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God's Word Is Inerrrant, but the Bible We Have Is Not Inerrant

You often hear we must believe in Biblical Inerrancy. God's Word is of course inerrant. But we cannot equate the "Good Book," the 'Bible" etc., with God's Word in every way for a few obvious unassailable facts:

Original Testament Errors:

Gen. 25:1 versus 1 Chron. 1:32, wife versus concubine

2 Kings 24:8 versus 2 Chron. 36:9, 18 years old versus 8 years old

1 Kings 7:26 versus 2 Chron. 4:5, 2,000 versus 3,000 baths

Ezra 2:5 versus Nehemiah 7:10, 775 versus 652 sons (It must be asked why the translators translate the same exact Hebrew word transliterated "bane" as two different English words?)

1 Kings 9:27-28 versus 2 Chron. 8:18, 420 versus 450 talents of gold

II Samuel 24:1 versus I Chronicles 21:1, God versus Satan

Bear in mind that Jews do not regard Chronicles or Kings as "inspired" texts, but as historical texts. They were kept outside the first two scrolls - the Law & Prophets, and put in the Writings section which Jewish scribes held writings that were not yet accepted as prophetic such as Daniel, or were partially prophetic, it was thought (such as Psalms), or were entirely non-prophetic but historical. Hence, the list above involves contradictions that disappear as any type of problem if you realize the Law or Prophets trumps anything in either Kings or Chronicles.

But the modern Christian perspective has been anything in the physical book called the Bible - including Kings and Chronicles -- is inspired, and if so, then the modern doctrine of Biblical inerrancy must be false by the above-referenced unassailable facts.

New Testament Errors:

Matt. 1:16 versus Luke 3:23, Jacob versus Heli

Matt. 8:5 versus Luke 7:3,6, Centurion himself versus "elders of the Jews" or "friends"

Matt. 8:28 versus Mark 5:2, 15, "two demon possessed men" versus one man.

Mark 14:69 versus Luke 22:59, The same servant girl the second time, or "another saw him."  "Man, I do not know what you are saying" when previously he said to the servant girl, "Woman, I do not know him."

The most glaring of all is Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3:

He told them: "Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.  (Luke 9:3 NIV.)

These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  (Mark 6:8.)

Another example, of course, is in Acts 7:14 where Stephen, the Martyr, says that Jacob called out 75 souls to Egypt when in Deut. 46:27, the number is 70. See our article, Acts 7:14 Adopts Septuagint Error.

Conclusion

The Bible is not inerrant. It has errors. Since God's Word cannot have any errors, the present Bible is not entirely God's Word. Only what we can prove is inerrant can ever be God's word. Hence, the present Bible cannot be entirely God's Word as it is not entirely inerrant. 

As a result, to know which portion of the Bible is God's word takes study, and determining what is the inerrant PORTION in the Bible.

This is why the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is often stated in a modified form rather than the extreme view that the current Bible -- especially the King James -- is inerrant. Here is how Wikipedia explains the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy", is the doctrine that the Bible "is without error or fault in all its teaching";[1] or, at least, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact".[2]  ("Biblical Inerrancy," Wikipedia.)

The correct view is to point to the autographs -- the original documents -- as the true inerrant source of the Holy Scripture -- which means there is always a quest for more authentic tracing toward the original. So Wikipedia continues, and explains:

The signatories to the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" admit that "inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture". 

Another frequent modern view of Biblical inerrancy is that the Bible we have today has been passed down without error:

There are a minority of biblical inerrantists who go further than the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy", arguing that the original text has been perfectly preserved and passed down through time. ("Biblical Inerrancy," Wikipedia.)

The proofs above demonstrate that this position is clearly false. Moreover, this opinion is not itself Biblical, as the Bible never teaches God will preserve a source version of the Bible that is inerrant and perfectly identical to the original autograph. This view of perfect preservation is a man-made doctrine, and not Biblical itself.

Because Protestantism which did not exist prior to the 1400s relies upon the Roman Catholic Church for its source texts, we need to see what Catholicism claims about whether it has done a perfect job of preserving the Bible:

The "doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture"[8] held by the Catholic Church, as expressed by the Second Vatican Council, is that "the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation."[9] ("Biblical Inerrancy," Wikipedia.) 

Again, one must note that no Bible verse supports these claims. It is a purely man-made doctrine.

That said, any claims that Adam and Eve are legendary are not a challenge to inerrancy. Rather, it is a challenge to the literalism of the text. It assumes the text has been preserved accurately, and is indeed the words given by God to Moses. But then some claim it has the character of a deliberate legend of a mythical nature. To repeat, this is not a challenge to inerrancy, but rather is a challenge to how literal to take each account. 

I endorse literalism (including a literal Adam and Eve) unless the text makes clear that it is not to be so understood. I am not actually aware of any non-literal text like that, with the possible exception of talk of the Levithan. He was apparently a fire-breathing dragon:

“By his neesings (blowing air out of his nose) a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.” (Job 41:19-21)

Is this literal or poetic? 

As Answers in Genesis points out, there are many animals -- albeit much smaller than the depiction of Levithan, which can do this:

Number 3, it is chemically possible for this to happen. There are animals today that have this capability. That is what the bombardier beetle does. This beetle has a canon near his rear end where he can blast his enemies with chemicals that are 212 degrees Fahrenheit: the temperature of boiling water. Now where does this beetle get something to shoot that is 212 degrees?

Hence, even this passage is potentially literally true.

Regardless, Biblical literalism is distinct from Biblical inerrancy. Almost everything in the Bible should be taken as literally as possible.

Incidentally, within this literal view, we must remember sometimes there are several literal meanings to choose from. For example, YOM in Genesis has several equally valid meanings -- 12 hours (Gen. 1:5, "day" is the light portion called day); 24 hours; or an indefinite epoch. There is not one more literal meaning over another. Only context tells you the meaning.

But even though we should take everything in the Bible as literally as possible unless it is clearly figurative, simply because it purports to be God talking to adults, this does not mean every word we are reading is inerrant. There could be a textual error or variant to consult in case of doubts about the verse's validity.

November 8, 2014