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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Answering Bible Difficulties

Don Stewart :: Are There Grammatical Errors in Scripture?

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Question 21

Are There Grammatical Errors in Scripture?

One of the arguments brought forth against an inerrant Bible concerns errors of grammar in the text. Since the language of Scripture does not always conform to the normal rules of grammar, it is assumed to be in error in those particular instances.

A number of examples are usually given:

  1. There Are Examples of Grammatical Irregularities

    There are a number of examples of grammatical irregularities in Scripture. This is especially true in the Book of Revelation. John, the author of this book, often uses a plural verb when the accepted practice was to use a singular verb. These are known as solecisms.

    John uses an ungrammatical construction in describing Jesus. He wrote the following:

    John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne. (Revelation 1:4 NRSV)

    The words, “From him who is, and who was, and who is to come” are written in very ungrammatical Greek.

    Other illustrations can be given where standard grammar is not used. For example, Paul begins the third chapter of Ephesians by using a sentence that does not have a verb. This is not correct grammar.

    In addition, Jesus, in describing His Person and ministry, used mixed metaphors by referring to Himself as both a door and a shepherd. What are we to make of things such as these?

Response

  • The response to this type of objection is as follows:
  • A. Grammatical Difficulties Are Not the Issue for Biblical Inerrancy

    Whether or not certain sentences in Scripture conform to the accepted grammatical usage at that time, or in our time, is not really the issue. Someone can make a true statement that is considered to be ungrammatical. In addition, someone else can use absolutely perfect grammar in the process of telling untruths. The real issue is, “Does the author tell the truth?” Does what is said mislead the reader? It is not, “Does the author use correct grammar?”

  • B. Who Says What Correct Grammar Is?

    There is also the issue of who is to say what is, or what is not, correct grammar. There is no such thing as a “grammatical Bible” that tells everyone exactly how people must express themselves in writing. Grammar simply describes how a particular society has spoken and written at a particular time in history. Over time, grammatical rules change.

    There is something else that needs to be considered. Many modern authors will use a grammatical construction that is considered outside the realm of normal usage. The author does this to bring about some special effect. Since this is often practiced today, why shouldn’t it be allowed in Scripture? Therefore, the use, or non-use, of certain grammatical features is not the issue that we should be concerned with. The question that has to be answered is, “Did the writers tell the truth?”

  • C. Revelation 1:4 Has a Unique Emphasis

    With respect to Revelation 1:4, John purposefully uses non-standard grammar to emphasize the nature of God. He is the one who exists, who has existed, and will exist in the future. While the verse may be grammatically awkward, what it says about the nature of God is absolutely true and quite profound.

Conclusion: The Issue Is Whether or Not the Bible Is True, Not Whether the Grammar Is Always According to Some Standard

Therefore, we conclude the doctrine of inerrancy is not refuted by grammatical irregularities in Scripture. Again, the issue is, “Does the Bible tell the truth?” The totality of the evidence shows that indeed it does.

Summary - Question 21
Are There Grammatical Errors in Scripture?

While there may be some parts of Scripture that do not conform to what was the accepted means of writing in that day, this really does not have any bearing on the inerrancy of Scripture. The key issue is whether or not the Bible speaks truly—not whether correct grammar is always used.

Indeed, there is really no such thing as correct, or incorrect grammar in the sense that it has unbreakable rules.

Since the Term Inerrancy Means “Scientific Precision,” Does the Bible Really Teach Inerrancy? ← Prior Section
Did God Accommodate Himself to the Ignorance of the Times? (The Accommodation Theory) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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