk than this.
argument is that preponderance of evidence lies so heavily on
the side of inerrancy that it cannot reasonably be doubted, if
the evidence is handled fairly. True, we don’t have all the
facts, but we do have an incredibly large number of them which
support inerrancy. And we don’t have the autographs, but the
manuscript copies which we do possess are collectively
autographic for all practical purposes. As we shall see, what
all this means is that more than sufficient reason exists for
belief in inerrancy. Compared to making other important
decisions in life, trusting in the inerrancy of the Bible is one
of the easiest to make.
Properly defined, inerrancy must apply "equally to all parts of
Scripture as originally written."3
Thus a belief in what is termed "limited inerrancy"—i.e.,
inerrancy in doctrine and morals, but errancy in science and
history—is impossible to maintain logically because accepting
errors in the latter category demands accepting errors in the
former category Why? Because biblical doctrine and morality are
inseparably bound to biblical history and science, as we
It is impossible to maintain that the Bible has errors in
science and history but is without error in theology and ethics
because these categories are logically connected.
example, if we reject a literal Adam as the first man (Gen.
2:5-7; 1 Cor. 15:21,45) and his subsequent fall into sin as an
error (in deference to the alleged truth of evolution), we must
also logically reject as error the declarations of the apostle
Paul concerning these beliefs as well as the imputation of
Adam’s sin to the human race and its consequences (Rom.
5:12-19). Further, if Adam and Eve never existed, then Jesus was
also in error (Matt. 19:4,5) and biblical Christology and
salvation along with Him. Further, if Scripture contains errors
in those areas we can test on the basis of historical,
archeological, and scientific fact, on what logical basis can we
assume it doesn’t contain errors in those areas we cannot test,
such as theology and ethics (the nature of God, salvation,
Finally, the assumption of errancy is self-defeating in another
way. Given limited inerrancy, it becomes impossible to tell
which Scriptures are inerrant and which are not. The Bible
assumes its inerrancy throughout and never even hints that some
parts of it are errant. So if Scripture errs, then where does it
err and how do we know when, if not even a single error has ever
been proven in Scripture? In light of this, one wonders why
anyone, especially any Christian, would assume that the Bible
contains errors? The real issue is usually that some people
think Scripture has errors because it teaches something they
don’t want to believe, or because it conflicts with some
personal theory they think is true but really isn’t (e.g.,
rationalism, scientism, evolution, humanism, feminism,
there are other important considerations when we examine the
doctrine of inerrancy. To be understood and defended properly,
inerrancy must not become subject to certain uncalled for
misunderstandings. First, a proper definition of inerrancy
does not demand the use of technical language or knowledge of
modern science. This would certainly have kept it a closed
book to all those without such knowledge. Ongoing scientific
precision constantly changes. Such precision for the
twenty-first century would still not make the Bible correct to
the nth degree, for which century’s precision should inerrancy
reflect—twenty-first, twenty-fifth, or thirtieth?
Also, precision may become so precise as to be awkward or
useless, practically speaking. To speak of a setting sun is not
an error in spite of its scientific imprecision in not referring
to the earth’s rotation. To cite a biblical example, Jesus said
that the mustard seed was "smaller than all other seeds" (Matt.
13:32 NASB). For all we know, humankind has still not
discovered the smallest of all seeds. For Jesus a) to
have named this seed, or b) to have named the smallest seed
currently known to twenty-first century botany would,
respectively, leave Him a) in possible error through lack of
current scientific confirmation or b) actual error by
accommodation to limited twentieth century science. In either
case, His hearers would either not have understood Him, or
questioned His accuracy, or both. Jesus’ obvious meaning was
that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds known to His
hearers, which was true, and reflects how the New International
Version translates this verse.
Second, everyone knows that it is proper to use general
statements about things, so long as they do not contain errors.
Inerrancy, for the same reason, does not require strict
grammatic, semantic, numeric, or historic precision. For
example, September 14, 15, or 16 is correctly referred to as the
middle of the month.
Third, inerrancy does not exclude the use of figurative language
(e.g., allegory, personification, hyperbole) or various
literary genres (apocalyptic, drama, poetry, parable); to
exclude these in favor of a wooden literalism would rob
Scripture of much of its richness and universal appeal.
Fourth, inerrancy does not demand verbatim exactness when the
New Testament quotes the Old, assuming a New Testament quotation
does not contradict an Old Testament one.
New Testament writers, not to mention the Holy Spirit, had the
right to use Old Testament quotations in summary form for
purpose of illustration, or other legitimate literary means,
just as writers do today.
Fifth, inerrancy does not demand that any given biblical event
or account be exhaustively reported.
Sixth, inerrancy assumes the accuracy of what is merely
recorded, whether or not it is true
(such as accurately recording a lie from Satan [Gen. 3:4] or an
incorrect prophecy by a false prophet).
Seventh, inerrancy does not assume the inerrancy of non-inspired
sources quoted by a biblical writer for purposes of illustration
(Acts 17:28). In essence, inerrancy means that the Bible, even
though speaking in the common language, never deceives us, never
contradicts itself, and can be wholly trusted. Inerrancy means
that the Bible is without error.
Having examined what inerrancy does and does not teach, let us
now briefly see how this doctrine relates to the nature of
divine inspiration and the character of God. Then we will look
at the Bible itself to show that it does clearly claim to be
Inerrancy is inseparably related to the doctrine of inspiration
and the righteous character and infinite power of God. First,
the biblical doctrine of inspiration is both verbal and plenary—i.e.,
involving the very words of Scripture (Matt. 4:4) and extending
to every part of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). If a righteous and
holy God is incapable of inspiring error, then it is logical to
conclude that whatever is inspired must be inerrant. Second,
the Bible reveals that God is omnipotent—that is, He has
absolute power. In other words, He has the means to give His
Thus, if God’s inspiration extends to every word of Scripture,
then every word of Scripture must be inerrant because of His
righteousness. Further, since He is omnipotent He could
safeguard the human recipients of inspiration from error, even
though His inspiration was given through fallible men.
the Bible either asserts or assumes its own inerrancy from its
first book, Genesis, to its last book, Revelation.
The term "Thus saith the Lord" or similar expressions are used
some 2800 times in the Old Testament (e.g., Jer. 1:11; cf. Deut.
18:18; 1 Kgs. 22:14; Amos 3:1; Ex. 34:27; Jer. 36:28; Isa.
8:20). And in many different ways the Old Testament repeatedly
asserts its divine authority. For example, "The grass withers
and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isa.
40:8 NIV). In brief, the Old Testament is either God’s
Word or a monumental fraud. Inspiration (or inerrancy) is
explicitly asserted for 68% of the Old Testament (26 of 39
books). The remaining books have either an implicit claim or a
characteristic quality which serves for such an implicit claim.
(Where explicit claim is lacking, particular reasons may exist
Testament assertions to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the
Old Testament provides additional corroboration. Thus, "Twenty
of twenty-two Old Testament books (or 90%) have their authority
and/or authenticity directly affirmed by the New Testament."6
As we discuss more fully later, particularly relevant are the
declarations of Jesus who was God incarnate (Jn. 1:1; 5:46;
8:14-16; 26, 28; 12:48-50; 14:6; 2 Pet. 1:20; Phil. 2:1-8; Titus
2:13). As God incarnate, Jesus was incapable of teaching error
(John 12:48-50; Matt. 24:35). In John 17:17 NASB Jesus said,
"Thy Word is truth" and in Matthew 4:4,"Man shall not live on
bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of
God" (NASB). In both instances He could only have
referred to the complete Old Testament canon of the Jews then
extant (Luke 24:27). This affirms 100% of the Old Testament as
inspired and therefore inerrant.
Drs. Geisler and Nix correctly point out, "Christ is the key to
the inspiration and canonization of the Scriptures."7
Jesus not only confirmed the entire Old Testament as inspired,
He pre-authenticated the inspiration (i.e., inerrancy) of the
New Testament. Because of Christ’s promise to the disciples that
the Holy Spirit "will teach you all things and will remind you
of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26 NIV; referring
e.g., to the Gospels, cf. Matt. 24:35) and that the Holy Spirit
"will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13 NIV; cf. vv. 14, 15,
referring e.g., to the remainder of the New Testament), it is
not surprising that "virtually every New Testament writer
claimed that his writing was divinely authoritative.... The
cumulative effect of this self-testimony is an overwhelming
confirmation that the New Testament writers claimed
examples of claims for the inspiration (i.e., inerrancy) of the
prophetic New Testament include 2 Timothy 3:169;
2 Peter 1:20,2110; 3:2, 1611, Revelation
1:1-312; 22:18,1913; 1 Thessalonians 4:814.
Indeed, the fact that virtually every New Testament writer
assumed his writing was as binding and authoritative as the Old
Testament asserts a great deal, for such writers were Orthodox
Jews who believed that God’s word was heretofore confined to the
accepted Old Testament canon. To add to it was a horrible
presumption unless divine inspiration were clearly present.
However, the very fact of the arrival of the prophesied new
covenant (predicted in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.), coupled with
the incarnation and atonement of Jesus, required a corresponding
body of divine revelation to explain and expound these events,
just as was true for the activity of God in the old covenant.
There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches its own inerrancy.
Skeptics, however, reject inerrancy because of the unsupported
presuppositions they bring to Scripture. Critics generally
assume that miracles are impossible by definition, the unstated
corollary being that God doesn’t exist either. But how do they
know this with absolute assurance—by infallible knowledge? If
many or most of the greatest minds throughout history and today
have believed that God exists, how do critics safely assume
otherwise? Modern scientific rationalism has explained very
little of the heights and depths of the universe. To declare
absolutely that God does not exist and that inerrant inspiration
is impossible is itself impossible to maintain logically unless
one is God and has the omniscience to be absolutely certain of
the impossibility. It is merely presumption to assume that an
infinite, personal God could never communicate His revelation
Besides, sufficient evidence exists to show that the Bible is
divinely inspired. For example, the presence of supernatural
prophecy about the future cannot be denied except on the basis
of an antisupernatural bias. Thus the internal and external
evidence clearly supports a pre-neo-Babylonian composition for
Isaiah and a neo-Babylonian composition for Daniel.15
Yet Isaiah predicts, for example, King Cyrus by name long before
he lived (44:28-45:6), and the nature, person, mission, and
death of the Jewish Messiah (e.g., 9:6; 53:1-12). Similarly, the
prophet Daniel (Matt. 24:15) predicts the Medo-Persian, Greek,
and Roman empires so clearly that antisupernaturalists are
forced, against all the evidence, to date his book at 165 B.C.
and thus imply that it is a forgery (Daniel chapters 2 and
7; cf. 11:1-35 in light of subsequent Persian and Greek history
and the dynasties of the Egyptians and Syrians).16
First Kings 13:1,2 predicts King Josiah 300 years before he was
born and Micah 5:2 predicts the very birthplace of Jesus 700
years before He was born. How are we to account for such things
if the Bible is not a divine book?
Finally, the person and resurrection of Jesus Christ proves the
inerrancy of Scripture, for if Jesus rose from the dead—and this
must be accepted as a fact of history17—then
His claims about Himself must be true. If so, then He must be
God incarnate (John 5:18, 21-26; 1:30-38; 11:4, 25; 14:9), and
thus His teaching on an inerrant Scripture must be
accepted—unless we are to suppose that God lies or contradicts
Himself, which He Himself denies (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim.
2:13; Num. 23:19). Indeed, when even a noted Jewish scholar of
the New Testament who rejects Jesus’ Messiahship accepts His
bodily resurrection "as a historical event" and "a fact of
history" we can be certain that the resurrection is at least
worth even the critics’ impartial investigation.18
Montgomery and Sproul,19
a logical defense of inerrancy may be constructed based on
1. On the basis of accepted principles of historic and
textual analysis the New Testament documents are shown to be
reliable and trustworthy historical documents. That is, they
give accurate primary source evidence for the life and death
of Jesus Christ.
2. In the Gospel records, Jesus claimed to be God incarnate
(John 5:18; 10:27-33). He exercised numerable divine
prerogatives, and rested his claims on His numerous and
abundantly testified, historically unparalleled miracles (John
10:37,38) and His forthcoming physical resurrection from the
dead (John 10:17,18).
3. In each Gospel, Christ’s resurrection is minutely
described, and for 2000 years it has been incapable of
disproof despite the detailed scholarship of the world’s best
skeptics. The simple truth is that the historic fact of the
resurrection of Christ proves His claim to deity (Rom. 1:3,4).
The resurrection cannot be rejected a priori on
antisupernaturalist grounds, for miracles are impossible only
if so defined. The probability of a miracle is determined by
the cumulative weight of the evidence, and not on
4. Because Jesus is the Son of God, He is an infallible
authority. In this role He taught that Scripture originates
from a holy God and is inerrant, since that which originates
from an utterly trustworthy God must be utterly trustworthy
itself (cf. John Wenham, Christ and
conclusion is that both the claims and the miraculous nature of
the Bible, which speak for its inspiration and inerrancy, as
well as the infallible pronouncements of God incarnate on an
inerrant Scripture, are sufficient reason to accept the
proposition that the Bible is inerrant.
Summary: The Uniqueness of The Bible
The Bible is the only book in the world that offers objective
evidence to be the Word of God. Only the Bible gives real
proof of its divine inspiration.
The Bible is the only religious Scripture in the world that is
The Bible is the only ancient book with documented scientific
and medical prevision. No other ancient book is ever carefully
analyzed along scientific lines, but many modern books have
been written on the theme of the Bible and modern science.
The Bible is the only religious writing that offers eternal
salvation as a free gift entirely by God’s grace and mercy.
The Bible is the only major ancient religious writing whose
complete textual preservation is established as virtually
The Bible contains the greatest moral standards of any book.
Only the Bible begins with the creation of the universe by
divine fiat and contains a continuous, if often brief and
interspersed, historical record of mankind from the first man,
Adam, to the end of history
Only the Bible contains detailed prophecies about the coming
Savior of the world, prophecies which have proven true in
Only the Bible has a totally realistic view of human nature,
the power to convict people of their sin, and the ability to
change human nature.
10. Only the Bible has unique theological content, including
its theology proper (the trinity; God’s attributes);
soteriology (depravity, imputation, grace, propitiation
atonement, reconciliation, regeneration, union with Christ,
justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal security,
election, etc.); Christology (the incarnation, hypostatic
union); pneumatology (the Person and work of the Holy Spirit);
eschatology (detailed predictions of the end of history);
ecclesiology (the nature of the church as Christ’s bride and
in a spiritually organic union with Him); etc.
11. Only the Bible offers a realistic and permanent solution
to the problem of human sin and evil.
12. Only the Bible has its accuracy confirmed in history by
archeology, science, etc.
13. The internal and historical characteristics of the Bible
are unique in its unity and internal consistency despite
production over a 1500-year period by 40-plus authors in three
languages on three continents discussing scores of
controversial subjects, yet having agreement on all issues.
14. The Bible is the most translated, purchased, memorized,
and persecuted book in history. For example, it has been
translated into some 1700 languages.
15. Only the Bible is fully one-quarter prophetic, containing
a total of some 400 complete pages of predictions.
16. Only the Bible has withstood 2000 years of intense
scrutiny by critics and not only survived the attacks but
prospered and had its credibility strengthened by such
criticism. (Voltaire predicted that the Bible would be extinct
within 100 years, but within 50 years Voltaire was extinct and
his house was a warehouse for the Bibles of the Geneva Bible
17. Only the Bible has molded the history of Western
civilization more than any other book. The Bible has had more
influence in the world than any other book.
18. Only the Bible has a Person-specific (Christ-centered)
nature for each of its 66 books, detailing the Person’s life
in prophecy, type, antitype, etc., 400 to 1500 years before
that Person was ever born.
19. Only the Bible proclaims a resurrection of its central
figure that can be proven in history.
20. Only the Bible provides historic proof that the one true
God loves mankind.
1 Citations taken from
Frank S. Meade, The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations;
Rhoda Tripp, The International Thesaurus of Quotations;
Ralph L. Woods, The World Treasury of Religious
Quotations; Jonathan Green, Morrow’s International
Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations.
2 Paul D. Feinberg, "The
Meaning of Inerrancy," in Norman L. Geisler, Inerrancy
(Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1979, 1980), p. 294.
3 Ibid., p. 296.
4 John Ankerberg and
John Weldon, Ready with an Answer (Eugene, OR: Harvest
House, 1997), ch. 15.
5 Norman L. Geisler and
William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), pp. 66-67.
6 Ibid., p. 87.
7 Ibid., p. 88.
8 Ibid., pp. 91,97.
9 2 Tim. 3:16: "All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness,…"
10 2 Pet. 1:20-21:
"…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any
private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of
man, but holy men of God spoke as they were
moved by the Holy Spirit."
11 2 Pet 3:2, 16: "…that
you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by
the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles
of the Lord and Savior,…" "…as also in all his epistles,
speaking in them of these things, in which are some things
hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people
twist to their own destruction, as they do also
the rest of the Scriptures."
12 Rev. 1:1-3: "The
Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His
servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and
signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore
witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus
Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who
reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep
those things which are written in it; for the time is
13 Rev. 22:18-19: "For I
testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of
this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him
the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes
away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall
take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city,
and from the things which are written in this book."
14 1 Thess. 4:8:
"Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but
God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit."
15 Gleason Archer, A
Survey of Old Testament Introduction, revised edition
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), chs. 23-24,28-29.
16 Cf. John Walvoord,
Daniel: The Key to the Prophetic Revelation (Chicago:
Moody Press, 1960), ch. 11.
17 See our Knowing
the Truth About the Resurrection; William Lane Craig,
The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), especially pp.
88, 124, 133-41.
18 Pinchas Lapide,
The Resurrection of Jesus (Minneapolis: Augsburg,
1983), pp. 92,144,149-50, although he also equivocates on the
bodily resurrection (pp. 126-31).
Montgomery, The Shape of the Past (Minneapolis:
Bethany, 1975), pp. 138-39; R. C. Sproul, "The Case of
Inerrancy: A Methodological Analysis," in Montgomery: ed.,
God’s Inerrant Word (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1974), p. 248;
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute