(from Bakerís Encyclopedia of
Christian Apologetics, Baker, 1999).
Critics claim the Bible is filled with errors. Some even
speak of thousands of mistakes. However, orthodox Christians through
the ages have claimed that the Bible is without error in the
original text ("autographs"; see my book, Decide for
Yourself). "If we are perplexed by any apparent
contradiction in Scripture," Augustine wisely noted, "it
is not allowable to say, ĎThe author of this book is mistakení;
but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or
you have not understood" (Augustine, 11.5). Not one error that
extends to the original text of the Bible has ever been
Why the Bible Cannot Err.
The argument for an errorless (inerrant) Bible can be put
in this logical form:
God cannot err.
The Bible is the Word of God.
Therefore, the Bible cannot err.
God Cannot Err.
Logically, the argument is valid. So, if the premises are
true, the conclusion is also true. If the theistic God exists, then
the first premise is true. For an infinitely perfect, all-knowing
God cannot make a mistake. The Scriptures testify to this, declaring
emphatically that "it is impossible for God to lie" (Heb.
6:18). Paul speaks of the "God who does not lie" (Titus
1:2). He is a God who, even if we are faithless, Ďíremains
faithful; he cannot deny himself" (2 Tim. 2:13). God is truth
(John 14:6), and so is his word. Jesus said to the Father,
"Your word is truth" (John 17:17). The psalmist exclaimed,
"The entirety of Your word is truth" (Ps. 119:160).
The Bible Is the Word of God.
Jesus, who is the Son of God referred to the Old Testament
as the "Word of God" which "cannot be broken"
(John 10:35). He said, "until heaven and earth disappear, not
the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any
means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished"
(Matt. 5:18). Paul added, "All Scripture is God-breathed"
(2 Tim. 3:16). It came "out of the mouth of God" (Matt.
4:4). Although human authors recorded the messages, "prophecy
never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as
they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, "You
nullify the word of God by your tradition" (Mark 7:13). Jesus
turned their attention to the written Word of God by affirming over
and over again, "It is written" (for example, Matt. 4:4,
7, 10). This phrase occurs more than ninety times in the New
Testament, a strong indication of divine authority. Stressing the
unfailing nature of Godís truth, the apostle Paul referred to the
Scriptures as "the word of God" (Rom. 9:6). The writer of
Hebrews declared that "the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing
soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
Therefore, the Bible Cannot Err.
If God cannot err and if the Bible is the Word of God,
then the Bible cannot err. God has spoken, and he has
not stuttered. The God of truth has given us the Word of truth, and
it does not contain any untruth. The Bible is the unerring Word of
God. This is not to say that there are not difficulties in
our Bibles. But Godís people can approach difficult texts with
confidence, knowing that they are not actual errors; God did
Errors in Science and History?
Some have suggested that Scripture can always be trusted
on matters of faith and life, or moral matters, but it is not always
correct on historical matters. They rely on it in the spiritual
domain, but not in the sphere of science. If true, this would render
the Bible ineffective as a divine authority, since the historical
and scientific is inextricably interwoven with the spiritual.
A close examination of Scripture reveals that the
scientific (factual) and spiritual truths of Scripture are often
inseparable. One cannot separate the spiritual truth of Christís
resurrection from the fact that his body permanently and physically
vacated the tomb and walked among people (Matt. 28:6; 1 Cor.
15:13-19). If Jesus was not born of a biological virgin, then he is
no different from the rest of the human race, on whom the stigma of
Adamís sin rests (Rom. 5:12). Likewise, the death of Christ for
our sins cannot be detached from the literal shedding of his blood
on the cross, for "without the shedding of blood there is no
remission" (Heb. 9:22). Adamís existence and fall cannot be a
myth. If there were no literal Adam and no actual fall, then the
spiritual teaching about inherited sin and physical and spiritual
death are wrong (Rom. 5:12). Historical reality and the theological
doctrine stand or fall together.
Also, the doctrine of the incarnation is inseparable from
the historical truth about Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1, 14).
Jesusí moral teaching about marriage was based on his teaching
about a literal Adam and Eve who were joined by God in marriage
(Matt. 19:4-5). The moral or theological teaching is devoid of
meaning apart from the historical or factual event. If one denies
that the literal space-time event occurred, then there is no basis
for believing the scriptural doctrine built upon it, or anything
else, for all is then untrustworthy.
Jesus often directly compared Old Testament events with
important spiritual truths. He related his death and resurrection to
Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:40), his second coming to Noah
and the flood (Matt. 24:37-39). Both the occasion and the manner of
comparison make it clear that Jesus was affirming the historicity of
those Old Testament events. Jesus asserted to Nicodemus, "If I
told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you
believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (John 3:12). The
corollary to that statement is that, if the Bible does not speak
truthfully about the physical world, it cannot be trusted when it
speaks about the spiritual world. The two are intimately related.
Inspiration includes not only all that the Bible
explicitly teaches, but everything the Bible touches. This
is true of history science, or mathematicsówhatever the Bible
declares is true, Whether a major or a minor point. The Bible is
Godís Word, and God does not deviate from the truth. All the parts
are as true as the whole they comprise.
If Inspired, Then Inerrant.
Inerrancy is a logical result of inspiration. Inerrancy
means "wholly true and without error. And what God breathes
out (inspires) must be wholly true (inerrant). However, it is
helpful to specify more clearly what is meant by "truth"
and what would constitute an "error".
Truth is that which corresponds to
reality. Error is what does not correspond to reality.
Nothing mistaken can be true, even if the author intended the true.
Otherwise, every sincere utterance ever made is true, even the
Some biblical scholars argue that the Bible cannot be
inerrant through some faulty reasoning:
1. The Bible is a human book.
2. Humans err.
3. Therefore, the Bible errs.
The error of this reason can be seen from equally
1. Jesus was a human being.
2. Human beings sin.
3. Therefore, Jesus sinned.
One can readily see that this conclusion is wrong. Jesus
was "without sin" (Heb. 4:15; see also 2 Cor. 5:21; 1
Peter 1:19; 1 John 2:1; 3:3). But, if Jesus never sinned, what is
wrong with the above argument that Jesus is human and humans sin,
therefore, Jesus sinned? Where does the logic go astray?
The mistake is to assume that Jesus is simply human.
Mere human beings sin. But, Jesus was not a mere human being.
He was also God. Likewise, the Bible is not merely a human
book; it is also the Word of God. Like Jesus, it has divine elements
that negate the statement that anything human errs. They are divine
and cannot err. There can no more be an error in Godís written
Word than there was a sin in Godís living Word.
In the next article we will begin to look at how to
approach Bible difficulties.