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December 13, 2010


Huh. Well I'm glad to hear that Greg thinks that inerrancy is not a theologically foundational doctrine.

Of course it is possible to be a Christian without believing in inerrancy. That doesn't mean inerrancy is no a true doctrine that should be believed.

I am one of those believers who hold to the falleness of man, the virgin birth, Jesus as God incarnate, his atoning death fro sin, yet do not believe the whole of the bible to be inerrant. I've never heard anyone explain it in a way friendly to anyone who is believing like me and my wife. It can be a slippery slope, but we pray and read and do our best to follow Jesus and 12-step recovery. It;s our life, and we live it as God allows. Thank you.

11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum

I think I agree that inerrancy undergirds the other beliefs: the deity of Christ, etc.

This raises lots of questions.

How do we know "God is superintending the process"? Lot's of people think the Gospels are anonymous. Does the Bible even claim otherwise?

Does inerrancy follow from that "careful reading of the scripture itself"...

... and nothing else? How?

... or plus something else? What else?

Walk me through it, please.

I'm surprised I've never heard this before. It sounds like the best apologetic ever: Forget about watches on heaths.

Historians argue convincingly that the book of Daniel was written around 165 BCE. How does a careful reading of the Bible answer their argument and put the date 400 years earlier?

Why does anybody spend any time or the moral argument and all the rest? Why not focus like a laser beam on inerrancy?


To put it in Jame's terms, how do we know that the various parts of the Bible were

written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.

For starters, is the evidence for this internal to the Bible itself and (therefore) accessible by "careful reading" of the Bible alone? And, if it is internal, how does the argument avoid circularity?

If this evidence is external, what support do we have for that external source?


The question I'd raise to the commenters is what does inspiration by the Holy Spirit mean and are there any differences than if God wrote the bible and dropped it from Heaven? As far as innerancy is concerned (not style), is there a fundamental difference between the scriptures written by man under the inspiration of the holy spirit versus written by God and delivered to Mohammed? What do you think?

P.S. Just to make clear, because of the ambiguities of text on the internet, I am not mocking the concept of the bible dropping from heaven. If this is true then so be it.

is there a fundamental difference between the scriptures written by man under the inspiration of the holy spirit versus written by God and delivered to Mohammed? What do you think?
I think a fundamental difference is that Jesus endorsed the Hebrew Scriptures. Another is that Mohammed purportedly had to retract his own verses when he realized they were demon-inspired. He testifies against himself.

I'll add that for me Biblical trustworthiness followed like night day when I was struck by the power of the apologetic arguments for the historicity of Jesus' Resurrection. When I realized that the Bible was relating a literal, historical truth the rest just fell into place. After many readings through the coherency and interconnections of the entire canon just become more and more convincing.

Thanks for your comment Daron but I think you may have misunderstood me.

I realize there are serious problems with Islam's claim and the evidence behind it, but I'm wondering, principally, is there any difference in the two claims. Take Islam out of the picture. If Jesus, while ascending, gave us the bible, would the claim of inerrancy be any different than the claim of the Holy Spirit guiding men? I recognize there are writer's personalities involved, but I'm talking about inerrancy.

Also, I'm not trying to set this up or disprove innerancy. I'm just wondering how people define inerrancy.

I'm not sure what Greg means when he says inerrancy is not theologically necessary. Does he mean you don't have to believe it to legitimately be considered a Christian? Or does he mean you don't have to believe it to be saved? Or does he mean you don't have to believe it to be considered orthodox? Or are all of these things equivalent?

RonH, I think when Greg says inerrancy follows from a careful reading of the Bible, he means that the Bible claims inerrancy for itself. It doesn't necessarily make inerrancy true since the parts of the Bible that claim inerrancy for itself could be errant. James White has a book called "Scripture Alone," that defends what I think Greg is saying.

I believe in inerrancy because I think Jesus did, and you can make an argument that Jesus did without depending on inerrancy, so the argument isn't circular.

But I have to admit that of all the beliefs I have about Christianity, inerrancy is the one I hold with the least amount of conviction.

If you read the Anchor Bible Commentary on the book of Daniel, the authors argue that Daniel was written in the 160's BCE, but they do not deny it's authority as the word of God. They justify the date by identifying the genre of Daniel as apocalyptic, which means the intention of the author was never to cause the reader to think the book was written by the historical Daniel during the Babylonian exile.

Why does anybody spend any time or the moral argument and all the rest? Why not focus like a laser beam on inerrancy?

There are a couple of reasons for me. First, because inerrancy is a lot harder to defend than the moral argument for God. Second, because while the existence of God is necessary, inerrancy is not.

Hi M.M.,
Yes, I guess I did misunderstand. I don't have an answer to your actual question.


Greg says that he believes in inerrancy and that inerrancy follows from a careful reading of the scripture itself. He seems to value clarity so I bet that's what he means.

Why do you think Jesus believed in inerrancy? By reading the Bible?

That's how you and the ABC classify Daniel. But others count it as Daniel's prophecy. For example Jim Wallace , who sometimes subs for Greg on "Stand to Reason" apparently does.

If Daniel was written in 164 and was apocalyptic, doesn't it contain a bunch of postdiction plus a little failed prophecy? What would make such a document sacred?


RonH, I think Jesus believed in inerrancy because of the high view of scripture held by pretty much all of the authors of the new testament. I think it's more likely that Jesus himself held that same view than that they came up with it on their own.

I don't understand the argument you're trying to make by pointing out that some people understand Daniel as apocalyptic and others count it as Daniel's prophecy.

If Daniel was written in 164 and was apocalyptic, yes, it contains a lot of postdiction, but it doesn't contain failed prophecy. Apocalyptic is not the same thing as prophecy.

What would make Daniel sacred is if it were inspired by God.

If anything, even one portion of Scripture escapes the control of God, He is no longer God, and Scripture is no longer Scripture.

I would suggest Ephesians 1:11 as one of many proof texts, but heck, some might think he temporarily lost control of things when Paul wrote it.

Dave, I don't know if that's a good argument. Maybe God never intended to "control" scripture, but if not, that doesn't mean he isn't God, does it? What would you say about other writings other than scripture that we can all agree God didn't inspire. Would you say David McCullough's book on John Adams escaped the control of God and that God is therefore not God because of it? Or would you say that since God is in control of everything, then everything is inspired by God just like scripture is?


You say the HT authors held a high view of scripture and it's more likely they got this from Jesus than on their own. So, is this high view limited to the OT? Or, did Jesus have a high view of the NT before it was written. I realize that with Jesus the latter is possible. But did Jesus actually express a high view of the NT?

You say the 164 date of Daniel comes from the idea that Daniel is apocalyptic. But no particular date comes from that idea alone. Where does the date come from?


Here is Jesus on the scriptures from Luke 24: 25-27:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Jesus clearly considered scripture reliable in what it tought.

William Wilcox,

OK, if the author of Luke is reliable on this then certain parts (at least) of the OT are reliable.

So, who is the author of Luke? How do you know that? And, how do you know he is reliable?

And, how did we get from inerrant to reliable?


RonH, I think Jesus had a high view of the Old Testament, not the New Testament.

According to the authors of the ABC on Daniel, it's dated around 164 because all the apocalyptic imagery centers around the events of that time, and also because the predictions are perfectly accurate up until a specific time, at which time they make inaccurate predictions. But they also argue that also Daniel was written around that time, it relies on earlier stories. The book of Daniel is a compilation of short stories that were written at different times.


I think's Dave's argument may need to be gussied up a bit, but it is essentially correct.

If there are errors in the autographs of Scripture, that is a huge problem. This is because God, and God alone, is responsible for the communication in the autographs of Scripture. An error in an autograph of inspired Scripture is tantamount to deception on God's part.

With that said, I agree with Greg that one can still be saved even if one has not drawn this inference.

Inerrancy in the autographs, of course, does not imply inerrancy in copies, since the copyist's (fallen) will enters into the picture.

As for John Adams, God is not solely responsible for the communication in McCullough's book on our second President, not even in the autograph. D.McC. has to bear some of the responsibility for that. So your objection there does not seem to be on point.

Naturally, the question "What is inspired Scripture?" becomes central.

It seems to me that if we take Christ's pronouncements as probative, then inspired Scripture is all of the OT and all of those first century writings that are written or endorsed by Apostles. (To be sure, that raises its own questions.)

WL, if Dave was assuming that the scriptures are inspired, then I totally agree with him, but I thought the question of whether the scriptures were inspired was, at least partly, the issue under dispute.


The ABC makes sense.

the predictions are perfectly accurate up until a specific time,

That's what I mean by 'postdictions'

at which time they make inaccurate predictions.
That's what I mean by 'failed prophecies'

I think the author of Daniel cried: Look at this old book I found in the basement of the temple. It seems to have been written 400 years ago by Daniel and it is filled with true prophecies of recent events. Moreover, it says Yahweh will soon sweep away our troubles. Hallelujah!

Who would do such a thing? Maybe someone who thought it would help them maintain their position of power and position among the Jews. I picture a public reading and a variety of reactions. Perhaps the author's base was motivated sufficiently and he held on. Or maybe the author was simply trying to rally his people because he loved them.

Maybe the author thought he could predict the future because he understood public affairs. Maybe he thought so for other reasons. Or, maybe he had no idea what would happen with Antiochus IV Epiphanes. But I'm sure he wanted the Jewish people to believe his prediction and be rallied.

How do you think the book came to exist? The end of it, that is.

And, do you agree with me: it seems very unlikely that Daniel is inspired, let alone inerrant?


I don't think that the issue is whether the Holy Scriptures are inspired. Of course the Holy Scripture is inspired. That's what "Holy Scripture" means. The issue is "Which writings are Holy Scripture?" or equivalently "Which writings are inspired?"

Or perhaps it's best to simply ask "What is the canon?" There, I think, the answer has to be decided by the criterion of Apostolic authorship or endorsement.

The reason for that is that only the Apostles were promised that Christ's teachings would be recalled to them. (John 14:26)

The separate question of whether a book has been authored or endorsed by an apostle is an ordinary empirical question that admits of an ordinary answer.

That said, the empirical question is one we are probably no longer in a position to answer directly. However, the fathers and the early church historians were in a position to answer this question. They did so, giving us the current 27 book canon. We accept their canon, not because we think that they were specially inspired by the Holy Spirit, but because they were in a better evidentiary position than us to answer the question.

In principle, the canon is open. If we find III Corinthians along with good evidence that Paul wrote it, it goes into the canon. In practice, I don't know how we could now get that kind of evidence.


My post was in response to your question: "Why do you think Jesus believed in inerrancy?"

Granted that reliable and inerrant are not necessarily the same, this is still an indication that Jesus held, as others have said, a high view of scripture.

Concerning the reliability of Luke see:

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg; Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham; or the New Testament documents: Are they Reliable by F.F. Bruce.

A definition of inerrancy from The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy: “being free from all falsehood, fraud or deceit.”

From Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology: “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”

There are, of course, other definitions.

at which time they make inaccurate predictions.
That's what I mean by 'failed prophecies'

But that's a categorical mistake since, and I said earlier, apocalyptic is not the same thing as prophecy. Faulting apocalyptic literature for making inaccurate prophecies is like faulting a parable for giving inaccurate history. History and parable are different genres; prophecy and apocalyptic are also different genres.

How do you think the book came to exist? The end of it, that

I'm not sure. I think the authors of the ABC made a pretty good case, but I'm not totally convinced of it. I definitely think the book of Daniel was compiled from a collection of short stories, so it wasn't all originally written as one book.

And, do you agree with me: it seems very unlikely that Daniel is inspired, let alone inerrant?

I can understand why you would get that impression, but I think your impression is just based on a misunderstanding of how apocalyptic literature works. I still think it's both inspired and inerrant.


Maybe I do misunderstand how apocalyptic literature works. Taken with all that goes with it, is this...

The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
...prophecy? (I think it is.)

Is it apocalyptic? (I think it is.)

Did it happen? (I think it didn't.)

Show me where I go wrong here (assuming I do) and you'll have cleared up my misunderstanding. Or, tell me some other way what it is I misunderstand.

I certainly understand that not all prophecy is apocalyptic. But, isn't prophecy part of any apocalyptic writing? Isn't the end of Daniel prophecy?


RonH, there's debate about how apocalyptic works, but most people don't think the purpose of apocalyptic literature is to convey real prophecies any more than the purpose of parables is to convey real history. Apocalyptic literature attempts to convey current events and future hope from a heavenly perspective. Visions and prophecy are merely a medium in the story to convey the imagery. They're not meant to be taken as if God actually revealed those things to a prophet. There's an article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary on apocalyptic literature if you have access to it, and it's pretty informative about the whole genre.

Thanks Sam,

Well, there are 6 copies of the ABC in the downtown library so maybe I'll take a look at the article next time I'm there. In the mean time, I've got this waiting at my branch via interlibrary loan. More than I can handle, I'm sure. But it should be fun to look at.

In exchange, I'll offer what might be another side of the debate you speak of. At iTunes U, you can listen to a Yale course called "Introduction to New Testament History and Literature" by Dale Martin. The 4th lecture talks about Daniel. I really enjoyed this course.


That's crazy--$215 for a 295 page book!

I wonder if it's got any pictures. A book like this might a strange demand curve. A few people will pay the $215 because it's their field. Cut the price by half you might get very few more buyers. Come to think of it, maybe most go to libraries.

My problem is that high volume college text books not much cheaper.


Usually if it's their field, they can get the book for free from the publisher. That's one of the perks of being a professor.

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