One of the terms used in describing the nature of the Bible is "inerrancy." While inerrancy is not a biblical term, but rather a theological term, it does express a biblical truth. This is similar to the word "Trinity." Trinity is not a biblical term but it sums up what the Bible has to say about the nature of God. Inerrancy sums up the truth about what the Bible has to say about itself - it is without error.
Inerrancy Is A Relatively New Term
While inerrancy is a new term, coined within the last one hundred years, it describes a concept that the Bible clearly teaches about itself and that the church has held from the beginning.
Inerrancy, or infallibility, means that when all the facts are known, the Bible, in the original autographs, when properly interpreted, will prove itself to be without error in all matters that it covers. These include areas of theology, history, science, and all other disciplines of knowledge.
Inerrancy means that all the teachings of the Bible are in perfect accord with the truth.
The Definition Of Inerrancy Expanded
We will now expand this definition of inerrancy.
1. When All The Facts Are Known
First, we emphasize that the Bible will prove itself inerrant when all the facts are known. As finite human beings we do not know all the facts. This is where faith must come in. It is wrong to accuse the Scripture of being in error in a certain place when our knowledge may be limited. Ultimately, the Bible will prove itself to be true. Time and time again the Bible has proven to be accurate in places where it was formerly suspected of inaccuracy.
2. The Bible, In The Original Writings
Inerrancy only deals with the original writings of the authors of Scripture. There is no claim that the various copies of the manuscripts made throughout the years are inerrant. Neither is there any claim that any one translation of the Bible is inerrant.
However this is not to say that the manuscript copies we presently have are corrupt or that we cannot trust recent translations of the Bible (such as the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, and the New English Translation). To the contrary, these and other modern translations are based upon a solid textual foundation. Furthermore the message has come through loud and clear. Therefore the inerrancy of Scripture comes through in the modern translations.
It Was The Writings Not The Writers Which Were Inerrant
Inerrancy extends to the writings of the different authors, not the writers themselves. The finished product is error-free, not the individuals who wrote the documents. The Bible says.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
It is the Scripture, the final product, that is God-breathed, not the writers themselves.
3. When The Bible Is Properly Interpreted
This point emphasizes that Scripture is inerrant insofar as the Bible is properly interpreted. Proper interpretation consists of asking, at least, the following questions.
- Who was the author and who was the audience to which he was writing?
- What was the occasion or purpose for the author writing this work?
- What was the background (both cultural and historical) of the people or individual to which he wrote?
- At that time in history, what did the words mean, in their original languages, to the people or individuals to whom the document was written?
These issues must be taken into consideration when attempting to interpret the Scripture.
4. The Bible Is Without Error
When we say the Bible is without error, we mean it is completely true in all that it says — there are no statements in the Bible that are falsely reported. Every statement, every event, is recorded for us truthfully. This however, does not mean that every statement is true. For example, every time the Devil spoke he lied. Yet the lies that he uttered are accurately recorded in Scripture. All the facts are truthfully reported.
5. In All Areas In Which It Speaks
This last point emphasizes the extent of inerrancy extends to all areas in which it speaks. The Bible makes no distinction between religious matters and non-religious matters. All matters are dealt with in an error-free way. This includes areas of history, science, and geography as well as theology.
The doctrine of inerrancy teaches that the Bible, when properly interpreted, does not make any mistakes or contain any legends, or myths. There are not any mistakes in recording historical events or stating theological truths. The Bible is not deceitful or fraudulent in any way. This is only true in the original autographs of Scripture - not copies or translations. Inerrancy extends to areas of theology, history, science, and all other disciplines of knowledge. Consequently everything written in Scripture can be trusted as being recorded accurately.