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

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Testify to Its Own Inerrancy?

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Question 3

Does the Bible Testify to Its Own Inerrancy?

Christians have often been accused of claiming something about the Bible that it does not claim for itself—that it is inerrant. Indeed, the term, “inerrancy” is not found in Scripture. Neither is the doctrine of inerrancy directly taught.

It would be terrible if Christians claimed more for the Bible than what it claims for itself. On the other hand, it would be equally tragic if Christians claimed less for the Bible than the Scripture claims for itself. What then, does the Scripture say about the subject?

Inerrancy Sums up What the Bible Says about God and His Word

A close examination of the evidence will show that the doctrine of inerrancy logically follows what the Bible says about God and itself.

This can be seen in the following ways: First, God’s character is absolutely perfect—there are no flaws in it. Next, we find that God told certain of the biblical authors exactly what to say, and what to write. Since these words would have come directly from God, they would have been without any imperfection and error. Third, the Scriptures directly testify that God’s words are without error—He does not lie. Fourth, all Scripture ultimately derives from the perfect, holy God who does not lie. Finally, the Bible emphasizes that God’s Word is the only standard of truth.

The biblical evidence for this is as follows:

  1. God’s Character Is One of Absolute Perfection

    The idea that Scripture is without any error is consistent with the character of God. We find the Scripture emphasizing that God’s character is one of absolute perfection—He is faithful and true. Paul wrote to the Romans about God’s faithfulness:

    Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged. (Romans 3:1-4 ESV)

    The New Living Translation says it this way:

    Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the Jewish ceremony of circumcision? Yes, being a Jew has many advantages. First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God. True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they broke their promises, does that mean God will break his promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say, “He will be proved right in what he says, and he will win his case in court.” (Romans 3:1-4 NLT)

    The Scriptures repeatedly affirm that God is a God of truth and light. John made the following statement that sums up the teaching of Scripture:

    Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 NET)

    The united testimony of Scripture is that God is absolutely perfect—he has no imperfections. Of this, there is no doubt. John wrote:

    Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him.” (John 7:28 NIV)

    Elsewhere we find Jesus saying:

    I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him. (John 8:26 RSV)

    God is a God of truth. In fact, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of truth.” Jesus said:

    The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:17 NKJV)

    This is another indication that everything that proceeds from God is the truth. Denial of this truth is a denial of the perfect character of God.

  2. God Gave the Biblical Writers the Words They Should Speak and Write

    The God of the Bible is perfect and holy. In Scripture, we are told that on many occasions this holy God gave certain people the exact words that they were to speak. An example of this is Moses:

    But Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12 NRSV)

    If God gave Moses the exact words that he was to speak, it logically follows that these words would be without error. We are later told that God commanded Moses to write down certain things. This is recorded in the Book of Exodus. It says:

    The LORD said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. (Exodus 34:27 NRSV)

    Since God told Moses what to write, the logical assumption is that these written words were also without error.

    There is more. The authors of Scripture make it clear that they are recording the very Word of God. Consequently, the people were told not to add to or subtract from that which God commanded. Moses wrote:

    Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2 NASB)

    Later, in the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord describes how a true prophet of God should speak. We read the following:

    But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die. (Deuteronomy 18:20 NRSV)

    Obviously, God’s Words were important to Him. The remainder of the Old Testament contains thousands of statements that claim to record the exact words of God. For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

    Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:10 NIV)

    Over one hundred times in the Book of Jeremiah we find statements such as “the Word of the Lord came unto me.” For example, it says:

    The word of the LORD came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah? The word of the LORD came to me, saying, (Jeremiah 1:2-5 NIV)

    On over sixty occasions, Ezekiel claimed that his words were God’s words. For example we read the following:

    And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezekiel 3:10-11 NIV)

    Daniel claimed to have heard the voice of God. He said:

    Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. (Daniel 10:9 NIV)

    We find the same sort of claims in the New Testament. The gospels record that Jesus said that His teaching came from God:

    Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.” (John 7:16 NRSV)

    Jesus also said that God the Father gave Him the words to speak. He said to His disciples:

    For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. (John 12:49 NRSV)

    Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that he was actually preaching the message of God. He said:

    And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 TNIV)

    Therefore, it is the constant claim of the writers of Scripture that a great part of what they wrote consisted of direct words that God spoke to them. Because they were the words of God, these words were accepted without question or discussion. To say Scripture is not inerrant and infallible is to speak against God. He has declared His Word to be true. The psalmist wrote:

    All your words are true; all your just laws will stand forever. (Psalm 119:60 NLT)

    We should have the same attitude toward the Scripture as the psalmist expressed.

  3. The Words That Come from God Are Always True

    We have seen that God is a God of truth and the Scripture records the exact words that God gave to the prophets. There is more. We find that Scripture testifies that His Words are always reliable and true. Isaiah records the Lord saying:

    I have not spoken in secret, in some hidden place. I did not tell Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain. I am the LORD, the one who speaks honestly, who makes reliable announcements.’ (Isaiah 45:19 NET)

    The Lord speaks honestly and makes reliable announcements.

    In Proverbs, we read the following about the words of God:

    Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6 NKJV)

    His Word is pure; true in all that it states.

    The Psalmist also stressed that God’s words were reliable. He wrote:

    The LORD’s words are absolutely reliable. They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground, where it is thoroughly refined. (Psalm 12:6 NET)

    Peter emphasized that the Word of God was without any corruption whatsoever. He wrote the following to his readers:

    You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25 NRSV)

    James said the Word of God is the Word of truth. He stated it this way:

    In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:18 NRSV)

    Furthermore, the Bible says that God cannot lie. This is emphasized in both testaments. In the Book of Numbers, it says the following:

    God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19 NIV)

    We read the following in the Book of First Samuel:

    And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind! (1 Samuel 15:29 NLT)

    Paul wrote to Titus about God always telling the truth:

    Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago. (Titus 1:1-2 NASB)

    The writer to the Hebrews emphasizes the same things. He wrote:

    God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given us both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to his promise with confidence. (Hebrews 6:17-18 NLT)

    When God speaks, He always speaks the truth.

    There is something else. Jesus gave a harsh rebuke to those who only told the truth while they were under oath. He said:

    Again, you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘You must not break your oath, but you must keep your oaths to the Lord.’ But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all: either by heaven, because it is God’s throne; or by the earth, because it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. Neither should you swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. But let your word “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.” Anything more than this is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37 HCSB)

    We are to tell the truth at all times; not simply when we are under oath. This is a further indication that God expects truth from all of His creation. In doing so, we imitate Him.

    God’s speech is unlike human speech because God is not like humans; He is absolutely perfect. The prophet Balaam said:

    God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19 NIV)

    He is not like us; He does not lie.

  4. All Scripture Ultimately Comes from God

    From Scripture, we find that God is a God without any imperfections. We also discover that much of Scripture contains His exact words that the prophets were to speak or write down. In addition, we are told that these words that come from God are said to be always truthful and reliable.

    We now find that all Scripture ultimately comes from God. Paul said that all Scripture was “breathed out” by God. He wrote to Timothy:

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

    If all Scripture is breathed out by God, then the Scripture, being the product of God, must also be true. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn. If the Bible is ultimately the work of God the Holy Spirit, then how could it not tell the truth, or record something that did not take place? The answer is, “It could not.”

    There is something else. Paul says that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training. How can any of these things be true if the Bible contained errors? In what sense would the Bible be profitable if it contained mistakes in various places? What makes matters worse is that no two people can agree where the errors are!

    The Book of Psalms records that God’s Word is entirely true:

    The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Psalm 119:160 NKJV)

    The New Living Translation reads as follows:

    All your words are true; all your just laws will stand forever. (Psalm 119:160 NLT)

    It is clear that the Bible assumes that all of its words ultimately come from the God of truth.

  5. The Bible Is the Ultimate Standard of Truth

    Finally, we discover that God’s Word is not only true; it is the ultimate standard of truth. In the Old Testament we read:

    Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. (2 Samuel 7:28 NASB)

    Jesus said:

    Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 NET)

    His Words are more than merely true—they are truth. They are the standard by which everything else is judged.

    Inerrancy Fits the Biblical Data

    Therefore, from a look at what the Bible says about God’s nature, and His Word, we conclude that the Scripture must be without error. Simply stated, we find that a large part of the Bible consists of the words that God told the writers to speak and also write down. These words came direct from a holy God who has no imperfections. If they spoke and wrote down these words that God directly gave them, then these words must be without error.

    Elsewhere we are directly told that God cannot lie—He always tells the truth. In addition, we are told that all Scripture has God as its ultimate source. Therefore, all the words of Scripture would have their origin in the God of truth. Finally, the Scripture says that God?s Words are the ultimate standard of truth.

    To put it another way, how could a perfect God divinely inspire a Bible that contained errors and incorrect information? The obvious answer is, “He cannot.” Whatever God does, He does it in an absolutely perfect way. Consequently, we can use terms and descriptions such as inerrant, infallible, completely accurate, absolutely truthful, and authoritative in every respect, to describe what we find in Scripture. God spoke, He did not stutter!

Summary - Question 3
Does the Bible Testify to Its Own Inerrancy?

While the word inerrant is not found in the Bible, nor is the concept directly taught, we do find that Scripture does give testimony to its own inerrancy. There are a number of basic concepts in the Scripture that speak to this issue. First, God is a holy God—there are no imperfections in His character. Second, the Bible contains many direct statements that claim to record the actual words that God spoke. Third, Scripture also testifies that God always tells the truth. Fourth, we are also told that the entire Bible ultimately comes from God. Finally, the Bible says that God’s words are the ultimate standard of truth.

If the entire Scripture contains the communication of God to humanity, then it can be logically inferred that its contents will reflect the perfect nature of God.

The logical result of these truths is that God’s Word is without error in everything that it says. Therefore, it is proper to call the Bible inerrant, infallible or a number of other terms that Christians use to describe its nature.

What Are Some Important Clarifications to the Doctrine of Inerrancy? ← Prior Section
In What Sense Is the Bible Perfect? 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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