The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

The Truth of the Bible and Inerrancy

Session 2

© Ron Jones, D.D., Titus Institute

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction and Review

We are in a series entitled The Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture.

In this series we are answering the question, "Is the Bible inspired by God and therefore inerrant, that is, true in all that it affirms?"

"Is the Bible inspired by God and therefore inerrant, that is, true in all that it affirms. Or is the Bible true and without error in most of what it affirms except for some minor historical and scientific errors? Or is the Bible true and without error only in the spiritual truths that it teaches, that is, only what it affirms in regard to faith and practice?"

How do we as Christians know which view is right?

We can know whether the Bible is inspired and inerrant by following what Jesus and the apostles taught about the truthfulness of the Scriptures.

As Christians we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that his apostles were appointed by him to teach the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit and all that they taught is true and authoritative. We came to faith in Jesus Christ, then we asked ourselves, "what did Jesus and his apostles believe about the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture?"

Inspiration and inerrancy are divine supernatural acts by God and must be believed by faith.

In this series, we are looking at four points:

W1 The Inspiration of the Bible and Inerrancy

W2 The Truth of the Bible and Inerrancy

W3 The Historical Statements of the Bible and Inerrancy

W4 The Scientific Statements of the Bible and Inerrancy

We are going to base what we learn about these areas on what Jesus and his apostles taught.

The Inerrancy of Scripture is simply defined as the Bible is the Word of God and therefore the Bible is true.

This is taught in the New Testament in two major ways:

Last week we looked at the first way:

We saw:

1. We know the Bible is true because the Bible is the Word of God and God is a God of truth and cannot lie.

This was taught from Paul's important statement in 2 Timothy 3:16.

This brings us to our second main point in this series.

W2 The Truth of the Bible and Inerrancy

2. We know the Bible is true because Jesus who is God declared all of the Bible is the Word of God and is true.

2.1 Jesus declared that all of the Word of God is true.

Turn to John 17. We'll start with v.15 to get the context.

John records that Jesus is praying to the Father for his disciples.

John 17:17 (Read v.15 and 16) "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."

Jesus asks the Father to make his disciples holy according to the truth. Then he gives how that will happen. It is through the Word of God ("Your Word") because his Word is the truth.

v.17 "Word" is singular because it takes the whole Word of God as one unit, as a whole.

Just like the singular of "Scripture" in 2 Timothy 3:16 which Paul uses, Jesus uses the singular "word."

v.17 "Truth"

Jesus doesn't say that the Word is true, but that the Word is truth. The noun "truth" describes the nature of the Word of God. It is a stronger statement. It is true because it is by its very nature truth. It defines truth./p>

The difference is significant, for this statement encourages us to think of the Bible not simply as being "true" in the sense that it conforms to some higher standard of truth, but rather to think of the Bible as being itself the final standard of truth. The Bible is God's Word, and God's Word is the ultimate definition of what is true and what is not true: God's Word is itself truth. Thus, we are to think of the Bible as the ultimate standard of truth, the reference point by which every other claim to truthfulness is to be measured. Those assertions that conform with Scripture are true while those that do not conform with Scripture are not true.

What does Jesus refer to when he says "Your Word"?

When Jesus referred to God's Word in John 17:17, he was referring to three things: 1) the Old Testament, 2) the revelation he himself taught, and 3) the words of his apostles who would teach after his departure.

Last week, we saw that

2.2 Jesus declared that the OT is the Word of God.

We saw this last time.

Mark 7:9-13

Jesus quoted the book of Exodus which is the written record of what Moses said and he called it the Word (logos) of God.

What Jesus said about the writings of Moses is also true of the rest of the Old Testament. He and the Jewish people all believed that the Old Testament was the Word of God.

Jesus not only taught that the OT was the Word of God, but also his words.

Jesus declared that his words were God's Word (from God the Father).

Jesus speaks the Word of God.

John 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

Jesus speaks the Father's Word. Jesus speaks the Word of God.

2.3 Jesus declared that he gave his disciples his Word, the Word of God.

John 17:14 Jesus gave his disciples the Word of God "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."

John 17:20 The disciples will take the Word of God to the world "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word."

Jesus gave the Word of the Father to his apostles and they will take that Word to the world.

Jesus also says he gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles to understand and teach the truth and thus communicate the Word of God which is truth.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus gives his apostles a promise that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and that he will do two things: 1) teach them all things (about Jesus that they need to know to fulfill their mission) 2) bring to their remembrance all that Jesus said

John 16:13-15 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

v.13 "hears" - the Spirit hears the words (revelation) of the Father which is Jesus' words (revelation) and will give it to the apostles

This is a promise only for the apostles. v.13 "Spirit of Truth will guide you into all the truth"

This promise can only refer to the apostles and not Christians in general because only the apostles heard Jesus and could remember what he said.

This promise is the basis of the inspiration of the NT.

All the books in the NT were written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle and that is why they were included in the NT.

It is also the basis of our faith in Christ.So, all Scripture is the Word of God and is true. Jesus said it. Thatís enough for us!

Implications of the Inerrancy of the Bible

I want to give you some implications of the doctrine of the Inerrancy of Scripture.

1. The Bible can be inerrant only if the historical, geographical, and scientific statements it affirms are true.

Jesus and the apostles did not teach partial or limited inerrancy, that is, the Bible is true and without error in most of what it affirms except for some minor historical and scientific errors.

Nor did Jesus and the apostles teach spiritual inerrancy, that is, the Bible is true and without error only in the spiritual truths that it teaches, only in what it affirms in regard to faith and practice. Jesus and the apostles taught full inerrancy, the Bible is true in all that it affirms spiritually, historically, geographically, or scientifically.

I am just going to mention this as we will talk about this in our next session.

Science, history and theology are intertwined in the Bible and cannot be easily separated and the Bible makes no distinction between them in defining what is the Word of God.

Noel Weeks, Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney in Australia, states, "There has been something of a tendency in theology to divorce physical aspects of the biblical picture from historical ones. Thus, creation and the physical questions connected to it are seen as divorced from historical questions and the involvement of God in acts of redemption. Scripture itself does not make that distinction."

(Weeks, Noel K., Biblical Studies: Cosmology in Context, WIJ68 (2006): 293)

Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, writes, "Science, particularly science that researches the past, cannot be rigidly isolated from history, and history cannot be rigidly isolated from the theological teaching found in the Bible. God works in history; the work of Christ took place in history; and the Bible indicates that it is important to maintain that this is so (1 Cor 15:1-28)... The Bible in its teaching about the word of God makes no distinction as to when it can be trusted, and does not indicate that its trustworthiness is confined to one sphere." (Poythress, Vern, "Three Modern Myths in Interpreting Genesis," WTJ 76 (2014): 348-349)

2. The Bible can be inerrant and not contain everything there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.

The Bible does not contain all knowledge of all subjects. It would have so many volumes we would have to carry it around in wagon. There is truth outside of the Bible. For example, the Bible talks about the sun, but it does not talk about its temperature, its distance from us, and the like. We can discover truth about the temperature of the sun and its distance from us that is not mention in the Bible.

But the Bible is the standard by which we judge all and determine what is true and what is not true. If scientists come up with an explanation of something about the sun that contradicts the Bible, then they are wrong and the Bible is true. But much scientific and technical discoveries are not mentioned in the Bible and don't contradict the Bible.

The Bible talks about false idols and idol worship, but does not talk specifically about Buddhism or Islam, but whatever Buddhism and Islam say that contradicts the Bible is false.

3. The Bible can be inerrant and record false statements by human beings or Satan, but not by God.

The Bible sometimes accurately records false statements of people. For example, in Genesis 3:4 when the serpent says to Eve that she will not die if she eats of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he is lying. That is a false statement accurately recorded in the Scriptures.

4. The Bible can be inerrant and still speak in the ordinary language of everyday speech.

This is especially true in "scientific" or "historical" descriptions of facts or events. For example in Genesis 19:23, it says, "the sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar." The Scriptures here speak of the sun rising. We speak in the same way today. We say the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, but we all know that the earth is actually rotating around the sun and the sun is not actually rising and setting. When we say "the sun rises in the morning" is that a true statement? Yes. It is a true statement of a description of what we see each day. We see the sun rising in the morning. It would not be true if we were in a science class giving a report on the rotation of the earth around the sun, but it is true to describe what we see each day. We say, "That was a beautiful sunrise or sunset."

More on this when we get to our fourth session.

5. The Bible can be inerrant and still give imprecise general statements about numbers and measurements.

This is applying "everyday language" to numbers and measurements. Inerrancy speaks of truthfulness, not the degree of precision with which numbers and measurements are reported. In everyday communication, "numbers of people, distances people traveled, length of time events happened" and the like are often reported in general statements using round numbers not with exact precision. All these things are often rounded up or down, to make it easy to understand and remember.

For example, if someone asked me "How far do you live from the baseball stadium?" I can answer "20 miles." But it is actually 20.1 miles, 20.8 miles or 23.6 miles according to Mapquest depending on which way I drive to get there. But when you ask that question, you are not asking for a precise measurement with routes, you are asking for a general number that represents the distance.

Here is another example. If I say that we just got back from vacation and you asked me how many days we were gone, I would say, "three days." But you would not think I meant three 24 hour days. If I was being precise, we left at 12 noon on Wednesday and came back at 6pm on Friday, so technically it was 2 days and 6 hours, but it is customary to count parts of days as days when talking about events.

When large crowds are involved in an event, unless tickets are sold or the people go through turnstiles that can count, numbers have to be estimated when they are being reported. An accurate estimate will be a general number that is rounded up or down.

This kind of everyday language is seen in the Bible and in other ancient literature. The Bible uses ordinary language to describe natural phenomena or to give approximations or round numbers when those are appropriate in the context. Biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true.

6. The Bible can be inerrant and still include loose or free quotations.

We have two kinds of quotes in English grammar usage, direct quotations which are in quotes and indirect quotation which have no quotes. Direct quotes mean that the exact wording is being given. Indirect quotes mean the exact meaning is being given, but the words may or may not be the exact words used. They can be a paraphrase.

Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, so indirect quotation was the norm, especially since it was an oral culture. There was not an expectation of citing every word exactly. For example, when the writers of the NT quote the OT, they might quote exactly or paraphrase it. Also, remember that we are also dealing with translations, that is, Greek translations of the Hebrew OT and Greek translations of Jesus original words in Aramaic. So, there will be variation in the Gospel passages.

As Wayne Grudem states, "Thus, inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994, p.91)

7. The Bible can be inerrant and have unusual or uncommon grammatical constructions.

Grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive. Descriptive means that grammar books are created from how people actually use grammar in a society both in formal and informal settings. People make up the rules and can change the rules. The grammar books reflect that. In formal writings, authors tend to follow more closely grammatical rules set up for formal writings at the time. But in popular writing, such as the NT, they followed the grammar in the common language or colloquial speech of the people.

For example, in formal writing in English, it is a grammatical rule that sentences should not be ended with a preposition. But in popular writing, it is often not followed because it is too stiff.

Formal writing: "To whom did you give that gift?"

Popular writing: "Who did you give that gift to?"

(cf. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/youve-been-lied-to-heres-why-you-absolutely-can-end-a-sentence-with-a-preposition/)

So when we see a sentence that appears ungrammatical in the Bible, it can still be inerrant because people were using that kind of grammatical expression in their everyday speech although it may not be reflected in the formal writing of the time.

Conclusion:

2. We know the Bible is true because Jesus who is God declared all of the Bible is the Word of God and is true.

Jesus declared that all of the Word of God is true and that the Word of God included the words of Moses and the Prophets and the words of himself and the apostles.