The doctrine of inerrancy is a subcategory of the doctrine of Scripture. This key area of theology describes the Bible as being without error. This means there is nothing in the Bible that is untrue or contrary to fact. The entirety of Scripture is trustworthy in everything it says and teaches because it is God’s Word to man. To speak against the inerrancy of Scripture is to speak against God’s very character. Countless books, articles, and statements have been written about biblical inerrancy. So, here are 5 Things to Know about the Inerrancy of the Bible.
The Bible is infallible because it is incapable of containing any error. In its article on Inspiration, Infallibility, Inerrancy, Ligonier Ministries states:
To confess that the Bible is infallible is to confess that the Scriptures are incapable of teaching any error. Taken in itself, this is a term that strongly presents the perfection of Scripture. The prophets and apostles not only did not err—they could not err when writing Scripture.
Infallibility is generally considered a stronger term than inerrancy, giving the idea that it is impossible for any error to exist in the text of Scripture because the final author is God. Inerrancy gives a clear-cut affirmation that since Scripture cannot contain any errors, the text itself contains no errors. It is a subtle difference, but these two cousins are both important in the doctrine of Scripture.
We get the doctrine of inspiration from biblical texts such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Here we understand that God “breathed out” Scripture, which comes from the Greek word theopneustos. Inspiration is generally used for the act of breathing (although often used for inhalation rather than exhalation) and since God is breathing this Word out, it is His Word, not man’s. Because it is God’s Word, it has authority over our lives and it must be perfect.
In God’s work of inspiration, He did not dictate the words of Scripture for the authors to write down but instead used their different personalities and writing styles. In writing the different books of the Bible, God moved these men through His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). So while writing their own words, telling the stories they witnessed, and conveying the information they researched, these men were also writing God’s words to man.
Inspiration guarantees that God’s Word is inerrant and reliable.
When reading through the Gospels, it becomes exceedingly clear that Christ believed the Bible was inerrant. In His teachings, He constantly pulls in the Old Testament Scriptures as a part of His instruction. Some might argue that Christ’s use of the Old Testament doesn’t necessarily mean He took these books literally. However, it is evident in the way He spoke of the Old Testament books that He saw them as genuinely historical.
Some examples of Jesus’ use of the Old Testament include Him speaking about the manna that Israel ate (John 6:49), referencing David as a writer of Psalms (Mark 12:36), and mentioning some of the prophets such as Elijah (Luke 4:25) and Zechariah (Luke 11:51). You can find these examples in Inerrancy, edited by Norman L. Geisler, in the chapter entitled “Christ’s View of Scripture” by John W. Wenham, page 6.
Jesus often cited the Scriptures and said something like “Moses said” or “David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit…” (Inerrancy, Geisler, pg. 17). Jesus clearly viewed Scripture as the authority on all of life. He used it to teach and to show others (including the Pharisees and Sadducees) what they didn’t understand from God’s Word.
Christ’s use of Scripture is a great confirmation to us of its inerrancy and trustworthiness.
The Bible often uses plain language when talking about events. Therefore, it may refer to things from man’s perspective or in everyday words that we might use. For example, if you asked a CEO of a large corporation how many employees they have, he might tell you that there are 25,000 when, in fact, the company really has 25,182 employees. We would not think that the CEO is in error or lying. He just used normal and understandable language.
Likewise, when Psalm 50:1 refers to the rising of the sun, it speaks from the perspective of humans who see the sunrise in the sky each morning. The fact that the earth actually rotates, giving the appearance that the sun rises and sets, doesn’t indicate that the Bible is scientifically wrong and thus errant.
The Bible is still truthful in these instances by using normal speech. As Wayne Grudem said in his Systematic Theology, “Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.”
Knowing that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that it is authoritative gives the Christian great confidence. We can know that what we teach our children about God and what He expects of us is absolutely true. We know that we can counsel others, preach on Sundays, write blog posts, and think through life’s ups and downs all through the scope of God’s inerrant Word.
Psalm 119 is filled with examples of the great blessedness in knowing we can trust and love God’s Word. Here are just a few statements from Psalm 119 that resonate with that idea:
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.
30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.
72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.