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

Don Stewart :: How Can the Bible Be Inerrant Since Human Beings Are Not?

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Question 23

How Can the Bible Be Inerrant Since Human Beings Are Not?

One objection that always arises against the inerrancy of the Bible is our human nature. It is the nature of human beings to make mistakes. There are no exceptions. Since human beings wrote the Bible, and human beings always make mistakes, then we should expect the Bible to contain mistakes. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of an inerrant Bible.

Although this is a common argument, it has a number of fallacies.

The Authorship of Scripture Was Human and Divine

While acknowledging that human beings did write the Scripture, there is also the divine side to the authorship. While human beings may lie, God does not lie. Moses wrote:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV)

The New Revised Standard Version translates the verse in this manner:

God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 NRSV)

Since God was behind the composition of the biblical books, they cannot contain mistakes. Otherwise, we would be left with God-inspired error! Such a concept is nonsense.

Humans Do Not Have to Make Mistakes

There is another objection to this view. While humans do make mistakes, they do not have to make mistakes. The point is this: Human beings can perform acts that are mistake free.

For example, a person can copy a page of printed text in his or her own handwriting without making any mistakes. Merely because the person is human does not mean that they have to make mistakes in copying the words. Also, a person can take a test and get every answer correct. The fact of their humanity does not stop them from getting all the answers right. Examples like this can be multiplied. It should be obvious that while humans do make mistakes, it is not necessary to conclude that there will be mistakes in everything that they do. Consequently, it is certainly possible that the Bible could have been written in an error-free manner.

Adam and Eve Were Human Before They Sinned

Furthermore, if humans always have to make mistakes, then Adam and Eve would not have been considered human until they sinned. Yet, the Bible says they were fully human before they sinned. Not only were they fully human, they were perfect in all their behavior until they sinned.

Jesus Was Fully Human and He Never Made Mistakes

In addition, we have the example of Jesus. Jesus was fully human, yet He did not sin. The writer to the Hebrews testified:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NRSV)

While human beings can and do sin, they do not always have to sin or make mistakes. This point must be remembered.

God Used His Providential Care in Preserving Scripture

In addition, the Bible itself testifies that God providentially supervised the writers to record exactly what He wanted to be recorded. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally guide His disciples. He promised:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. (John 14:26 NET)

Therefore, the appeal to mistake-prone human nature is not a valid objection against inerrancy. Humans can perform error-free acts, and the Bible is an example of human beings, along with God’s divine inspiration, producing an error-free book. There is nothing irrational or illogical about God doing this. In fact, nothing is too difficult for the God of the Bible.

The prophet Jeremiah records the Lord saying the following:

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27 KJV)

The answer is, “No.” There is nothing too difficult for the Lord. Therefore, God is certainly able to preserve His word in an error-free manner.

While errors and untruths characterize human speech, God’s speech is entirely different. This is true even when it is spoken through sinful, fallible human beings; it is never false. It is crucial to realize that God speaking through humans is unlike ordinary human speech.

The Writers Were Kept from Error Only in Their Teaching and Writing

There is an important distinction that has to be made. The authors of Scripture were kept from error in everything that they wrote. In addition, the prophets of God spoke God’s truth without error. However, this does not mean they were kept from error in everything they taught and believed.

For example, most, if not all, of Jesus’ disciples, unless otherwise instructed, would probably have believed that the earth was flat. The biblical characters would have held the common beliefs of people of their time. This is, of course, unless God directly revealed something that was contrary to the prevailing belief. The point is that the biblical authors were fallible human beings who made mistakes and were ignorant in certain beliefs. However, they were kept from error in those things which they spoke or wrote with the Lord’s authority. This is because the Holy Spirit supernaturally kept them from error and guided them into all truth. This is a crucial distinction.

We find an example of this in the life of the prophet Nathan. The Bible says the following:

King David moved into his new palace, and the LORD let his kingdom be at peace. Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, “Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent.” Nathan replied, “The LORD is with you, so do what you want!” (2 Samuel 7:1-3 CEV)

The prophet Nathan told David to go ahead and build a temple for the Lord because the Lord was with him. However, that night the Lord appeared to Nathan and told him that He did not authorize David to build a temple for him. Nathan then went to David with the words that the Lord had revealed to him:

According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:17 NKJV)

This teaches several important truths. First, a prophet was not infallible in everything that he or she said. They were only infallible when the Lord directed their words. They would preface these words with phrases such as, “Thus says the Lord.” If, like Nathan, they presumed to speak for the Lord when the Lord had not directed them, they would be corrected. This assures us that on other occasions, when the prophets spoke, and their words were recorded and not corrected, they were indeed speaking for the Lord.

The God of the Bible is the Lord of everything, including human language. This being the case, He is certainly able to supervise the writing of Scripture to bring the desired result He wants.

Consequently, everything in Scripture that is prefaced with “thus says the Lord” can be accepted as absolutely true.

Summary - Question 23
How Can the Bible Be Inerrant Since Human Beings Are Not?

Inerrancy is often assumed to be impossible because of the nature of human beings. Since human beings are fallible, and humans wrote the Bible, then, it is argued, the Bible must be fallible. This, however, is a fallacy. While it is true that humans are fallible, they can perform error-free acts. While humans can and do make mistakes, they do not always have to. It is possible for humans to compose a book that is correct in everything that it states—particularly when the Holy Spirit is guiding the things that are being written.

This objection also overlooks the divine side of Scripture. God supernaturally preserved the biblical writers from error. Consequently, the fact that humans were involved with the composition of the Bible does not refute the doctrine of inerrancy.

While the human authorship of Scripture cannot be ignored, neither can the divine side. God spoke through these writers.

It also must be noted that the authors of Scripture, as well as the prophets who did not write, were only infallible or inerrant in what they wrote or said when directed by the Lord—they were not inerrant in everything that they did. The example of Nathan the prophet shows that this is the case.

Did God Accommodate Himself to the Ignorance of the Times? (The Accommodation Theory) ← Prior Section
Don’t the Missing Autographs Disprove Inerrancy? 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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