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Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

Inspiration of scripture equals inerrancy. That much obvious. Anyone who denies inerrancy has a deficient view of what is meant by the word “inspiration.” Liberals have argued that we cannot view the scripture as being 100 percent inerrant as long as there are questions about manuscript variations from the autographs (or original source documents) written by the apostles and prophets themselves. The original autographs were certainly inspired and inerrant – let’s start with that. This is something that all conservative Christians ought to agree on. If we deny this, then the Bible is just a book written by men that may contain some inspiration – but it cannot be called the Word of God – and it is therefore not inerrant.

The question of whether the received text of the Bible is accurate to the original manuscripts is a debate that has erupted since the 1800s. I recently came up with a thought experiment that seems to me to solve this problem. It involves first a definition of the word “inerrant” and a scenario on how the text of the Bible was preserved as the Word of God.

The simple definition of inerrancy is that the received text of the Bible we have today is preserved without error in content or transmission. For a more exhaustive treatment of the topic of inerrancy there is Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This was a document that was written to ensure that there would not be too much wiggle room for liberals who sought positions in conservative Bible colleges, seminaries and churches. The statement defines both what is meant by inerrancy in the affirmative, but also what it does not mean in the form of denials.

I am a high school teacher who works in a low income area. Most of my students are a few years behind in their reading level. Literacy is a problem. I sometimes imagine a Lord of the Flies type scenario occurring my students. I imagine that the entire world has been wiped out and only a few people are left behind, similar to a Noah’s Ark story. I sometimes look at my classes and ask: “If I had to rebuild a civilization with only these 34 students, which 10 would I choose and why?” (Yes, that is the size of just one of my classes.) It sounds somewhat cavalier, but it is an entertaining idea.

I choose in my mind the survivors. I then imagine what would happen once children were born are the basic necessities of life were being provided for. Could we preserve and eventually better the culture? Obviously, preserving the culture would be a must. People would have to write down what they had memorized from the civilization prior to its destruction. They would have to teach it to their children. If Christianity as a religion would be preserved, there would have to be some type of worship instituted and the Bible would have to be preserved.

What would happen if this current generation of young people had to reproduce the Bible from memory? I participated in a survey once in which Christians were asked to write out all the Ten Commandments in order. Less than two percent were able to do it. I can name all of the Ten Commandments and many Bible verses, but I have not memorized entire chapters of the Bible. On the other hand, my 17-year-old cousin attends a Christian school in which Bible memorization is required. She can recite from memory the most popular Bible verses and has memorized entire chapters including the longest chapter in the entire Bible, Psalm 119. I have known other people who have memorized entire books of the Bible and can recite them from memory.

I have read through the Bible several times and make it part of my weekly, if not daily, study. But I have not made an effort to memorize entire books or even entire chapters. If 10 people like me were left to produce the Bible, we could list all the books. We could produce many scriptures accurately. We could even provide a basic outline of each book with a great degree of doctrinal accuracy. But without a proof text, we could not reproduce the entire Bible without errors.

Let’s consider the next step in the thought experiment. Let’s say a group of 50 Bible college and Christian seminary professors and their families are traveling to a conference on a remote island. As they are nearing the island, a nuclear war occurs. Most of civilization is destroyed. They crash land and are marooned on the island. Let’s say that there was only one Bible that survives between all of them. What would be the chances that in several generations that this Bible would be preserved perfectly with no errors in transmission?

The point here is that if you were to choose ten people at random and put them in a world without a Bible, they could not reproduce it. But take a group of a few thousand people in the first century who are steeped in Old Testament scripture, who were required to memorize scriptures and catechisms from childhood. Give them access to the New Testament, the Apostles in person and copies of letters and Gospels they wrote. Give them almost daily recitation and teaching of the Apostles, their disciples and successors. Charge them with the responsibility of teaching the New Testament scriptures to their children and to new converts. Would they be able to transmit without error the writings and teaching of these Apostles over a period of 300 years?

Not only would they be able to do this, but they would also be able to preserve the spirit of the original intent and the orthodox interpretation of the Apostles teachings. In 325 AD, about fifty complete New Testament manuscripts were produced by scribes under the direction of Eusebius of Caesarea.

Prior to the widespread use of durable vellum, the only copies of the New Testament scriptures we have for study are several hundred delicate papyri containing manuscript fragments and portions from all the New Testament books. In fact, it is amazing that any of the papyrus manuscripts survived at all. While vellum can last over 1000 years, papyri must be stored in a cool, dry and almost air-tight environment in order to last more than a few hundred years.

According to Bruce F. Harris, “This collection of papyri, dated to the second and third centuries A.D., provides important textual evidence for OT and especially NT prior to the great vellum codices of the fourth century and later.”

Most of these manuscript fragments have been found in the last 100 years or so. Prior to these finds, the Higher Critics imagined that much of the original content of the New Testament would have been lost. However, textual criticism of these manuscript fragments has revealed that the New Testament was preserved over a period of almost 300 years with an amazing degree of accuracy unrivalled by any otehr ancient text.

The higher criticism came about because we had skeptics from the time of the Enlightenment who had embraced positivism and rationalism. They were looking for over one hundred years for some excuse to discredit the Bible. The most common method was to claim that the Bible was not inerrant because it was full of contradictions. But when one actually reads these arguments most if not all the arguments seem trite. Certainly, every objection can be answered.

These arguments were so flimsy that even rationalists of the day who were themselves free thinkers saw that these works were embarrassments to the authors. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once accused Thomas Paine of “spitting in the wind” when he reviewed his book, Age of Reason.

TO THOMAS PAINE.

[Date uncertain.]

DEAR SIR,

I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence, that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion, that, though your reasonings are subtile and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.

But, were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it. I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it; but subscribe simply yours,

B. Franklin

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Mary Magdalene was in the group of women who were told by angels at the empty tomb that Jesus had risen "even as he said," and Luke even said that when the women heard this, "they remembered his words" (Luke 24:8). The women left the tomb persuaded that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The gospel of Matthew even says that the women saw Jesus, held him, and worshipped him as they were running from the tomb to tell the disciples what they had seen (Matthew 28:9). However, John's account of these events have Mary saying, after she had found the disciples, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him" (John 20:1). How can this be reconciled?

Posted by  puzzled on 10/03/2007 02:17 PM #

So-called “Bible contradictions” can usually be explained in one of three ways.

Number one, two different passages contain the same information but are given in two different contexts.

Number two, there are two passages that give the same information, but one passage adds more information than the other passage.

Number three, there are two passages of scripture are telling the same story but from a two different perspectives.

This is a classic NUMBER ONE.

I have this explanation in an article at my website:

See: http://forerunner.com/realjesus/contradictions.html#85

These are not the same incidents. John's account is particular to Mary after she followed Peter and John back to the tomb, which was later than the account cited in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

When Mary runs back, she is scared and thinks that the body has been stolen. Then she returns to the tomb and weeps. Now isn't this odd given that she supposedly heard the angels say that "He is risen"?

John notes that she went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. "So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they put him". (John 20:1-2). Then Peter and John ran to the tomb only to find the empty burial wrappings. Mary must then have followed them, but when she got there, they had gone, so she stood there crying, worried that the body of Jesus had been stolen. Then two angels appeared to her, and then the risen Jesus did. In short, the reason she was in despair is probably because she didn't go into the tomb with the other women. As they approached the tomb, they saw it open, and probably began to worry amongst themselves that grave robbers came and stole the body before they could anoint it. At this realization, Mary probably left the group and bolted back to tell the others.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 10/03/2007 08:02 PM #

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

$4.95 — ORDER NOW!

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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